Sitting Bull was born in what is now known as South Dakota in 1831 and joined his first war party at the age of 14. His father was a revered Sioux warrior named Returns-Again and from childhood Sitting Bull sought to live up to his father’s reputation.
While he was considered “slow” at a young age, Sitting Bull killed his first buffalo at only 10-years-old and fought bravely in a war against a rival clan at the age of 14.
Sitting-Bull grew into adulthood in a world where his very way of life was being threatened by encroaching American settlement. In 1863, Sitting Bull fought American soldiers for the first time. One year later, he would lead another campaign against U.S. troops and his attack on Fort Rice in 1865 led to his being named Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota nation in 1868. To this day he is arguably the most revered of all Native American Chiefs in recorded history.
When gold was discovered on Sioux land, the U.S. government tabled a treaty with the tribe and allowed settlers to rush into Sioux territory. To make matters worse for the tribe, the government declared war on any Sioux who tried to prevent prospectors from taking over the land.
Chief Sitting Bull refused to abide by the conditions, vowing to protect his land as well as his people. During a Sun Dance Ceremony on the Little Bighorn River, it is said Sitting Bull danced for 36 hours straight and had a vision of his people defeating the American army. He shared the vision with his people.
Just a week later Chief Sitting Bull went up against General Custer in the epic Battle at Little Bighorn, laying waste to the general and more than 200 of his men. Humiliated by the defeat, the American government went after Sitting Bull with renowned vigor, and larger numbers.
Chief Sitting Bull was forced to lead his people to Canada, where they laid low for four years.He returned to Dakota territory in 1881 and was held as a prisoner for about two years.
In 1885, Sitting Bull joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show on the recommendation of his friend, sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The Sioux leader made a lot of money traveling with the show, but didn’t enjoy the performances or the way he was treated by some audience members.
Sitting Bull decided to return to Dakota Territory and live among his people. He moved to a cabin by the Grand River near the place of his birth and lived his life on his own terms, rejecting Christianity and honoring Sioux traditions.
In 1890, authorities ordered a group of police officers to arrest Sitting Bull based on his involvement with a group of Native Americans known as Ghost Dancers, who they believed were going to flee the reservation.
Roughly 39 police officers and a few volunteers surrounded the chief’s cabin. Sitting bull was arrested and led outside his cabin – but refused to mount a horse as ordered. When police used force, the other Sioux in the village grew enraged and one opened fire on police, who in turn shot Sitting Bull in the chest and head.