Chief Sitting Bull Came to Michigan in 1885 For Only One Reason
There have been many famous Native Americans over the years:
Powhatan (father of Pocahontas)
…..and many others that have graced our land.
One of the most famous Indian chiefs was Sitting Bull, who was not from Michigan, but hailed from South Dakota. He was instrumental in Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn in the summer of 1876; he was not part of the battle, but gave his warriors guidance, courage, and spiritual leadership.
Sitting Bull actually made it all the way across the country to Michigan in 1885. It was that summer that Buffalo Bill persuaded Sitting Bull to join his Wild West Show, which traveled throughout the country putting on sharpshooting exhibitions, staged Indian attacks, trick riding, and many more theatrics and sideshows.
Bill told Bull that he would not be required to do anything fancy – just having the infamous Indian Chief Sitting Bull on hand would be enough for the crowds. He was promised $50 a week to appear to which he agreed, as he needed the money.
Each show had an ‘opening procession’ which featured the star performers, the Indian extras, the cowboy extras, and actors. Sitting Bull sat proudly on his horse, decked out in complete war uniform as he appeared with the rest of the entourage. His time with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show only lasted three months as it began to wear on him. Due to his connection with the Little Big Horn confrontation, he occasionally received boos and catcalls from audience members. The press wasn’t kind to him either.
According to history.com, it very well may have been a Michigan reporter who made up Sitting Bull’s mind to permanently leave the show. After seeing one evening's performance, the reporter’s newspaper review lashed out at Sitting Bull, saying he was “as mild mannered a man as ever cut a throat or scalped a helpless woman”. Ouch. The Michigan cities where the Wild West Show appeared in 1885 were Detroit, Lansing, and Saginaw. Wonder which one the reporter was from?
Sitting Bull had enough, quit the show in October, returned to his family, and was quoted as saying “the wigwam is a better place for the red man”.
Sitting Bull was shot and killed on December 15, 1890 while resisting arrest. In the gallery below are photos of Sitting Bull with and without Buffalo Bill.