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An artist's drawing of Crazy Horse and his Lakota people as they traveled to the reservation in 1877.
An artist's drawing of Crazy Horse and his Lakota people as they traveled to the reservation in 1877.

Search for the Lost Trail

Aug 12, 2013


Crazy Horse died 136 years ago, but he still draws a crowd. Last week, an undertaker from Marysville, Kansas came to Yankton to speak about the legendary Lakota leader and it was standing room only.

Cleve Walstrom, the speaker, inherited his interest in Crazy Horse from his father, a veterinarian who made many Native American friends while working in western Nebraska. The elder Walstrom began to hear many anecdotes about Lakota chiefs. Realizing that many of the stories only existed in oral history — and that even the simple information such as the chiefs’ burial places had not been recorded — he kept a written record that eventually became a book.

The veterinarian died in 1997, but fortunately by then Cleve had taken on the mission of working with the Lakota to put in writing the stories being told in western Nebraska and South Dakota.

Cleve wrote a book about his experiences several years ago called Search for the Lost Trail of Crazy Horse. He’s not only good at listening to stories; he also did an impressive job at writing his own family’s passionate journey. The two generations of Walstroms have met and befriended more Native Americans than most white people in Indian Country. He has been to rural communities we haven’t even heard of, and we’ve prided ourselves in finding every little hamlet in South Dakota.

Cleve has watched the process of brain-tanning a buffalo hide. He has visited the KILI Radio studio, and chuckles that the DJ was listening to hard rock while playing traditional songs (perhaps the two worlds can co-exist). He has been invited to Sun Dances. He has painstakingly traced genealogies that no one else has committed to paper, and he has taken the time to gain respect — listening attentively and learning all the while.

We found Mr. Walstrom to be a fascinating fellow in his own right. We bump into a lot of historians but few have taken to the backroads with the zeal that he’s shown for many years.

We’re working on several stories related to Crazy Horse, and after hearing his presentation we have several more to chase — including brain tanning.


07:50 pm - Tue, August 20 2013
Jim said:
Sorry I missed this one. Undertakers usually have good stories.

Did Mr. Walstrom speak of any Crazy horse photographs?
06:56 am - Wed, August 21 2013
Bernie said:
We're working on that story, and he had a little information on it but nothing conclusive. If there are no -- or few -- photos, he thought it was probably because Crazy Horse just wasn't want to stand around and pose for a white man with a gadget (that's my slang, I'm sure he put it more nicely). Ada Milk, the granddaughter of Red Cloud and Chief Milk, was there -- sadly she died this week. A distinguished lady.
08:26 pm - Fri, January 3 2014
Jolynn Schartz said:
I am a Kansan living in Texas but find the history articles I've read in your magazine terribly interesting, especially this one about the undertaker from Kansas. The information he learned about Crazy Horse from his father is valuable & needs to be recorded by someone there in SD so it is not lost. Time has a way of moving on with memories becoming fuzzy; our histories are priceless! Keep writing & telling us your stories!

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