Chief Sitting Bull
Hunkpapa Sioux Leader and Medicine Man
1891 account of Sitting Bull shortly after his Death
by W. FLETCHER JOHNSON
" I surrender this rifle to you through my young son, whom I now desire to teach in this way that he has become a friend of the whites. I wish him to live as the whites do and be taught in their schools. I wish to be remembered as the last man of my tribe who gave up his rifle. This boy has now given it to you, and he wants to know how he is going to make a living."
|Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake autographed photo "Sitting Bull"|
By: ~Anonymous Lakota
Saturday, December 15th, 2002 was the 112th Memorial anniversary of the assassination of Tatanka Iyotaka, more commonly known as Sitting Bull. This inspirational leader was murdered deep within Lakota Nation territory, a vast area encompassing much of the central and northern Great Plains. Tatanka Iyotaka in his day was one of the most influential leaders on the prairie. Today, he is the most recognizable Indian in the world.
Tatanka Iyotaka was not impressed by white society and their version of civilization. He was shocked and saddened to see the number of homeless people living on the streets of American cities. He gave money to hungry white people many times when he was in the large cities.
He counseled his people to be wary of what they accept from white culture. He saw some things which might benefit his people; but cautioned Indian people to accept only those things that were useful to us, and to leave everything else alone. Tatanka Iyotaka was a man of clear vision and pure motivation.
As is often the case with extraordinary people, Tatanka Iyotaka was murdered by his own people. The colonial force set the weak of his own race against him. A tactic they continue to use. Indian police today carry on the tradition started by the assassins of Tatanka Iyotaka and Tasunke Witko. Indian police harassing, arresting, even killing other Indian people keeps the colony in control. Seeing that their paychecks, just like those of the elected tribal/band councilors, come from the colonial government points to that quite clearly.
The unrelenting love for his land and his people caused the enemies of the Lakota to fear Tatanka Iyotaka. The Hunkpapa Oyate and the Titonwan Lakota had many powerful leaders, but Tatanka Iyotaka will forever remain the icon of traditional, full-blood strength and dignity.
A TRAGEDY AT WOUNDED KNEE
by Warren K. Morehead 1914
Edited by Stanley L. Klos 1999
It seems that the Indian police brought Major McLaughlin information as to the intentions of the famous medicine man. The Major became convinced that Sitting Bull must be arrested and confined, and he therefore sent a squad of police under Lieutenant Bull Head. Among the thirtynine Indian policemen who made the arrest were four relatives. Aside from the officer in charge, Bull Head, Red Tomahawk and Shave Head seem to have been the most prominent.
Sitting Bull's settlement consisted of a number of houses stretched on the banks of the Grand River for a distance of four or five miles. The group surrounding Sitting Bull's cabin was comprised of half a dozen log cabins and a corral.
The police entered upon their mission in the night and arrived at daylight. " Many of the houses were deserted, the Indians having been engaged in dancing the greater part of the previous night. The entrance of the policemen awakened the camp, but they saw no one, as Bull Head wheeled his men between the Sitting Bull houses and ordered them to dismount. Ten policemen, headed by Bull Head and Shave Head, entered one of the houses, eight policemen the other. In the house entered by Bull Head's party they found the old medicine man, his two wives, and Crow Foot his son, a youth of seventeen years.
"The women were very much frightened and began to cry. Sitting Bull sat up and asked what was the matter.
'You are under arrest and must go to the agency,' said Bull Head.
" 'Very well,' said Sitting Bull, 'I will go with you.' And he told one of his wives to go to the other house and bring him his best clothes. He showed no concern at his arrest, but evidently wanted to make a good impression and dressed himself with some care. He had also asked that his best horse, a gray one, be saddled, and an Indian policeman had the animal at the door by the time Sitting Bull was dressed and ready to leave.
"There had been no trouble in the house, and the police, when they walked out, were surprised at the extent of the demonstration. They came out of the building in a little knot, Bull Head on one side of Sitting Bull, Shave Head on the other, and Red Tomahawk directly behind. They had been twenty minutes or more in Sitting Bull's house, and it was in the gray of the morning when they came out. They stepped out into a mass of greatly excited Ghost dancers, nearly all armed and crowding about the main body of the police, who had held the way clear at the door. As Sitting Bull stepped out with his captors he walked directly toward the horse, with the evident intention of mounting and accompanying the police. He was some distance from the door when his son, Crow Foot, seeing that the old man intended to make no resistance, began to revile him: —
" 'You call yourself a brave man and you have declared that you would never surrender to a blue-coat, and now you give yourself up to Indians in blue uniforms,' the young man shouted.
"The taunt hit Sitting Bull hard. He looked into the mass of dark, excited faces, and commenced to talk volubly and shrilly, and there was a menacing movement in the crowd.
"The last moment of Sitting Bull's life showed him in a better light, so far as physical courage goes, than all the rest of it. He looked about him and saw his faithful adherents — about 160 crazed Ghost dancers— who would have gone through fire at his bidding; to submit to arrest meant the end of his power and his probable imprisonment; he had sure news from Pine Ridge that he, only, was needed to head the hostiles there in a war of extermination against the white settlers. He made up his mind to take his chance, and screamed out an order to his people to attack the police.
"Instantly Catch-the-Bear and Strikes-the-Kettle, who were in the front rank of the crowd, fired at point-blank range, Catch-the-Bear mortally wounding First Lieutenant Bull Head, and Strikes-the-Kettle shooting First Sergeant Shave Head in the abdomen. Lieutenant Bull Head was a few yards to the left and front of Sitting Bull when hit, and immediately wheeling, he shot Sitting Bull through the body, and at the same instant Second Sergeant Red Tomahawk, who with revolver in hand was rearguard, shot him in the right cheek, killing him instantly; the lieutenant, the first sergeant, and Sitting Bull falling together.
"Sitting Bull's medicine had not saved him, and the shot that killed him put a stop forever to the domination of the ancient regime among the Sioux of the Standing Rock reservation.
"The tale of the bloody fight that ensued has been told, and the world knows how those thirty-nine Indian policemen, with four of their relatives who volunteered to accompany them,— a total of forty-three in all — fought off 160 Ghost dancers, eight of whom were killed and five wounded; how Second Sergeant Red Tomahawk, after the two higher ranking police officers had been mortally wounded, took command and drove the Indians to the timber; how Hawk Man No. 1 ran through a hail of bullets to get the news to the cavalry detachment, and how six faithful friends of the Whites, policemen of the Standing Rock reservation, laid down their lives in doing their duty that morning. Two days later, on December 17, 1890, we buried Shave Head and four other Indian policemen with military honors in the cemetery at Standing Rock, and, while Captain Miner's entire company of the Twenty-Second U. S. Infantry fired three volleys over the graves of these red heroes, and a great concourse of the Sioux of the reservation stood in the chill bright sunlight of a fair winter's day, mourning aloud for their dead, I quietly left the enclosure and joined a little burial-party in the military cemetery at Fort Yates, situated about five hundred yards south of the agency cemetery. Four military prisoners dug the grave, and in the presence of A. R. Chapin, Assistant Surgeon, U. S. A., H. M. Deeble, Acting Assistant Surgeon, U. S. A., Lieutenant P. G. Wood, U. S. A., Post Quartermaster, now Brigadier General, retired, and myself, the body of Sitting Bull, wrapped in canvas and placed in a coffin, was lowered into the grave."*
Naturally the death of Sitting Bull caused great commotion and many Indians joined the Ghost dancers. In spite of promises to the contrary, they imagined that all those who had incurred the ill will of the authorities were to be killed.
About this time Major Brooke sent out American Horse with Two Strike and others to persuade the rest of the Ghost dancers to come in. There were a number of skirmishes in which a few persons were killed on each side.
On December 28th, Major Whitside in charge of the Seventh Cavalry came up with Big Foot's band. This same Indian, Big Foot, and his people were traveling toward Pine Ridge agency. According to Mooney's account, Whitside demanded unconditional surrender which was at once given. The Indians and the soldiers went into camp twenty miles northeast of Pine Ridge agency. All of this was communicated to Major Brooke, who sent Colonel Forsythe with four companies of the Seventh Cavalry to join Whitside. This gave Whitside a total of 470 men as against 106 warriors and a number of women and children, frequently estimated from 200 to 250. The other Ghost dancers under Kicking Bear and Short Bull had been persuaded by American Horse and Little Wound to come in to the agency and were encamped at the Catholic mission, five miles out. December 29th (the next day) the officers ordered the Indians to be disarmed. In the center of the camp of the Indians a white flag had been erected. Early in the morning a battery of four Hotchkiss guns had been posted,and these were trained on the Indian camp. The cavalry was placed in squads at various angles, almost entirely surrounding the Indians, or at least on the flank. Chief Big Foot was ill with pneumonia, and the troops had provided him with a tent warmed by a camp stove. About eight o'clock in the morning the men were ordered to give up their guns. Following Mooney's account further, twenty of them came out with only two guns. The Indians seemed unwilling to give them up, and some of the soldiers were ordered to go into the tents and secure them. Mooney says that this search consumed time and created excitement. My information is to the effect that the soldiers threw things about in the tents and took guns away from those who had them; many children were badly frightened and began to cry, and the Indians were now told by the shaman, Yellow Bird, that they were to be disarmed and then killed. I was told that the medicine man threw dust high in the air and it broke like a little cloud and then the massacre began. Mooney presents the same idea, in a little different form.
While this searching had continued, a large part of the soldiers had been ordered up to within ten yards of the Indians, which further added to their terror and convinced them that Yellow Bird spoke the truth, that they were all to be shot down.
One or two Indians drew revolvers or rifles and fired upon the soldiers, who returned the fire, killing almost half the warriors at the first discharge of their guns Many sticks were afterwards set up at this place by the Indians. The survivors sprang to their feet, seized knives, clubs or the few remaining guns, and fought desperately.
While this was going on, other troops operated the Hotchkiss guns and sent a storm of shells and bullets among the women and children standing or running about the tipis. Mooney says "the guns poured in two-pound explosive shells at the rate of fifty per minute, mowing down everything alive.
" The terrible effect may be judged from the fact that one woman survivor, Blue Whirlwind, with whom the author conversed, received fourteen wounds, while each of her two little boys were also wounded by her side. In a few minutes 200 Indian men, women and children, with sixty soldiers, were lying dead and wounded on the ground, the tipis had been torn down by the shells and some of them were burning above the helpless wounded, and the surviving handful of Indians were flying in wild panic to the shelter of the ravine, pursued by hundreds of maddened soldiers and followed up by a raking fire from the Hotchkiss guns, which had been moved into position to sweep the ravine.
"There can be no question that the pursuit was simply a massacre, where fleeing women, with infants in their arms, were shot down after resistance had ceased and when almost every warrior was stretched dead or dying on the ground. On this point such a careful writer as Herbert Welsh says: 'From the fact that so many women and children were killed, and that their bodies were found far from the scene of action, and as though they were shot down while flying, it would look as though blind rage had been at work, in striking contrast to the moderation of the Indian police at the Sitting Bull fight when they were assailed by women.' The testimony of American Horse and other friendlies is strong in the same direction. Commissioner Morgan in his official report says that 'Most of the men, including Big Foot, were killed around his tent, where he lay sick. The bodies of the women and children were scattered along a distance of two miles from the scene of the encounter'."
I agree with Mooney, that a man should not criticize the soldiers of his own country. As for the shooting of armed warriors, we will all give assent. As to the murder of women and children, whose only thought was to escape with their lives, one may not trust himself to write in moderation. The Indians told me that many of the Seventh Cavalry troops cried out, "Remember Custer," as they pursued little boys and girls and destroyed them. We might as well draw the veil of charity over the concluding scene — the pursuit and the butchery.
There was one heroic character, Father Kraft, of the Catholic mission, Pine Ridge. He spoke Sioux fluently and endeavored to stop the fight. He was stabbed through the lungs, yet with bullets flying about him, he administered the last rites of the church to the dying until he fell unconscious. Mooney pays him a deserved tribute. The Indians were so excited that they did not recognize him, claiming that he had on a soldier's overcoat because of the cold. Mooney affirms this is not correct, but that he wore his priestly robes.
The immediate result of the massacre of Wounded Knee was the stampeding of all the Indians into the hills. They believed that they were to be murdered.
General Miles adopted harsh measures against the Indians and they soon surrendered all their guns and came in to the agency.
Doctor McGillicuddy, the former Agent at Pine Ridge, who was entirely familiar with the events, stated to Mooney on January 15, 1891, "Up to date there has been neither a Sioux outbreak nor war. No citizen in Nebraska or Dakota has been killed, molested, or can show the scratch of a pin, and no property has been destroyed off the reservation. Only a single non-combatant was killed by the Indians, and that was close to the agency. The entire time occupied by the campaign, from the killing of Sitting Bull to the surrender at Pine Ridge, was only thirty-two days. The late hostiles were returned to their homes as speedily as possible."
The Indians quit, but the white people did not. On January llth, some white people led by three brothers named Culbertson,* pursued an aged Oglala, who was a very friendly Indian, for many miles. His name was Few Tails, and he was accompanied by his wife, another Indian named One Feather, his wife and two children. They had been hunting in the Black Hills and had a pass from the agency. They were returning in two wagons loaded with meat. The Culbertson brothers and these other white men fired on Few Tails, killing that Indian and both ponies attached to that wagon. His wife jumped out and received two bullets, bringing her down. Mooney says that the murderers then attacked the other wagon shooting the wife of One Feather, but as she was not badly hurt, she drove away as rapidly as possible and the Indian leaped upon one of the spare ponies and held off the white men for eight or ten miles. They again came up, and he turned and fought them off while his wife drove ahead with the wagon.
The senseless panic had seized upon all settlers in the country because of the Ghost dance and the Wounded Knee fight. This is illustrated by Mooney's concluding description of the first part of the fight.
"As they drove they passed near a house, from which several other shots were fired at the flying mother, when her husband again rode up and kept off the whole party until the wagon could get ahead. Finally, as the ponies were tired out, this heroic man abandoned the wagon and put the two children on one of the spare ponies and his wounded wife and himself upon another and continued to retreat until the Whites gave up the pursuit. He finally reached the agency with the wife and children."
To give readers an adequate conception of what has too frequently occurred in the West, I desire to state that while One Feather and his family escaped, wounded, the wife of the other Indian, Few Tails, was shot twice, and lay helpless on the ground all night. In the morning she found one of the ponies alive, and mounted it and reached a settler's house fifteen miles away.
"Instead of meeting help and sympathy, however, she was driven off by the two men there with loaded rifles, and leaving her horse in her fright, she hurried away as well as she could with a bullet in her leg and another in her breast, passing by the trail of One Feather's wagon with the tracks of his pursuers fresh behind it, until she came near a trader's store about twenty miles farther south. Afraid to go near it on account of her last experience, the poor woman circled around it, and continued, wounded, cold, and starving as she was, to travel by night and hide by day until she reached the Bad Lands. The rest may be told in her own words:
" 'After that I traveled every night, resting daytime, until I got here at the beef corral. Then I was very tired, and was near the military camp, and early in the morning a soldier came out and he shouted something back, and in a few minutes fifty men were there, and they got a blanket and took me to a tent. I had no blanket and my feet were swelled, and I was about ready to die. After I got to the tent a doctor came in—a soldier doctor, because he had straps on his shoulders — and washed me and treated me well."
"A few of the soldiers camped near the scene of the attack had joined in the pursuit at the beginning, on the representations of some of the murderers, but abandoned it as soon as they found their mistake. According to all the testimony, the killing was a wanton, unprovoked, and deliberate murder, yet the criminals were acquitted in the local courts. The apathy displayed by the authorities of Meade county, South Dakota, in which the murder was committed, called forth some vigorous protests. Colonel Shafter, in his statement of the case, concludes, referring to the recent killing of Lieutenant Casey: 'So long as Indians are being arrested and held for killing armed men under conditions of war, it seems to me that the white murderers of a part of a band of peaceful Indians should not be permitted to escape punishment.' The Indians took the same view of the case, and when General Miles demanded of Young-man-afraid-ofhis-horses the surrender of the slayers of Casey and the herder Miller, the old chief indignantly replied: 'No; I will not surrender them, but if you will bring the white men who killed Few Tails, I will bring the Indians who killed the white soldier and the herder; and right out here in front of your tipi I will have my young men shoot the Indians and you have your so'diers shoot the white men, and we will be done with the whole business."
"In regard to the heroic conduct of One Feather, the officer then in charge of the agency says: 'The determination and genuine courage, as well as the generalship he manifested in keeping at a distance the six men who were pursuing him, and the devotion he showed toward his family, risking his life against great odds, designate him as entitled to a place on the list of heroes'."