In this book, Robert M. Utley depicts the life of Sitting Bull a Hunkpapa Indian, from when he was born to his death in 1890. Utley shows both the personal life and political life that Sitting Bull endured throughout the years. Utley looks at Sitting Bull's life from both “...the white as well as the Indian perspective. From both, he emerges as an enduring legend and a historical icon, but above all as a truly great human being.” (xvi). To his tribe Sitting Bull was an extraordinary man who was brave and respected, but to many in the US government believed him to be a troublemaker and a coward. Utley works to prove how Sitting Bull was a man who became an American patriot.
Utley used many different sources for to defend his ideas including Walter S. Campbell Collection at the University of Oklahoma Library in Norman. The book starts off allowing the reader to understand who Sitting Bull truly is. It is not fully known what year Sitting Bull was born, but he was born with a different name than Sitting Bull. When Sitting Bull was first born his name was “Jumping Badger” (5). The importance of the relationships between the different tribes is a major theme throughout the book. Under the name the Sioux, which the US has put many different tribes into, there are many that have rivals and alliances. The tribes that included under the name Sioux are: Lakota/Teton, Oglala, San Ar, Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Two Kettles, Plant Beside the Stream, Yakton/Tanktonai, West Dakotas, and Santee/East Dakotas.
Within these tribes the young men go through a process to become men. With this the young men go out with other warriors of the tribe to fight. Each man of the tribe has to show that they have individual merit (11). When a young man receives his first coup is when he becomes a man of the tribe. Counting coup is when a man hits a warrior from an opposing on the head. Jumping Badger (Sitting Bull or also Slow) gained his first coup at the age of fourteen (14). This is the first instance where Utley shows that Sitting Bull is becoming a legend at an early age. Bravery is an asset that many men in the tribes long for and fight for, Sitting Bull himself demonstrated his bravery in many different fights with his people both against other tribes and the US military. Men in the Hunkpapa tribe were looked at for their wisdom. These men were called “Wichasha Wakan” (26). The men who were looked at as Wichasha Wakan were highly respected. These men aided in making prophecies for the tribes. Sitting Bull himself was one of these men, he used his talents to aid his people in what they should do.
Not only were there other tribes that Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapas had to deal with, they also had to deal with the Wasichus or “the white men.” (38). There were many forts within near where the Hunkpapas were on the Missouri River. The white...