Sitting Bull (c. 1831-1890) stands as an enduring symbol of resistance, a Teton Dakota Native American chief who fearlessly united the Sioux tribes against the encroachment of white settlers on their tribal lands. In this exploration of Sitting Bull’s life, we delve into his early years, his pivotal role in the Battle of Little Bighorn, his defiance against the U.S. government, and his unexpected association with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.
Sitting Bull’s Early Life
Born in 1831 near Grand River, Dakota Territory, Sitting Bull, initially named “Jumping Badger,” showcased his courage early on. His father, Returns-Again, a renowned Sioux warrior, recognized this bravery, renaming him Tatanka Yotanka, after a daring raid on a Crow camp at the age of 14. Joining the Strong Heart warrior society and the Silent Eaters, Sitting Bull expanded Sioux hunting grounds westward.
Sitting Bull Resists U.S. Government
In 1863, Sitting Bull faced the U.S. Army for the first time in retaliation for the Minnesota Uprising. Refusing to sign any treaty forcing his people onto reservations, he encountered the military again in the Battle of Killdeer Mountain in 1864, solidifying his anti-treaty stance. While some leaders signed the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868, his defiance gained him followers, and he became the supreme leader of the Lakota Sioux.
The Battle of Little Bighorn
The turning point came in 1874 when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, violating the Fort Laramie Treaty. Sitting Bull’s, resolute, faced off against General George Crook and, later, in the Battle of the Rosebud, secured victory. This led to the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn, where his vision of U.S. soldiers falling like grasshoppers from the sky materialized, marking a historic triumph for the united tribes.
Sitting Bull Surrenders and Buffalo Bill’s Show
In the aftermath of the Battle of Little Bighorn, the U.S. government intensified efforts against the Sioux. Reduced buffalo populations and encroaching settlers forced to lead his people to Canada in 1877. In 1881, he surrendered for amnesty and spent two years as a prisoner of war before residing on Standing Rock Reservation. Surprisingly, Sitting Bull later joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1885, showcasing his life alongside sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
Sitting Bull’s Death and Legacy
As the Ghost Dance Movement gained momentum, Sitting Bull’s influence worried authorities. On December 15, 1890, he was tragically killed by Indian police. His death marked a somber end, foreshadowing the Wounded Knee massacre. Buried at Fort Yates Military Cemetery, his legacy lives on, a testament to courage and resistance.