Sitting Bull’s legacy in Native American history Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sitting Bull’s name is tied to two important events in Native American history.

In 1876, historians say Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse led united tribes from Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho against Gen. George Custer and the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Calvary in the Battle of Little Bighorn near the Little Bighorn River in south central Montana.

DNA recently confirmed that Ernie LaPointe of Rapid City is Sitting Bull’s great-grandson. LaPointe has long identified as Sitting Bull’s great-grandson.

Twenty-four years after Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull was shot by Native American Police on Dec. 14, 1890, in the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota related to the Native American use of the Ghost Dance. Two weeks later, the U.S. Army massacred 150 Native Americans at Wounded Knee near the Black Hills.

The Battle of Little Bighorn was of significant importance because Lakota and Cheyenne were being forced onto reservations in the Dakotas after the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty.

“(The U.S.) entered into the treaty with a collective of Native American bands historically known as the Sioux (Dakota, Lakota and Nakota) and Arapaho. The treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation, a large swath of lands west of the Missouri River. It also designated the Black Hills as ‘unceded Indian Territory’ for the exclusive use of native peoples,” Smithsonian Magazine said in Nov. 7, 2018, story.

But the discovery of gold changed that treaty and the U.S. broke the treaty.

“This battle was not an isolated soldier versus warrior confrontation, but part of a much larger strategic campaign designed to force the capitulation of the nonreservation Lakota and Cheyenne,” according to the National Park Service’s Little Bighorn website.

The National Park Service’s American Indian Memorial at the Battle of Little Bighorn site in Montana. NPS photo

Sitting Bull had resisted re-location to federal reservations, which lead to increased leadership with tribes. He was also considered a spiritual leader and as one who kept his people’s traditions.

“Even today, his name is synonymous with Native American culture,” according to the New World Encyclopedia. said Sitting Bull led his people to Canada in 1877 after the U.S. Army had been pursuing them.

Hunger and cold forced Sitting Bull to surrender in 1881, according to the NPS. He had hoped to return to Standing Rock but was arrested and held for two years instead.

He was arrested when he returned to the U.S. in 1881.

Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Show

Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation to join Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1885.

Sitting Bull had a limited role in the show that was short-lived.

Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill. Library of Congress photo

“Crowds hissed, newspapers termed him ‘as mild mannered a man as ever cut a throat or scalped a helpless woman,’ and in Pittsburgh, the brother of a soldier killed at Little Big Horn attacked him. He was shocked by the poverty he witnessed in his travels, especially among children. When the season ended in October, the 54-year-old Sioux warrior decided to go home,” PBS American Experiment said.

Ghost dance and death

“The Ghost Dance was a spiritual movement that arose among Western American Indians. It began among the Paiute in about 1869 with a series of visions of an elder, Wodziwob. These visions foresaw renewal of the Earth and help for the Paiute peoples as promised by their ancestors,” according to the Library of Congress.

The second version of the Ghost Dance, a dance believed to protect practitioners from death, was started by Native American Wovoka in 1889, according to history publications.

It reached South Dakota in early 1890.

“Lakota participants added vestments known as ghost shirts to the ceremonies and songs brought by the emissaries. They believed these white muslin shirts, decorated with a variety of symbols, protected them from danger, including bullets,” Todd M. Kerstetter of Texas Christian University wrote in a report published by The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains by the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. “The Lakotas’ white neighbors and reservation officials viewed the movement as a threat to U.S. Indian policy and believed the Ghost Dance ceremonies and ghost shirts indicated that the Lakotas intended to start a war. Reservation officials called on the U.S. government to stop the dancing.”

Historian James Mooney said the Ghost Dance was peaceful, according to the Library of Congress. Mooney had observed many Ghost Dances and recorded songs. The dance was about prophecies that saw a return to Native American life before European settlers, he said. Some of his research was published in 1890. More was published later including a book. He recorded and studied the Ghost Dance until at least 1894.

Sitting Bull was associated with Ghost Dancing. History publications say he was interested and possibly had joined a Ghost Dancer movement while others say there is no evidence he had joined.

But the U.S. Army perceived Sitting Bull as threat and Native American police were sent to arrest him. Sitting Bull was shot and killed.

Memorial sites

Sitting Bull was buried at Fort Yates Military Cemetery in North Dakota. But years later, what were believed to be his remains were moved to the Standing Rock Reservation to a site near Mobridge.

Memorials were erected at Fort Yates and at the South Dakota site.

LaPointe has said in multiple media stories that the family wants to move Sitting Bull’s remains to the Little Bighorn Battle site, near where Lapointe said Sitting Bull was really born.

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