Who Painted Sitting Bull?

Sitting Bull is one of the most famous Native Americans to have ever lived. His life and accomplishments as well as his death following his encounter with Colonel Custer has become legendary. 

However, how much do you actually know about Sitting Bull and his life? For example, do you know who painted Sitting Bull? Do you know whether he has any living descendants? Do you know which tribe he belonged to?

Sitting Bull

This article will answer those questions and more as it explains the history and life of one of the most fascinating Native American chiefs that there ever was – the one and only Sitting Bull. 

Let’s start by answering the simplest question first – who painted Sitting Bull? 

So, Who Painted Sitting Bull?

The famous Native American chief was born in 1831 near modern day Fort Yates, North Dakota. He grew up speaking Lakota and became known as a warrior and leader of his tribe. His life story has inspired countless artists over the years.

Sitting Bull was painted by George Catlin, a painter from New York City. Catlin had traveled throughout the United States documenting Native Americans and their culture. He met Sitting Bull during his travels and spent time with him before he died in 1890.

Catlin’s painting is considered one of the most important paintings of a Native American chief. It depicts Sitting Bull at age 34 in full regalia. The painting shows Sitting Bull sitting on a buffalo robe while holding a spear. In addition to being a portrait, it also documents clothing styles, weapons, and other items associated with Native Americans.

Catlin was well known for painting portraits of Native American figures and he encountered many of them on his travels. 

He was born in 1796 in Pennsylvania and although he trained as a lawyer, he was not interested in the law and instead decided to follow the stories of the West and the Native Americans who populated it. 

Therefore, Catlin became such an expert on the Native Americans that he was welcomed by them across the United States to paint them in a variety of poses. 

Yet whilst Catlin was famous for painting Sitting Bull and others, his fame was dwarfed by that of the man he painted. Now that we’ve explained who painted Sitting Bull, let’s delve a bit deeper into who Sitting Bull was and why he was famous. 

Who Was Sitting Bull?

Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill

Whilst earlier on Sitting Bull’s origins were briefly touched upon, this doesn’t give you the full picture as to who Sitting Bull was. Born, as mentioned above, in 1831 in what is now known as North Dakota, Sitting Bull was the son of Jumping Bull, a Lakota warrior who displayed great bravery. 

Sitting Bull would eventually become leader of the Lakota people. The Lakota were once a tribe that had originated as part of the Sioux people. Sitting Bull was in fact a member of the Hunkpapa people and was the leader of the Hunkpapa. 

The Hunkpapa were part of the Lakota nation and one of the seven council fires or constituency members of the Lakota nation. 

Sitting Bull, like many great Native American warrior figures, was prone to visions and it was his vision of soldiers advancing towards the Hunkpapa as thick as grasshoppers that meant that the Lakota were prepared when the 7th Cavalry, under the commander of Lieutenant Colonel George Custer came into view. 

Sitting Bull, deciding that the continuing warfare between the US Government and the Native American had to end, came into conflict with Custer’s army, eventually ending in a massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Sitting Bull would infamously scalp Custer after the latter’s death during the battle. 

The US government attempted to put an end to Sitting Bull’s campaign by sending the might of the US army and Native American police after him (these were Native Americans who agreed to work with the US authorities). Sitting Bull would remain undetected for several years and also not face prosecution.

He eventually ended up working in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows for a number of years. However, performing was not in Sitting Bull’s temperament and he instead decided to return to his homeland. 

However, his return forced the US to react swiftly and promptly. During an attempted arrest of Sitting Bull in North Dakota on the 15th of December 1890, he was shot in the head during a struggle to arrest him by the Native American police and his supporters. 

He was fifty-nine years old and had led an extraordinary life. His death however, marked the end of an era – there would no longer be any great Native American revolts against the US government on the scale of Sitting Bull’s and his death truly was an end of the Wild West. 

Sitting Bull’s living descendants were eventually able to rebury his remains in 1953 near to his birthplace in South Dakota. 

Battle of Little Big Horn

Final Thoughts

Sitting Bull is an iconic figure for a number of reasons. This isn’t simply thanks to George Catlin’s iconic painting of him but also for his part in the Battle of Little Big Horn and the death of Colonel Custer. 

Custer’s death sent shock waves across America and the seeming defeat of “civilized” forces by those who many in America did not consider to be civilized. 

Sitting Bull was simply attempting to defend his land and his way of life, something any American can understand and sympathize with. It is simply tragic that he was not able to do that, and his life ended in bloodshed, much as he had lived. 

This is why it is important to know about Sitting Bull – he was an infamous figure for many and a hero for many others and his story represents a part of the United States’ past that many would rather forget. 

It is a past that should not be forgotten however, for only through learning from America’s past can we ensure that we build a truly brighter tomorrow.