Hunkpapa Lakota leader and holy man Sitting Bull had a vision in 1876, and it changed not only the lives of himself and his people, but the history of the the US:
That summer, along the little Bighorn River, about 12-15 thousand Plains Indians had assembled for a Sun Dance Ceremony.
Sitting Bull danced for 36 hours without water, hoping for a vision that might show his people a path in dealing with the US government, which had treacherously decided not to honor historical treaties after gold was discovered in the Natives’ sovereign territory.
The US Army was coming, and they needed all the help they could get.
Sitting Bull did receive a vision: a bunch of US Army soldiers falling upside-down into the Lakota camp.
His people took this as a sign that a bunch of US soldiers were going to die while trying to invade their lands. About three days later, this proved true at the Battle of Rosebud.
But the fight that really made the headlines was the Battle of Little Bighorn, where General Custer and his army were annihilated.
Custer’s brash decision to go into battle unprepared for what his adversary had in store cost him his life, as well as the lives of the over 260 US soldiers under his command.
That victory for the Sioux and Cheyenne was an embarrassment to the US. Sitting Bull knew there would be retaliation, so he and his people fled to Canada.
Eventually, Sitting Bull returned to the Dakota Territory and surrendered. He was held captive for several years until he worked out a deal that involved his touring the country with the likes of Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill as part of Bill’s Wild West show:
But even though he made $50 a week (over $1,000 a week, today!) for basically just showing up and riding a horse around the ring, there was only so much indignity he was willing to take:
Sitting Bull could feel the end in the air.
On the morning of December 15, 1890, US Federal agents came to arrest him in an effort to keep him from joining the growing Ghost Dance Movement, and though Sitting Bull did mount a horse, when the agents asked him to come with them, he refused.
The agents attempted to force Sitting Bull to comply, and this led to a gunshots:
By the end of the short but deadly scuffle, six agents were dead, and another two died of their wounds soon after.
On the other side, Sitting Bull was killed, along with 7 of his own.
If you’d like to learn more about the Battle of Little Bighorn, check out the video below:
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