Sitting Bull by: Téa simon

In 1831, Sitting Bull was born in what is now present day South Dakota, into the Hunkpapa Teton Sioux tribe. At birth, he was named Jumping Badger and nicknamed Hunkesi, or "Slow", which described his careful and unhurried nature. He was also nicknamed this because his father felt he lacked talent when it came to warfare. His father, Jumping Bull, was a fierce warrior that demonstrated great courage. He soon disproved his nickname (Hunkesi) at the age of 10 when he killed his first buffalo. Jumping Badger showed huge promise in his tribe with his exceptional hunting capabilities. Only four years later at the age of 14, he killed his first enemy, and "began to make [himself] great in battle." After this success, he became a chief of his tribe, and Jumping Badger was given his fathers name, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Yotanka). Sitting Bull would play games with other boys in his village that tested their strength, agility, and intelligence, but Sitting Bull always surpassed them in every way. He did this by demonstrating the four core Lakota principals which were bravery, fortitude, generosity, and wisdom. In his early life, Sitting Bull was chosen to join the Kit Fox Warrior Society, and the Midnight Strong Heart Society. The more prestigious of the two societies, the Midnight Strong Heart Society, was only open to warriors who continuously demonstrated the four Lakota principals on and off the battlefield. In 1856, Sitting Bull was made leader of the Midnight Strong Society after killing the Chief of a rival tribe. This high position gave Sitting Bull a great deal of influence and power within his tribe. Now being a leader of his tribe, Sitting Bull was thrust directly into the conflict between his people and the white man. At this point in time, the Native population was viewed by the US government as an uncivilized roadblock, obstructing the path to a modern America. Many Native Americans thought they could engage in relationships with the white man, however Sitting Bull believed, “I have seen nothing that the white man has… which is as good as our right to roam and live the open plains as we choose.” In 1868 after a successful campaign against the encroaching white aggressors, the Chief of the Lakota, Chief Red Cloud, was approached with the Fort Laramie Treaty which stated that the Lakota people would reside in a reservation in the western half of South Dakota. Chief Red Cloud signed the treaty and took a large portion of the Lakota into the reservation. Sitting Bull however, refused to oblige the white man and continued living as he pleased. Many Native American’s shared his beliefs and chose to live with him, marking the beginning to Sitting Bull’s Chiefdom, and the fracturing of the Lakota nation.

Sitting Bull, now the chief of the Non-Treaty Indians, lived with his loyal followers just as the hundreds of generations of Indians had before him. For the first time, his people began to look to him as a spiritual leader as well as a military leader. He received visions from Wakan-Tanka, the everywhere spirit, which gave him guidance and helped him advise his people. They lived prosperously, remaining well fed and properly clothed as a result of the leadership of Sitting Bull, however while the Non-Treaty indians remained well sustained, the indians inside the reservation were starving. The following winter the US government stated that any land that wasn't designated as part of reservation be closed, and any Natives residing there after January 1st 1876 were to be killed on sight. Sitting Bull still refused to leave his land and he sent word to the Lakota within the reservation that his people were well fed and happy in hopes of recruiting more followers. His attempt succeeded and he gained formidable support from those within the reservation. Fearful that the white man was planning to attack, Sitting Bull prepared for another guiding vision. In order to obtain his vision, Sitting Bull held a Sundance (an Indian method of prayer ) in June and had 50 pieces of flesh sliced from his arms. He is said to have abstained from water for two days and nights, and then collapsed; it was then that he received his vision. He saw enemy soldiers falling off their mounts as their hats hit the ground. But more importantly, he heard a voice say, “I give these to you because they have no ears.” Sitting Bull took this to mean that his people would beat the white man in an upcoming battle.

On June 25th, General Custer was sent by the United States to put an end to Sitting Bull's resistance, but him and his army were severely outnumbered. This turned into the Battle of Little Bighorn. This battle left only about 80 Lakota dead, while the entirety of General Custer’s 7th cavalry, along with himself, were killed.

Sitting Bull was prevented from fighting in battle during his advancing age, so he sent his nephews White Bull and One Bull in his place. They carried medicine made by Sitting Bull to protect them. Even though he was not present at the battle, Sitting Bull is credited with the victory. It wasn't long before all of America knew the fate of Custer, and many feared the name Sitting Bull. In fact, Frances Marie Antoinette Mack Roe, the wife of a military officer, describes Sitting Bull as an old villain in her letter to her husband in 1878. There were even some rumors circulating that Sitting Bull had attended West Point in disguise in order to master the art of war. Though Sitting Bull won the battle, he was doubtful that he would win the war against the white man, so he retreated to Canada with many of his followers, where he was granted amnesty, however Canada was not the sanctuary that Sitting Bull had thought it would be. They were not supported by the Canadian Government, there were almost no buffalo to hunt, and disease ran rampant through his village. Sitting Bull had a duty to protect his people so on July 20th, 1881, he surrendered to the United States Government at Fort Buford and was sent to Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The Indian Agents stationed at the reservation did not respect the position of chief, so Sitting Bull’s authority was not officially recognized. However, Sitting Bull still maintained a great amount of influential power over the Lakota living there. He was even famous among white people. Instead of working the farms, Sitting Bull was able to make money by selling autographs, pictures, and was even asked to work with Buffalo Bill on his Wild West show. Sitting Bull was allowed to perform with Buffalo Bill for one season until he had to return to the reservation. After his return, Sitting Bull invited Kicking Bear to introduce “his” reservation to the Ghost Dance Movement. The Ghost Dance Movement was a spiritual movement adopted by many Lakota tribes that stated if Indians were to refrain from aggression and perform the Ghost Dance every six weeks, there would be an apocalypse that would wipe out the white man and restore the land to the Indians. However, the U.S government did not know what the Ghost Dance movement was, and feared that it would lead to further Indian aggression. In order to make sure there would be no battle, the United States aimed to detain Sitting Bull before the Lakota could make a move.

According to the firsthand account of Major James Mclaughlin, the same agent stationed at Standing Rock, on December 16th 1890 ten Indian Agents entered Sitting Bull’s home with the intention of arresting him for questioning. When they brought him outside, “they found themselves completely surrounded by Sitting Bull's followers, all armed and excited. The policemen reasoned with the crowd, gradually forcing them back, thus increasing the open circle considerably; but Sitting Bull kept calling upon his followers to rescue him from the police... two of Sitting Bull's men, dashed through the crowd and fired. Lieut. "Bull Head" was standing on one side of Sitting Bull and 1st Sergt. "Shave Head" on the other, with 2d Sergt. "Red Tomahawk" behind, to prevent his escaping; "Catch the Bear's " shot struck Bull Head in the right side, and he instantly wheeled and shot Sitting Bull, hitting him in the left side, between the tenth and eleventh ribs, and "Strike the Kettle's" shot having passed through Shave Head's abdomen, all three fell together.”. On that day, Sitting Bull died, leaving behind not only a military legacy, but the legacy of a man whose wise words, spiritual and political views, and resourcefulness would give hope to his people for generations to come.

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