Report From The Planting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 15 May 2004

The Planting Moon Gathering took place at the City College, (East Birmingham Campus), Birmingham, on Saturday, 15 May 2004 - thirty members and guests were present.   

Peter Russell got the day’s proceedings under way by playing a new song entitled ‘Comanche’, written and performed by Terry Maher, a popular country singer from Newport, South Wales. It told the story of the celebrated sole survivor of ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ and attracted a mixed reception from the assembled throng.

The first substantive contribution was from founder member Tim O’Sullivan who spoke about ‘The Geographical World of the Sioux’. By analysing the different languages used by the Sioux across the Plains, he gave a historical review of the migrations of various groups of the Dakota who were to become the dominant force in the region.

Harry Seabourne continued with the Indian theme by treating us to a very dextrous and, at times, amusing display of sign language used on the Plains. He argued that it served a dual purpose for both close and more distant communication. The implication was that the drive towards a universal sign language on the Plains was a function of the many and varied languages employed in that region and was a valuable tool for nomadic peoples and their way of life.

Derek Ware, a long-time western history and Custer buff, completed the morning’s session by sharing his experiences as a professional stuntman with clips from the many well-known films and television programmes in which he had been personally involved. This was followed by a short video featuring Derek taken from ‘Clapperboard’, a British TV programme from 1976, which originally preceded ‘Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry on Celluloid’ that was shown at the November 2003 meeting.  Essentially the subject was stunting in westerns and falling from horses in particular.

As usual members then repaired to The Chestnut Tree, for a traditional English pub lunch and the chance to socialise and discuss various issues.

After lunch, our UK Vice-President, Derek Batten, entertained his audience to a thought-provoking and well-illustrated presentation on his September 2003 visit to the Sand Creek battlefield or, as we were informed, one possible site. Apparently there is some debate as to exactly where this famous massacre actually took place. Similarly two other historical sites that Derek visited and discussed (Beecher’s Island and the Kidder Massacre) are also in contention. All three incidents are now subject to rethinking and revision.

The final item was Ken Doran’s video of his trip to Fort Abraham Lincoln in 1999, which was of interest to those who plan to attend the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial celebrations at Bismarck, North Dakota, in October this year.

During the day sales of books and other merchandise was brisk with the majority of the £260.00 ($468) raised going to the Ronnie White Memorial Fund on behalf of The Leprosy Mission.  Our Overseas Vice-President, Joan Croy, had generously donated three signed copies of Adrian “Gene” Hirst’s delightful little western books, which were won by Richard Pratt in a raffle that added £25 ($45) to our funds.

Report From The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 17 November 2004

The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering took place at the Chestnut Tree, (opposite the East Birmingham Campus), Sheldon, Birmingham, on Saturday, 17 November 2004 - twenty-four members and guests were present.

The day’s proceedings got off to a perfect start with a most innovative and amusing quiz that was ingeniously devised by our Chairman, Lawrence Sherrington, to ensure that everyone, irrespective of the extent of their knowledge of the Plains Indian Wars, had an equal chance of winning. It covered an extraordinarily wide-range of topics, each one being in some way connected with the American West or Zulu War of 1879, and apparently it was his superior knowledge of the latter conflict that enabled Kevin Galvin to answer the most questions correctly and score a narrow victory. 

The next item on the agenda was a short video clip taken from the History Channel’s programme: Little Big Horn: The Untold Story, which included the statement made by the Crow Scouts to photographer-historian Edward S. Curtis, “That Custer sat on a hillside within six minutes ride of Reno and watched for a time his fight.” – clearly implying that he could, and indeed should, have ridden to Reno’s aid. Peter Russell chaired the lively and far-ranging discussion that followed and no-one ought to have been surprised that it was brought to a close without any consensus being reached on this controversial incident.

After lunch Kevin Galvin gave an interesting and informative presentation on the Comparison of the Sioux Campaign (1876) and the Zulu War (1879). Whilst Kevin very much regards this as “a work in progress,” it still managed to provoke much discussion and exchange of views.

Kevin was followed by Derek Batten who spoke about his experiences as the only non-American member of Doug Scott’s team at this year’s archaeological dig at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. We learned that although a number of interesting finds were made none of them challenged the widely-held views about the Battle. A number of artefacts, similar to those discovered during the excavation, were available for inspection at the end of Derek’s talk.  

The final item of the day was Peter Russell’s enthusiastic account of the recent visit by four members of the Association to the Northern Plains. His presentation was illustrated with a series of excellent photographs taken by Graham Berry and compiled by Kevin Galvin. The tremendously successful 10-day trip, which began in Bismarck, North Dakota, with the opening ceremony of the Circle of Cultures event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Voyage of Discovery, also included visits to Forts Abraham Lincoln, Mandan and Rice, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, and a truly memorable day at the Battlefield itself. Peter concluded his presentation by announcing the possibility of a similar venture being arranged for August 2006, which would present a wonderful opportunity for some of our American members to join us for a “special” CAGB gathering in their own country. Details will be posted on the website, as soon as they become available. 

During the day the sales of books and other merchandise was as busy as ever. Steve Goldsmith won the raffle for a Custer-related book of his choice that added a further £20 [$35] to our funds. 

The venue for the next meeting was discussed and is likely to be either in Leeds or York, in May 2005.  It was with some reluctance that Mike Christian, our Event Co-ordinator, was finally forced to bring yet another successful and enjoyable gathering of the Association to a close.


Custer Association of Great Britain

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