“The Alliance” … a lesson we should learn from Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull

On June 25, 1876, two mortal enemies found that the differences they had between them paled in comparison to the a threat both encountered.  After the Civil War, the U.S. government turned its attention to the Wild West and the fight against the Indians – or as they called them, “savages.”

Two warring tribes, the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne were being relentlessly pursued by the U.S. Army – and specifically, General Armstrong Custer.  After numerous skirmishes with minor military leaders, they learned of Custer’s intention of attacking them in Southern Montana.

Separately neither the Sioux nor the Cheyenne had the upper hand … but together, maybe the result could be different. Unprecedentedly, Lakota chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull met secretly with Cheyenne chief Gall and devised a plan for their mutual survival.

The Sioux encampment of 6,000 plus was set on the banks of the Little Big Horn River in Montana.  Starting the night of the June 23, Sitting Bull moved the Sioux women and children down river out of harms way while the warrior chief Crazy Horse amassed the Sioux warriors in the cover of brush on the river bank.  After numerous skirmishes with with Gall and his Cheyenne on high ground on 25th, the next day Custer moved down towards the banks of the Little Big Horn only to come face-to-face with the Sioux.

The infamous battle of Custer’s Last Stand lasted only twenty minutes with Custer’s army being annihilated.

While the current economic climate and fate of  local business may not equate to the dire situation the Sioux and Cheyenne faced … lessons can still be learned.

Over the last couple month in my series, “The People Have the Power,” I have lamented relentlessly the need for us as consumers to support our local communities by choosing Main Street and local business over Wall Street and their chains and box stores. I’ve tried to drive home the harm that knee-jerk decisions to shop at Wal-Mart can do to your community. And I’ve pushed the need we have to pull our money out of the big banks, like B of A and Wells Fargo and put it in local banks and credit unions instead.

But I’m afraid that us, the consumers, may not be able to it alone. Main Street itself is going to have to hold up their end also.

As small business owners, your enemies of the past, the competition down street – may well be your life line to survival now. It’s time to take some lessons from Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Gall.

It’s time to band together.

It’s time to form alliances with your fellow businesses, even if they’re in the same industry. Who says a pizza parlor can’t co-op with a Thai restaurant.

It’s time to not only support local farmers, but encourage them to produce specialty goods that only Main Street businesses and restaurants can provide.

It’s time to work with local marketers and put together Main Street based loyalty programs encouraging community shopping and participation through combined Main Street wide frequent visits.

And it’s even time to organization Main Street “street fairs” featuring local artists, musicians and fare. While I’m not saying you exclude national chains, they will likely not want to participate in these type of bohemian events.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn

New thinking is not just a luxury anymore.  It’s mandatory.  Business as usual has become no business at all.

If you ever visit the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, you will see scores of small white crosses running down the hill towards the river.  They represent where the Army soldiers fell and died.

While the current times may not deliver your little white cross … it’ll deliver somebody’s. Take advantage of these times to think new and bury old conceptions and archaic business practices.

Do you want to be Crazy Horse, or do want to be Custer?

You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg
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