Sitting Bull

views updated Jun 27 2018

Sitting Bull

Remarks made to journalist James Creelman

Originally published in On the Great Highway: The Wanderings and Adventures of a Special Correspondent, 1901

"We have never dreamed of making white men live as we live."

Although conflicts between Native American tribes and white settlers had been common since the 1600s, the number and intensity of battles increased after the mid-1800s. The wars that occurred between 1866 and 1890 are known as the Plains Indian Wars and took place west of the Mississippi River.

Unlike some other tribes, Plains tribes (Native American tribes living in an area extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains) were mostly peaceful. As increasingly large numbers of white settlers moved to tribal lands, Native Americans became angry. The settlers slaughtered once-plentiful buffalo herds into near extinction. This was a major threat to Plains tribes' way of life because they depended on the buffalo for food, clothing, and weapons. Historians have recorded fifty-two ways the tribes found to use the buffalo. The Plains Native Americans had built their existence around the mighty buffalo, which has been estimated to have been nearly sixty million strong before settlers arrived. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were fewer than one thousand.

The settlers caused other problems for the Native Americans as well. Railroads interfered with tribal hunting rituals and brought settlers to the West in larger numbers than the U.S. federal government had anticipated. With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1862, East now connected with West, and the traditional way of life enjoyed by Plains tribes was destroyed.

The federal government's method for dealing with the "Indian problem" was to sign treaties, or agreements. Most of these treaties were signed between 1850 and 1871. At that time, a law was passed forbidding the use of treaties with Native Americans. A total of 339 treaties were signed into law, but because of the unexpected number of settlers wanting to live in the West, the majority of those treaties were eventually broken by the government.

One of the Plains tribes was the Lakota, who arrived in the Black Hills of the Dakotas around 1775. This region of the Great Plains was considered sacred by many tribes and was off-limits to settlement according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. When gold was found in the Black Hills, miners and prospectors rushed by the thousands, hoping to strike it rich. The Lakota fought back in an effort to protect their lands. When they refused the federal government's offer to buy the Black Hills, the treaty was set aside. The commissioner of Indian Affairs decreed that any Lakota not settled on reservations (areas of land specified by the government for Native American settlement) by January 31, 1876, would be considered hostile.

Lakota chief Sitting Bull (1831–1890) and his people did not obey the government's orders to evacuate the Black Hills. Sitting Bull had a vision of soldiers dropping into the Lakota camp from the sky. Lakota war chief Crazy Horse (1849–1877) acted on his friend's vision and set out to battle the cavalry with five hundred warriors. Crazy Horse and his men were victorious, and to celebrate, the Lakota moved their camp to the valley of the Little Bighorn River. Here another three thousand Native Americans who left their reservations to follow Sitting Bull joined them. On June 25, General George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876) led the Seventh Cavalry in an attack on the Lakotas. The Battle of Little Bighorn resulted in the death of Custer and all 209 of his troops. The public was outraged.

The cavalry wanted revenge and spent the next couple years pursuing the Lakota, who had split up after the attack at Little Bighorn. Although many chiefs surrendered, Sitting Bull refused. As the years passed, the tribes suffered from starvation and disease. Many Native Americans died. On July 19, 1881, Sitting Bull surrendered. Because of the chief's ability to inspire his people, the government took the precautionary measure of keeping him a prisoner of war for two years at Fort Randall in South Dakota.

Sitting Bull continued to generate interest throughout the country. James Creelman (1859–1915) was a Canadian-born journalist whose sense of adventure took him around the world. He and his family moved to New York in 1872, and it was there he became determined to be a writer. Creelman's willingness to take personal risks to get a good story led him to travel the globe covering wars and political conflicts. One of his most famous interviews was with Sitting Bull in 1882.

Things to remember while reading
Sitting Bull's remarks:

  • The job of any Native American chief is to protect his tribe and see that it remains healthy. Sitting Bull was completely unable to do his job, which must have been a great source of shame and regret.
  • Sitting Bull's courage was legendary throughout the country. During a confrontation with soldiers in 1872, he led four fellow warriors into the middle of battle, sat down, and shared a pipe while bullets tore through the air around them. When they were done, the five men casually stood up and walked back to their battle lines.
  • The dramatic events of the Battle of Little Bighorn brought General George Custer everlasting fame. Custer's "last stand" became the subject of songs, paintings, and stories. He was glorified in the minds of millions of Americans, and the fact that he died at the hands of "savages" only elevated his status more. For many Americans, Sitting Bull represented all Native Americans; he was as hated by them as Custer was loved.

Sitting Bull's remarks

I have lived a long time, and I have seen a great deal, and I have always had a reason for everything I have done. Every act of my life has had an object in view, and no man can say that I have neglected facts or failed to think.

I am one of the last chiefs of the independent Sioux nation, and the place I hold among my people was held by my ancestors before me. If I had no place in the world, I would not be here, and the fact of my existence entitles me to exercise any influence I possess. I am satisfied that I was brought into this life for a purpose; otherwise, why am I here?

This land belongs to us, for the Great Spirit gave it to us when he put us here. We were free to come and go, and to live in our own way. But white men, who belong to another land, have come upon us, and are forcing us to live according to their ideas. That is an injustice; we have never dreamed of making white men live as we live.

White men like to dig in the ground for their food. My people prefer to hunt the buffalo as their fathers did. White men like to stay in one place. My people want to move their tepees here and there to the different hunting grounds. The life of white men is slavery. They are prisoners in towns or farms. The life my people want is a life of freedom. I have seen nothing that a white man has, houses or railways or clothing or food, that is as good as the right to move in the open country, and live in our own fashion. Why has our blood been shed by your soldiers?

There! Your soldiers made a mark like that in our country, and said that we must live there. They fed us well, and sent their doctors to heal our sick. They said that we should live without having to work. But they told us that we must go only so far in this direction, and only so far in that direction. They gave us meat, but they took away our liberty. The white men had many things that we wanted, but we could see that they did not have the one thing we liked best—freedom. I would rather live in a tepee and go without meat when game is scarce than give up my privileges as a free Indian, even though I could have all that white men have. We marched across the lines of our reservation, and the soldiers followed us. They attacked our village, and we killed them all. What would you do if your home was attacked? You would stand up like a brave man and defend it. That is our story. I have spoken.

What happened next …

Sitting Bull lived for another eight years before he was accidentally shot in the head by a Lakota policeman. The remainder of the decade saw the birth of the Indian Rights movement. Well-meaning activists organized to take over where reservations had failed Native Americans. They believed education, U.S. citizenship, and a piece of land for each individual would help Native Americans assimilate into (adopt the lifestyle of and fit into) white American culture.

The government continued to create programs designed to change the attitudes, experiences, beliefs, and lifestyle choices of Native Americans. Many of these experimental reforms were in education. Whites believed the best method for changing tribal members was to send young children away to school and prohibit them from seeing or spending time with their parents. In the minds of the government authorities, Native American parents were savages, unfit to raise their children. Native Americans, however, placed great value on their children: They were the center of tribal culture. With the reforms, Native American families were split apart at a time when they needed each other the most.

The educational reforms did little for young Native Americans, who, for the most part, returned to reservation life after completing school. There, they found little opportunity to use their newfound knowledge. They quickly reverted to their traditional lifestyle when it became clear there were few options. Those who did pursue a career were forced to take low-paying government jobs. Given that the purpose of the school reforms was to convert Native Americans into Christians and make them self-sufficient, the experiments could not be considered successful in any way.

The government passed the Dawes Severalty Act in 1887 (see Chapter 4), a law designed to give each Native American his own land, thereby destroying the power of tribal unity. The Dawes Act was a miserable failure. It gave each individual or family their own plot of land, but not the training necessary to learn to farm it. Without the skills or knowledge to make a life as an individual or family, and without dependence on the tribe, Native Americans had little chance of success. When the Act was finally overturned by Congress in 1934 because Native Americans as a group were no closer to becoming Americanized than they were nearly fifty years prior, Native American independence on the federal government had increased. They had lost their way of life, but nothing had replaced it. Their resistance to giving up their lifestyles to embrace values they did not share kept them from assimilating into white American society.

The Indian Wars ended with a brutal bloodbath known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. In the early morning hours of December 29, 1890, American troops attacked a peaceful camp of Lakotas in South Dakota. When the firearm of a warrior chief accidentally discharged, soldiers opened fire on the camp. Within the hour, more than three hundred Lakota tribal members had been slaughtered, most of them women and children. Their corpses were found as far as three miles from camp. Three officers and fifteen soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor for their actions in the Wounded Knee Massacre.

The government announced the closing of the frontier (wilderness areas open to settlers on a first come, first serve basis) that same year. The line between wilderness and settlement was no longer clear.

The Buffalo Nickel

The federal government had forced Native Americans off their land, herded them on to reservations, infringed upon their way of life, and slaughtered the respected buffalo. Ironically enough, it began printing a nickel in 1913 that featured a buffalo on one side and the head of a Native American on the other.

The nickel, known as the Buffalo nickel or the Indian Head nickel, was popular among the general public. It was designed by artist James Earle Fraser (1876–1953) and continued to be minted each year until 1938 (except during the years of 1922, 1932, and 1933), when it was replaced with a coin featuring the head of former president Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826; served 1801–9). More than one billion Buffalo nickels were coined.

Did you know …

  • Sitting Bull's Native American name was Tatanka-Iyotanka, which describes a buffalo sitting on its haunches, refusing to move.
  • Just as he had experienced a vision telling him of Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn, so Sitting Bull had a vision of his own death. He knew he would be killed by his own people.
  • In the twenty-first century, there are 304 federally recognized Native American reservations in the United States.

Consider the following …

  • Imagine a completely unfamiliar group of people takes over the city or region where you live. They try to force you to adapt to their lifestyle in every way. How would you respond?
  • What would be the hardest part of your lifestyle to give up: traditions such as celebrations, rituals, and holidays; general freedom to make choices; or ability to relocate and live where you please? Why?
  • How is the discrimination against Native Americans in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries similar to that against African Americans during the same time period? How is it different?

For More Information


Blaisdell, Bob, ed. Great Speeches by Native Americans. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.

Creelman, James. On the Great Highway: The Wanderings and Adventures of a Special Correspondent. Boston: Lothrop, 1901.

Gibbon, Guy E. The Sioux: The Dakota and Lakota Nations. Boston: Blackwell Publishers, 2003.

Haugen, Brenda. Geronimo: Apache Warrior. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2005.

Hermann, Spring. Geronimo: Apache Freedom Fighter. Springfield, NJ: Enslow, 1997.

Marrin, Albert. Sitting Bull and His World. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2000.

Roop, Connie, and Peter Roop. Sitting Bull. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2002.


"Chief Sitting Bull." The History Channel. (accessed on July 17, 2006).

"Chief Sitting Bull." (accessed on August 9, 2006).

"Native Americans: Indian Wars Time Table." (accessed on July 17, 2006).

PBS. "Sitting Bull." New Perspectives on the West. (accessed on July 17, 2006).

PBS. "Transcontinental Railroad: Native Americans." American Experience. (accessed on July 17, 2006).


Sitting Bull

views updated May 11 2018

Sitting Bull 1831-1890


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


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

Bull, Sitting (1831-1890)

views updated May 14 2018

Sitting Bull (1831-1890)


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.


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

Sitting Bull

views updated May 21 2018

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull was a medicine man, chief, and warrior in the Hunkpapa clan of the Sioux Nation of Native Americans. He fought in battles against the U.S. government, which sought to remove Native Americans from valuable land wanted by Americans. In captivity Sitting Bull was forced to perform in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, a touring show that featured cowboys and Indians performing stunts and battles.

No one knows for sure where Sitting Bill was born, but he was probably born near Grand River in South Dakota in 1831. His name as a boy was Jumping Badger, and his nickname was Slow. After he fought bravely against other Native Americans at age fourteen, his father renamed him Sitting Bull.

Sitting Bull was married many times. His first wife died in 1853, and a four-year-old son died in 1857. That year he adopted two children. In 1872 he married two wives with whom he had five more children.

After the California gold rush of 1849, westward expansion by American settlers led to decades of conflict with Native American tribes. The federal government sent the military to remove Indians from land the settlers wanted. The Native Americans resisted, leading to many battles. Native Americans also had ongoing disputes with each other, such as between the Sioux, Crows, and Flatheads.

Sitting Bull and many clans of Sioux Indians fought the federal government in the 1860s. In 1868 the government negotiated a treaty to end the fighting. Sitting Bull refused to sign, so the government acquired signatures from other Indians. Sitting Bull's refusal to acknowledge the treaty drew criticism from the federal government.

The discovery of gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota led to another round of battles. Sitting Bull fought in the Battle of Rosebud with Crazy Horse against General George Crook's men on June 17, 1876. Eight days later, Crazy Horse led the Sioux to victory in the Battle of the Little Bighorn against General George Custer, also known as Custer's Last Stand . Native Americans called it the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Sitting Bull prepared medicine instead of fighting that day.

By May 1877 the federal government had defeated the Sioux, so Sitting Bull retreated into Canada with some of his people. After some of them left and the Canadian government declined to support him, Sitting Bull surrendered to the U.S. government in July 1881. He was confined at Fort Randall in South Dakota for two years, and then used as an attraction for two years in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

In 1890 a Paiute prophet introduced a ghost dance to the Sioux Indians. He said the dance would eventually eliminate white men and return land to the Native Americans. Fearing that Sitting Bull would use the ghost dance to inspire an uprising against the federal government, the government arrested him at his home on Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota on December 15, 1890. A fight ensued during the arrest, and Sitting Bull was killed by police.

Sitting Bull

views updated Jun 11 2018

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. □

Sitting Bull

views updated May 18 2018

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.]


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

Robert M. Utley

Sitting Bull

views updated May 21 2018

Sitting Bull ★★ 1954

Thanks to Cody acting as an advisor, this take on Little Big Horn was more sympathetic to the plight of the Native Americans than the typical western. Sioux chief Sitting Bull (Naish) calls for patience while Crazy Horse (Cody) wants war against the white interlopers. Maj. Bob Parrish (Robertson) gets court-martialed for siding with the Injuns against bloodthirsty Col. Custer (Kennedy). President Grant (Hamilton) wants Parrish to pow-wow with Sitting Bull but there's more trouble coming. 105m/B DVD . Dale Robertson, J. Carrol Naish, Iron Eyes Cody, Mary Murphy, Douglas Kennedy, John Litel, Josh Hamilton, Joel Fluellen, William Hopper; D: Sidney Salkow; W: Sidney Salkow, Jack DeWitt; C: Charles Van Enger; M: Raoul Kraushaar.

Sitting Bull

views updated May 21 2018

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.