About 1834 - 1890
Born around 1834 near the Grand River in land that now falls within South Dakotaís borders, Sitting Bull was the son of a powerful Sioux chief. As a young boy Sitting Bull was given an Indian name meaning "Slow," because he was careful and deliberate in all that he did.
Although throughout his life Sitting Bull continued to carry the reputation of a brilliant planner, director, and "medicine man," or one who makes medicine or decisions for others to follow; he did, as a child, still distinguish himself for bravery in battle. His act of courage during a battle with natives of a Crow village won him his fatherís pride and name. The elder Sitting Bull bestowed upon his son his own name "Sitting Bull" and took another for himself.
In the year 1866, the United States army marched into territory that Sitting Bull considered an encroachment. The army built Fort Buford on this land, which Sitting Bull led raids against. Sitting Bullís raids were so successful, that by 1868 the government wanted to negotiate a peace settlement. However, Sitting Bull refused to attend the peace talks since the settlement, which clearly defined some territory as belonging to the Sioux, claimed a large portion of land already used by the Sioux people for the US government.
While some Sioux chiefs, including one named Red Cloud signed the settlement and began living on the reservation, Sitting Bull refused to sign. There were other Native American chiefs who also refused to sign, one of whom was Crazy Horse, Red Cloudís replacement as war chief, and a friend of Sitting Bull. Still the white people continued to push farther and farther into Sioux territory and gold discovered in the Black Hills caused a rush of miners into the area which sparked the Sioux War of 1876.
Sitting Bull was at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, which is better known as "Custerís Last Stand." However, Sitting Bull observed the battle rather than taking part in it himself. Crazy Horse and other war chiefs led the American Indians into battle.
By February of 1877 Sitting Bull and his people had fled to Canada. But the Canadian government refused to help the Sioux, and without their assistance the Sioux had little or no food and supplies. Four years later Sitting Bull crossed back over the US - Canadian border and surrendered. He was held prisoner for two years. Then in 1883 he was released to live on the land where he was born, by this time a part of a reservation.
Sitting Bull had many visitors, one of whom was Buffalo Bill Cody. Cody persuaded Sitting Bull to tour the eastern United States and Canada as "The Slayer of Custer" in a wild west show featuring Annie Oakley. During this time Sitting Bull was able to raise some money from the show and from selling signed autographs of his picture. These moneys he sent back to the Sioux reservation to support the orphaned Indian children or he gave away to the beggar children who waited outside the theaters and shows to meet him.
When Sitting Bull returned to his homeland on the Sioux reservation he was upset to see the reliance of his people upon the rations of the United States government. Still Sitting Bull continued to lead his people in native spiritual and cultural customs. In response, the government sent new police troops to the reservation. Sitting Bull became even more adamant that his people be free to perform their native traditions.
As a result of the rising tension and the fear expressed by the white authorities on the reservations approximately 8,000 army reinforcements were sent to the reservations. On December 15, 1890 a government force of forty three Indian policeman headed by a Lieutenant Henry Bull surrounded Sitting Bullís cabin. After forcing Sitting Bull from his cabin a battle ensued.
When the battle was over, six police and eight of Sitting Bullís people died. Included in the deaths were Sitting Bullís son, Crowfoot, and the Sioux chief himself, Sitting Bull.
Books for Children
- Indian Chiefs by Russell Freedman - This book contains biographies of 6 Native American chiefs who lived during the 1800ís, including Sitting Bull. Accurate in its text, the book contains quotes, a map of the West in 1840, and black and white illustrations, photographs, and historical sketches. Interesting for children ages 10 and older. (amazon.com has it)
- A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry - This is an ecological history of a river in North Eastern United States, the native people who named it, and who helped save it. Interesting for children 6-10. (amazon.com has it)
- Raven A Trickster Tale From The Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott - A Native American legend explaining how the sun came to be in the sky. Wonderful illustrations. Appropriate for children ages 3-9. (amazon.com has it)
- Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse - A young Inuit girls questions the depth of her mother's love. It has some interesting information about the Inuit culture also. Interesting for children ages 2-8.
(amazon.com has it)
A Mama Do You Love Me Stuffed Doll is also available. (amazon.com has it)
- Annie And The Old One by Miska Miles - This story sensitively depicts the Navajo culture and a young native girl's struggle with the approaching death of her grandmother. Appropriate for children ages 6-10. (amazon.com has it)
- Native Americans (Threatened Cultures series) by James Wilson - This book has lots of factual and interesting information which explains who Native Americans are, their traditional culture, their historical path, and recent issues which affect them as a people. Appropriate for children ages 10 and older.
- Native Way Cookbook, The Cookbook of the Grandmothers by Wisdom Keepers has a large selection of traditional and contemporary dishes which can be selected through how to, food source, nation or tribe, as well as other categories.
- To learn about two other famous Native Americans read our biographies of Michael Naranjo and Sacagawea
- Learn about the life of one of Sitting Bull's friends, Annie Oakley
- American Indians played an important role in the success of the Pilgrimís move to North America, learn more about their influence on our Thanksgiving page