Posts Tagged ‘Sitting Bull’

True Stories of Inspiring American Leadership

July 28th, 2011

Wounded Knee is part of our family’s history.  Leonard’s great-grandfather, the first Crow Dog, had been one of the leaders of the Ghost Dancers.  He and his group had held on in the icy ravines of the Badlands all winter, but when the soldiers came in force to kill all the Ghost Dancers he had surrendered his band to avoid having his people killed.  Old accounts describe how Crow Dog simply sat down between the rows of soldiers on one side, and the Indians on the other, all ready and eager to start shooting.  He had covered himself with a blanket and was just sitting there.  Nobody knew what to make of it.  The leaders on both sides were so puzzled that they just did not get around to opening fire.  They went to Crow Dog, lifted the blanket, and asked him what he meant to do.  He told them that sitting there with the blanket over him was the only thing he could think of to make all the hotheads, white and red, curious enough to forget fighting.  Then he persuaded his people to lay down their arms.  Thus he saved his people just a few miles away from where Big Foot and his band were massacred.

Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman (Grove Weidenfeld 1990).  This story bears a striking resemblance to a well-attested incident in the life of Sitting Bull.  There are differences.  In Sitting Bull’s case, the soldiers already were shooting, and Sitting Bull was accompanied between the lines by a small group of followers.  Sitting Bull sat down and in an unhurried

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In the spirit of White Bull

March 19th, 2011

A story I read last month in Thomas Powers’ wonderful history, The Killing of Crazy Horse, has been vibrating in my mind ever since.  The book is characterized by exhaustive research, adherence to ascertainable fact, scrupulous refusal to romanticize or demonize anybody, globally comprehensive perspective, beautiful sense of proportion, and willingness to offer humane and reasonable interpretation but only with a dignified sense of restraint.  It is the best attempt I have read to depict the tangled relations among Indians and whites on the frontier during the period of the Sioux wars of the 1870s.  Powers does justice (in all meanings of the phrase) to people on both sides and the many people in between.   It is history written as if history were about human beings in all their multi-dimensionality.

The story that has stuck with me so vividly has to do with a battle that occurred in August, 1872, near the Yellowstone River.  About five hundred U.S. soldiers and civilians were camped on the north bank, in territory from which whites were excluded by the Treaty of 1868.  Coincidentally, a

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