CROW AGENCY — At Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, artifacts from the past are popping up more frequently. Visitors found a Civil War General Service cuff button just last week.
The park memorializes the last stand the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes took against the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary to preserve their way of life.
“This was the campaign to round up all the American Indians from their natural, nomadic hunting way of lifestyle,” said Stan McGee, the monument’s acting chief of interpretation on Thursday.
It’s no wonder that around 400,000 people visit the monument each year. It’s considered to be a destination park.
“Visitors that come here, they come here for this reason, of the battle,” McGee said.
If you’re lucky, you might come across a piece of history yourself, like some visitors did last week.
“They took a picture of this button that they found out on the battlefield,” said McGee.
Multiple visitors found the button and did the right thing by leaving the artifact where it stood, letting park rangers remove it themselves.
“Even though it was a small uniform cuff button or a vest button, it all helps to tell the story of what took place here,” McGee said.
Park rangers and visitors are grateful this little piece of history can be preserved.
“It’s important to think about if you take it, it’s yours, but you cheat everybody else out of it,” said visitor Jeri Francis.
Francis and her husband, Tim Francis, are visiting from Mechanicsville, Virginia.
“I wanted to really bad pick a piece of wheat and dry it and put it in my scrapbook but Tim’s like, you can’t do that, you’re in a national park,” Jeri said.
Tim’s on the right track: it’s a $5,000 fine if you are caught removing an artifact from National Park Service property and could even mean jail time.
It’s a good reminder since more artifacts have started popping up in recent months.
“Shell casings, buttons, just relics of the battle,” said McGee.
The artifacts have been cataloged in the park’s archives and are now in a storage facility, safe and sound.
McGee hopes visitors will come out and learn more about American history.
“This sacred place, this special place, belongs to everyone, all Americans,” McGee said.