Sitting Bull was a medicine man, or holy man, of the Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux), who were being driven from their land in the Black Hills. He took up arms against the white man, refusing to be transported to the Indian Territory. Under his leadership as a war chief, the Lakota tribes united in their struggle for survival on the northern plains.
Sitting Bull was born on the Grand River in present-day South Dakota in 1831. His father bore the name Sitting Bull, and his mother was named Her-Holy-Door. When he was born, his parents named him Jumping Badger.
As a little boy, Jumping Badger, there was nothing remarkable to set him apart from other children of his tribe. His nickname was Hunkesi, meaning, “Slow,” because he never hurried and did everything with care.
At an early age, however, the boy distinguished himself as a leader. On his first hunt at the age of 10, Jumping Badger killed his first buffalo. He gave the meat away to elders who were unable to hunt for themselves.
Following the hunt, Jumping Badger set out on his first vision quest. When the lad was just 14, his father gave him a coup stick, a slender wand with which he could gain prestige by touching or striking an enemy in battle. He joined his first war party against the Crow, anxious for a chance to prove himself at that tender age.
Jumping Badger struck his first Crow warrior with his coup stick, thus earning a coveted measure of bravery in combat. His father was so filled with pride at his son’s early victory, that he gave the name Sitting Bull (Tatanka-Iyotanka) to his son as part of the ceremonies celebrating his elevation to warrior status. His new name suggested a stubborn buffalo bull planted unmovable on his haunches. The Indians thought of the buffalo as a headstrong, stubborn creature that was afraid of nothing, a creature that had great endurance, courage and strength. Those were fighting virtues that people saw in Sitting Bull.
To this day he is arguably the most revered of all Native American Chiefs in recorded history.
When gold was discovered on Sioux land, the U.S. government tabled a treaty with the tribe and allowed settlers to rush into Sioux territory. To make matters worse for the tribe, the government declared war on any Sioux who tried to prevent prospectors from taking over the land.
Chief Sitting Bull refused to abide by the conditions, vowing to protect his land as well as his people. During a Sun Dance Ceremony on the Little Bighorn River, it is said Sitting Bull danced for 36 hours straight and had a vision of his people defeating the American army. He shared the vision with his people.
Sitting Bull Quote: I am here by the will of the Great Spirit, and by his will I am chief.