Sitting Bull Biography

Sitting Bull was a warrior and Teton Dakota Tribal Chief. Explore this biography to learn more about his profile, childhood, life & timeline.

Sitting Bull

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 1831
Died: 15 December 1890
Nationality: American
Children: Crow Foot

Sitting Bull denoted the conflict between settlers and Native American culture over lifestyles, land and resources. He led the Sioux resistance against U.S. infiltration into Indian lands; resistance that often ended in battle. He was a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, who was also the tribal chief during years of resistance to United States government policies. It is said that Sitting Bull had a vision of defeating Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. Sitting Bull’s father and two of his uncles were chiefs within the tribe. In early years, Sitting Bull engaged in old-style games and contests like other young men of the village, which tested ones quickness, stamina, intelligence and valor. He soon grew to become an established hunter and warrior. By the time he killed his first buffalo at the age of ten, he was already a standout among his tribe and demonstrated the four fundamental virtues of Lakota; bravery, generosity, wisdom and fortitude. He faced his first coup d'état at the age of 14 and from that day on, his name changed from ‘Jumping Badger’ to Sitting Bull. Under his term as tribe Chief, Sitting Bull made peace with the U.S. government and his tribe, Sioux. However, towards the end, he was captured, arrested and shot in the head, which ended his valiant, honorable life as warrior and chief of the Teton Dakota tribe.

Childhood & Early Life

It is unclear as to when Sitting Bull was born; however, historical evidences state that he could have been born anytime from 1831 to 1837 in South Dakota. At the time of his birth, he was named ‘Jumping Badger’.
He was the son of a warrior named Returns-Again and he constantly wished to follow his father’s footsteps, though he never showed any particular talent for warfare. As a result, he was nicknamed ‘Slow’.
He killed his first buffalo at the age of 10 and four years later, he encountered his first coup against a rival tribe. During this time, he was renamed ‘Tatanaka-Iyotanka’, which meant, Sitting Bull.


He was chosen as the leader of the Strong Heart Society.
In June 1863, he took up arms against the United States for the first time.
In 1864, he fought American soldiers at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. The following year, he led an attack on the newly built Fort Rice, which is now known as North Dakota. His skills and his agility led him to become the chief of the Lakota Nation in 1868.
A couple of American soldiers discovered gold in the Black Hills in the mid-1870’s, which was a sacred area to the Native Americans. However, the Americans recognized the area surrounding Black Hills as their land, according to the 1886 Fort Laramie Treaty. The white prospectors began to threaten the Sioux lands and declared war on any Native tribe that showed resistance. Sitting Bull refused the entry of foreign feet on his land.
At a Sun Dance ceremony, Sitting Bull danced for 36 hours straight and had a vision of the Sioux tribe defeating General Custer’s American Army on June 25, 1876. He notified the people of his tribe immediately about his dream.
In the Battle of Rosebud, a couple of days after the chief’s vision, Sitting Bull successfully led a coup against the American forces. A few weeks later, General Custer led his army against the chief’s warrior at the ‘Battle of the Little Bighorn’, which became one of the most historical battles in Native-American history.
This war marked the end for General Custer and his men as Sitting Bull led thousands of his warriors against Custer’s shorthanded force, wiping out the general and his men.
This defeat came about as a big overthrow for the U.S. Government and the American government gave up on wresting control of Native-Indian lands and territory.
In order to avoid any more conflicts, Sitting Bull led his band across the border to Canada in May 1877. He remained in exile for many years near Wood Mountain. Here, he was confronted by chief Crowfoot and chief of the Blackfeet, who were long-term rivals of the tribes of the Lakota and the Cheyenne. As an advocator of peace himself, Sitting Bull extended his hand for peace with the two rivals.
In 1881, Sitting Bull returned to the Dakota Territory as a prisoner until 1883.
In 1885, he joined Annie Oakley’s, Wild West Show, where he was paid $50 a week for his performances. However, he soon grew tired and decided to return to his people saying ‘I would rather die an Indian that live a white man’.
Towards the end of his life, in 1889, the Native Americans began to perform the ‘Ghost Dance’, a ceremony that was performed in a bid to get rid of American people and reinstating the Native-American way of life, which Sitting Bull also joined.

Major Works

Under his term, the Sioux tribes and the Cheyenne tribes reunited for the struggle for survival on the North American Plains.

Awards & Achievements

He killed his first buffalo at the age of 10, a prestigious achievement for the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes.
He successfully led the coup against General Custer and his army in the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876.

Personal Life & Legacy

Sitting Bull had 5 wives; Light Hair, Four Robes, Snow-on-Her, Seen-by-her-Nation and Scarlet Woman. He had one son and four daughters and an adopted son called One Bull.
Sitting Bull was shot-dead on December 15, 1890 and his body was taken to Fort Yates to be buried. His remains were re-interred near South Dakota, his birthplace.
A number of documentaries and Hollywood motion pictures were made on his life such as ‘Into the West’ (2005) and ‘Sitting Bull: A Stone in My Heart’ (2008).
On September 14, 1989, the United States Postal Service released a Great Americans series postage stamp, featuring a photo of Sitting Bull.
A Lego sculpture of Sitting Bull can be found in Legoland Billund.

Citation Information

Article Title

Sitting Bull Biography

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Last Updated

May 15, 2019

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