Introduction: Sitting Bull
Digital History ID 697
Even in death he was the symbol of resistance to white authority. His name was Sitting Bull, and he was a chief and holy man of the Hunkpapa people, one of the tribes forming the Teton Sioux. During the 1840s and 1850s, his people engaged in intertribal warfare with the Shoshoni, Assiniboin, and Crow as each group sought to expand its hunting grounds. But in 1863 and 1864, federal troops sought to assert control over the Sioux following an uprising in Minnesota, and Sitting Bull participated in repeated clashes with these forces.
After some of the Teton Sioux made peace with the whites in 1868 in exchange for a reservation in the Black Hills, Sitting Bull was selected leader of those determined to maintain Sioux independence. To resist federal efforts to open the Black Hills to miners, he created a coalition of Plains tribes, and in the winter of 1875 repulsed an American force of 1,000 soldiers led by General George Crook. Ten days later, his warriors overwhelmed George Armstrong Custer and his men at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Fearing federal retaliation, the Indian alliance broke into bands, and Sitting Bull led his people into Canada. Facing starvation, however, Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881. He traveled with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1885, then returned to his reservation. There, he opposed land sales--angering many whites.
Convinced that he was responsible for the spread of a religious revitalization movement, known as the Ghost Dance, Major James McLaughlin ordered Sitting Bull arrested. Early in the morning of December 15, 1890, during the arrest, gunfire erupted. Sitting Bull, his seventeen-year-old son, six of his followers, and six Indian police officers died.
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