Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

Bill Yenne

Language: English

Pages: 392

ISBN: 1594160929

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Yenne's book excels as a study of leadership."—The New Yorker

"Combining sound historiography and singular eloquence, versatile American historian Yenne provides a biography of the great Lakota leader in which care is taken to describe sources (a great deal of them are in oral tradition) and to achieve balance with compassion. A warrior as a young man, Sitting Bull was later more of a shaman and tribal elder. During the Little Big Horn, he was in camp making sure the children were safely concealed. He was a firm friend of Buffalo Bill Cody, who made him a celebrity, and was shot to death while being arrested by Indian policemen during the Ghost Dance rebellion, shortly before Wounded Knee. Yenne hails from Lakota territory in Montana and uses his familiarity with it to complement the richness of data in the narrative with an extraordinary sense of place. Indispensible to Native American studies.—Booklist (American Library Association):

"In this stirring biography, Yenne captures the extraordinary life of Plains Indian leader Sitting Bull while providing new insight into the nomadic culture of the Lakota. Born in 1831, Sitting Bull witnessed the downfall of his people's way of life nearly from start to finish—despite some clashes, "the Lakota supremacy on the northern Plains remained essentially unchallenged" until the 1850s. Yenne describes how hostilities increased after the 1849 California gold rush, and were exacerbated by the opening of the railroad; conflicts and broken treaties would harden many Lakota against the colonists, including Sitting Bull. A high point is Yenne's account of how celebrity journalism created the myth of Custer's Last Stand, casting the general as hero and Sitting Bull as the villain, and how the US cavalry's defeat was used to justify forcing Indians off their land and onto reservations. The last half of the book describes Sitting Bull's unsuccessful attempts to defend the Lakota's land and culture through negotiation and peaceful resistance, alongside a dismal record of government betrayal and neglect. In this remarkable, tragic portrait, Sitting Bull emerges as a thoughtful, passionate and very human figure."—Publisher Weekly (Starred Review)

"This is much more than the usual romantic Native American biography or sympathetic history. Instead, Bill Yenne transcends the customary Eurocentric filter and debunks the myths and romantic distortions, combining thorough literary research with contemporary Native American sources to penetrate the complex and enigmatic character of America's best-known Indian hero. And he does it all in a refreshing, engaging style." —Bill Yellowtail, Katz Endowed Chair in Native American Studies, Montana State University

"Bill Yenne has written an accessible account of Sitting Bull's life that gives us a sense of the man and his times." —Juti Winchester, Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum

"Sitting Bull, leader of the largest Indian nation on the continent, the strongest, boldest, most stubborn opponent of European influence, was the very heart and soul of the frontier. When the true history of the New World is written, he will receive his chapter. For Sitting Bull was one of the makers of America."—Stanley Vestal

Sitting Bull's name is still the best known of any American Indian leader, but his life and legacy remain shrouded with misinformation and half-truths. Sitting Bull's life spanned the entire clash of cultures and ultimate destruction of the Plains Indian way of life. He was a powerful leader and a respected shaman, but neither fully captures the enigma of Sitting Bull. He was a good friend of Buffalo Bill and skillful negotiator with the American government, yet erroneously credited with both murdering Custer at the Little Big Horn and with being the chief instigator of the Ghost Dance movement. The reality of his life, as Bill Yenne reveals in his absorbing new portrait, Sitting Bull, is far more intricate and compelling. Tracing Sitting Bull's history from a headstrong youth and his first contact with encroaching settlers, through his ascension as the spiritual and military leader of the Lakota, friendship with a Swiss-American widow from New York, and death at the hands of the Indian police on the eve of the massacre at Wounded Knee, Yenne scoured rare contemporary records and consulted Sitting Bull's own "Hieroglyphic Autobiography" in the course of his research. While Sitting Bull was the leading figure of Plains Indian resistance his message, as Yenne explains, was of self-reliance, not violence. At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull was not confronting Custer as popular myth would have it, but riding through the Lakota camp making sure the most defenseless of his tribe--the children--were safe. In Sitting Bull we find a man who, in the face of an uncertain future, helped ensure the survival of his people.














would collide. The first serious crack in the detente of coexistence in the Platte River country of the Northern Plains came in August 1854 with the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the Lakota. As with many battles that took place in the West during the nineteenth century, the Grattan Fight— or Grattan Massacre, as the wasichu often called it—was touched off by a miscommunication that got out of hand. In the history of the Indian Wars, this event was just one of a countless number of

into the vast area of eastern Montana in the early winter of 1875, it was still unceded The Fugitive 113 Indian land. A year later, however, the U.S. Army was constructing outposts along the Yellowstone River that would be permanently manned by troops. In this country and during this winter, Sitting Bull would meet Bear Coat Miles. Sitting Bull had many opponents—from Crow to wasichu—but probably only one true antagonist on the field of battle. Popular legend, although not historical fact,

men from Custer’s detachment made their last stand. Sitting Bull also conveyed the long-held misconception on the part of the Lakota and Cheyenne that the contingent that initially attacked at the southern end of the camp (Reno’s command) were the same group of soldiers that later attacked at Medicine Tail Coulee and wound up making the last stand on Custer Hill and the adjacent ridges (Custer’s command). The discussion of the Battle of the Little Bighorn apparently was an obvious ending point in

Randall alive. He says he wishes to die as Crazy Horse did.” The Celebrity 181 Gilbert then ordered Company H of the 17th Infantry Regiment to round up everyone at Sitting Bull’s camp and escort them to the boat landing at Fort Yates to await the steamer that would take them away. The Bismarck Tribune described Gilbert as “a man who will allow no trifling, and his action to-day will have a wholesome effect on all.” Sitting Bull’s fate was no longer his own to decide. His only choice was to

son, bestowing the ultimate honor that he could confer—his own name. Jumping Badger, nicknamed “Slow,” officially became Tatanka Iyotanka—Sitting Bull. The elder Sitting Bull symbolically moved one step further in the cycle of Lakota life, renaming himself as Jumping Bull. His father also placed a single white eagle feather in the hair of young Sitting Bull. Many years later, when he finally crossed paths with photographers, Sitting Bull would be recorded many times with such a feather

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