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Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull 1831-1890

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sitting Bull was most likely born in the winter of 1831 at Many Caches, along the Grand River near present-day Bullhead, South Dakota. Originally named Jumping Badger, he was the son of a Hunkpapa Lakota chief, Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull), and Her Holy Door. The son would become one of the most famous American Indian leaders in history, a great war chief and spiritual leader who earned lasting fame as the man most responsible for the defeat of Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.

After counting his first coup at the age of fourteen, Jumping Badger received his fathers name, Sitting Bull. He early established himself as a courageous warrior and a highly skilled hunter. He also earned the status of a wichasha wakan, or holy man, who could interpret visions and dreams from the spirits. He was also known for his generosity and for his devotion to family members. All of these qualities collectively earned him widespread esteem and helped him to rise to the position of perhaps the most revered Indian leader of the Plains.

As the United States government sought to force tribes onto reservations, Sitting Bull increasingly came to represent, for both Indian and Euro-American, resistance to United States expansion into the Plains. However, he adopted a defensive strategy, fighting only when he perceived a clear threat to his people.

That strategy worked reasonably well until 1876 when General Alfred H. Terry led an expedition against Sitting Bulls camp. Terrys plan was for Colonel John Gibbon (accompanied by Terry) and the Seventh Cavalry under Custer to converge simultaneously on the camp from different directions.

By late June, seven thousand or more Lakotas and Cheyennes had joined his village, and Sitting Bulls vision in which he saw soldiers falling upside down into the camp had helped convince his people of their coming victory. In addition, a successful battle against General George Crooks troops along the Rosebud River in southeastern Montana had further bolstered their confidence.

When Custer arrived at Sitting Bulls encampment along the Little Big Horn, he chose not to wait for Terry and Gibbon. Instead, he attacked on June 25 after further eroding his chance for victory by dividing his forces. Custer and everyone with him died in what would become perhaps the most famous defeat in U.S. military history and be immortalized as Custers Last Stand.

A lingering controversy regarding Sitting Bulls role in the battle originated with accusations by Gall, a rival of Sitting Bulls, that the Hunkpapa chief was not present during the battle and played no role in it. Historians now agree that Gall was wrong.

The victory for Sitting Bull was short-lived. Faced with a relentless pursuit by Colonel Nelson Miles, Sitting Bull made his way to Canada, arriving in May 1877. Finally, he surrendered to U.S. officials at Fort Buford in northwestern Dakota Territory on July 20, 1881. He spent most of his remaining years on Standing Rock Reservation, located in central North and South Dakota.

For about four months in 1885, Sitting Bull toured with Buffalo Bill Codys Wild West Show. During this time, he befriended the young shooting specialist Annie Oakley.

By 1890, a mystical ceremony known as the Ghost Dance was spreading across reservations. Proponents believed that the dance would reverse time, removing soldiers from the land, bringing the buffalo back, and restoring the Indian way of life.

Questions have lingered regarding Sitting Bulls attitude toward the Ghost Dance. He seemed to believe that the new religion might possess some truth and had encouraged the dance at Standing Rock while not participating himself. Perhaps to test the validity of the dance, he was planning a trip to Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, a hotbed of Ghost Dance activism. Officials grew concerned that Sitting Bull might use the movement as a means to stir up resistance, even war, against the government.

To prevent Sitting Bull from leaving, James McLaughlin, the Standing Rock agent, ordered his arrest. Early in the morning of December 15, 1890, a contingent of Lakota police arrived at his cabin. As they attempted to arrest Sitting Bull, supporters came to his defense. Violence soon erupted, and Sitting Bull was shot twice, the second time in the head, and killed. As historians learned more about his life, Sitting Bull gradually emerged during the twentieth century as a great American leader a complex man who did much more than defeat the Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn.

SEE ALSO Battle of the Little Big Horn; Mysticism; Native Americans; Resistance

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gray, John S. 1976. Centennial Campaign: The Sioux War of 1876. Ft. Collins, CO: Old Army Press.

Utley, Robert M. 1994. The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull. New York: Ballantine Books.

Vestal, Stanley. 1989. Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux. 2nd ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. (Orig. pub. 1957.)

Edward J. Rielly

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Bull, Sitting (1831-1890)

Sitting Bull (1831-1890)

Source

Lakota tribal leader

Returns-Again. Some of the myths about Sitting Bull describe him as a white man in disguise, a West Point graduate, and a Freemason; the facts of his life, however, need no embellishment. He was born in 1831 near the Grand River, in what is now South Dakota. His father, Returns-Again, was a mystic and warrior of the Hunkpapa clan of the Sioux, or Lakota, tribe. (The name Sioux came from the Ojibway term nadouessioux used to describe the Lakota people; it means snake or enemy.) Initially, Returns-Again called his son Slow, because he was deliberate in his actions. One night, after a long day of hunting, Returns-Again and three other warriors heard strange sounds as they sat near the campfire. The noise came nearer and the four men saw that it emanated from a lone buffalo bull. As a mystic, Returns-Again could communicate with animals, and he soon realized that the buffalo was repeating a name: Ta-tan-ka I-yo-ta-ke, or Sitting Bull.

Young Warrior. Slow grew up like any other Lakota boy, listening to the men repeat their stories of battle and dreaming of the day in which he would meet an enemy in hand-to-hand combat. He also inherited his fathers ability to communicate with the spirit world through animals and dreams. When Slow turned fourteen, his father presented him with a coup stick, a slender pole with which he could gain prestige by striking an enemy. He quickly proved himself by counting coup against the Crow, the traditional enemy of the Lakota. His father was so proud of him that he changed his sons name to Sitting Bull. In time, Sitting Bull would count coup more than sixty times and claim the deference of every warrior in the Hunkpapa band.

Leader. By the age of twenty-five Sitting Bull was made a leader of the Strong Hearts, an elite warrior society. He became chief of the Hunkpapas in the 1860s, at a time of severe white encroachment on tribal lands. In 1868 he refused to sign the Treaty of Laramie, which designated the entire western half of present-day South Dakota as a reservation for the Lakota, northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Over the next few years Sitting Bull led his warriors on sporadic raids against railroad workers and settlers along the Yellowstone River.

Greasy Grass River. In 1874 geologists accompanying an army expedition discovered traces of gold in western South Dakota. Within a year, nearly one thousand prospectors were illegally camped in the Black Hills, which the Lakota regarded as a sacred dwelling place of the spirits. When government officials offered to purchase the region, tribal leaders balked. As a result, the commissioner of Indian Affairs in November 1875 ordered all Lakota to report to the reservation. Sitting Bull and his followers ignored the order, even after the arrival of U.S. Army troops. In June 1876 Sitting Bull and the Oglala war chief Crazy Horse summoned Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho bands to a large council on Rosebud Creek, Montana. After a six-hour battle on 17 June, the Native Americans temporarily halted an army column under Gen. George Crook. Eight days later, in the best-known battle of the Indian wars, they wiped out a detachment of the Seventh Cavalry under Lt. Col. George A. Custer on the Greasy Grass, or Little Bighorn River, Montana.

End. Contrary to popular belief, Sitting Bull did not lead his warriors into battle on either occasion, preferring to stay in his tepee and make medicine or pray. He had predicted a victory for his people, but at a heavy price. The U.S. government reacted swiftly to the massacre of Custer and his men. They hounded the various Indian bands until they surrendered one by one. Sitting Bull took his followers to Canada in May 1877. When U.S. peace commissioners offered him a full pardon in October, Sitting Bull retorted: We did not give our country to you; you stole it. You come here to tell lies; when you go home, take them with you. By 1881, however, the proud Hunkpapa leader had only a few followers left, and he returned to the United States. After a brief imprisonment, he toured for a year (1885) with Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, becoming a celebrity to the many whites who wanted to see the Slayer of General Custer. He became good friends with the shows owner, William Cody, who paid the Hunkpapa leader fifty dollars a week and treated him with the utmost respect. Rumored to be an instigator of the Ghost Dance movement, Sitting Bull was killed in a scuffle with Indian police in South Dakota on 15 December 1890. Although there were chiefs, such as Crazy Horse, whose credentials as warriors were greater, Sitting Bull represented something more to his people. His powers to communicate with the spirits made him, in the words of a fellow tribesman, big medicine.

Source

Benjamin Capps, The Great Chiefs, revised (Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1977).

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Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

The American Indian Sitting Bull (ca. 1834-1890), a Hunkpapa Sioux medicine man and chief, was the political leader of his tribe at the time of the Custer massacre and during the Sioux War of 1875-1876.

Sitting Bull was born on the Grand River in South Dakota. He gained some fame as a warrior while in his 20s, but he chose to become a medicine man and a political leader rather than a war chief. He hated the white men and their encroachment on Indian lands. Therefore he stayed off the reservation as much as possible. By the mid-1870s his influence had been extended through several Sioux subtribes and to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. He headed the combined war council of these nations although he was not a war chief.

After miners encroached on Sioux territory during the Black Hills gold rush in 1875, Sitting Bull led his people from the reservation and chose to fight. Warned by Gen. Alfred Terry to return to the reservation, Sitting Bull replied, "You won't need any guides; you can find me easily; I won't run away."

Gen. George Custer and the 7th Cavalry found Sitting Bull and several thousand warriors at the Little Bighorn River on June 25, 1876. Sitting Bull did not take part in the fighting that day but made medicine while Gall and Crazy Horse annihilated Custer and 264 men. Custer's death, however, changed nothing. Gen. Terry and Gen. George Crook pressured the Sioux, and Sitting Bull was forced to lead his people to Canada. Conditions there were no better, and Sitting Bull's following dwindled, especially after 1879, when the U.S. government offered amnesty to those Indians who would surrender. In July 1881 Sitting Bull, with 187 followers, arrived at Ft. Buford to accept the government's offer.

Placed on the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakota Territory, Sitting Bull found himself famous. During his residence in Canada, stories had circulated in the United States that the Sioux leader was white, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and a Catholic. In 1878 a book, The Works of Sitting Bull, was published ascribing Latin and French poems to his authorship.

When the "ghost dance craze" swept the Indian reservations in 1890, Sitting Bull took no part in it. But soldiers arrested him that December for fear he would lead the Sioux on the warpath. In the fight that followed, Sitting Bull was fatally shot, possibly by accident, possibly by design. He was buried at Ft. Yates, N. Dak., but in 1953 his body was reinterred near Mobridge, S. Dak.

Further Reading

Stanley Vestal, Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux: A Biography (1932), draws upon both Indian and white sources to present a very sympathetic picture of the chief. Robert M. Utley, The Last Days of the Sioux Nation (1963), contains a scholarly assessment, and James McLaughlin, My Friend the Indian (1910), provides a contemporary assessment. □

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Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull (1831?–1890), Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux chief.One of the most significant of all Indian leaders, Sitting Bull achieved distinction not only as a war leader but as a political chief and spiritual leader as well. His record in war with enemy tribes was exemplary even before he came to the notice of whites in the 1860s. Sitting Bull played a leading role in the fighting with the forces of U.S. Army generals Henry H. Sibley, Alfred Sully, and Patrick E. Connor, who led strong columns into Sioux ranges of Dakota and Montana in 1863–65. After the Treaty of 1868, Sitting Bull was principal leader of the bands that scorned the reservation and came to be known as hostiles. He was present at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 25–26 June 1876 but as an “old man” chief did not take a conspicuous part in the fighting. As Sitting Bull's coalition fell apart under military pressure, in 1877 he and a small following sought refuge in Canada. Dwindling buffalo resources forced his surrender and return to the United States in July 1881. At the Standing Rock Reservation he feuded with the reservations agent and assumed a prominent role in the Ghost Dance troubles of 1889–90. On 15 December 1890, while attempting his arrest, Indian policemen shot and killed him.
[See also Crazy Horse; Plains Indians Wars; Wounded Knee, Battle of.]

Bibliography

Robert M. Utley , The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull, 1993.

Robert M. Utley

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Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull, c.1831–1890, Native American chief, Sioux leader in the battle of the Little Bighorn. He rose to prominence in the Sioux warfare against the whites and the resistance of the Native Americans under his command to forced settlement on a reservation led to a punitive expedition. In the course of the resistance occurred the Native American victory on the Little Bighorn, where George Armstrong Custer and his men were defeated and killed on June 25, 1876. Sitting Bull and some of his followers escaped to Canada, but returned (1881) on a promise of a pardon and were settled on a reservation. In 1885 he appeared in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, but his championship of the Native American cause was not at an end. He encouraged the Sioux to refuse to sell their lands, and he advocated the Ghost Dance religion. He was killed by Native American police on a charge of resisting arrest. He was buried in North Dakota, but in 1954 his remains were removed to South Dakota.

See J. M. Carroll, ed., The Arrest and Killing of Sitting Bull: A Documentary (1986); biographies by S. Vestal (rev. ed. 1957, repr. 1972), A. B. Adams (1973), and K. B. Smith (1987); N. Philbrick, The Last Stand (2010).

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Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull (1831–90) North American Sioux leader. With others, he led the attack on Custer's US cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876). He was captured in 1881, and imprisoned for two years. Later, he joined the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill. Accused of anti-white activities, he was arrested again in 1890, and killed in the ensuing skirmish.

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