Dakota Datebook

Sitting Bull

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

 

The Great Sioux Reservation was a tract of land approximately four hundred miles long and two hundred miles wide.  Negotiations to open part of it to homesteading had begun on June 3rd 1889 at the Rosebud Agency and were expected to proceed to the Standing Rock Agency by the first week in July.

 

Mrs. Catherine Weldon, a member of the National Indian Defense Association had arrived in Bismarck on June 3rd with her son and proceeded to Standing Rock to offer assistance to Sitting Bull who opposed the signing of the treaty.  She found the elderly warrior near death from pneumonia.  Over the course of the next two weeks Sitting Bull’s health improved, enough to where there was confidence that he could attend the hearings on the Treaty and also attend the July 4th parade in Bismarck at the opening of the Constitutional Convention.  When she attempted to remove Sitting Bull to the Rosebud Agency, on this date in 1889, agent James McLaughlin ordered Weldon off of the reservation.

 

When visiting with his friend David F. Barry, the photographer, Sitting Bull reflected on the past and his hesitancy in signing the treaty.  “There was a time when the Indians thought they were smart enough to cope with the whites in matters of business,” he said, “but they now realize they have been outwitted at every point.  The white man is wise in books.  He can read and write and we cannot.  We know nothing about books and the whites have fooled us.  Now we are approached with another treaty, but old men will not sign it. “ John Grass, Gall, Running Antelope and other leaders saw the treaty as inevitable, and were seeking the best terms possible.  For one of the terms, Grass requested payment for the ponies taken from them upon their surrender at Fort Buford.  When the negotiations were taking place at Standing Rock, Sitting Bull, along with his band, dressed in full war regalia and mounted on horseback, charged the negotiation site, but they were subdued before anyone was injured.

 

Sitting Bull preferred to wait, and told Barry: “We are not able to deal with your people, but in a few years our young men will know how to handle paper.  They are going to school and will soon know how to trade with the government.”  He was a warrior, a leader and a visionary and could see that it was a changing world.  Wise in the council of the years, Sitting Bull now believed that the future of his people lay in education.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune June 7, 1889

Ibid, June 28, 1889

Ibid, July 5, 1889

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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