Six Crow Scouts outside Fort Custer, Late 19th Century
Fort Custer was built during the so-called Indian Wars in order to subjugate nearby Native tribes, including the Sioux and Cheyenne. Named for General George Armstrong Custer, who died in 1876, the Fort was constructed the next year near the site of present-day Hardin.
Photographer Fred E. Miller was known for the 14 years he spent among the Crow as a clerk for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During that time, Miller learned the Crow language and was officially adopted as a member of the tribe.
The date of the photo was originally given as 1877, but scholars at the Montana Memory Works think that the number may have read or recorded incorrectly and that the correct date is 1897.
Fort Custer would see a tempestuous history during those final years of the Indian campaigns. In the late 1880s, it would see a small uprising of Crow, answered by the 3rd Infantry. And in the early 1890s, the First Cavalry vacated the Fort while the Tenth Cavalry moved in. In 1892, the Fort was the home for many "buffalo soldiers," the name given by Native-Americans to African-American troops.
The Fort was decommissioned in the late 1890s, and the buildings sold off and in some cases torn down to construct the town of Hardin.
Be sure to click on the photo in order to inspect the fine details!