The truth about Chief Sitting Bull.  What most Americans remember about him was his defeat of Lieutenant Colonel George Custer.  On to better things, the simplistic life style of the true Americans, the Indian Nation, and in one particular case the Sioux, is one of the largest groups of Native American tribes and First Nations peoples in North America. 

We forget or never new the three great truths about the confrontations.   

The term “Sioux”  can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation which differ in some small customs, like accents, in the majority of the nation’s three major language dialects.  They are 180,000 strong. 

They are Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota.  The ones I have contacted and met were warm, friendly, hospitable and devoted to their heritage and besieged with problems economically speaking and a youth generation questing for education and jobs.  There are four additional sub-chapters within the primary tribes.

One of,  if not the most significant person of the Sioux Tribe was Sitting Bull.  Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota  (sometimes pronounced Hunk-a-papa)  He was a great warrior, Holy man and visionary.  

Later as the tribes of the Lakota , Dakota and  Nakota came together into the Sioux Nation he became the chief of all the tribes.  He would lead his people during years of resistance to United States government prejudices and policies.  Sitting Bull had a spiritual premonition of his most famous victory and  visionaries are held in strong reverence by the tribe.   (Read On)


Again for clarification, though mainly remembered as a warrior and political leader, Sitting Bull was a Lakota “Wichasa Wakan,” a type of holy man believed to have the gift of spiritual insight and prophecy.  You can even see it in his portrait.  He is sitting yet showing great power and enormity of strength, courage and resource.  Thus the bull is sitting, but he is still a bull and can be the warrior yet instead of his lance and bow, he grasps a peace pipe.

The Great Sioux Nation scattered, some to Canada and others surrendered to the reservations. The United States Government demanded that the Lakota nation move to the reservations. The people finally surrendered after being cold and hungry and moved on the reservations. The government still insisted buying the Black Hills from the Lakota people. The Hills were their holy land.

The Sioux (Lakota) Nation refused to sell their sacred lands. The United States Government introduced the Sell or Starve Bill or the Agreement of 1877. The Lakota people starved but refused to sell their sacred land so the US Congress illegally took the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation. 

The Allotment Act of 1888 allotted Indian lands into 160-acre lots to individuals to divide the nation. The Act of 1889 broke up the Great Sioux Nation into smaller reservations, the remainder of which exist today at about one half their original size in 1889.

Many of the Lakota people began believed in the Ghost Dance experiences as the movement spread to the reservations. The U. S. Army feared the unity through prayer among the Tribes and ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock Reservation. In the process of the arrest Sitting Bull was shot by Indian Police on December 15, 1890.

He was also known for the defeat of Col. Custer, a decorated soldier at the battle of the Bighorn who ignored the battle plan given to him , split his forces and went off on his own with 266 brave men.  It was that defeat that taught the military  (The 7th Calvary)  the value of good intel and to strictly follow orders.  Col. Custer was his own man and his ego cost 266 lives. Listen to no one , make your own path and never admit you were wrong.

Sitting Bull,  I like to think of him as a real hero to his people in war and peace, is very much like Mahatma Gandhiji.  His thoughts and statements have a strong similarity with the little man of great stature and conviction.   He cared.  He said:

•   “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children”.
•   “The white man knows how to make everything, but he does not know how to distribute it”.
•   “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun,  and we shall soon see the results of their love”!

Compilation by Evan Andrews 2015, shortened by Al Jacobson
He was originally named “Jumping Badger.”  Sitting Bull was born around 1831 into the Hunkpapa people, a Lakota Sioux tribe that roamed the Great Plains in what is now the Dakotas.  He was initially called “Jumping Badger” by his family, but earned the boyhood nickname “Slow” for his quiet and deliberate demeanor. 

The future chief killed his first buffalo when he was just 10 years old.  At 14, he joined a Hunkpapa raiding party and distinguished himself by knocking a Crow warrior from his horse with a tomahawk.  In celebration of the boy’s bravery, his father relinquished his own name and transferred it to his son. From then on, Slow became known as Tatanka-Iyotanka, or “Sitting Bull.”

Sitting Bull was credited with several legendary acts of bravery. Sitting Bull was renowned for his skill in close quarters fighting and collected several red feathers representing wounds sustained in battle. As word of his exploits spread, his fellow warriors took to yelling, “Sitting Bull, I am he!” to intimidate their enemies during combat. 

The most stunning display of his courage came in 1872, when the Sioux clashed with the US Army during a campaign to block construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. As a symbol of his contempt for the soldiers, the middle-aged chief strolled out into the open and took a seat in front of their lines. Inviting several others to join him, he proceeded to have a long, leisurely smoke from his tobacco pipe, all the while ignoring the hail of bullets whizzing by his head. 

Upon finishing his pipe, Siting Bull carefully cleaned it and then walked off, still seemingly oblivious to the gunfire around him. His nephew White Bull would later call the act of defiance “the bravest deed possible.”

He was the first man to become chief of the entire Lakota Sioux nation.  Sitting Bull’s camp was located in the Big Horn Mountains. 

In the 1860s, Sitting Bull emerged as one of the fiercest opponents of white encroachment on Sioux land. His resistance usually took the form of raids on livestock and hit-and-run attacks against military outposts, including several against Fort Buford in North Dakota.  Visionary and war chief.

Knowing that the Indians required unity to face down the might of the US Army, Sitting Bull’s uncle Four Horns eventually spearheaded a campaign to make the war chief the supreme leader of all the autonomous bands of Lakota Sioux—a position that had never before existed.

Sitting Bull was elevated to his new rank sometime around 1869. Other hunting bands later flocked to his banner, and by the mid-1870s his group also included several Cheyenne and Arapaho.

During a Sun Dance ceremony in early June 1876, he made 50 sacrificial cuts into each arm and danced for hours before falling into a trance. When he awoke, he claimed to have witnessed soldiers tumbling into his camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky—a vision he interpreted to mean that the Sioux would soon win a great victory. 


Just a few weeks later on June 25, the prophecy was fulfilled when Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry attacked the encampment in what became known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Spurred on by Sitting Bull’s vision, the numerically superior Indians surrounded the bluecoats and completely obliterated Custer’s contingent of over 200 troops.

He didn’t lead the Indians at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Following the rout at the Little Bighorn, many people credited Sitting Bull with having masterminded the Indian victory. 

Bizarre but some even claimed the 45-year-old had once attended the military academy at West Point.  Quite a credit to his skills but not true.   But while Sitting Bull was active in protecting the camp’s women and children during the attack, he seems to have left the fighting to the younger men, most of whom battled in disorganized groups. 

The Indians were no doubt energized by Sitting Bull’s prophecy, but the main heroes on the day were his nephew White Bull and the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, who led a charge that supposedly split the soldiers’ lines in two.

After the embarrassment at the Little Bighorn, the US Army doubled down on its efforts to defeat the Plains Indians and force them onto reservations. Sitting Bull refused to submit, however, and in May 1877 he led his followers across the border to the safety of Canada. He would spend the next four years hiding out in the land of the “Grandmother,” as he called Queen Victoria, but the disappearance of the buffalo eventually drove his people to the brink of starvation. 

Prodded along by the Canadian and American governments, many Sioux refugees abandoned the camp and crossed back into the United States. In July 1881, Sitting Bull and the last holdouts followed suit and surrendered to American authorities in North Dakota. The aging chief spent most of the next two years as a prisoner before being assigned to Standing Rock Agency—the reservation that remained his home for the rest of his life.

He considered Annie Oakley his adopted daughter.   In the years after his surrender, Sitting Bull was hailed as a minor celebrity by the same country that had once branded him an outlaw. He found people were willing to pay $2 just for his autograph, and in 1884, he was allowed to leave the reservation to tour as the star of his own exhibition show. 

During a stopover in Minnesota, he took in a performance by the famed lady sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Sitting Bull was hugely impressed by her marksmanship, and the two became fast friends after he requested a photograph of her. 

The old warrior nicknamed Oakley “Little Sure Shot” and insisted on unofficially adopting her as his daughter. To seal the arrangement, he supposedly gifted her the pair of moccasins he had worn during the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

In June 1885, the former army scout and entertainer William “Buffalo Bill” Cody hired Sitting Bull to perform in his famous “Wild West” show. For a fee of $50 a week, the chief donned full war attire and rode on horseback during the show’s opening procession. 

He considered the job an easy way to earn money and draw attention to his people’s plight on the reservation, but he was occasionally subjected to booing from his audiences and criticism in the press. One reporter in Michigan even labeled him “as mild mannered a man as ever cut a throat or scalped a helpless woman.” Sitting Bull soon grew tired of traveling and longed to return to his family. He left the tour for good after its final show in October, saying, “The wigwam is a better place for the red man.”


He was killed over his supposed involvement in the “Ghost Dance” movement.   Beginning in 1889, many reservation tribes were gripped by the “Ghost Dance,” a spiritual movement that spoke of a messiah who would bury the white man’s world under a layer of soil and allow the Indians to return to their old ways. 

Sitting Bull had been at the forefront of preserving the Lakota’s traditional culture—he still lived with two wives and stubbornly resisted converting to Christianity—and it wasn’t long before the authorities became convinced he might use the Ghost Dance movement to foment a resistance or lead a breakout from the reservation. 

On the morning of December 15, 1890, reservation agent James McLaughlin dispatched a party of Lakota policemen to arrest Sitting Bull and bring him in for questioning. The men succeeded in dragging the 59-year-old from his cabin, but the commotion caused a large group of his followers to converge on the scene. 

One of the Ghost Dancers fired a shot at the policemen, setting off a brief gun battle. In the confusion that followed, more than a dozen people were killed including Sitting Bull, who was shot in the head and chest.

The location of his gravesite is still debated today.  Two days after he was killed, Sitting Bull’s body was unceremoniously buried in the post cemetery at Fort Yates, North Dakota. There it remained for more than 60 years until 1953, when a Sitting Bull descendant named Clarence Grey Eagle led a party that secretly exhumed and relocated it to a new grave in Mobridge, South Dakota. 

A monument and a bust of Sitting Bull were later erected on the Mobridge site, but to this day rumors persist that Grey Eagle and his team may have dug up the wrong body. North Dakota officials even put up a plaque at the original Fort Yates site reading, “He was buried here but his grave has been vandalized many times.” Others, meanwhile, claim the great chief’s bones had already been exhumed prior to 1953 and reinterred near Turtle Mountain in the Canadian province of Manitoba.




My late wife and I had a connection with several beautiful and proud native Americans we met while I was doing articles on  the Sioux, Cheyenne,  Apache, Cherokee, Seminole and the Miccosukee tribes, and as it was a cumulative research with several others and myself, with interviews she accompanied me on over the years.  I have a passion for understanding other cultures and she had a smile that opened doors.

Though Dolly was a Methodist and I am Jewish, our birth rights, it was never mattered,  nor even spoken about, not one bit for 31 years.  But we both shared our love,  and were one with nature and I called her my tree hugger.  And I lived and loved my tree hugger.  

We both loved animals, the mountains, the prairies and the woods.  We were at the top of Mt. Le Conte in the smokies looking over the horizon,  standing at the edge and her attention was drawn to a gnarly tree barely grasping with its roots to the rock.   It’s in the picture over her right shoulder.

My weather radio was bleeping that we were about to get impending snow.  The trails get very slick, wet snow and decaying leaves and very dangerous.  The signs were telling us to leave, and then she said to me:

“Look at Gods work, he made the tree strong to survive and he made these mountains so we could get closer to him”.   She believed your path is based on not what a person may say but what a person does for others is accountable.

The commonality of all of the tribes was their connection with the land, they called the land,  Mother of Earth (not to be confused with Mother Nature)  and the great Father in the sky was a pure religion immersed in traditions, homage and respect  and with lots of common sense.   

How noble a person and leader was Sitting Bull, a true leader who defended his people to the last and his land from the great onslaught and his eventual murder, it was not an accident. 


A statement that has been in my mind for years and is addressed every day is one that came from an interview with a Sioux Chief who said to me,
 “Who is more guilty, the liar or the person repeating what the liar said”.    The crazy part was while in Cherokee, having breakfast with a tribal leader he expressed the same, similar statement of the importance of truth and what a lesson in this day and age, especially after our last election in 2016 and the tactics and falsehoods portrayed made this one statement the most important statement of all.  

The Native American Indian culture is totally immersed in itself, you are born into it. There are many fake shamans and fake medicine men out there proposing to convert you which is not welcomed by the tribes nor do they proselytize. 

Here is authenticity for you to read:


Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota and holy man. Under him, the Lakota bands united for survival on the northern plains. Sitting Bull remained defiant toward American military power and contemptuous of American promises to the end.

Named Slon-ha, Slow, by his parents, the future leader was born around 1831. His birthplace was on the Grand River in South Dakota at a place the Lakota called "Many Caches" for the number of food storage pits they had dug there.

Later in life, the boy called Slow was given a more fitting name ... Tatanka-Iyotanka. The leader's name describes a buffalo bull sitting intractably on his haunches. It was a name the holy man would live up to throughout his life.

Sitting Bull’s Youth
As a young man, Sitting Bull became a leader of the Strong Heart Warrior Society. Later, he became a distinguished member of the Silent Eaters, a group concerned with tribal welfare.

He first went to battle in June 1845 - at age 14 - in a raid on the Crow. There, he saw his first encounter with American soldiers. The US Army had mounted a broad campaign in retaliation for the Santee Rebellion in Minnesota ... a rebellion in which Sitting Bull's people played no part.

The next year, Sitting Bull fought U.S. troops again at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. And, in 1865, he led a siege against the newly established Fort Rice in North Dakota.

Widely respected for his bravery and insight, he became head chief of the Lakota nation in 1868.

Immeasurable Courage
Sitting Bull's courage was legendary. In 1872, during a battle with soldiers protecting railroad workers on the Yellowstone River, Sitting Bull led four other warriors out between the lines. He sat calmly sharing a pipe with them as bullets buzzed around. Sitting Bull carefully reamed the pipe out when they were finished, and casually walked away.

The stage was set for war between Sitting Bull and the US Army in 1874. An expedition led by General George Armstrong Custer confirmed gold had been discovered in the Dakota Territory's Black Hills, an area sacred to many bands. This land was placed off-limits to white settlement by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

Despite this ban, prospectors began a rush to the Black Hills, provoking the Lakota to defend their land. When government efforts to purchase the Black Hills failed, the Fort Laramie Treaty was set aside. The commissioner of Indian Affairs decreed all Lakota not settled on reservations by January 31, 1876 would be considered hostile. Sitting Bull and his people held their ground.

In March, as three columns of federal troops under Generals George Crook, Alfred Terry and Colonel John Gibbon moved into the area, Sitting Bull summoned the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho to his camp on Rosebud Creek in Montana Territory. There, he led them in the sun dance ritual, offering prayers to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. Sitting Bull slashed his arms 100 times as a sign of sacrifice for his people. During this ceremony, Sitting Bull had a vision. He saw soldiers falling into the Lakota camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky.

Inspired by this vision, the Oglala Lakota war chief, Crazy Horse, set out for battle with a band of 500 warriors. On June 17, he surprised Crook's troops and forced them to retreat at the Battle of the Rosebud. To celebrate this victory, the Lakota moved their camp to the valley of the Little Bighorn River. They were joined by 3,000 more Indians who had left the reservations to follow Sitting Bull.

They were attacked on June 25 by the Seventh Cavalry under George Armstrong Custer. Custer's badly outnumbered troops first rushed the encampment, as if in fulfillment of Sitting Bull's vision. Then, the cavalry made a stand on a nearby ridge where they were destroyed.

Public outrage at this military catastrophe brought thousands more cavalrymen to the area. Over the next year, they relentlessly pursued the Lakota, who had split up after defeating Custer. Chief after chief was forced to surrender.

Sitting Bull remained defiant. In May 1877, he led his band to Canada, beyond the reach of the US Army. When General Terry traveled north to offer him a pardon in exchange for settling on a reservation, Sitting Bull angrily sent him away.

A Leader Surrenders

Four years later, however, Sitting Bull found it nearly impossible to feed his people in a world where the buffalo was almost extinct. So, he moved south to surrender.

On July 19, 1881, Sitting Bull's young son handed his father's rifle to the commanding officer of Fort Buford in Montana. Through this action, Sitting Bull hoped to teach his son "that he had become a friend of the Americans."

Yet, Sitting Bull said, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle." He asked for the right to cross back and forth into Canada whenever he wished and for a reservation of his own on the Little Missouri River near the Black Hills.

Instead, he was sent to Standing Rock Reservation. His warm reception there raised Army fears about a fresh uprising. So, Sitting Bull and his people were taken further down the Missouri River to Fort Randall. They were held as prisoners of war for nearly two years.

Finally, on May 10, 1883, Sitting Bull rejoined his tribe at Standing Rock. The Indian Agent in charge of the reservation, James McLaughlin, was determined to deny the great chief any special privileges. McLaughlin even forced him to work in the fields, hoe in hand. 

Sitting Bull still knew his own authority, and when a delegation of US Senators came to discuss opening part of the reservation to white settlers, he spoke forcefully, though futilely, against their plan.

In 1885, Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He earned $50 a week for riding once around the arena. Sitting Bull also charged whatever he could for his autograph and picture.

Unable to tolerate white society any longer, he stayed with the show for four months.

Returning to Standing Rock, Sitting Bull lived in a cabin near his birthplace on the Grand River. Still living with two wives and rejecting Christianity, Sitting Bull refused to give up his old ways as the reservation's rules required. He did, however, send his children to a Christian school because he believed the next generation of Lakota would need education to survive.

After his return to the reservation, Sitting Bull had another vision, like the one foretelling of Custer's defeat. This time, he saw a meadowlark on a hillock beside him. He heard it say, "Your own people, Lakotas, will kill you."

Nearly five years later, this vision also proved true.

A Great Man Falls

In the fall of 1890, a Miniconjou Lakota named Kicking Bear came to Sitting Bull with news of the Ghost Dance, a ceremony that promised to rid the land of white people and restore the Indian way of life. Lakota had already adopted the ceremony at the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, and Indian Agents there had already called for troops to bring the growing movement under control.

At Standing Rock, the authorities feared Sitting Bull, still revered as a spiritual leader, would join the Ghost Dancers as well. Authorities sent 43 Lakota policemen to bring Sitting Bull in.

Before dawn on December 15, 1890, the policemen burst into Sitting Bull's cabin and dragged him outside, where his followers were gathering to protect him. In the gunfight that followed, one of the Lakota policemen put a bullet through Sitting Bull's head.

Sitting Bull was buried at Fort Yates, North Dakota. In 1953, his remains were moved nearer his birthplace to Mobridge, South Dakota. Today, a granite shaft marks his grave.

He was remembered among the Lakota not only as an inspirational leader and fearless warrior but as a loving father and gifted singer. Sitting Bull was an affable man and friendly toward others. His deep faith gave him prophetic insight and lent special power to his prayers.