I will remain what I am until I die, a hunter, and when there are no buffalo or other game I will send my children to hunt and live on prairie mice, for where an Indian is shut up in one place his body becomes weak.
But the man to whom even these veteran fighters now looked for guidance was Sitting Bull, a chief and holy man who was determined to keep the Black Hills. Their bands still hunted the remaining buffalo herds, and Sitting Bull scorned those Indians who depended on the government to feed them.
Look at me! See if I am poor, or my people, either. The whites may get me at last, as you say, but I will have good times till then. You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard-tack, and a little sugar and coffee.
Among the Lakota, no one had a greater reputation for bravery. Once, on the Yellowstone River in 1872, he and four other warriors had strolled out between the lines in the midst of a battle with soldiers guarding a railroad crew. Sitting Bull calmly sat down. With the bullets pattering around him, he filled his pipe, smoked it, passed it back and forth to his companions until the bowl was empty. Then he reamed it out and walked away.
His Lakota name -- Tatanka-Iyotanka -- described an intractable buffalo bull, sitting on its haunches, resolute in the face of danger.
Bull was...an epitome of everything a Lakota man would want to be. Young
men would follow him hoping that it would still be possible, somehow,
to remain in some...Lakota homeland in which they really would be free.
By the winter of 1875, some 15,000 miners had crowded into the Black Hills, and under the Fort Laramie Treaty, it was the army's task to drive them out. But their growing numbers made that politically impossible. So a Senate commission was sent West to renegotiate the treaty, prepared to offer $6 million for the Black Hills. The Lakota said they would need a sum large enough so that their people could live off it forever.
Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and other defiant warriors stayed away from the council entirely, unwilling even to discuss a sale of their most sacred place.
To resolve the impasse, Washington decided to clamp down, and ordered all the chiefs to report to reservation headquarters by January 31, 1876. When Sitting Bull and the others refused, George Armstrong Custer and a large part of the U.S. Army in the West were ordered to bring them in.
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