Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Truth About Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka)

The Truth About Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka)
                                                            By Sarah J. McNeal

When I researched to find something interesting for my article on Sweethearts of the West blog, I ran into some fascinating information about Sitting Bull. I know, like many modern day people, I only know that Sitting Bull was a Lakota chief and that he’s famous for his resistance to white men taking Native American lands.  What I didn’t know was his sense of justice and his undaunted and courageous spirit.
After fighting battle after battle to keep the white men from taking Lakota lands, the government asked Sitting Bull to make a speech when the golden spike would be placed in the Northern Pacific Railroad tying the east coast to the west. Amazingly, Sitting Bull agreed to make the speech. An Indian agent who knew Lakota wrote the speech for Sitting Bull. So, on September 8, 1883, amid applause and a standing ovation, Sitting Bull made his speech. He smiled and bowed throughout allowing time for cheers and applause, but what no one knew except the Indian agent who ghost wrote the speech, was that Sitting Bull gave his own address and it was nothing like the scripted speech he was suppose to have given. In part, this is what Sitting Bull said:
I hate all White people,” he said. “You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.” He went on to describe the terrible attrocities that white men had done to his people, their corruption and dishonesty . All the while, as he delivered his speech, he looked directly at the Secretary of State, Ulysses S. Grant, the governors and the bankers. On that day, with his speech, Sitting Bull made the white men into fools.
The Lakota knew Sitting Bull as a kind, generous and self-sacrificing man for the sake of his family and his people. I found something he said that speaks of his intelligence and his fondness and hope for the next generation of people. "A child is the greatest gift from Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery), in response to many devout prayers, sacrifices and promises". Another quote about the next generation by Sitting Bull is, "Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.”

It’s hard to believe, but Sitting Bull participated in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show for a few months. He would dress in full Lakota regalia and ride around the ring once to boos and shouts of distain. Although I know it’s true, I still cannot imagine such a proud man would exploit himself in such a way.

In the end, it was a Lakota’s bullet that killed Sitting Bull.
The Ghost Dance movement made the whites anxious and suspicious.  It predicted a messiah would rise up in the Indian nations and defeat the white men. The unrest escalated and authorities felt that Sitting Bull (Lakota name: Tatanka Iyotanka) would join the movement and create a powerful resistance.  Major  James McLaughlin sent 43 Lakota tribal policemen and soldiers to arrest the chief. On December 15, 1890, the policemen surrounded Tatanka Iyotanka’s cabin and dragged him out. As his supporters objected to this treatment, a gunfight broke out in which Tatanka Iyotanka and twelve others were killed including his son, Crowfoot and his Assiniboine adopted brother, Jumping Bull all murdered by the Lakota police. Six policemen were also killed. A Lakota policeman shot Tatanka Iyotanka in the head. 
Sitting Bull was buried at Fort Yates, North Dakota. Another controversy follows his burial. The Lakota refer to sitting Bull as Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka and the following is a quote:
As a sort of bizarre footnote to Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka’s momentous life, today the states of South Dakota and North Dakota each claim to have possession of his body! North Dakota claims that Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka’s remains lie at Fort Yates, where he was shot down and killed!  But South Dakota admits that in 1953, they stole Grandfather’s body, hauled it to South Dakota, to an isolated grave west of Mobridge, South Dakota;  reburied his remains, where a granite shaft marks his grave. This gravesite is controversial since he was originally buried in Fort Yates, ND, exhumed and buried in massive amounts of concrete. Some believe that the body exhumed was not that of Tatanka Iyotanka.
 Tatanka Iyotanka was an extraordinary man. In his epic battle for the rights of his people, he had served them for 59 years. He was, without a doubt, one of the greatest Lakota leaders ever. The Lakota mourned him as well he deserved. He is remembered as an inspirational leader, fearless warrior, loving father, gifted singer; a man always affable and friendly toward others, whose deep religious faith gave him prophetic insight and lent special power to his prayers.
Many whites heaped scorn upon his memory because he had stood in their way for so many years. But Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka had not lived his life to please “wasichu”. Rather he had lived to serve his people, the Lakota Nation, in whose bosom his memory is sacred. His death is a grim story of false arrest, when there was no one to defend the Native American; his name should never be forgotten. Upon the death of their leaders, the Sioux tribes ceased their struggle against the white man.
Some believe that Sitting Bull was assassinated by the U.S. Government and that the use of Lakota policemen legitimized the assault on the Lakota Chief. All of this contrived to cover up the theft of Indian lands and the riches found there by Indian agents and U.S. officials.  To the Lakota, Tatanka Iyotanka was a chief and spiritual leader worthy of great respect for his fight to save his people much like Marin Luther King. 
If you would like to know more about Sitting Bull/Tatanka Iyotanka, I found much information from the following sites:
All photographs used are for public use taken from Wikipedia.
I am giving away a digital copy of one of my books (winner's choice) to a commenter. Please be sure to add your email address with your comment.
Here is a list of my books:
Heart Song (contemporary/paranormal/short story)
Gifts From the Afterlife (contemporary/paranormal/short story)
Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride (historical western/paranormal/time travel/novel)
For Love of Banjo (historical western, WWI/sequel to Harmonica Joe)
The Violin (historical 1927/paranormal/time travel)


  1. Great post. I read a great anecdote about Sitting Bull while he was with the Wild West Show. He was in NY and had walked by the river, where he found several starving and hungry children who lived on the streets. In that moment, he decided to go home. He scorned a rich society that would allow its children to live that way. I don't know if it's true, but it was a beautiful story and I wish I could remember where I saw it so I could reread it.

  2. What an eye opener! Sure didn't expect that one. As usual I enjoyed your informative posts and learn a ton. Thanks!

  3. Caroline, I loved your story about Sitting Bull. after doing all this research on him, I rather tend to believe that it's true. He was a gentle and intelligent man but I always thought he just wanted to kill white men.
    Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment.

  4. Neecy, thank you so much for your complimentary comments. I really appreciate that you came by and read my blog today.

  5. Sarah--I can't say any of this was a surprise, because I knew very little about him in the first place. I don't doubt any of it, except like you, I wonder..first, why such a proud man would stoop that low, and second, if he hated the white man so much, why would he agree to be in the Wild West Show. That part is very difficult to understand.
    So, I enjoyed learning about Sitting Bull I never knew. For example, I didn't know how he died, and that also makes you wonder.
    I read Caroline's comment about Sitting Bull seeing the hungry children on the streets and scorning a rich society for letting that happen. I feel like that today--why does even one child in America go hungry or be tossed aside like a piece of garbage. It happens in every society. Except I have always believed the Native Americans in "the old days" took care of all children. In their view, the village was responsible--and so, it does take a village to raise a child.
    Thanks for this post. It's very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

  6. Wonderful post, Sarah. I always enjoy learning more details about the Native Americans. Thanks for some great information.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post about Sitting Bull! luv2scrap22 at yahoo dot com

  8. All the Native American leaders held great regard for their people. It was ingrained in them from infancy to think of the group as a whole. And to always put their children and elderly first. Those are only a couple of the many things I admire about the Native American people. Great post!

  9. I have to agree with you, Celia, it is amazing how different the values of American society are from those of the Native American in Sitting Bull's day. They shared everything, including responsibility for the children of their village. Now it seems no one cares about anyone else--just themselves.
    I would love to learn why Sitting Bull decided to join Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. It just doesn't seem in character with his beliefs.
    Thank you so much for your comments, Celia. I'm very happy that you came by.

  10. Tanya, thank you so much for taking the time to come by and comment on my blog. I really appreciate it.

  11. Thank you so much for leaving a comment, Christine. I'm glad you liked my post.

  12. Thank you for that positive comment about Native Americans, Paty. They are a proud and intelligent people who knew how to honor the Earth. I guess you could say that they were the first "green" people.
    Thanks again for taking the time to come by and leave a comment, Paty.

  13. Fascinating blog. I knew some of that but not all of it. Thanks for sharing.

  14. WOW Sarah! What a fantastic blog! I enjoyed this so much and you really did a lot of research for it. I didn't know much about Sitting Bull, but this has sure enlightened me.

  15. Charlene, I'm glad I was ab;e to dig up some factoids that you hadn't heard before. I was surprised at some of the things I learned when I researched, too. Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment.

  16. Thank you for that compliment, Cheryl. I wanted my forst real blog here to be something good. I researched like crazy to find some unusual facts about Sitting Bull. There was so much I didn't know. Thank you for coming by and I wish you great success with the first book in the Fire Creek series.

  17. I loved your post. My hero in the next of my books to be released has a blood brother and best friend that is a Sioux. I love the history I discovered while preparing for this story years ago and tried to bring some of it into the story. They have great customs and honor.

  18. Hey, Sarah J : ) Great subject for your post--definitely someone we should never forget.

  19. Awesome post! I've always been fascinated with Sitting Bull and his life. I've learned some new things here today.
    Thanks. :):)

  20. Hey Kat. Thank you so much for coming and leaving a comment.

  21. ey there, Virginia. I never knew Sitting Bull was so interesting. I'm glad I dug up this research. Thank you so much for coming.

  22. Paisley, I know what you mean about enjoying the history of the Native Americans. I first started researching the Lakota tribes when I wrote For Love of Banjo. He's half Lakota. Thank you so much for your kind comment.

  23. I would like to announce the winner of one of my books is Charlene Raddon. Thank you to all who participated and for all the lovely comments. I appreciate each and every one of you.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.