A Hard Time I Have
"The noblest part of the West is the fact that it gave hope to people in ways that we had not been able to have before. It was a force in the shaping of the national character, and an important one.... [But] there is very little that is presumably dear to the American psyche... that was not at one time or another systematically violated during the history of the West. And sometimes in ways that had never been matched before."
On July 19, 1881, Sitting Bull, his people nearly starving, crossed the border from Canada to surrender. He asked for the right to cross back into Canada whenever he wished, for a home near the Black Hills and the right to hunt wherever he pleased.
Instead, the army sent him east to Standing Rock Reservation, where he found his daughter and many who had fought with him at the Little Bighorn reduced to living on rations, forbidden to speak their own language, and denied their religious customs.
"The idea was that if we couldn't pray, if we couldn't behave the way we do, have our social customs, and we couldn't speak, we'd very quickly become white people, and we would no longer be a military problem. So the idea was to corrupt them from the inside, you know, make them give up who they are."
The Lakota lived in log cabins at Standing Rock, as well as tipis. They worked as farmers, or as policemen hired to enforce the Indian agent's rules. In 1883, when a delegation of U.S. Senators arrived with a plan to open part of the reservation to white settlement, Sitting Bull confronted them:
you know who I am? I want to tell you that if the Great Spirit has chosen
any one to be the chief of this country, it is myself.
But his objections were brushed aside. From his cabin on the Grand River, Sitting Bull could see the very place where he had been born more than fifty years ago, into an entirely different world. "A warrior I have been," he sang. "Now it is all over. A hard time I have."
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