This Day In History: Sitting Bull Is Killed (1890)

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One of the greatest Native Americans of the nineteenth century was killed on this day in 1890. Sitting Bull was a Sioux chief who resisted the attempts of the white men to seize Indian lands. He was also a Holy Man and he had been able to create an alliance between the Indian tribes in order to resist the Federal Army. He was killed on this day by some Indian Police on a Reservation in South Dakota.

Sitting Bull was fully committed to resisting the Americans from and early age. He was determined to preserve his people’s ways and argued that they should have no contact with the Americans.  He believed that any contact with the Americans would eventually lead to the death of their traditional way of life. Sitting Bull did not seek violence as he was well aware of the strength of the Americans.  Sitting Bull had great prestige among the Sioux and other Indian tribes and he created an alliance among the Sioux and the Cheyenne. Sitting Bull persuaded his people and allies to ignore a 1875 order to move to Reservations. He led the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where they defeated the 7th cavalry  under the command of  General George Custer.  The army sent considerable forces to the South Dakota area in order to crush Sitting Bull and his tribe. They managed to resist the Americans for four years and eventually were forced to flee to Canada. On the verge of starvation the Sioux were forced to surrender and they were confined to a reservation.  Sitting Bull was still a major figure among the Sioux and he still held great influence. The Americans feared this and believed that Sitting Bull would try to lead his people off the reservation and start another war.   At this time there was a religious movement the ‘Ghost Dance’ that prophesied that the Indians would win their ancestral lands back and the defeat of the white men.  The authorities wrongly suspected Sitting Bull of being the inspiration behind the movement. Indian agents were sent to Sitting Bull’s home in order to arrest him.  Sitting Bull was in bed when the agents arrived at his home. Some young men threatened the agents and there was a confrontation. The agents believed that there lives were under threat and they opened fire. Sitting Bull was wounded and he later died. His body was taken away by the army and buried hurriedly.

sitting-bull-card
Headline announcing the death of Sitting Bull

The army was later to brutally end the Ghost Dance movement when they massacred dozens of Indians at Wounded Knee. This was the effective end of any Native American opposition to the American government in the Northern Plains.

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