DAKOTA IMAGES | Sitting Bull

DAKOTA IMAGES | Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull, a warrior, holy man, and chief of the Hunkpapa Lakotas, is believed to have been born near the Grand River in 1832. The son of Sitting Bull and Her-Holy-Door, he was first named “Slow” for his careful, thoughtful behavior. When Slow struck his first coup against Crow warriors at age fourteen, his father gave the boy his own name. During his lifetime, Sitting Bull married several times, fathering children with Light Hair, Snow-on-Her, Red Woman, Four Robes, and Seen-by-the-Nation. His family also included an adopted nephew, One Bull; an assiniboine boy named Stays Back; and two sons of Seen-by-the-Nation. Always resistant to white encroachment on Lakota lands, Sitting Bull gained status as a tribal leader. He led attacks on Forts Buford and Stevenson and refused to sign the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which created the Great Sioux Reservation. When Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and the Seventh Cavalry attacked an encampment of Lakotas and Cheyennes along the Little Bighorn River on 25 June 1876, Sitting Bull inspired his warriors to victory. Wearying of the military retribution that followed the Little Bighorn, many tribal leaders accepted reservation life. Sitting Bull refused, however, and shortly after his ally Crazy Horse surrendered on 6 May 1877, the Hunkpapa leader and nearly one thousand followers sought refuge in Canada. Four years later, they returned to the United States, arriving at Fort Buford on 19 July 1881. Following nineteen months as prisoners of war at Fort Randall, the group settled at the Standing Rock Agency near Fort Yates. Sitting Bull continued to oppose white settlement, visiting Washington, D.C., during legislative debates on the 1888 General Allotment, or Dawes, Act and the Sioux Act of 1889, which broke the Great Sioux Reservation into five smaller reservations. Having lost much of their land and way of life, some Lakotas turned to the Ghost Dance, a religion that promised a return to traditional ways. Officials feared that Sitting Bull would join the movement and sent Indian police to arrest him. As a result of the gun battle that ensued on 15 December 1890, Sitting Bull, seven family members and followers, and six policemen died. The government’s campaign against the Ghost Dance culminated on 29 December with the deaths of Big Foot and most of his band at Wounded Knee. Sitting Bull was buried at the Fort Yates post cemetery on 17 December 1890. In 1953, his remains were moved to a site near Mobridge, South Dakota.