As spiritual leader and head of the Hunkpapa warrior societies, this legendary chief and vision seeker guided his people for nearly 40 years during the times when Manifest Destiny sought her fortune within the lands of the Sioux. Sitting Bull was a stalwart defender of his people’s lands and lifeways, which were threatened by the intrusion of white settlers and miners on treaty-guaranteed tribal territories, and by U.S. government efforts to concentrate Indians on reservations. These violations provoked war in 1876 in which Sitting Bull and other war leaders masterminded the defeat of U.S. troops at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Faced by massive U.S. military counteroffensive, Sitting Bull and his 4,000 followers fled to Canada, but returned in 1881. After two years as a prisoner of war, Sitting Bull settled on the Standing Rock Reservation in present-day North Dakota, where he became a successful farmer and later toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
Yet he remained a staunch critic of U.S. Indian policy and became an apostle of the Ghost Dance – an Indian religious revival movement which spooked white officials at Standing Rock Reservation. In 1890, Indian police stormed his cabin sparking a bloody shootout in which Sitting Bull was killed. He was buried at Fort Yates in North Dakota.