Chief Sitting Bull, an important figure in American history, was one of the last significant leaders of Native American opposition to Western colonialism in the nineteenth century.
In this article, we’ll explore the life of Sitting Bull, including his early years, his important work, and his tragic death.
Who Was Sitting Bull?
Sitting Bull was a Teton Dakota Indian leader who unified the Sioux communities in their battle for survival on the North American Great Plains.
Sitting Bull led his initial war group when he was 14 years old and quickly developed a reputation for courage in combat.
The Sioux made peace with the US state in 1868, however, when gold was found in the Black Hills in the mid-1870s, a surge of white fortune-seekers raided Sioux territory.
Sitting Bull retaliated, but he was only capable of winning battles, not the war. In 1890, he was captured and murdered.
Sitting Bull: Early Life
Sitting Bull, also known as Jumping Badger, was born in 1831 in either contemporary South Dakota or Montana as Jumping Badger. Returns-Again dubbed his child “Slow” because of his calm demeanor.
But then as he grew older, the Teton Dakota child started to reveal his true colors. He courageously slaughtered a buffalo for the first time at age of just ten. And, at the age of 14, he demonstrated bravery by throwing a Crow fighter from his steed.
His father was so pleased with his child that he dubbed him “Tatanka Yotanka” or “Sitting Bull.” Several Native Americans regarded buffalo as courageous, powerful, and tenacious animals, and Sitting Bull seemed to exemplify these characteristics.
Sitting Bull soon joined the Strong Heart warrior organization and the Silent Eaters, who looked after the group’s wellbeing. By 1857, he’d become designated as a “war chief” and was generally acknowledged as a holy man.
Yet Sitting Bull and his followers were soon confronted with a dangerous new threat. White settlers had begun to rush west, clashing with Indigenous nations.
Sitting Bull’s Battles
Sitting Bull fought against US forces for the very first time around 1863. The US Army was attacking some other team of Indigenous people in the region, who had moved up after federal agents took necessary goods and supplies from them on their land. Sitting Bull vowed not to ever negotiate a deal that would force his tribe onto a reservation after experiencing such betrayal.
Although Sitting Bull was well aware that his position — and his continuous opposition to the US government — would cause problems in the future, he refused to back down and stuck to his views. “The whites may eventually catch me… but I’ll have a nice time till then,” the brave warrior stated.
He watched with skepticism as leaders from all over the Great Plains sat at the table to negotiate agreements with the US administration.
Although many of the chiefs signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which established the Great Sioux Reservation and offered extra land to the Sioux in locations including Nebraska and Wyoming, Sitting Bull declined to sign.
Sitting Bull’s uncompromising stance won him countless friends and even contributed to his election as the Lakota Sioux’s supreme chief, a position nobody had occupied previously.
The chief held loose leadership of the various autonomous tribes of Lakota Sioux individuals who came on the Great Plains in that capacity.
It didn’t take too long for Sitting Bull to verify his prophecy. Treasure hunters found gold in the Black Hills, a holy site on the Great Sioux Reservation, in 1874.
The United States government soon broke the Fort Laramie Treaty’s commitments and demanded that Native Americans abandon their territory. Sitting Bull flatly refused. So, he braced himself for combat.
Sitting Bull Vs The US Army
As hostilities between US troops and Sitting Bull’s tribe grew, the Lakota leader sought spiritual support. Sitting Bull chose to begin a Sun Dance ritual in early June 1876.
Sitting Bull reportedly danced for 36 hours without a break throughout this occasion. He then sacrificially sliced each of his arms 50 times. He apparently went into a daze as blood poured down his extremities — and had a vivid sense of triumph.
When he came out, Sitting Bull declared that he’d witnessed US soldiers swooping down like crickets from the air into a Native American campsite. The males were turned on its head in the apparition.
Several people even lost their caps. The leader believed that it was a message. The Lakota tribe and their supporters would soon prevail over US soldiers. And he was right. This is exactly what happened just a few weeks later.
Native American fighters not just won the Battle of the Rosebud, wherein they beat General George Crook, but they also achieved an even greater triumph soon afterward at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
That battle, which matched 3,000 fighters versus General George Custer as well as his 600 soldiers, led to a significant victory for the Native Americans. They slaughtered every soldier on the battlefield, even Custer.
What’s more, as Sitting Bull’s soldiers clashed with US forces during the deadly conflict, the chief shielded the tribe women and children and did everything he could to keep them alive.
Their victory, though, was fleeting. Custer’s downfall, called “Custer’s Last Stand,” surprised and outraged the United States authorities. More US forces soon streamed west, bent on vengeance.
The Final Years of Sitting Bull’s Life
The final years of Sitting Bull’s existence were trying. In 1877, with US forces moving in on him, he relocated his tribe to Canada to protect them from harm. He stayed in isolation for almost 4 years. However, as time passed, he learned that several of his followers were suffering owing to a lack of food supply.
Sitting Bull surrendered to the US Military in 1881, refusing to see his tribe suffer anymore. In return for a pardon for his community, he was sentenced to 2 years in imprisonment at Fort Randall in South Dakota.
He was transferred to the Standing Rock Reservation after completing his sentence.
Although this Lakota chief had always detested the concept of living on a reserve, he was occasionally permitted to leave his new residence. At this stage, he had become something of a legend, and he was generally regarded as more of a novelty than an imminent threat to the US state.
Nonetheless, Sitting Bull developed means to combat absorption. He frequently dressed in traditional clothing and continued speaking his original language, which he occasionally used to offend unsuspecting white Americans under their noses.
Sitting Bull was invited to talk at the Northern Pacific Railroad’s event held in 1883. The leader was expected to greet the predominantly white audience with a friendly address.
Or, at the very least, it was the speech delivered to his translator at the outset.
Sitting Bull spoke in his own tongue. Because his translator read his prepared speech rather than the genuine one, the audience assumed the chief was applauding them and erupted in applause.
How Did Sitting Bull die?
Sitting Bull had struggled for most of his life to find serenity. And, sadly, his death would be no exception. As the Ghost Dance campaign overtook the Standing Rock Reservation, Indian security forces were concerned that Sitting Bull would offer his assistance.
The Ghost Dance group believed that deceased members of the tribe would come back from the dead and that all white Americans would vanish.
Indian police attempted to arrest Sitting Bull in the early hours of December 15, 1890, for his apparent participation in the uprising, but he refused to leave peacefully.
Despite the fact that it was 6 a.m., a crowd quickly gathered at the hectic spectacle at the reserve. Soon after, a shot was fired at one of the guards. As a result, the officers shot Sitting Bull, who died instantaneously.
Many people were shocked to find that Sitting Bull perished at the hands of law enforcement. The chief’s legacy continues on more than 100 years later his great-grandson, was discovered by DNA in 2021.
But, even before the verification, LaPointe had dedicated his life’s work to share his great grandfather’s story. Sitting Bull is still regarded as one of the most respected Native American leaders in history.