May 04, 2008

The truth about Sitting Bull

Bill Yenne’s biography of Sitting Bull strips away the mythsSitting Bull was a complicated man. Yenne said that “for more than a century, there have been those who have painted Sitting Bull as the ultimate hero or the ultimate villain of the Old West or of the Indian Wars. In fact, he was neither. He was much more complex. He was a man who could strike a hard bargain just as easily as he could strike with a coup stick. At the same time, he found himself occasionally confused, burdened with indecision, changing his mind back and forth, unsure of what to do.”

Another aspect Yenne addresses is that of Sitting Bull as mythic image of a warrior.

“I’m still stunned by how many people truly believe that Sitting Bull put on a big eagle feather headdress and led the warriors against Custer at the Greasy Grass. This is the image that had gotten him painted as the ultimate hero or ultimate villain. He becomes a caricature to support a viewpoint. This caricature has taken on a life, or parallel lives, of its own, becoming a myth that I have tried to dispel.”
Comment:  I'm guessing most Americans don't know much about Sitting Bull. They don't think of him as anything but a great chief, period.

Suppose you asked them some questions about his life? E.g.,

  • True or false:  Sitting Bull led the charge against Custer at Little Big Horn. (False.)

  • True or false:  Sitting Bull appeared in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. (True.)

  • True or false:  Sitting Bull died at Wounded Knee. (False.)

  • I'm guessing most Americans wouldn't do any better than chance. They don't have misconceptions so much as no conceptions.

    P.S. Those who read the graphic novel SITTING BULL get a reasonably complex view his life.

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