Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sitting Bull - On This Day in History
One of the legends that has persisted in the annals of Lake County history is that the Native American, Sitting Bull, was imprisoned at Fort Sheridan in the late 1800s.
The confusion probably arises from the fact that a group of Sioux warriors were escorted to Fort Sheridan in early 1891. However, Sitting Bull could not have been among those men, because he had been killed months earlier on December 15, 1890.
Sitting Bull (c. 1831 – 1890) was a Sioux holy man, notable in American history for his role in the victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn against Lt. Colonel George Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry on June 25, 1876.
In the 1880s, he toured briefly with “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Show. Sitting Bull is shown at left in a studio portrait with Bill Cody.
Sitting Bull urged his people to accept no further compromise and relinquish no more land to the U.S. Government. He participated in the "Ghost Dance," a ceremonial movement with a messianic message. Because of his great influence, his involvement raised fears of an uprising. Federal agents ordered Sitting Bull arrested, and in a pre-dawn raid on 15 December 1890, more than three dozen tribal policemen backed by military escort were dispatched to his cabin. In the ensuing chaos Sitting Bull was shot and killed.
Two weeks later, the Indian Wars came to a tragic end at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. Big Foot, another Sioux leader, led his people to an area he thought safe. Federal troops caught up with him and opened fire massacring 370 Lakota.
Shortly thereafter, 19 Sioux warriors were escorted to Fort Sheridan. The idea was to show the warriors the newly constructed fort with all its buildings, soldiers, and weapons, to impress on them the might of the U.S. military. Pictured above are the Sioux who were brought to Fort Sheridan, as photographed by George E. Spencer.
Buffalo Bill Cody heard of their capture and asked the U.S. Government for permission to ask the men to join his Wild West Show. A letter dated March 1891, from General Miles states that Cody’s offer “would give them [Sioux] occupation for a year and a half without expense to the government; they would be away from the Sioux country during that time... [it] will educate them as to the extent, power and number of the white race.”
The Sioux warriors toured Europe with Cody, and returned to Illinois to perform at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Once no longer employed by Cody, the U.S. army allowed them to return to their homes.