Sometime in the 1830s a Hunkpapa Lakota boy named Jumping Badger, nicknamed Slow, was born to Sitting Bull and Her-Holy-Door. As he grew, Slow was trained in the ways of a warrior and became an excellent huntsman. At 10-years-old he killed his first buffalo and four years later counted his first coup. With the latter feat Slow returned to his family a hero in his own right. Sitting Bull gave his own name to Slow, while he took the name Jumping Bull. The newly named father gave a shield and lance to Sitting Bull, which his young son would cherish for the rest of his days.
Of the many things Sitting Bull is known for one thing worth noting is his generosity. Throughout his tumultuous life he would remain generous to his people, ready to provide for those in need. He could also be generous in fleshing out punishment. The sound of his name literally struck fear in the heart’s of his enemies.
In 1857 Sitting Bull was made chief of the Hunkpapa tribe. But sadness followed close behind this honor for that same year Sitting Bull’s young son died. A widower Sitting Bull was now alone. He adopted his nephew One Bull as his son. Later he added a captured boy to his family. The boy became Sitting Bull’s adopted brother and never returned to his people even when given a chance. When Sitting Bull’s father was killed in a Crow attack, the boy took the name Jumping Bull as his own. Sitting Bull would later marry Snow-on-Her and Red Woman. However, the two women didn’t get along and Sitting Bull eventually threw Snow-on-Her out his tipi. Then in 1871 Sitting Bull was again a widower when he lost Red Woman to illness. He remarried to Four Robes. His new wife asked that he also marry her widowed sister, Seen-by-the-Nation which Sitting Bull agreed to. The marriages were apparently happy ones.
By the 1860s Sitting Bull was actively battling whites and “Long Knives” (United States soldiers) who were encroaching on their land. At the Battle of Killdeer Mountain, the Hunkpapa fought off their blue clad attackers, but were eventually forced to retreat. They suffered an even greater loss when the soldiers destroyed their village and supplies. For days the fleeing Indians were dogged by the army. Sitting Bull’s uncle Four Horns was growing old and worried over the future leadership of the tribe. One suggestion was making Sitting Bull, having already exhibiting leadership qualities, chief of the entire Lakota tribe. This became a reality in 1869. Around this time Sitting Bull would give up his attacks on the whites, preferring rather to retaliate only when attacked.
In late June 1876 Sitting Bull found himself in the middle of the Battle of Little Bighorn, an Indian victory. In a vision Sitting Bull had prior to the battle, he made it clear that the dead were not to be plundered. This was, however, ignored.
For the rest of the next few years Sitting Bull and his band were continually hounded by soldiers. Twice he saved the lives of two whites and adopted them. Both men later betrayed him. As he would hold for much of his life, and for good reasons, Americans could not be trusted to deal squarely with the Indians. Running out of alternatives, Sitting Bull decided they would go to Canada, land of the Grandmother (Queen Victoria). Once in Canada Sitting Bull’s camp was approached by the North-West Mounted Police. From Major James Walsh Sitting Bull learned he would have to obey certain rules. But as long as they were obeyed everything would be, for the most part, all right. For instance if the Indians crossed the border to do some “underhanded” things (e.g. stealing) they would have no sanctuary in Canada. Walsh treated Sitting Bull with respect and the Indian chief took a liking to the major.
A commission was sent from the US to convince Sitting Bull and his people to return. At first Sitting Bull refused to meet with the commission until Walsh was able to convince him to go. The proceedings didn’t get off to such a good start, and ended with Sitting Bull remaining in Canada.
By 1878 buffalo were becoming scarce. Sitting Bull and his people turned south and crossed the border where they hunted buffalo. One day they were hunting and butchering buffalo when they noticed soldiers appear on the scene. They had only become aware of their presence at the last minute and even then didn’t know the soldiers meant to attack. The Lakota were no match for their adversaries and were forced to retreat to Canada.
In 1881 Sitting Bull finally returned to his homeland where he surrendered. He and his group were shipped out to Fort Yates and later Fort Randall where they were kept for sometime before joining other Hunkpapa on the Standing Rock Agency. In 1884 Sitting Bull’s mother, Her-Holy-Door died. Around this time he began losing many member of his family. In Canada his nine-year-old son had died and in 1887 a daughter succumbed to illness. Sitting Bull proved a popular “attraction” as he traveled off of the reservation. He spent a stint with the Wild West Show, as well. Time went by and things got worst. Crops were not bountiful and the reservation was broken up.
In 1890 Sitting Bull became part of the Ghost Dance movement which brought trouble on his head. On 12 December 1890 the Indian Police were sent out to arrest Sitting Bull. That night Sitting Bull slumbered in a cabin, unaware of the impending danger. He and the other occupants of the cabin were awakened by thumping at the door. The Indian Police busted in announcing their arrival. Three people were able to get out of the cabin while Sitting Bull was being arrested. Pretty soon others on the settlement were awakened and arrived on the scene. A group moved to rescue Sitting Bull, but the Police would not release Sitting Bull so an Indian shot one of them. The wounded man in turn shot Sitting Bull. Within minutes a number of men laid dead or wounded. Sitting Bull’s 14-year-old son, Crow Foot was found hiding in the cabin. Right before the shooting Crow Foot had egged his father on in defying the Police. Now the Police turned on Crow Foot, shooting and killing him as he begged for his life. Sitting Bull was buried at the Fort Yates cemetery.