Search This Blog

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.


Buffalo Soldier 9 said...

How do you keep a people down? ‘Never' let them 'know' their history.

Keep telling that history; read some great military history.

The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Read the book, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, and visit website/great military history,

D_Dretske said...

Thanks for your comment.

The 9th Cavalry also has an interesting connection to Lake County. In 1866, General Philip Sheridan (Fort Sherian's namesake) authorized the creation of "one regiment of colored cavalry" which became the 9th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry.

Buffalo Soldier 9 said...

Please spread the story. These guys never got their just 'due'.

"We can; We will" - 9th United States Cavalry - Buffalo Soldiers

billygarnett said...

Sitting Bull's death was a tragic event, but it should not be classified as an assassination. There was no real justification for attempting to arrest Sitting Bull at his cabin, but the intent was to arrest, not to kill. Tensions between factions of the Sioux probably contributed as much to escalate the arrest attempt into violence, much as they contributed to the escalating mistrust that led to the attempt to arrest Crazy Horse that led to his death. Neither of these was an assassination in fact, though they can be seen as assassination by circumstance: both resulted from attempts to make arrests that should not have been considered necessary. Any attempt to arrest men like Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse was likely to be resisted, resulting in violence. The tragedy is that the arrests were thought to be necessary at all.