Sitting Bull



Confident that the North-West Mounted Police will respect him and his people, the great Sioux Chief chooses to remain in Western Canada rather than return to the United States.

From 1850 until his death in 1890, Sitting Bull symbolized the conflict between settlers and Indigenous culture over lifestyles, land and resources. Sitting Bull led the Sioux resistance against U.S. incursion into Indigenous lands, resistance that often ended in battle. After the most famous battle at Little Big Horn, in which General George Custer's forces were completely annihilated, Sitting Bull left the United States for the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan.

Sitting Bull claimed that to the Sioux, the American and Canadian sides of the border were traditional hunting grounds. On this basis, he claimed the Sioux were as much Canadian as American. Furthermore, the Sioux had been loyal to Britain during the battles for New France, and their loyalty persisted through the War of 1812. As proof, Sitting Bull displayed a set of medals given to his grandfather by George III for his support in the American Revolutionary War. In coming to Canada, Sitting Bull wanted to live under the justice and protection of Canadian law and be granted Canadian land.

Unfortunately, Sir John A. Macdonald's government refused to provide Sitting Bull with land, food or support. They saw the Sioux as Indigenous Americans who had crossed the International Boundary into Canada and should be persuaded to leave. The Siksika (Blackfoot), Cree and Assiniboine also felt the Sioux should leave, and accused them of stealing their buffalo and depleting the game in their hunting ranges.

The famous meeting between Sitting Bull, NWMP Commissioner Macleod and Major Walsh, and U.S. General Alfred H. Terry took place on October 17, 1877 at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan. The meeting was brokered by Major Walsh, commander of the North West Mounted Police in the Cypress Hills region. Over the years that Sitting Bull had been in Canada, he and Major Walsh had developed a great deal of respect for one another. In Major Walsh, Sitting Bull saw an honest, straightforward representative of Canadian law. In turn, Walsh respected Sitting Bull's determination and considered him a friend.

At the meeting, General Terry delivered a message from the President of the United States. The President, he said, desired a lasting peace and was willing to grant a full pardon to the Sioux if they gave up their guns and horses and moved to the reserve set aside for them. Sitting Bull replied: "for 64 years, you have kept and treated my people bad; what have we done that caused us to depart from our country? We could go nowhere, so we have taken refuge here...We did not give you our country; you took it from us; see how I live with these people; look at these eyes and ears; you think me a fool; but you are a greater fool than I am; this is a Medicine House; you come to tell us stories, and we do not want to hear them; I will not say any more. I shake hands with these people; that part of the country we came from belonged to us, now we live here." However, two years later in 1879, disaster struck the Sioux - the buffalo did not appear. Without food from the Canadian government Sitting Bull's people began to starve, and slowly drift back across the American border, accepting U.S. law and life on U.S. reserves. In June of the following year, Sitting Bull suggested to Major Walsh that he might consider returning to the U.S. Walsh turned to a friend - General Hammond of the U.S. Army - for help; they obtained guarantees of safety for Sitting Bull and the remaining Sioux on their trip to Fort Buford in the United States.

On July 19, 1881, as Sitting Bull surrendered at Fort Buford, Sitting Bull handed his rifle to his son, saying that he must now learn how to live with the settlers, and urged him to remember that his father was the last Sioux to give up his gun. Shortly after, he and his followers, now only numbering approximately 187, boarded steamships to go to Standing Rock Reservation.

But Sitting Bull did not fade into history so easily. An Indigenous person in Nevada had a vision of a Messiah coming to the aid of the First Peoples. On a hunting expedition, Sitting Bull himself had a vision of this Messiah, clad in white buffalo garments. Returning to the reserve, Sitting Bull's story gave the Sioux new hope, and the Indian Agent new fears about an imminent uprising. It was decided to arrest Sitting Bull. However, as police tried to arrest Sitting Bull on December 15, 1890 his son, Crowfoot, went for help. A group of Sioux gathered to prevent the police from leaving. Shooting began, and although Sitting Bull was shot, he managed to grab a rifle and crawl to a sheltered spot. When infantry arrived on the scene, he was overwhelmed and killed in the fight.

  • Sitting Bull – Graham Greene
  • MacLeod – David Hemblen
  • Terry – Thomas Hauff
  • Walsh – David Ferry
  • Rain in Face – Denis Lacroix
  • The Crow – Clayton Logan
  • Whirlwind Bear – Richard Maracle
  • Bear's Head – Joseph Sagutch
  • Yellow Dog – Calvin McWatch
  • Flying Bird – Orlando
  • North-West Mounted Police – Barry Kennedy
  • North-West Mounted Police – Alan Goodley
  • Bluecoat – John Blackwood
  • Civilian – Richard Fitzpatrick
  • Reporter – Yank Azman
  • Reporter – Oliver Dennis
  • Interpreter – Daniel Richer