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Table of Contents
Sitting Bull or Tatanka-Iyotanka, arguably the most well-known American Indian in history, served as the Sioux people’s paramount military, spiritual, and political figure in the 1800s. The Black Hills area of South Dakota saw a significant upsurge in combat with American soldiers when gold was found there in 1874. Sitting Bull foresaw that his people would soon win a significant military victory in 1876. At the Little Bighorn Battle, that prophecy was realized. In that illustrious conflict, American forces under General George Armstrong Custer were routed by a coalition of tribes commanded by legendary warrior Crazy Horse.
For more information on Indian Chief Sitting Bull, read the fact file below or download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Facts & Information
- The phrase sitting bull refers to the first Chief Supreme Leader of the Lakota Nation, originally named “Jumping Badger” upon his birth in 1831. In South Dakota, Sitting Bull was born as a member of the Lakota Sioux nation. His folks referred to the place where he was born as Many-Caches. His father was the ferocious warrior known as Jumping Bull.
- His father called him “Slow” because he was always extremely cautious and took his time to act.
- In the Sioux nation, Slow had a normal childhood. He gained knowledge of horseback riding, bow hunting, and buffalo hunting. He envisioned himself as a great fighter in the future. Slow killed his first buffalo when he was ten years old.
- Slow joined his first fighting party when he was 14 years old. He fiercely rushed a warrior fighting for the Crow nation, bringing him down. When the troop returned to camp, his father named him Sitting Bull in honor of his courage.
- Sitting Bull promptly joined the Silent Eaters, a tribe-protection group, and the Strong Heart warrior society. He directed the expansion of Sioux hunting grounds into western territories previously populated by Assiniboine, Crow, and Shoshone peoples.
- As Sitting Bull grew older, white American men started to penetrate his people’s territory. Each year, they increased in number. Sitting Bull rose to prominence among his people and earned a reputation for valor. He wanted to live in harmony with the white people, but they refused to leave his territory.
- Sitting Bull first fought the US. In response to the Minnesota Uprising, which was started when federal authorities withheld food from the Sioux living on reservations along the Minnesota River, the Army pursued the Santee Sioux in June 1863. During the Minnesota Uprising, more than 300 Sioux were detained, but President Abraham Lincoln remitted the sentences of all but 39 of the defendants.
- Sitting Bull started using violence against Americans in 1863. He tried to frighten them away, but they kept coming back. On July 28, 1864, at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain, American forces headed by General Alfred Sully besieged a Native American trade town, forcing the Sioux to escape. This was Sitting Bull’s second encounter with the American military might. These clashes convinced Sitting Bull not to accept a treaty that would have compelled his people to live on a reservation.
- He aided Red Cloud in his 1868 campaign against numerous local American forts. Sitting Bull disagreed when Red Cloud signed a treaty with the United States, and he wouldn’t ratify any agreements. Sitting Bull was regarded as the Lakota Sioux Nation’s Supreme Chief by 1869.
- The Fort Laramie Treaty’s uneasy peace didn’t last long. In the Black Hills, which are part of the Great Sioux Reservation and are a holy site to the Sioux, gold was found in 1874. White settlers eager to make their fortunes raced to seize control of the area.
- The United States government violated the terms of the treaty by requiring that any Sioux who dared to object migrate to the newly defined reservation boundaries by January 31, 1876, or else be seen as an enemy of the country. Sitting Bull was supposed to transfer the entire settlement 240 miles, which was impossible in the freezing weather.
- Sitting Bull was defiant and wouldn’t concede. Sitting Bull established a war camp when American soldiers started to hunt down Sioux who resided outside the reserve. Along with several other Native Americans from other tribes, including the Cheyenne and the Arapaho, he was joined by numerous more Sioux. His camp expanded rapidly, housing possibly 10,000 people by then.
- On June 17, 1876, he gathered his troops and engaged General George Crook, winning the Battle of the Rosebud. His troops then advanced to the Little Bighorn River Valley.
- Sitting Bull, then a famed leader and holy man, or “Wichasa Wakan,” took part in a Sun Dance ritual in a camp near the Little Bighorn River. He made 50 sacrifice incisions on each arm while dancing for 36 hours straight before entering a trance. When he awakened, he stated that he had a dream in which he saw American troops dropping from the sky like grasshoppers, which he took as a sign that the army would soon be overthrown.
- According to Colonel George Custer of the American Army, the Indian battle camp was found not long after Sitting Bull’s vision. Custer attacked on June 25, 1876. Custer, however, was unaware of the magnitude of Sitting Bull’s army. Custer and several other members of his army were killed when the Native Americans decisively beat them. This conflict pitted Native Americans against the American Army, which is regarded as one of their greatest wins.
- Even though the United States won the Battle of Little Big Horn handily, more American forces quickly arrived in South Dakota. Sitting Bull was eventually forced to flee to Canada as his army dispersed. Sitting Bull made a comeback and surrendered to the Americans in 1881. His new home would be a reserve. Before being sent to the Standing Rock Reservation, he spent two years as a prisoner of war at South Dakota’s Fort Randall.
- Sitting Bull was a Lakota Sioux Native American chief best remembered for leading his nation to victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Many people believed Sitting Bull was responsible for orchestrating the Native American victory after the defeat at the Little Bighorn.
- Some even said that the 45-year-old had once attended West Point Military Academy. However, Sitting Bull appears to have delegated the fighting to the younger men, the majority of whom engaged in disorderly groupings of combat while Sitting Bull defended the camp’s women and children throughout the onslaught.
- Sitting Bull’s prophecy undoubtedly inspired the Native Americans, but on that particular day, his nephew White Bull and the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse stood out. They led a charge that is said to have broken the soldiers’ lines in half.
- The Sioux chief Sitting Bull addressed government representatives, railroad magnates, and American soldiers on September 8, 1883, to celebrate the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway. And on this one occasion, after a deadly struggle to protect his people and their territory from White invaders, Sitting Bull decided to speak out against all odds about those he had long opposed.
- Sitting Bull rode at the head of the procession with his military escort on his side. The audience was taken aback when the renowned Native American warrior chose to speak in Sioux rather than English when it was his turn to speak.
- The sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who he affectionately dubbed “Little Sure Shot” after seeing her perform in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1884, was the subject of Sitting Bull’s friendship. Sitting Bull was occasionally allowed to leave the reservation, and it was during one of these excursions he first met people outside the reservation.
- Sitting Bull and Oakley appeared in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1885. By that time, Buffalo Bill was a well-known figure with a colorful background straight out of a Western: He had participated in the American Civil War, ridden horses for the Pony Express, and worked as an Army scout.
- As the Ghost Dance Movement gained momentum, Standing Rock Reservation quickly became the focus of controversy. In their view, all white people would vanish while dead buffalo and members of the departed tribe would emerge from the grave. Native American police surrounded Sitting Bull’s hut to arrest him because of fear that he might join the movement and spark an uprising.
- Native American police awoke Sitting Bull in his bed on December 15, 1890, around 6 a.m. He refused to go peacefully, and people started to gather. A young man shot a Native American police officer, who in turn shot Sitting Bull in the head and chest as retaliation.
- Shotgun wounds caused Sitting Bull to pass away instantaneously. At Wounded Knee, the last battle between federal forces and the Sioux, the army slaughtered 150 of them two weeks after his death two weeks after his passing.
- The military buried Sitting Bull in Fort Yates Military Cemetery in North Dakota. In 1953, family members dug up what they believed to be Sitting Bull’s burial site and reinterred the remains they had discovered close to Mobridge, South Dakota, on the Missouri River.
- One of his famous quotes was, “If we must die, we die defending our rights. Each man is good in His sight.”
Sitting Bull Worksheets
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use Sitting Bull Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about Sitting Bull or Tatanka-Iyotanka, who was the legendary Teton Lakota Indian Chief who united the Sioux tribes of the North American Plains.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Sitting Bull Facts
- Hail to the Chief!
- Guess What?
- Famous Warriors
- Everything Gold
- The Lakota Nation
- Warrior Acrostic
- Native American Tribes
- Battle of the Little Bighorn
- Sun Dance Ceremony
- News Analysis
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Sitting Bull most famous for?
Sitting Bull was a Lakota Sioux Native American chief best remembered for leading his nation to victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
What does the phrase sitting bull mean?
The phrase sitting bull refers to the first Chief Supreme Leader of the Lakota Nation, originally named “Jumping Badger” upon his birth in 1831. In South Dakota, Sitting Bull was born as a member of the Lakota Sioux nation. His folks referred to the place where he was born as Many-Caches. His father was the ferocious warrior known as Jumping Bull.
Did Sitting Bull speak English?
No, he speaks in Sioux. The Sioux chief Sitting Bull addressed government representatives, railroad magnates, and American soldiers on September 8, 1883, to celebrate the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway. And on this one occasion, after a deadly struggle to protect his people and their territory from White invaders, Sitting Bull decided to speak out against all odds about those he had long opposed. Sitting Bull rode at the head of the procession with his military escort on his side. The audience was taken aback when the renowned Native American warrior chose to speak in Sioux rather than English when it was his turn to speak.
How did Sitting Bull get his name?
Slow joined his first fighting party when he was 14 years old. He fiercely rushed a warrior fighting for the Crow nation, bringing him down. When the troop returned to camp, his father named him Sitting Bull in honor of his courage.
What is a famous quote from Sitting Bull?
One of his famous quotes was, “If we must die, we die defending our rights. Each man is good in His sight.”
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