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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 31, 2003 - Issue 88


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A Chief of a Great Nation

editor's note: The following is a report by a Patric, nine-year-old Ojibwa boy. The assignment was to write about a famous leader. He wanted to share it with you.

Sitting BullBozhoo nigi, hello friends. My name is Chief Sitting Bull. I was born in 1831 or 1832, into a wealthy Hunkpapa family, which is part of the Sioux Tribe. My mother's name was her Holy Door and my father's name was also Sitting Bull.

My hobbies and things that I enjoyed were hunting for food and helping those less fortunate than I was. There were no schools back then, like there are today, so I did not learn from books. I learned by watching and helping my Elders. By doing this, I learned from them, the skills I needed to work and to hunt. My name was not always Sitting Bull. Sometimes in and Indian's life a person may have several different names. My name, at birth, was Jumping Badger, which no one ever really called me. As I grew, my name was changed to Slow, because of my careful and deliberate ways. At the age of 14, I received the name that I am known by today, which is Sitting Bull. This name was given to me by my father after I fought in my first battle. Sitting Bull means an animal that has great endurance and when brought to bay, it will plant itself so that it cannot be moved and it will fight until its death. The feather that you see in my hair represents the first and most important virtue, which is bravery. I received this feather in 1845, during a battle with the Crow Indians, for my bravery in defending myself with only a coup stick, which looks something like a Shepard"s hook.

When I was a child, there were no schools like there are today, so I gained my knowledge from others and that is how I became a great Chief of the Hunkpapa Clan. My job was to protect my tribe and to be a good warrior and hunter. I married my first wife in 1851. She died in 1857, while giving birth to our son, who died at the age of 4 years old. I was very saddened by this, so I adopted my nephew whose name was One Bull. I also later adopted another boy by the name of Stay Back, who would otherwise have been killed in a battle. I later married my second wife whose name was Snow-On-Her, and we had two daughters. I then married my third wife, Red Woman, and we had a son together. My interests have always been to keep my tribe together and safe on the sacred land that is rightfully ours. General Custer and his army are trying to remove us from this land and put us onto assigned land called reservations. By doing this, they are taking away our culture and our freedom to live off the land and survive the only way we know how to do.

Some people remember me as a person who fought his whole life and that is true in some ways. It depends on where you go and who you talk to, why I am remembered. Some will tell you that I was a bad person and killed many people. The Indians who still live today, though will tell you that I am remembered for the battle at Little Bighorn, in which I fought for our land rights that the government had promised us that we could keep, which was ours anyway, and they were now stealing away from us because there was gold and other valuable things on it. We did not care about those things, we only cared that the land was sacred to us and we were not greedy about the gold. We only wanted to be able to keep our sacred land. This battle is know today as the Battle of Little Bighorn. Many people were killed that day, both red and white people. I remain famous, mostly for that battle and for the Ghost Dance in which the government tried to accuse me of conjuring up another war. I am remembered also for being a good Chief, taking the best care of my people that I knew how, and for keeping peace within my tribe and clan. Most of society does not honor me today, except for the Native American Nations or Tribes. They honor me by telling stories of long ago to their children and grandchildren, hold ceremonies in honor of me, and the month of November is also considered Native American History Month, in which I am remembered as well as many other Native Americans. There is also a reservation named in honor of me that exists still today, as well as Rosebud Reservation, Standing Rock, and Pine Ridge Reservations. These reservations still, to this day, experience the things that I will tell you about. I would like to think that I did make a difference in this world, because although my people did end up on reservations, and being forced to give up their Indian ways, they were able to still survive in a world that they knew hardly anything about. To this day they have still been able to keep their culture alive and to pass it on from generation to generation, not letting it get lost. In November of 1890, after all the fighting was over and we were living peacefully on the reservations that we had been forced onto, I was still performing the ways of my culture. The government did not understand these ways and it scared them. We were not bothering anybody, but the government sent a man by the name of James Mc Laughlin to come and arrest me. The government said that "fleas have nits," meaning I was a flea and all the Indian children and adults were the nits. They wanted to get rid of me because I was still teaching our cultural ways, and because of this, I was to be arrested and or killed. Mc Laughlin did not come for me until December 17, 1890. On that day, at 6:00 in the morning, he came, along with 44 other men, to arrest me. I was sleeping peacefully in my home, with my family, when they arrived. The men were nervous and afraid of me, so they were rushing things along. I had no clothes on, so my wife went to get me some to wear. After I was dressed, I told the policemen that I would go peacefully and that there was no reason to push or shove me. Afterall, I was an old man, I was almost 60 years old! They refused to do this, so my tribe began to yell at these men, telling them how rotten they were for coming onto the reservation and causing trouble for no reason at all. One of the policemen fired his gun and it hit his fellow officer, killing him. Another man thought that I had done this, even though I had no weapon of any kind, and he shot me in the chest, killing me. I died that day, on the reservation, with my clan members at my side.

The title of the book I read for this biography is called The Lance and the Shield. It is authored by Robert M. Utley. What I enjoyed most about this book is that I was able to read and learn things about Sitting Bull that I had never learned in any other book that I had read. What I enjoyed least about the book, was that it was a very long book and was sometimes hard to understand and was written for an adult level. I admire Sitting Bull for several different reasons. He was a generous person, in spite of what most of the books say about him. He always stood up for what was right and for his people. He tried to protect his people the best he could, and even though he was a great Chief, he never acted like he was better than anybody else. He worked right along side of his people and doing the common things like everyone else did. Maybe if he were here today, people would be different, but he is not, because he was killed for no reason at all. That is why I admire Sitting Bull. Thank you for listening to a story about just one of the great Indians of yesterday. I hope that you have learned something from this biography.

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