The Fall of Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull and his party moved cautiously between the trees, and the forest
seemed to come alive with his every step. The Lakota chief knew beforehand these talks were a waste of his time because he'd done this enough to know how things would turn out. Still, he gathered his tribesmen and headed to the clearing where he told General Terry's scouts to meet. Deep down, he had hoped that bringing the Canadian Mounted Police with him would make things different this time, but he knew better than to expect anything other than wasted breath and false promises. It was just the will of the Great Spirit that Sitting Bull would fight the white man for freedom until his heart beat its last, he knew it in his bones.
Sitting Bull stood about six feet tall and and had dark, tan skin, almost brown like a wooden desk but not quite. He had long hair that was black as midnight which he wore in two braids, one over each of his shoulders. His prominent cheekbones and straight nose gave him a face that emanated strength. Those same features framed his dark brown eyes and made for an intimidating stare that made it seem he was looking into your soul. He wore the traditional garb of his tribal people: A very simple, loose fitting linen shirt and equally roomy pants made from leather. He refused to hide his heritage, so he wore two feathers standing straight up from the back of his scalp held in place by a leather headband to show the world who his people were.
As Sitting Bull and his party stepped into the clearing, the royal blue coats of the United States Army seemed to jump at out him against the vibrant orange, yellow, and red mosaic of the autumn leaves. Sitting Bull's old nemesis, General Alfred Terry, rode out to the front of the group of soldiers. He was a fair skinned white man, about Sitting Bull's height, with short brown hair parted on the left and a handlebar moustache. Even on foreign soil here in Canada, he carried himself like he thought all the world belonged to him. He dismounted his horse with an authority Sitting Bull didn't feel he had and shouted, "Sitting Bull, this is your last chance! Tell your tribe to stand down, surrender your rifle, and accept life on the reservations or die!"
Sitting Bull shook his head, let loose a heavy sigh, and responded, "And what assurance do I have that you won't kill us where we stand the moment we've laid down our arms? Your people have a history of breaking your word, white man."
"You mean massacre you the way you slaughtered Custer and his retreating men at Little Bighorn? You'll just have to trust that I have more mercy than a lowlife savage would, you red skinned animal.", The general wasn't even attempting to hide his malice anymore.
"Custer was the one who broke the treaty that we signed at Fort Laramie. He was the one who attacked my people that day. You and your kind have been nothing but a plague on my people since I first encountered you while I was hunting buffalo on the plains. You continue to act like we're the villains for defending ourselves. You're lucky I ever kept to my own lands in the first place. I thought you'd be able to contain your greed if chasing it would cost you your lives. Expecting Custer to honor your nation's agreements and keep off our sacred soil was too much to ask, apparently. The blood of his soldiers is on his hands and the hands of your government. Their lust for gold cost those men their lives" Sitting Bull retorted, unshaken.
Terry's brow furled as he placed his hand on the pistol sitting in its holster on his waist, "I've offered you a pardon for those crimes, even though you obviously have no remorse for the massacre, and I'm even willing to let you live out your life as a part of our great nation on the reservations. That's more mercy than you deserve, savage. You're outnumbered, outgunned, and from what I hear your men have been going hungry. I'll say it one more time: Surrender your rifle, gather your people, and come back with me to Standing Rock or die here in the Canadian wilderness. I'm not repeating myself again and I'm not negotiating."
"Only a white devil would call for a negotiation then refuse to negotiate. I choose to die standing tall rather than live on my knees", Sitting Bull snapped back without hesitation, his long black braids flowing around him as he turned to leave. His tribesmen took this as a signal that the talks were over and turned to go back the way they came with him.
"Wait wait wait, both of you are forgetting that this is my land you're fighting on.", Sitting Bull and his men stopped and looked over their shoulders. His new friend from the Mounties, James Morrow Walsh, was tired of spectating from the sidelines it seemed, "Now I'm still waiting to hear how to handle this situation, but I've got standing orders from the crown not to engage in any acts of war. Unfortunately for me, It's looking like you two are fixing to make war anyway. I don't want to choose sides here, but why can't you just let this man live in peace, Alfred? You already drove him from his home. Life here has been hard on him. Chances are if you give it time, starvation will force him to surrender anyway."
Walsh was a little shorter than the other two men, closer to five-foot eight inches. He had a clean-shaven face, short blonde hair parted in the middle, and eyes like a cloudless summer sky. Being that he was the commander of the North-West Mounted Police, he wore all the fine trappings of a British officer, right down to the infamous red coat.
General Terry took his hand off his sidearm, pulled a handkerchief from his coat pocket to wipe the sweat from his eyes, stood up straight and exclaimed, "This doesn't involve you, good sir. I'm sorry he brought our feud to your lands, but there's a lot of grieving mothers who want this creature's head on a spike. I feel inclined to give it to them after all the suffering this warmongering filth has caused. I'm not leaving time for him so he can learn how to live off the land here and call up his savages from the reservation for an attack on the Black Hills. I'm crushing this little rebellion here and now, for the safety and security of the United States of America."
Walsh turned his head and spat, "I know you've got bad blood, but these fine people have been here for coming up on three years now, and they've been nothing but peaceful and respectful. He's not a warmonger and they're not savages. Him and his people were born on that land you're talking about 'defending' from them. That place is sacred to them. The way I see it, he's a man fighting for his home. I haven't had word from the crown on how to handle this situation yet, but if you aren't careful I may come to declare your little expedition here an invasion of British territory and fight to defend my country. If my Mounties get involved, your whole 'outnumbered and outgunned' speech gets changed quite a bit." He wasn't so bad for a white man.
Terry chuckled and chided, "Redcoats defending a redskin... I guess that makes sense. You can do as you please. I'm not leaving here without putting that beast down." There was a gentle rustle as the American party took their turn to go back the way they came.
The Mountie gave it an honest attempt, but Sitting Bull knew better than to expect anything other than wasted breath and false promises. The white devil just enjoys going through this routine so they can pretend to be something called "civilized". Sitting Bull never understood what was so civil about it. They do nothing but tell lies and make promises they don't intend to keep. All Sitting Bull understood or cared to understand was that they were a curse placed upon him and his people. The Great Spirit sent them here to test him. What else was there to know?
Back in the camp at Wood Mountain, while Sitting Bull was making preparations for the coming battle, his mind drifted to everything that had led to this. He remembered his first battle against the white man, when his friends the Santee Sioux rose up against the devils in Minnesota. He remembered the war he fought alongside his old friend Red Cloud which led to the treaty at Fort Laramie that was supposed to protect his homeland from the white man's avarice. He remembered when the demons found gold in those same Black Hills that were supposed to be protected by that treaty. Everyone thought that was the end.
He could never forget when they decided dying trying to take his home from him was worth getting that gold. He could never forget the vision the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, gave him after he led his people in the sun dance and slashed his arms one hundred times as sacrifice. He could never forget his people annihilating General Custer and his men at The Battle of Little Bighorn to fulfill that vision. Everyone knew it would end the war against his people.
Sitting Bull re-lived the horror of General Terry coming back with thousands more soldiers and a thirst for revenge. His mind raced with visions of fighting tooth and nail for every breath he took while his tribesmen were scattered and he was slowly pushed out of his home in the Black Hills to the camp here at Wood Mountain. He’d never let himself let go of the fact that the white man would stop at nothing to wipe his people from the world. The demons hated them for some reason Sitting Bull never quite understood. He prayed for the Great Spirit to give his people the same strength it had given his warriors before. He had faith that Wakan Tanka would do what was right.
The preparations were made. The strategy seemed sound, but the fight was mostly symbolic anyway. There was no way his people could win this battle. The Lakota had been fighting too long, and their numbers had dwindled too low. The rifles they were using were bought and scavenged from settlers and pioneers; They weren't anywhere close to the cutting edge firearms available to the United States Army. The tribe had never really learned how to gather food without hunting buffalo, and many of his men were weak with hunger. Even though his people were on the brink of starving, Sitting Bull decided to take what little stores of food he had left and send them with Walsh to help feed his Mounties and their families. His tribesmen protested, but he felt it was the way the Great Spirit wanted things. Walsh was a good man, the only white man with a soul. Sitting Bull knew the food would get to the hungry mouths that needed it most as long as it was in Walsh's hands.
The next morning, Sitting Bull was sitting around the fire with the men who'd just come in from night watch telling tall tales and reminiscing about days gone by. He told them of his days as a young boy in what the white man called the Dakota territory. One of his favorites was how he got the name "Sitting Bull". He was just a boy called Jumping Badger when he and a few of his fellow Lakota came across warriors from a rival tribe known as the Crows. Jumping Badger was eager to prove himself to his fellow tribesmen, so he rode out and caught one of the warriors off guard, dismounting the Crow and besting him in one-on-one combat. His father was so impressed with his bravery and skill that he gave his own name to Jumping Badger, the name "Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down" which people shortened to "Sitting Bull" these days.
Sitting Bull was soaking in life as the sun rose on his last day of freedom when the scouts called out that the Terry and his men had come. Finally, the day had arrived just as the Great Spirit told him it would. He'd had some years to rest since Little Bighorn, but he always knew the peaceful times wouldn't last. He and his men grabbed their rifles and moved towards the hill overlooking what would become the battlefield. They all knew exactly what to do, and moved into their positions in unison. This would be their last stand. This would be their message to the world that they would never bow to tyranny, even if it chased them to the ends of the Earth. His tribesmen took aim out of sheer force of habit. Sitting Bull was driven by the same force when he gave the order to fire...
Even with the help of Walsh and his Mounties, the battle was hopeless. The next day, as Walsh helped the survivors piece their world back together, he saw them place a body on a funeral pyre. Most of them had lost loved ones. Many of their family and friends were being marched back to Standing Rock Reservation by General Terry to await punishment as prisoners of war. He couldn't figure out why they would spend so much time on just one pyre. Who was so important that they'd be holding a funeral for just one person? Whoever it was, it had to have been someone special, because they made sure to build a pyre the size of a small cabin. Surely, it wasn't Sitting Bull, right? A warrior that strong wouldn't be taken so easily in battle. Surely, the Great Spirit wouldn't let a man that holy fall to such twisted men. Walsh was just starting to learn the language of the Lakota, but he could still pick out bits and pieces of it. From what he could tell, the pyre was for a man named "Buffalo Bull Who Stands Tall"... Standing Bull.