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Draft bio for Sitting Bull

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Surname/tag: Lakota
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The Lakota Chief known to history as “Sitting Bull” is best known for leading the Lakota and Cheyenne who defeated the 7th Cavalry under General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Greasy Grass/Little Big Horn in June, 1876. [1]

"Sitting Bull" was born about 1831 in Lakota territory, near what is now Bull, South Dakota. He was the only son of Jumping Bull, also known as "Returns Again" and Her Holy Door. There are several versions of the source of his name. According to biographer Stanley Vestal, Sitting Bull's father received a message from the Buffalo God with four names, including Jumping Bull and Sitting Bull. He chose Jumping Bull for himself and followed Lakota tradition of naming male children with one of their father's names, so the son first known as “Hoka Psice” became Tȟatȟaŋka Iyotȟaŋka, loosely translated as "Sitting Bull." [2]

Sitting Bull was a leader of the Heart warrior society as a young man. He first went to battle at the age of 14 against the Crow. As an adult he became a member of the Silent Eaters, a group concerned with tribal welfare. He fought in many battles including the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. In 1865 he led a siege against the newly established Fort Rice in Dakota Territory. Widely respected for his bravery and insight, he became head chief of the Lakota nation about 1868. [3] The Fort Laramie Treaty set aside most of western South Dakota for the Lakota but many chiefs, including Sitting Bull, opposed the treaty and did not sign it. In 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and white gold seekers and settlers ignored the the treaty causing hostilities to rise.

In 1875 Sitting Bull travelled to Washington along with Swift Bear of the Arapaho, Spotted Tail of the Brule and Red Cloud of the Oglala to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant to discuss the Black Hills situation. They were accompanied by interpreter Julius Meyer (1839-1909). A photo of the group was taken by Frank F. Currier in Omaha, Nebraska on May 13, 1875. The United States government tried to purchase the Black Hills from the Lakota, but was unsuccessful, and the Lakota were ordered to confine themselves to a reservation (that did not include the Black Hills) by January of 1776. General Custer was sent to enforce the edict, which led to the battle and his defeat.

Although Sitting Bull and his allies were initially successful, Custer’s defeat led to even more troops being sent and within a year the Lakota and others were confined to reservations and the United States had taken the Black Hills without compensating the tribes. Sitting Bull and many of his followers escaped into Canada following the United States takeover. He remained there until 1881 when he and the rest of his followers returned to the United States and settled near the Standing Rock agency. He joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show briefly in 1885, but soon returned to the reservation. When the United States continued to restrict the Lakota and sell land that had been promised to the tribe, Sitting Bull became associated with the Ghost Dance movement which predicted a resurgence of the Indians. Indian Agent James McLaughlin ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull and others on December 15, 1890. Sitting Bull was shot and killed when he resisted and his young son Crowfoot was also killed. Sitting Bull’s body was taken to Fort Yates and buried there, but in 1953 his descendants removed his remains to a new burial site near Mobridge, South Dakota. [4] [5]


Sitting Bull had at least five and perhaps as many as nine wives. According to biographer Vestal, the first of Sitting Bull's nine wives was named Scarlet Woman. She and their son died in 1857.

HIs next wife was Light Hair with whom he had an unnamed child who died young.

He took a plural wife, Snow on Her whom he married in 1861. They divorced in 1869. They had the following children:

  1. (Her) Many Horses/Tasinoke Otawin
  2. Walks Looking (Seen Walking)//Wauyaywaw


He married fourth Red Woman in 1871. She died about 1886. They had the following children:

  1. Unnamed son died at birth

The mother of the following son is uncertain, possibly Red Woman.

  1. Takes the Gun

After the death of Red Woman Sitting Bull married two widowed sisters, Seen by Her Nation/Oyatewayankapi and Four Robes/Tasinatopawin.

The 1885 Standing Rock census lists Sitting Bull, two wives, Seen by Her Nation and Four Blankets (Four Robes), and six children,

  1. Seen Walking (daughter age 17),
  2. Little Soldier/Akicitacigala (son of Four Robes by first husband), age 17),

two children of Seen by Her Nation,

  1. Crowfoot/Kangisiha (son, age 10),
  2. Standing Holy/Wakanwajin (daughter, age 7),

and two children by Four Robes,

  1. Lodge in Sight/Titaninawin (daughter, age 10)
  2. Run Away From/Minyannapapi (son, age 7).

Next on the 1885 census are daughter Many Horses and her husband, Thomas Fly, followed by One Bull and his family [6]

The 1886 and 1888 censuses list additional children,

  1. (Left) Arrows in Hair/Tanweyaluta (son, age 8)
  2. Sitting Bull, Jr. (son, infant);
  3. an unnamed infant girl,

all believed to be children of Four Robes. [7] This list combines information from the family tree included in the biography "Sitting Bull: HIs Life and Legacy, [8] Vestal's biography, and the 1885-1890 censuses.

The 1890 census at the Standing Rock Agency listed Sitting Bull, his wives Seen by the Nation and Four Robes, and children Crowfoot, Ceury, Little Soldier, Standing Holy, Lodge (in Sight), Red Scout (Arrows in Hair), Theodore (Run Away), and grandson Chase Near (son of Seen Walking and Andrew Fox). Next on the census were One Bull, his wife and two children. [9] Sitting Bull adopted his nephew "One Bull" when the boy was about 3 years of age. Per the Lakota, the adoption ceremony resulted in One Bull having the same status as a blood-child.[10]

Research Notes

A recent news release stated that DNA analysis of autosomal DNA has positively confirmed a living great-grandson (descendant of Sitting Bull and his wife Seen by Her Nation). "The novel technique centered on what is known as autosomal DNA in the genetic fragments extracted from the hair. Traditional analysis involves specific DNA in the Y chromosome passed down the male line or specific DNA in the mitochondria - powerhouses of a cell - passed down from mothers to children. Autosomal DNA instead is not gender specific.

"There existed methods, but they demanded for substantial amounts of DNA or did only allow to go to the level of grandchildren," Willerslev said. "With our new method, it is possible to establish deeper-time family relationships using tiny amounts of DNA." [11]


  1. Story of the Battle - Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) (
  2. 2.0 2.1 Vestal, Stanley. Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman, Oklahoma. 1957. pp. 16-17, 258 digitized at Google Books, Sitting Bull Champion of the Sioux
  3. Sitting Bull
  4. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 19 November 2020), memorial page for Sitting Bull (1831–15 Dec 1890), Find A Grave: Memorial #95102167, citing Sitting Bull Burial Site, Fort Yates, Sioux County, North Dakota, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave. This is the original burial site]
  5. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 19 November 2020), memorial page for Sitting Bull (1831–15 Dec 1890), Find A Grave: Memorial #955, citing Sitting Bull Monument, Corson County, South Dakota, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .
  6. 1885 census, Standing Rock Agency; Roll: M595_547; Line: 15; digitized at 1885
  7. Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M595, 692 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Agency: Standing Rock; Years: 1885-1890
  8. LaPointe, Ernie. Sitting Bull: His Life and Legacy. Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah. 2011.
  9. U.S. Indian Census rolls, Year: 1890; Roll: M595_548; Line: 1; Agency: Standing Rock. Digitized at, image attached to profile.
  10. Kincaid, Sara, "Smithsonian Traces Sitting Bull's Descendants," in Indian Country News, (undated, but appears to be from 2019).
  11. News release

See also:


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