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Sitting Bull

AKA Jumping Badger

Born: c. 1831
Birthplace: Grand River, SD
Died: 15-Dec-1890
Location of death: Fort Yates, ND
Cause of death: Assassination
Remains: Buried, Sitting Bull Monument, Mobridge, SD

Gender: Male
Religion: Other
Race or Ethnicity: American Aborigine
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Warrior Chief of the Sioux

Named Jumping Badger at birth, he fought with his Sioux people against the Crow beginning when he was just 14, and for bravery he was given his father's name, Tatanka Iyotake, or Sitting Bull. Later the Chief of the Hunkpapa Lakota, he was nicknamed Hunkesi (slow) for his patient, deliberative decision-making process. He was revered as fearless in battle, generous and wise in leadership.

In the early years of the US Civil War, Sitting Bull tried to keep his people from becoming embroiled in the invaders' dispute, even as the US Army build new forts along the Missouri River and white settlers came by the hundreds. His perspective on co-existence changed after the Sioux were attacked by soldiers under the command of General Alfred Sully. Sitting Bull's men repulsed the attack, then counterattacked at the Battle of the Badlands. As other tribes joined the battle, Sitting Bull led a rout of US forces at the 1867 Battle of Powder River, and he was subsequently elected Chief of all Sioux, with Crazy Horse of the Oglala Sioux as his second-in-command.

In the Fort Laramie peace treaty of 1868, the Sioux were resettled on a South Dakota reservation. But two years later, gold was discovered in the nearby Black Hills -- land held sacred by the Sioux, and protected by terms of the treaty. As gold fever spread, huge numbers of white prospectors came and camped in the hills, and the Sioux were ordered by US authorities to yield access and retreat to a smaller portion of the reservation. Most did, but Sitting Bull and his followers instead resumed warfare.

Speaking of his tribesmen on the reservation, Sitting Bull said, "Look at me, see if I am poor, or my people either. The whites may get me at last, as you say, but I will have good times till then. You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard-tack, and a little sugar and coffee."

In his most famous fight, the Battle of Little Bighorn, Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his men were decisively routed. Pursued north by General Alfred Terry, Sitting Bull led his men to Canada (then British territory), where they were ravished by famine and cold. Promised a pardon, he surrendered in 1881, stating, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle."

He was sent to Standing Rock Reservation, where he was greeted as a hero. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs, fearing another uprising, had him arrested and imprisoned at Fort Randall for nearly two years. When he was allowed to return to the reservation, the Bureau ordered that he be granted no status, and instead he was forced to work the fields. Contemptuous of reservation life, he briefly joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and toured the west as a stage attraction for several months.

He then settled into a cabin near the reservation, where he lived his last years in relative peace with his two surviving wives, near a growing number of white neighbors. Despite his well-earned warrior reputation, when not fighting for his people he got along easily with red men or white. A friend, the Christian missionary Catherine Weldon who lived among the Sioux, wrote: "As a friend, he was sincere and true, as a patriot devoted and uncorruptible. As a husband and father, affectionate and considerate. As a host, courteous and hospitable to the last degree. He was a typical Indian, and he held tenaciously to the traditions of this people as sacred legacy."

In 1888 he attended a natives' conference in Standing Rock, Dakota, where he urged his people to accept no further compromise and relinquish no more land. He participated in the "Ghost Dance", a ceremonial movement which some Sioux believed would rid the land of the white newcomers, and his involvement again raised fears of an uprising. Federal agents ordered Sitting Bull arrested, and in a pre-dawn raid on 15 December 1890, more than three dozen tribal policemen backed by military escort were dispatched to his cabin. In the ensuing chaos Sitting Bull was shot through his head by one of the policemen. News accounts reported that the Chief had resisted arrest; eyewitnesses said he had asked only to be allowed to dress.

Father: Sitting Bull (d. 1859)
Mother: Her-Holy-Door (d. 1884)
Wife: (d. 1857, childbirth)
Wife: (divorced)
Wife: (d.)
Wife: Four Robes (m. 1857)
Wife: Seen-by-the-Nation (m. 1857)
Son: Crow Foot
Daughter: Standing Holy
Son: Catch the Bear

    Surrendered to Enemy 20-Jul-1881
    Taken Prisoner of War
    Shot by Police Fort Yates, ND (15-Dec-1890)
    Sioux Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Gout

Author of books:
Sitting Bull: The Collected Speeches (1998, posthumous)

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #2183 (28 cents, portrait, issued 14-Sep-1989)

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