c. 1831 - December 15, 1890: Age 59
"It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being, and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even to our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this vast land."
"There are things they tell us that sound good to hear, but when they have accomplished their purpose they will go home and will not try to fulfill our agreements with them."
Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota holy man who played key roles in the wars against the whites in 19th century United States. He was present at The Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand, the most famous and last major victory of the native people against the white armies.
During most of his adult life Sitting Bull took a militant stance against the white invaders, but in 1881, five years after the victory at Little Bighorn, he surrendered to the whites along with his family and a few other warriors. After nearly two years of imprisonment in various forts, Sitting Bull and his family were transferred to Standing Rock Agency, an indian reservation in North and South Dakota.
In 1885 Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation to join Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. He earned $50 a week for riding once around the ring. It is said that he would curse the audience in Lakota; it is also said that he would give speeches about the education of the young and normalization of relations between the Sioux and the Whites. It is possible that both are true, as it was during his travels with the Wild West Show that Sitting Bull came to realize that the whites were not just small bands of soldiers and settlers, but a very large and technologically advanced society. He realized that the native people were doomed if they continued to fight. After four months he returned home.
Back at home, he became associated with the Ghost Dance movement. There is no evidence that he joined, but some evidence that he allowed or even encouraged others to do so. This was a nationwide spiritual movement among Native Americans that prophecied a return to peace and prosperity through various magical interventions, after which all evil would be swept from the land. To many Natives, this meant that all whites would be swept from the land. This added an element of mystery and fear to the already-stressful relations between whites and Native Americans, and an uneasy escalation of troops began in areas where the Ghost Dance was adopted, often resulting in confrontation.
Indian Affairs decided to arrest Sitting Bull, afraid that his involvement would give the movement credibility. Sitting Bull did not resist arrest, but about 150 of his followers gathered around his cabin in a warlike mood. One of them fired a shot at one of the officers and in the ensuing melee Sitting Bull was shot in the head.