The Hunkpapa medicine man, Sitting Bull, had been a leader of his people and involved in most of the major events of the Northern Plains from the 1850′s onward. Although he studiously avoided any involvement with whites as long as they stayed out of his homeland, he did indulge in skirmishes with traditional enemies while providing for the welfare of his tribe. As white incursions into Dakota Territory continued though, Sitting Bull gradually became convinced that he must resist in order to preserve his traditional way of life – a stance he maintained to his dying day.
Following the resounding defeat of the 7th Calvary at the Greasy Grass, Sitting Bull fled to Canada where he received a less than warm welcome, and was eventually forced to lead the remnants of his starving band back across the border where he surrendered at Fort Buford in July of 1881. He was imprisoned for two more years at Fort Randall before being allowed to return to his home on the Grand River at Standing Rock Reservation.
And here is where Sitting Bull’s life seemed to spiral off into the Land of Oz: after a lifetime of vigorously resisting white culture and domination, he accepted Buffalo Bill Cody’s invitation to tour with his Wild West show in 1885! Displaying an uncommon savvy for a traditional Native American, he negotiated a very favorable contract including a salary of $50 per week plus expenses and complete control over all photographs of himself, a clause which produced a generous income for the former enemy of the whites.
He remained only one season however, returning to his beloved homeland to resume his leadership role in the resistance of further white domination. Sitting Bull was an astute individual and must have known the futility of his struggle. It would have been much easier to just stay with Colonel Cody, with whom he shared a surprisingly close bond, and just bask in the limelight for his remaining years.
What if he had?