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White Bull

White Bull was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1849. White Bull came from a prominent Sioux family. His father was a Chief, and he was the nephew of one of the great Indian leaders, Sitting Bull. White Bull later became famous, in the white’s world, following the Battle of the Little Big Horn which he was a participant in.

Prior to becoming a combatant against the 7th US Cavalry and General George Armstrong Custer on June 25, 1876 at Custer’s Last Stand along the Big Horn River, White Bull was already an accomplished fighter. White Bull had taken part in at least twenty battles, against both the US Army and other Indians. White Bull was shot on two different occasions, in addition to numerous other injuries received in battle he also underwent the torturous Sun Dance more than once.

Many believe White Bull may have been the Indian Warrior that actually took the life of General Custer. Others believe White Bull didn’t kill General Custer but did struggle with him. Like most of the action involving General Custer that fateful day, we’ll never know for sure and that’s one of the reasons it still intrigues us nearly 150 years later.

Here is the version of events that lead some people to believe White Bull was indeed the slayer of General Custer. Bad Soup, White Bull’s uncle, had seen General Custer while at Fort Abraham Lincoln. While walking the battlefield after the fighting had ceased, Bad Soup pointed at a tall soldier and told White Bull "Long Hair thought he was the greatest man in the world. Now he lies there.". Bad Soup had recognized General Custer even without his long hair. White Bull remembered fighting with the tall muscular white man and replied "If that is Long Hair, I am the man who killed him.". Later in life when whites’ asked him about killing George Custer, White Bull would say "They say that I killed Long Hair, but I never saw him to know him before the battle. I do not think my cousin, Bad Soup, would have lied to me.". After the battle White Bull joined his uncle Sitting Bull in fleeing to Canada to escape the pursuing US Army. White Bull surrendered in 1876.

When the fiftieth anniversary of Custer’s Last Stand was held at the battlefield, many of the Indian Braves feared reprisals and would not attend. Ever the warrior, White Bull said "I am not afraid." and attended. During the ceremony General Edward Godfrey led the mounted 7th US Cavalry along General Custer’s route to the mass grave atop Last Stand Hill. Indian Warriors clad in war dress were led by White Bull to meet the 7th Cavalry. At a predetermined meeting place, the south end of Sitting Bull’s camp, both leaders dismounted. In a gesture of peace, White Bull raised his hand, palm facing General Godfrey. General Godfrey placed his sword into it’s sheath as a gesture of peace. The two leaders shook hands above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the battle. The two leaders next exchanged gifts, an Indian blanket and an American flag. A symbolic burying of the hatchet took place. The two groups rode off together, pairs of Indian Warriors and 7th US Cavalry Troopers. Approximately 50,000 people witnessed the event. The site is now privately owned and operated as part of the Custer Battlefield Museum.

White Bull passed away on June 21, 1947 in South Dakota. White Bull was not the last warrior in his family, grandson Chief Dave Bald Eagle served his country with the US 4th Cavalry and the famous 82nd Airborne.

Chief White Bull

Chief White Bull

The above photo of an elderly Chief White Bull is one of my favorites. You can still see the powerful eyes, the proud defiance in his stance, and his regal bearing in it. We could certainly use more leaders like Chief White Bull today. I would like to have known this man.

 

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