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 Ogalala, 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” in regard to children. (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 orphans, 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 gave 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 battle 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, an 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 about. 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 (his father) 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 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, cry amid humor, laugh 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 Calf Woman (a spiritual force) had asked the Lakota people long ago 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, that is: 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 all 30 of his 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 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 commission 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)

A three-pronged move the by the U.S. Army is now planned, Gibson forming one, Crook another, Custer a third. 

Crook 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.”

My students loved that reading.

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 Seventh Cavalry found the scalp of a white man at the site of one abandoned village. Custer planned to attack at dawn on June 26 but when his column was spotted, changed plans.

The scene on the morning of June 25: Women in their tipis performed domestic chores. Some dug wild turnips or picked berries. Children splashed in the cool river. Fearing something, many had tethered ponies near their lodges. Custer divides his force in three. Reno’s men, attacking the village from the east, 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 [of the Little Big Horn River].” 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 but others killed Dorman, 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, attacking from the northeast; 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 [the soldiers dismounted to form a defensive line; one of every four soldiers] 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 Ogalala 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. White Bull took two pairs of blue pants for his father, saw a brave, Noisy Walker, who had a fine sorrel. Noisy Walker 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) Ogalala 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 [River]. (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 new railroad 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, SB 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 whites 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 Cody, 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 swept out of the west—a god had come to rescue the Indians. Combing ancient and Christian ideas, Wovoka, a Native American spiritual leader,  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 tribes lived in peace. Terrible weather in 1890 ruined 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, bury 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 reservation 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 [his Christian name], 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 [police] wrestled SB toward a waiting horse. Catch-the-Bear [follower of SB] 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 [follower of SB] fired too, his shot striking Shave Head in the stomach. Lone Man [police] 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 Crow Woman 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 for once.

It did not last and Lakota resistance soon crumbled.

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)

The last fight of the U.S. Army against native Americans came not long after. On December 2, 1890, 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: Sitting Bull “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.

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