Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Battle for Freedom in England and America

(The flow of English blood is stopped.)

Martin Luther is the first “protestant,” or the first to protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church (1517). Luther took seriously what he called the “four last things.” These were: death, judgment by God, heaven and eternal fire.

Luther admitted he trembled before God’s power. He was, he said, no more than “a miserable pygmy…dust and ashes full of sin.” On one occasion he spent six hours confessing his many sins.

Luther argued that the individual must understand the Bible and the teachings of Christ for himself. For this reason he insisted that the Bible must be translated from Latin into languages the common people understood. No priest or sacrament could wipe out sin. A man or woman could be saved by faith alone. Followers of Luther were soon battling it out with Catholics and a flood of Christian blood would be unleashed.


Protestant ideas began entering England at this time. At first, Henry VIII was against these new teachings. Those who read copies of an English-language Bible were arrested. The book was burned. A second offense meant readers were burned at the stake. 

During the 1520s Henry grew increasingly unhappy with his queen’s failure to produce a male child who could inherit the throne. Henry slept with other women and two mistresses produced boys. (Neither “bastard” was eligible for the crown.) So the king plotted to divorce his wife. The pope denied him permission. 

Henry responded by starting his own church, the Church of England or Anglican Church. 

In 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn. English law now made it a crime to insult the queen or question Anglican teachings. When Henry quickly tired of Anne and wanted to rid himself of another wife he ordered “witnesses” tortured till they admitted to various crimes involving the queen. Boleyn was found guilty and her head was chopped off at the Tower of London. 

In 1536 thousands of Catholics rose up and prepared to revolt. Henry made promises to rebel leaders he never intended to keep. Then he ordered his top general to make “dreadful execution” against these troublesome Englishmen. A “fearful spectacle” and plenty of spilled blood would teach them a lesson.

After 1547 most links to Catholic religious practice were ended. Stained glass windows were removed from churches, sometimes by angry mobs throwing rocks. Bells came down from steeples. Statues of the saints were broken up. Priests and ministers were ordered not to wear fancy garments during services. A New Book of Common Prayer was introduced, making English the language of all religious activities.  Battles over the use of this book led to the death of 4,000 Catholics and Anglicans.

By this time Henry VIII had died.

Edward VI, the new king, was calling the pope “the true son of the devil.”

His half-sister Mary, however, was a devoted Catholic. She cared for nothing in the world, she once said, “but only for God’s service and my conscience.” Told she could not attend Catholic mass she ignored everyone and went to church two and three times a day. 

So long as Edward lived the Protestants were in control. When he died in 1553 Mary took the English throne and Catholics appeared poised to regain power. The next year she declared England to be under the pope’s control. Then she married Philip, a good Catholic and son of the Spanish king. Soon she was ordering the burnings of heretics, this time, those who refused to give up “protestant” ideas. More than 200 died in the flames. Victims included Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, bishops in the Church of England. Another was Joan Waist, a poor blind woman, who saved money to buy a New Testament and paid others to read it to her. The queen has been known as “Bloody Mary” ever since.[1]

Queen Mary died in 1558.[2] She was followed on the throne by Elizabeth I, this time a Protestant queen. For the next fifteen years England seesawed with Protestants and Catholics battling for control and often killing those who stood in the way. In 1579 John Stubbs published a book which angered the queen. As punishment his right hand was amputated. Meanwhile, Pope Pius V offered a reward to anyone who could assassinate the English ruler. The government began using spies to keep watch on religious enemies. When testimony was needed in court the rack (a device to stretch the arms and legs of a victim) and the thumbscrews were employed. 

Mary Stuart, Elizabeth’s niece, a Catholic, was executed when it seemed she was plotting to take the throne. 

Differences over religion helped stir rivalry between Spain and England. In 1580 Spain gobbled up neighboring Portugal and held power there for sixty years. Eight years later the Spanish sent a mighty fleet, the Spanish Armada, to attack England. The fleet was smashed—opening the door for other nations to found colonies in America.

France was also torn by religious differences. Blood again flowed. In 1598 the Edict of Nantes was issued. This decree granted religious toleration to all members of Christian churches. Spain took another direction: in 1609, rulers ordered almost a million people driven from the country because of their beliefs. 

Meanwhile, people in Scotland were swayed by John Calvin’s ideas and the Presbyterian Church spread in the north. Calvinism insists that the Scriptures are the one rule for life. Each individual must be able to read them for him or herself and must follow them to the letter.

John Knox, a Scottish leader, compared going to Catholic mass to drinking a glass of poison. Lawmakers there made attendance at mass more than twice grounds for execution. Ireland remained strongly Catholic, except in the northeast, where Protestants settled in large numbers. Differences of religion led to fresh conflict and the spilling of fresh blood.


Queen Elizabeth died in 1603. She was followed on the throne by James I, who ordered a new version of the Bible. This King James Bible (1611) would become the standard for almost every Protestant church. James also worked to limit Parliament’s control over his decisions. He refused to call the body into session unless it was absolutely necessary and lawmakers met for only thirty-six months during James’ twenty-two years on the throne. [3]

Parliament struck back when possible by refusing to raise taxes or give the king the money he needed to run the government.

Differences over religion soon led to fighting between the English and the Scots. At about the same time Robert Filmes argued, “A thing may by the king be commanded contrary to law, and yet obedience to such a command is necessary.” Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish leader, insisted otherwise. The king did not have absolute power. The true idea was “LEX REX:” “The law is king.” Not “REX LEX:” “The king is law.”

For a time England settled down and the killing slowed. Still, groups like the Pilgrims rose up, arguing that the Church of England was too much like the Catholic Church. The Pilgrims were driven out of the country and settled in Holland in 1609. In 1620 they moved to America. There they hoped to worship freely and avoid having their noses split or their foreheads branded. These were typical punishments for heretics at the time.

James died in 1625. Next to wear the crown was Charles I, his son. Charles thought of himself as God’s “lieutenant on earth” and was not inclined to share power. Parliament grew worried and decided to act. In 1629 lawmakers issued the Petition of Right. By this act they claimed the right of all Englishmen to trial by jury, the right of Parliament to control taxation, and outlined other important freedoms.

Officers of the king tried to storm the hall only to be locked out by lawmakers. On March 10, 1629 Charles dissolved the body. Parliament would not be called back into session for eleven years.

In 1633 Bishop William Laud rose to the head of the Anglican Church. Backed by the king, Laud introduced new rules that appeared to take the church back to Catholic practice. He insisted that all church altars be raised above the people in the pews. Altars must be at the east end of the church. All ministers must wear the same kind of vestments or clothing.

Puritans—people who wanted to “purify” the Church of England and rid it of Catholic ideas—were shocked. They argued that all religious ceremonies not mentioned in the Bible (for example:  kneeling or celebrating Easter or Christmas) should be abolished. They were arrested by the dozens and filled the jails. William Prynne, for one, was branded on both cheeks and had his ears cut off after calling actresses “whores.” (Charles and his queen pursued acting as a hobby at the time.)


Germany was now torn by religious warfare, in what is known as the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark were drawn into the fight. By the time the bloodbath was ended there were far fewer people left to go to any church. Norman Davies, a modern historian, estimates that German population fell from twenty-one to thirteen million during the war.

During this era a German prince[4] built a special “witch-house” where suspects could be tortured. On the walls he posted Biblical texts. Before he was done he had “rid” the world of 600 witches. One victim wrote his daughter, explaining why he confessed. “They never cease to torture,” he said, “until one says something.”

Over the course of three centuries, beginning in 1484, Davies estimates “millions of innocents” were executed for practicing witchcraft.

Individuals convicted of witchcraft were executed all over Europe and in the American colonies.
The last executions in America came in 1692.


Back in England, the Church of England was splintering. The Pilgrims and others left for America. The Puritans held out hope of “purifying” the Anglican faith—if only they could clean it up. They protested against issues such as these: the use of rings in marriage ceremonies, the sign of the cross during baptism, organs for music, and the wearing of fancy garments by ministers. The Puritans insisted no priest or minister could save members of his flock. Only God could do it and men and women were predestined before birth.

Starting in 1637, Puritans rose up in protest against the Church of England and Charles I. According to one of their leaders, “obedience to God” was far more important than obedience to any earthly king. In 1642 Charles tried to arrest leaders of the Puritan party in Parliament but failed. It was soon clear civil war was coming. 

Two years later, Oliver Cromwell and a Puritan army smashed the king’s forces at the battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644). Cromwell naturally felt God gave him victory. Cromwell also believed God spoke to him and “instructed” him on how to run the government.[5]   

At this same time the Puritans cut off Charles I’s head. He had been their prisoner for months. 

The Puritans now set out to strengthen their hold by closing the House of Lords (the upper house of Parliament), which included members of the noble families. They closed down festivals, eliminated holidays like Christmas and Easter and shut down theaters. Citizens who cursed could be arrested and fined, including Henry Gollop who strung forty curses together. Horse racing was banned. So was bowling. The same was true for dancing. Wrestling was out and bear-baiting, too. According to another law, “Children under twelve heard saying something filthy were to be whipped.” Sex before marriage meant prison time.

Adultery meant death. 

The Puritans believed in eternal damnation.


By 1649 young George Fox had lost faith in Puritan beliefs. He had come to believe each individual was answerable to God alone and not to his fellow man. Each person had an “inner light” which could lead him or her to understand God’s truth. He also insisted predestination was wrong. It was inconsistent with God’s great love. Fox was against war. He was against ministers, believing they were unnecessary, against fancy churches, against marriage services. Now he set out to roam the land and spread his ideas. Fox was the first “Quaker.” 

Fox and his followers were often attacked. Fox was hit in the face with a Bible, dragged from a church and thrown over a hedge. A follower, James Nayler, was jailed for speaking his mind. He was pilloried for two hours, branded on the forehead and had his tongue bored with a red-hot iron. Then he was tied to a cart and whipped through the streets. 

Quakers suffered in England and in the American colonies. Robert Hodshone was arrested in 1657 in New Amsterdam (the Dutch colony which later became New York). At his trial he was not allowed to speak in his defense. Found guilty, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor. One August day he was brought out of his jail cell and told to go to work. He refused, saying he:

…had done no evil and broken no law, and he would not obey. Then he was stripped to the waist and a [jailer] with a piece of rope beat him until he fell to the ground. This was repeated for several days… [Later] he was kept for two nights and a day without bread or water, and then hung up to the ceiling by his hands while a heavy log of wood was tied to his ankles. In this position he was cruelly beaten with rods. 

Hodshone refused to break. The punishment was repeated two days later. At last, the sister of Governor Peter Stuyvesant insisted mercy be shown and Hodshone was set free.

Henry Townsend, another Quaker, was arrested in Flushing. A judge sentenced him to be whipped. Town authorities refused to carry out the punishment. They sent in this protest to the governor:

The law of love, peace, and liberty, extending in the state to Jews, Turks, and Egyptians, forms the true glory of Holland; so love, peace, and liberty, extended to all in Christ Jesus, condemn hatred, strife, and bondage…[Such protection covers] Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist, or Quaker…Should any of these people come in love among us, therefore, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands on them. 

Conditions were no better in England. William Penn was arrested on a variety of charges for speaking out about his Quaker beliefs. Among other charges he was accused of touching off a riot and speaking to an “unlawful assembly.” At his trial, Penn defended himself with skill and courage. The jury of twelve studied the facts but could not agree. The judge sent them back to continue their work. They returned and announced they had found Penn, “Guilty of speaking in Gracechurch Street.” This verdict ignored the charges. The judge locked up the jury without food, drink or heat for the night. John Fiske, the great historian, continues the story. The next morning they were returned to court and:

The question was put to them, “Guilty, or not guilty?” The foreman replied, “Guilty of speaking in Gracechurch Street,” and stopped, whereupon the Lord Mayor added, “to an unlawful assembly.” “No, my lord,” said the foreman, “we give no other verdict than we gave last night.” So these brave men were scolded again, locked up again for several hours and brought into court [again]…“Is William Penn, the prisoner, guilty or not guilty?” asked the mayor. “Not guilty, my lord.” Then the mayor, quite beside himself with rage, proceeded to fine each of the jurors [a large sum] with jail time until it should be paid.

A higher court threw out the mayor’s decision soon after. Penn’s freedom—and the English jury system were both upheld.


Meanwhile, the Puritans lost control of the government. Charles II regained the throne in 1661 and promised “liberty to tender consciences.” Puritan leaders, however, paid for executing Charles I thirteen years before. Several were hanged. Others fled to America.[6] One of Charles’ first acts as king was to require printers to apply for a license to print any book or newspaper. 

France also continued to struggle with religious issues. Starting in 1685, religious freedom was denied to Huguenots, as French Protestants were called. Their churches were closed. They could no longer serve as lawyers or doctors or print or sell books. Troops were placed in their homes. New laws made it easy to take young children from Protestant families in order to raise them in the Catholic faith. 

After Charles II died in England, he was replaced by his brother James II, like Charles, a secret Catholic. James tried to take greater power into his hands but succeeded only in making new enemies. At his order, several American colonies were combined under one governor. This governor took the power to tax into his hands. In Massachusetts the assembly was abolished. Reverend John Wise protested. For speaking out he was arrested, jailed and fined. Then he was suspended from preaching.

James II lasted till 1688 when he was driven from the throne. He was replaced by William III, a good Protestant, and Queen Mary II, James’ own daughter, also a Protestant. 

After a hundred and fifty years of bloodshed and beatings, the English were ready for a change. The ideas of John Locke were spreading. Locke argued that government was the creation of men and not God. 

Therefore the first job of government was not to uphold religious views. It was to protect “the safety of the people in all that it can.”

The Declaration of Right was issued in 1689. It included protections for basic liberties. Among them: 

·       Limits on the power to tax
·       Protection of rights in court
·       Right to petition
·       Free elections
·       Annual meetings of Parliament
·       An end to standing armies (that is: troops kept on duty so that they might put down any protests by the people.

The same year an Act of Toleration was passed granting freedom of religion to most Christians.

Even in the American colonies freedom of religion was limited at first.
Roger Williams was thrown out of Massachusetts for questioning Puritan ideas.

In many colonies, Quakers could be arrested for speaking about their beliefs.

[1] As early as 1554 Sebastian Castellio argued that Christians did not know enough to justify killing those with different opinions. Instead, he believed God would care more about sincere belief than minor matters like which prayers were used and what a priest or minister wore.
[2] At this same time the Netherlands were controlled by Spain and bitter religious fighting erupted between the Dutch (mostly Protestant) and the Spanish (Catholic). When Philip II returned to Spain after leading the fight in the Netherlands he was greeted by a great celebration. As part of the festivities a huge “auto da fe” was held. This was an “act of faith” and involved the strangling and burning of large numbers of heretics.
[3] James I firmly believed in witchcraft and warnings against the practice are included in the Bible. Hunting witches became more common.
[4] Germany was then divided into hundreds of small states or principalities. The modern nation did not yet exist.
[5] Cromwell had no love for Catholics. Fighting in Ireland in 1649, he ordered thousands of Catholic prisoners slaughtered after the Battle of Drogheda. But he did believe in toleration for most Protestant faiths. He compared various sects to different kinds of trees, all offering comfortable shade. He allowed Jews to reenter England, the first time they had been welcome since 1290.
[6] John Bunyan, another Puritan, was sent to jail.  There he began to write his famous book:  Pilgrim’s Progress. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Notes on Sitting Bull and the Sioux

Notes from The Lance and the Shield
By Robert M. Utley

The Sioux were pressed west by the Chippewa and drawn by game-rich plains; Sioux is from Chippewa word for “enemy.” They called themselves the Dakota or “allies.” Include: Santee, Yankton, Yanktonai, Tetons (including Oglala, Brule, Minconjou, Two Kettle, Sans Arc, Hunkpapa, Sihaspa or “Blackfoot Sioux”)

The Blackfeet are not Sioux.

Sitting Bull (SB) born 1831; in tipi, the seat of honor (with backrest) faced door; pemmican: meat and tart berries; one Lakota later said, “A child is the greatest gift from Wakantanka.” (Wakantanka: The Great Mystery/God.)

Utley says there was “a complete absence of physical punishment.” (7) The woman owned the tipi and all family belongings; the two roles for men were war and hunting.

They fought for control of hunting grounds, for defense, for plunder, for glory and revenge. “They fought because they had always fought and knew no other way.” (8) Crow hunting grounds and Lakota overlapped along the Powder River. Kinship rules “decreed that no one should want so long as anything remained to be shared.” (9) In council all decisions represented consensus; if consensus could not be reached, decision was not made or delayed.

Annual Sun Dance in June.

SB fastest runner in Hunkpapa; killed his first buffalo at ten. He remembered, “I gave the calves that I killed to the poor that had no horses. I was considered a good man.” (11) The four virtues for men: generosity, bravery, fortitude, wisdom. Fortitude meant the ability to withstand pain and discomfort, but also dignity and reserve in emotional situations. “A man must take pity on orphan, the crippled and the old. If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons,” one Lakota explained (12)

Like all other peoples at all other times in history,
the Sioux liked to dress up and look good.

SB named Slow: as in hard to move; determined. First fight: 11 Lakota vs. 12 Crow, the Lakota charge down a hill, the Crows near a creek, one Crow flees, SB strikes him with a tomahawk. SB is naked and painted yellow from head to toe. Only four Crow escape. In his honor, father gave away horses to the needy, painted SB black and led him around the camp. He even game him his warrior name, Sitting Bull, and became Jumping Bull himself. He also gave the young man, 14, a shield, painted with a figure from a dream he had had, a bold figure, part bird, part man. From then on, Sitting Bull wore a white feather to show he had scored his first coup. In 1846 he added a red feather, to show he had been wounded in battle. To show his bravery he rode in front of an entire Flathead line and faced fire—only taking one bullet in the foot.

The Sioux pushed aside a dozen other tribes, “A century of conquests had made them a proud, arrogant, and demanding people…” (16)

War expeditions went for horses and scalps; a black face meant you had killed a foe. They had “police” who could whip or beat troublemakers, destroy their property, even kill their horses, and in extreme cases, execute the person. Those who lost relatives in battle cut themselves, gave away most possessions. Sash bearers carried a picket pin and rope, staked it in battle, and were not to retreat until released by a comrade or killed. SB rode a fast horse he stole from the whites and never held back in battle, always riding hard, usually arriving first. His favorite weapon was the lance. His had an ash shaft, and eight-inch iron blade, and was covered in blue and white beads, added by his mother. Members of the warrior societies “stole each other’s wives, by approval,” as White Bull explained. (20) In 1856 SB and a Crow chief faced off in battle, advanced, and fired their trade muskets. The enemy was killed, but his shot struck SB’s shield, then ranged downward, cutting a groove in his foot from heel to toe. This wound bothered SB the rest of his life.

Francis Parkman spent part of the summer of 1846 living among the Sioux. He reported that they “were very fond of their children, whom they...never punished, except in extreme cases, when they would throw a bowl of cold water over them.” The chief with whom he stayed was most tender with his son, a boy of about two years:

Sometimes spreading a buffalo robe in the lodge, he would seat himself upon it, place his small favorite upright before him, and chant [a war-song]...This little fellow, who could just manage to balance himself by stretching out both arms, would lift his feet and turn slowly round and round in time to his father’s music. My host would laugh with delight, and see if I were admiring this...performance.

(Go to TpT for more from A Tourist on the Oregon Trail.)

He was made chief: ritual included sucking sweet grass, which bound him to tell the truth, and receiving a cane, symbol of a hope he would live long and eventually need help to get around. He married Light Hair in 1851; she died in childbirth in 1857, but SB gained a son, who died at age four. He adopted a nephew in his grief, a boy named One Bull. In 1857, he adopted an Assiniboine, a 13-year-old prisoner. Later he would win the name Kills Plenty, for success in combat.

Jumping Bull died in a fight in 1859, after taking on a Crow warrior much younger than himself. JB was 60. SB was called to the fight, saw what had happened and caught and killed the Crow. Later, he ordered a group of Crow women and children, prisoners, spared rather than killed to revenge his father. At the end of the summer they were sent back to their people.

His cousin, White Bull, had the gift of prophecy. Boys went on a vision quest between ages of 10-14. One of the great dreams was to dream of the thunder bird. Such a dreamer had to abase himself, acting the fool, wearing winter clothes in summer, summer clothes in winter, walk or ride backward, crying amid humor, laughing at sadness. He painted his face with lightning. SB became known as a singer. He had a real love for children. It was said he could understand what the meadowlarks said. The Lakota would smoke the peace pipe, to commune with Wakantanka. The White Buffalo Woman had asked the Lakota to perform seven ceremonies…the sun dance honored Wi, the sun. It lasted twelve days in the moon of the chokecherries (June)—at the end the men inserted spikes in arms, chest, back, and danced.

SB told One Bull to be kind even to people who hated him, to love the tribe, to seek peace. He tried to calm arguments in the tribe, gave meat to the needy, and even to dogs. (34)

In one hunt, SB killed more buffalo than he needed; he offered them to those less fortunate. He painted representations of his success in war on his tipi.

Wasichus = white people.

The Sioux needed firearms to confront their enemies, other tribes. Negatives of contact with whites: whiskey, cholera, smallpox, measles, influenza.

“War offered the only path to honor, status, and rank…” (44)

1854 Lt. John L. Grattan opens fire in a Lakota village; kills chief; warriors swarm over his force and kill Grattan and his 30 men; U.S. Army then punishes Lakota. By 1862, the Lakota knew the settlers were a problem and tried to stop them from traveling in their country.

Contemptuous in 1862: “All we ask of you is to bring men, and not women dressed in soldiers’ clothes.” (51) In 1863 the U.S. Army wins two fights vs. Lakota, partly with the aid of artillery. The Lakota still thought themselves “invincible.”

Lone Dog, in another fray, would ride up close to the soldiers (3,000 strong), “he had a charm,” one of his comrades believed. U.S. cavalry charged, killing 27 Lakota to a loss of two of their own. A horse pulling a drag was whipped to charge the enemy, carrying Bear’s Heart, who all his life had been crippled, and wanted a chance to fight. He died bravely in a fusillade. The Lakota had been so sure of victory they failed to have their women and children retreat. Once defeated at Killdeer Mountain (1864), the soldiers burned their tipis and destroyed their supplies. The Lakota lost 100 killed, the soldiers two killed, ten wounded. Sitting Bull was then badly wounded in an attack on a wagon train that left eleven whites dead or missing. The Lakota captured Fanny Kelly, a white woman in another attack. Sitting Bull ordered her returned safely.

In 1864 the Lakota learned the necessity of acquiring better firearms—and not challenging the soldiers directly.

The massacre at Sand Creek stirred “a nearly universal war fever among the tribes.” (66)

By 1865, SB had two wives, Snow-on-Her and Red Woman, children by both, and jealousy on his hands. In 1866 the Lakota wiped out Fetterman and his 80 men. SB accosted a few natives who had made peace: “You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hardtack, and a little sugar and coffee.” (73) Pierre-Jean De Smet went fearlessly among the tribes in these years. He even met SB, bringing his flag, an image of the Virgin, surrounded by stars. SB told De Smet he had been roused to war by the murders at Sand Creek.

In 1870 Crazy Horse tried to steal another man’s wife; he got a pistol bullet to the face. He was a mystic and introvert. Warriors did leave the reservations in good weather, fight, and then return in winter. That year a large raiding party struck near Fort Buford, near the mouth of the Yellowstone. They cut off one white man, Charles Teck, who cut down five Lakota with five shots of his Winchester; on the sixth, his weapon jammed and he was felled by war clubs. Red Shirt admitted later that he had killed “a great many white people along this river but I never saw one fight so well or die so bravely as that boy at the mouth of the Yellowstone.”

SB and Crazy Horse both now switched to a defensive posture. “Be a little against fighting,” one Lakota said, “but when anyone shoots be ready to fight.” Ironically, the Lakota had only recently won control of the Yellowstone from the Crows. The whites also had infantry in place—but lacked cavalry.

Frank Grouard lived with SB (1867-1871), half white, half Polynesian. Many Lakota went to the forts for rations in 1872; SB refused, at one point living with only fourteen diehard lodges.

Winter of 1869-70, the Lakota wipe out a band of 30 Crows that first attacked them (pp. 98-99); their way of fighting, counting coup, causes them to suffer heavy losses, 13 killed, 17 wounded.

In 1871, SB threw his wife, Snow-on-Her out of his tipi because of her constant bickering with Red Woman. The latter then dies of sickness. He marries Four Robes and then her sister, Seen-by-the-Nation. In these same years the Lakota begin to acquire good firearms.

In another fight, SB went out in front of his forces, sat down where soldier bullets could reach him, and smoked his pipe—four others join him—daring, but militarily ineffective.

Paha Sapa: The Black Hills—rich in game, firewood, tipi poles.

The Black Hills, where Mt. Rushmore stands, were once Sioux lands.

The Crows and Nez Perce fought the Lakota in a pitched battle.

When the Lakota refused to sell the Black Hills—and Little-Big-Man led a charge on horseback toward the commission, the members recommended to Congress that a fixed price, fair value, should be set “then notify the Sioux Nation of its conclusions [which should be] presented to the Indians as a finality.” (126) In the winter of 1875-76, one inspector concluded: “The true policy, in my judgment, is to send troops against them in winter, the sooner the better, and whip them into subjection.” (127) In the snow and cold of December 1875 messengers went out to order the bands to come to the agency by January 31 or the soldiers would march. Sitting Bull remained peaceful all winter. On March 17, 1876, with temperatures at 40° below zero or more, soldiers stormed into a village of the Northern Cheyenne. The warriors rallied, light casualties on both sides; half their horses lost, then recaptured that night. The scout who led the army: Frank Grouard. When the survivors arrived at SB’s camp, having had many of their tipis burned, the Lakota fed them until they could eat no more. “Oh, what good hearts they had! I never can forget the generosity of Sitting Bull’s Uncpapa Sioux on that day,” said Wooden Leg. It is essentially the same as Americans rallying after 9/11.

Many of the older men urged the warriors to keep away from the soldiers and whites. “Many young men were anxious to go for fighting the soldiers,” Wooden Leg remembered (135) In May, 50 Lakota managed to steal all the horses of the Crow scouts of General Gibbon. In a sun dance, SB let others dig a hundred pieces of flesh from his arms. Bleeding freely, he danced for several hours until he seemed to go into a trance. He dreamed of soldiers and horses approaching, upside down, their hats falling free. “These soldiers do not possess ears. They are to die, but you are not supposed to take their spoils.” (138)

Crook, also advancing from a different direction, would be aided by 175 Crow and 86 Shoshone.

I used to take notes like these and write them up as in-depth stories for my classes. (I never found textbooks to be particularly useful in capturing student interest. I do sell my materials if you are interested. You can get some idea of how my work looks by checking this blog post: “Who Were Those People Who Died on 9/11?” or this: “Women of the American Revolution.” (I have since updated the later selection for sale and renamed it, “Remember the Ladies.”)

My TpT store is Middle School History and Tips for Teachers. 

If nothing else, go to the site and download the free reading selection: “A Rebel Soldier’s War.”

Students almost always found Sam Watkin’s story about his four years in the Confederate army interesting. Ken Burns relied heavily on Sam Watkins for quotes when he did his mini-series on the Civil War.

June 17, 1876: about 500 Lakota attack Crook—he unprepared, playing cards; the Lakota charge, only his Indian scouts hold them back while the soldiers awake to the danger. Sitting Bull, arms swollen from the sun dance a week before, could only ride about and encourage his warriors. “Our Indians fought and ran away, fought and ran away. The soldiers and their Indians scouts did the same. Sometimes we chased them, sometimes they chased us.” Two Moons, of the Cheyenne: “It was a great fight, much smoke and dust.” The Sioux and Cheyenne had twenty-one killed and many wounded. The soldiers and their allies had ten killed, 30 wounded. Crook had rations only for four days, thinking a large enemy village near, now retreated. Utley (author of Lance and Shield) says the village along the Little Big Horn had 7,000 people and 1,800 fighting men.

SB prayed to Wakantanka, offering a buffalo robe, a pipe, and bits of tobacco: “Father, save the tribe, I beg you. Pity me. We want to live. Guard us against all misfortunes and calamities. Pity me.” (144) Custer would come with 750 men, 37 Ree Scouts, including Bloody Knife, who hated Lakota for the insults he suffered growing up with them. The 7th found the scalp of a white man at the site of one abandoned village site. Custer planned to attack at dawn on June 26 but when his column was spotted, changed plans.

Women in their tipis perform domestic chores. Some dug wild turnips or picked berries. Children splashed in the cool river. Fearing something, many had tethered ponies near their lodges. Reno’s men open fire; bullets cut tipi sides, shattering poles. Women and children running. “I heard old men and women singing death songs for their warriors who were now ready to attack the soldiers,” Moving-Robe-Woman later recalled. Four Robes grabbed one twin—forgot the other—in her fear. In the hills, someone asked about the other; embarrassed, she had to return to get the child. Sitting Bull gave his shield to his adopted son, One Bull.  SB, on a black horse, shouted, “Brave up, boys, it will be a hard time. Brave up.” (151) Fire killed two of Gall’s wives and three of his children. “It made my heart bad,” he said later. White Bull sees a guidon. “Who is a brave man will get that flag,” he shouted.

None tried. Wooden Leg remembers: “With my captured rifle as a club I knocked two of them [soldiers] into the flood waters.” Two Moons saw Reno’s men retreat like “buffalo fleeing.” (152-153) Women and boys moved about finishing off the wounded and mutilating the bodies. They cut off Bloody Knife’s head and paraded it on a pole through the village. Isaiah Dorman, wounded, was spared by SB; who gave him water. He rode off and others killed him, slashed his body, cut off his penis and stuck it in his mouth. Reno had 40 killed, 13 wounded, 16 left behind.

Attention now turned to Custer and his main force; Indians swarmed his way; White Bull and his comrades charged; a soldier was shot from his horse. White Bull dismounted, counted coup on the body, and took his pistol and ammunition belt. Gall remembered: “One man held the horses while the others shot the guns. We tried to kill the holders, and then by waving blankets and shooting we scared the horses down the coulee, where the Cheyenne women caught them.” The saddlebags were filled with extra ammunition. An Oglala woman recalled, “The Indians acted just like they were driving buffalo to a good place where they could be easily slaughtered.” (156) White Bull killed a soldier, counting first coup; a second Indian warrior dismounted and counted second coup. Four bullets hit his horse and down the animal went.

White Bull saw a soldier raise a pistol as if to shoot him; he charged, pistol in one hand, whip in the other. The soldier threw the pistol at him and they wrestled to the ground. White Bull shouted to scare his foe and called for help. Crow Boy and Bear Lice rushed to help, pounding him by mistake as the two men rolled around the ground. The soldier nearly tore White Bull’s pistol from his hand, so WB hit him in the face with his whip. The soldier got both hands on the pistol, WB hit him again, took a hit to the jaw himself, and then the soldier grabbed his hair and tried to bite his nose. Finally he knocked the soldier out with his pistol, shot him, and took his pistol and belt.

Gall recalls: “The dust and the smoke was black as evening. Once in a while we could see the soldiers through the dust, and finally we charged through them with our ponies. When we had done this…the fight was over.” Meanwhile, White Bull had scored seven coup in just an hour. A spent bullet hit him in the leg and caused numbness. Bad Soup was another warrior. WB took two pairs of blue pants for his father, saw a brave, Noisy Walker, who had a fine sorrel. NW said it was the horse of Long Hair. Native losses probably 40 killed, many more wounded. Grouard said once of SB: “No man in the Sioux Nation was braver…and he asked none of his warriors to take any chances that he was not willing at all times to share.” (163) Crook and his men blundered into another fight at Slim Buttes, Sept. 9, and claimed victory. Nelson Miles demanded the return of mules the Sioux stole from his freight train. SB demanded the return of the buffalo the soldiers had scared away. (171) Slowly, but surely, Lakota resistance waned. Many went to the agencies. White Bull joined them. The natives were harried all winter. Surrender “meant giving up their horses and their guns, a nearly unthinkable notion for people whose culture centered on both.” (174) Oglala scouts from Red Cloud helped the Army look for SB.

November 25, the soldiers attack a village of 200 Northern Cheyenne lodges, a band led by Dull Knife. Utley writes:

Tipis, meat, clothing, utensils, ammunition, arts and crafts and other finery—all went up in flames; and seven hundred ponies fell captive to the soldiers. Enduring terrible hardship, the victims struggled north in search of succor. Temperatures tumbled to thirty below zero. Eleven babies froze to death in their mothers’ arms. After three horrifying weeks, the Cheyenne found relief with Crazy Horse on the upper Tongue. (175)

Meanwhile, SB traded with renegade businessmen to amass 50 boxes of extra ammo. On December 18 the army found SB’s village. The warriors formed for battle as women and children fled. Three shots from a cannon sent the Sioux into retreat. Again their village was taken and everything burned.

One Lakota father explained: “I am tired of being always on watch for troops. My desire is to get my family where they can sleep without being continually in the expectation of an attack.” (181)

In 1877 SB and a battered band of several hundred escaped over the Canadian border.

The RR split the buffalo herds, north and south; hide hunters decimated the northern herd. (Pte = buffalo.) SB told Canadian authorities: “I will remain what I am until I die, a hunter, and when there are no buffalo or other game I will send my children to hunt and live on prairie mice, for where an Indian is shut up in one place his body becomes weak.” (206) He would head south. “All I am looking for is something for my children to eat.” On July 17, 1879, SB and his band ran into buffalo and had an excellent hunt. U.S. soldiers, led by Crow scouts approached. Sitting Bull and Magpie, a Crow, charged each other. Magpie’s  rifle misfired and SB blew the top of his head off, then dismounted, took his scalp and captured his fine horse. A battle followed with some losses on both sides, ended when the U.S. Army brought up howitzers. “Heap shoot! Bad medicine! God damn,” Long Dog told Canadian authorities. (209)

Walsh, the Canadian officer who respected SB, said of him:

He is the shrewdest and most intelligent Indian living, has the ambition of Napoleon, and is brave to a fault. He is respected as well as feared by every Indian on the plains. In war he has no equal. In council he is superior to all. Every word said by him carries weight, is quoted and passed from camp to camp.

But Walsh knew he wouldn’t settle down. Even tribes native to Canada attacked the Sioux. Many Horses, SB’s oldest daughter, was refused permission to marry. So she eloped despite SB’s interference. “The loss greatly affected the father.” (226)

In 1881, at the head of 44 men, 143 women and children, he surrendered to U.S. authorities. Said one captain, “nothing but nakedness and starvation has driven this man to submission, and that not of his own account but for the sake of his children, of whom he is very fond.” (230) Sitting Bull, at the time, wore a threadbare, dirty shirt and wrapped himself in a threadbare, dirty blanket. He had a severe eye infection, too, all hinting at his poverty. Only his fine Winchester rifle hinted at who he was. His little son, Crow Foot, handed over the weapon to the soldiers. SB explained, “I surrender this rifle to you through my young son, whom I now desire to teach in this manner that he has become a friend of the Americans.” (232) “I wish to continue my old life of hunting,” he added. “This is my country and I don’t want to be compelled to give it up.” (233)

In all, the Lakota bands numbered 20,000 people. In 1870 Dakota Territory had 5,000 whites, by 1880, 17,000 whites in the Black Hills, another 117,000 spread elsewhere. By 1885 the number would double. SB’s daughter apparently abandoned her husband after a few months and returned to her father. (240) Sitting Bull and some of his closest allies were sent like prisoners to live near Fort Randall, now South Dakota; there they remained for twenty dull months. The desire on the part of some was to turn “blanket Indians” into coat-wearing, short-haired Christians.

SB said:

The life of white men is slavery. They are prisoners in towns or farms. The life my people want is a life of freedom. I have seen nothing that a white man has, houses or railways or clothing or food, that is as good as the right to move in the open country, and live in our own fashion. (247)

His mother, Her-Holy-Door died in 1884; she had always lived with him and been a source of council and affection. On the reservation there were efforts to Christianize the Sioux. Indian police and Indian courts handled matters of justice. Farming was encouraged. Some said the Native Americans should be allowed to raise cattle. In September 1884, SB took part in shows in NYC that attracted crowds in the thousands. On stage he and a few others “lived” in the old way, complete with tipi and cooking. At a performance in Philly, SB “made a speech about the end of fighting and the need of the children to be educated.” So said a young Lakota in the audience, then attending Carlisle. The white interpreter, however, rose and related horrifying tales of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Touring with Buffalo Bill, SB made close friends with both Cody and Annie Oakley.

Returned to the reservation, SB farmed, tended cattle, lived in a log house and sent his children to a Congregational day school. He told Mary Collins, a white missionary, “I want you to teach my people to read and write but they must not become white people in their ways; it is too bad a life, I could not let them do it. I would rather die an Indian than live as a white man.” (269)

Increasing attempts to take away land from the Sioux stirred fresh resentment. One reporter referred to SB as “a dynamite bomb in blankets.”  (272)  Under the Sioux Act of 1889 the tribe was offered $1.25 per acre to sell 9,000,000 acres. (276) The price would drop to .75 cents after three years, to .50 after five, on the theory all the best lands would be claimed first. “The whites,” SB warned “will try to gain possession of the last piece of ground we possess. Let us stand as one family as we did before the white people led us astray.” (278)

Epidemics of measles, flu and whooping cough swept the tribe; no good surveys were done of Native American claims in the ceded lands and so they were taken. “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land and they took it,” said one Sioux. (280)

Facing cultural disintegration a rumor from the west—a god had come to rescue the Indians. Combing ancient and Christian ideas, Wovoka promised natives they could live for eternity in a beautiful land. Whites would be wiped out; old generations of Indians would return. So would the game; and sickness and want would be banished from a land where all the tribes lived in peace. Terrible weather in 1890 ruined the crops and the Sioux danced the Ghost Dance with increasing fervor. It was said the earth was tired; a new layer of soil would cover it, cover the whites, and all who danced would be lifted by the Messiah. Afterward, they would be set down in a rich new land, and find all those they loved who had died. A special shirt would render dancers invincible against soldier bullets. Spring would bring the new world. So the natives would dance and pray all winter.

The agent sent Crazy Walking and other policemen to escort Kicking Bear, who spread the religion, off the reservation; even the Indian police were impressed with the power of his words. People abandoned cabins and pitched tipis. Attendance at the school fell from 90 to 3. The Ghost Dance had much the feel of the old sun-dance. Agent James McLaughlin, who had always disliked SB, began suggesting to superiors that he and others be arrested and sent to military prison. “With these individuals removed, the advancement of the Sioux will be more rapid and the interests of the Government greatly subserved thereby.”

Utley captures the dilemma in two separate sentences: “At Cheyenne River, Rosebud, and Pine Ridge, the dances assumed an increasingly militant and alarming aspect.”

“Hysteria swept the white communities of Nebraska and North and South Dakota as citizens warned of an Indian uprising and appealed for government arms and military intervention.” (287)

Daniel F. Royer, agent at Pine Ridge, telegraphed on 11/12/90: “we have no protection, are at the mercy of these crazy dancers.” McLaughlin went to observe a dance: “The dancers held each other’s hands, and were all jumping madly, whirling to the left about the pole, keeping time to a mournful crooning song, that sometimes rose to a shriek as the women gave way to the stress of their feelings.” A woman fainted and was carried to a tipi with open flaps, where sat SB. Utley describes the scene:

The woman was laid on the ground in front of Sitting Bull. Bull Ghost announced that she had gone to the spirit land, and the dancing ceased as all watched. Sitting Bull leaned forward and placed his ear next to her mouth. As he spoke in low tones, Bull Ghost repeated in a commanding voice the woman’s account of her visit with dead relatives in the promised land, “the excitement was very intense,” observed the agent, “the people being brought to a pitch of high nervousness.” (288)

SB walked out on the prairie one day and heard a meadowlark speak. “Lakotas will kill you,” the bird said. He tried to forget it but from that time on his friend, One Bull, said he seemed to sense and believe he would be killed by his own people.

Mary Collins, the Congregational missionary, friendly to SB, accosted him, saying he was ruining his people. He refused to stop their dance.  She marched to the dance circle, where a man lay on the ground, supposedly in a trance. “Louis, get up, you are not unconscious, you are not ill; get up and help me to send these people home,” she commanded. He rose and the watchers drifted away.

Rumors of soldiers coming drove many of the Sioux to take refuge on high ground, protected by steep cliffs and bluffs. Cody was going to go speak to SB and try to calm him. An observer noted, Cody

…was somewhat intoxicated. Dr. Powell thought the Colonel would be all right after a few hours rest, and we were to meet later in the day and decide on measures to be taken but the Colonel continued to drink and was in no condition to attend to business that afternoon and evening. (292)

Army officers wanted Cody to stay drunk.

SB now seemed ready to take his followers and head for Pine Ridge. Bull Head, a member of the Indian police, had fought Crook and Custer. He hated to have to arrest the chief. “We all felt sad,” said Lone Man, another officer. At 4:00 a.m. police gathered and Bull Head led them in Christian prayer. The police headed for SB’s cabin, woke him and began to drag him out, hoping for a quick getaway. “This is a great way to do things,” SB complained, “not to give me a chance to put on my clothes in winter time.” At the door he braced feet and hands against the frame.

In the faint light of dawn his people came running from all directions. There was shouting and taunts directed at the officers. Crow Foot, his 14-year-old son, called upon his father not to let himself be taken. SB seemed to think it over. Then he declared, “Then I will not go.” Bull Head, Shave Head and Red Tomahawk wrestled SB toward a waiting horse. Catch-the-Bear raised his rifle and shot Bull Head in the right side, and, falling, Bull Head fired a bullet into SB’s chest. Red Tomahawk shot SB in the back of the head. Strikes-the-Kettle fired too, his shot striking Shave Head in the stomach. Lone Man tore the rifle from his grip, clubbed Strikes-the-Kettle with it, and then shot him dead. Police fire killed five more and wounded three, all the fighting at close range. Bull Head was hit by three more bullets; and four policemen were killed, one badly wounded. Crow Foot, who had hidden under blankets was pulled out of the cabin and killed.

Later, Crow Woman, wearing his red bulletproof ghost shirt, mounted his beautiful black horse, and charged up a nearby valley. As he galloped, he sang: “Father, I thought you said/We were all going to live.” (304) Police opened fire; and three times CW retreated to nearby timber. Then he emerged again, rode between two white soldiers who had come, both of whom fired, but escaped untouched.

The ghost shirt was working.

James S. Walsh, once head of the Canadian Mounted Police and friendly to SB during his four years in Canada, wrote:

A man who wields such power as Bull once did, that of a King, over a wild spirited people cannot endure abject poverty slavery and beggary without suffering great mental pain and death is a relief…Bull’s confidence and belief in the Great Spirit was stronger than I ever saw in any other man….History does not tell us that a greater Indian than Bull ever lived, he was the Mohommat of his people the law and king maker of the Sioux. (307)

12/29/90: The village of Big Foot is attacked and 200 killed; they are buried, in frozen shapes, 1/1/91, in a mass grave.

Utley sums up: “He was a real Indian, and a real person, completely faithful to his culture. He earned greatness as a Hunkpapa patriot, steadfastly true to the values and principles and institutions that guided his tribe.” (314)

A life of freedom before the settlers came.