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Sitting Bull: Ghost dancer

Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull

"I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man to surrender my rifle," stated Sitting Bull in 1881. In 1885, a man named William F. Cody, nicknamed Buffalo Bill, arrived at the Standing Rock Reservation, in the Dakota territory, and offered Sitting Bull a job. Buffalo Bill had a Wild West Show that toured the eastern United States and Canada. Sitting Bull saw the show as a chance to escape reservation life.

As a member of the Wild West Show, Sitting Bull earned $50 a week. He gave most of his money to the poor. Sitting Bull was shocked by the poverty he saw in the cities, and coupled with the hatred that was directed toward him by some of the Wild West Show's audience members, Sitting Bull decided to return to the Standing Rock Reservation. He was glad to live a quieter life.

Sitting Bull's happiness soon changed. The U.S. government planned to separate the Great Sioux Reservation into six smaller reservations under the Sioux Act of 1889. Each American Indian family would receive a portion of land. The remaining land would be sold to white settlers. Sitting Bull opposed this action. He spoke out at public meetings. Many Lakota leaders were fearful of the white man's government. The U.S. bought another 11 million acres of Lakota land.

Around 1890, a new religion spread through American Indian reservations. White people called this religion the Ghost Dance religion. The Ghost Dance promised that whites would vanish and the buffalo (bison) would return. Government agents knew that Sitting Bull did not start the Ghost Dance religion. But they feared Sitting Bull would take part in an uprising.

On December 15, 1890, Lieutenant Henry Bull Head and 43 Indian police officers came to Sitting Bull's home to arrest him. More than 100 of Sitting Bull's people came to protest. The men took Sitting Bull outside. Sitting Bull yelled, "I'm not going! Do with me what you like, I'm not going!" At that moment, a shot hit Lieutenant Bull Head in his side. As Bull Head fell, he turned and shot Sitting Bull. Another police officer shot Sitting Bull in the head. Six police officers and eight of Sitting Bull's people, including his 17-year-old son, Crow Foot, were killed. Sitting Bull, the great Lakota leader, died that morning. Sitting Bull rejected Christianity. Today, Sitting Bull is remembered as a great Lakota leader who fought hard to protect his people and their land.

Epilogue: Two weeks after Sitting Bull's death, the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890. Twenty U.S. soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their "gallantry" in the Wounded Knee Massacre. Native American's have urged the medals be withdrawn, as they say they were "Medals of Dishonor". According to Lakota tribesman William Thunder Hawk, "The Medal of Honor is meant to reward soldiers who act heroically. But at Wounded Knee, they didn't show heroism; they showed cruelty." Read Sitting Bull by Anne Todd and the American Indian Movement (AIM) website.