This Day In History: Sitting Bull Surrenders

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Five years after  the Battle of Little Bighorn and the defeat of the US Cavalry under the command of George Custer. The Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to units of the  U.S. Army. He and his followers surrender after a promise of amnesty from the US government. Sitting Bull had been one of the leaders of the Sioux rebellion of 1876. This uprising was one of the most serious ever by the Plains Indians. After they defeated George Custer the Sioux were later defeated and had to retreat into Canada.

Sitting Bull was and bred South Dakota, the ancestral home of the tribe and their heartland. From an early age, he was a brave warrior and he was also something of a holy man. Sitting Bull became a major figure among the Sioux. In 1864 he fought at the Killdeer Mountain against the US cavalry.  Sitting Bull gained early recognition in his Sioux tribe as a capable warrior and a man of vision. In 1864, he fought against the U.S. Army under General Alfred Sully at Killdeer Mountain. He was determined to save the lands and the culture of the Sioux and he forged an alliance with the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. By 1867 he was undisputed chief and leader of the Sioux. He had built up a powerful confederation of tribes on the Northern Plains.

1200px-Capture_and_Death_of_Sitting_Bull_by_Kurz_&_Allison,_1890
capture and death of Sitting Bull

In 1873 he led the Indians in a brief battle with the American army under Custer. Three years later at Little Big Horn Sitting Bull was not one of the military leaders but he strongly influenced the Indians with his spiritual visions. He subsequently fled to Canada,  under intense American pressure but in 1881, with his people starving, he returned to America and surrendered, on the condition that he and his people would be safe from reprisals.

Sitting Bull was held a prisoner at Fort Randall and then was permitted with his people, who were now few in number, to live on a reservation. This was the Standing Rock Reservation straddling North and South Dakota.  He remained a religious leader of the Sioux and other tribes. In 1889, Sitting Bull’s prophecies influenced the rise of the “Ghost Dance,” an Indian religious movement that proclaimed t the dead Indians and buffalo would return and life would return to what it had once been for the Indian tribes on the Northern Plains. This led the US authorities to treat him with suspicion. In 1890 there was an attempt to arrest him as the authorities feared that he and others were planning another uprising.

In some accounts, Sitting Bull’s warriors wounded the leader of the police,  who then in self-defence killed Sitting Bull.  However, others state that there was a deliberate effort to target Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull was fatally shot and died and he was  buried in secret. In 1953, his remains were moved into Mobridge, South Dakota.

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