Sitting Bull And What Happened During His Astonishing Sun Dance Vision Quest

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A brief history of Sitting Bull and his Sun Dance Vision Quest

"Alone, alone, my baby is loved by everyone.
Alone, sweet words my child speaks to everyone
The little owls, little owls even [to] them
Alone, alone, loved by everyone."
~ a lullaby Sitting Bull composed and sang to his children and grandchildren

Sitting Bull was a Native American chief who led the Sioux tribes in their wars against America.

Sitting Bull's father had visions that his son would become a great leader so he began training him to have spiritual powers at an early age. His family belonged to the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe which traditionally practiced Sun Dancing as part of its religious ceremonies for centuries.

He is well-known for his bravery and wisdom, but he is also remembered for his contributions to the Sioux tribe and their culture. His Sun Dance Vision Quest story tells how he became an important person in Sioux society and what happened during that vision quest.

Who was Sitting Bull?

Sitting Bull
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Sitting Bull was a Native American chief of the Sioux Nation. He is known for leading his people during years of persecution under U.S army occupation and is also notable as one of the leaders at the Battle of the Little Bighorn against General Custer's forces in 1876.

He was born in 1831 to a Hunkpapa father.

At the age of 14, he accompanied a group of Lakota warriors (which included his father and uncle Four Horns) in a horse-stealing expedition.

He showed valor by charging forward and couping on one of the startled Crow, which was seen by the other mounted Sioux.

He was presented with a name by his father, who fed him a festive dinner after his return to camp. Tȟatšáŋka Íyotake, which in the Lakota language means "buffalo who sets himself watch over the flock," was shortened to "Sitting Bull."

Thereafter, his father became known as Jumping Bull. Sitting Bull's father gave his son an eagle feather to wear in his hair, a warrior's horse and a toughened bison hide shield to signify the boy's transition into manhood as a Lakota warrior at this ceremony before the entire band.

As a boy, he had a vision where the bison were all wiped out by white men, which came true years later after whites settled on Sioux land and took their resources for themselves.

This vision led him to become a medicine man.

He was a great warrior, but among his people, he is better known as a highly talented wichasha wakan, or holy man.

A person possessing such talents is known for being able to penetrate the barrier between the visible and unseen worlds, receive insights and prophecies from God, interpret other people's dreams, communicate with other animals and powers at work around him, and generally develop an intimate connection with Wakantanka, the spirit said to maintain the world and all that exists in it.

At the age of 15, he witnessed a wolf with two arrows in its body. You'll be famous if you help me, the animal pleaded with him. The boy took out the arrows and cleaned and bandaged the wounds, after which a relationship to the wolf tribe was established.

He became chief in 1868, during the US army occupation of Native American land that began after the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty between Sioux and white settlers. Although Sitting Bull was against war with Americans due to his vision quest where he saw all men becoming one color (white), he did participate in the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

He was killed by police on December 15th, 1890 after resisting arrest during a clash with federal troops that occurred. Sitting Bull's body is supposedly buried at Fort Yates Cemetery in North Dakota.

What is a Native American vision quest?

A vision quest is a ritual held by the Native American tribe as a means of connecting with their spirit guides, which are believed to give them signs and powers for protection.  It usually involves sitting on top of hills or mountains without food or water while meditating in order to show devotion and sacrifice. The lack of sustenance can sometimes last for days or even weeks, depending on the person.

The process is meant to help the individual achieve a vision of their spirit guide so that they may then use it as guidance in life. This would be used when making decisions about everyday things like where to hunt or which path to travel down during migration season. It can also serve as a way to identify a person's purpose in life.

Vision quests are most often practiced at the age of 14, after which an individual becomes part of their tribe and can begin participating in public events like dances or hunts. They will also be given a new name by elders meant to represent who they are as a person based on what vision they received from the spirit guide.

Today, many Native Americans continue to hold Vision Quests for spiritual purposes. While the act of sitting in silence and praying while fasting has been a tradition since before colonization, it's still seen as an important method used when seeking guidance from spirits or making decisions that affect everyone around them.

What is the Sun Dance Ritual of the Lakota Sioux?

Sitting Bull
The Sun Dance, Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Sun Dance Ritual of the Lakota Sioux was a traditional ceremony that is performed by many Native American tribes. It is seen as an act of worshiping the Great Spirit or Creator and also signifies a renewal of life.

Today, many Native Americans continue to take part in traditional ceremonies like sun dances and medicine wheel gatherings for healing purposes. These are seen as acts of worshiping the Great Spirit or creator, signifying that they desire its return to renew their world.

Some tribes view this ceremony as a way to show gratitude for the abundance of game and other nourishment available.

How is the Sun Dance performed?

The Sun Dance is performed by fasting, sitting in the middle of a sacred circle created with stones. A pole will represent the Creator and four other poles are used to set up the center. Participants wear special clothes and paint their bodies for decoration and spiritual reasons while sitting on platforms.

Dancers often pierce themselves through their chest muscles using a sharp piece of bone or tree branch and attach themselves to ropes that are tied around the central pole. They will usually stay in this position for four days, sitting without food and water while praying and singing songs meant to ease their pain. By Day three they often lose consciousness due to lack of sustenance but eventually come back when it's time to take the bone out.

The Sun Dance is often used as a means of self-sacrifice for healing purposes, but can also be performed to help others who are sick or injured. The act of sitting in the center and enduring pain while giving thanks to their creator has been something that Native Americans have taken part in for centuries before they were forced to assimilate.

What did Sitting Bull see when he did the Sun Dance?

Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull And Buffalo Bill, Image courtesy of Wikipedia

When sitting Bull did the Sun Dance he had a vision in which he saw many soldiers, "as thick as grasshoppers," falling upside down into the Lakota camp, which his people took as a foreshadowing of a major victory in which many soldiers would be killed.

The Lakota tribes, which were organized as a confederacy with the Northern Cheyenne, vanquished Custer's regiment on June 25, 1876, wiping out Custer's battalion and seemingly verifying Sitting Bull's prediction.

Sitting Bull and the Ghost Dance Movement

Sitting Bull
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Ghost Dance Movement was a spiritual and cultural movement that started in the Plains Native American tribes. It shares many similarities to other indigenous beliefs but has its own unique practices as well.

The movement was started by a medicine man named Wodziwob, who believed he had been visited by spirits and taught him how to dance. He passed it on to his people but eventually died while sitting in the sun after fasting for four days. The new leader of this tribe took what they learned from Wodziwob and went out to find more people who would join in.

They started doing this dance around the new moon and believed that if they continued to do it, then everything bad would go away and their ancestors will return like before.

The ghost dance spread like wildfire, and it was taken up by many tribes in the West that were suffering from starvation or war with other groups of people.

Eventually, the US government got word about this new movement and called for all Native Americans to give up their weapons because they feared an uprising against them would occur if more people danced.

Around the same time Sitting Bull, who was a chief but also well-known for his vision quest during the Sun Dance, had been killed by soldiers. This caused more fear among those in charge and led to The Massacre at Wounded Knee where many innocent people died because they were sitting there doing nothing wrong other than practicing their beliefs.

How to have your own vision quest

Warning:  It's always a good idea to get a Doctors opinion before fasting.

A vision quest is a ritual that involves sitting in the middle of a sacred circle and going without food for four days. During this time you must not leave the circle, speak to anyone else, or use any tools such as a knife.

In order to have your own vision quest, it's important to start off with having an idea of what you want out of this experience. You need to be sitting in the center, within the circle that represents your mind and heart, when it starts so that you can have a vision for yourself.

Some people will stay outside during their quest but others are allowed inside with objects such as stones or crystals if they're trying to connect with the earth.

Steps for sitting in this circle include:

- Doing it during the new moon to let go of your old self and be reborn under the light of a fresh start

- Making an offering to Mother Earth before beginning (such as sage or tobacco)

- Sitting on top of fur or grasses with no shelter

- Wearing minimal clothing so it is easy to be in tune with nature and your body

Once you've completed this part, you need to stay sitting for four days without food. The only time someone may get up from where they're sitting during these times is if there's a necessity such as going into the forest to use the bathroom.

After the four days is up, you need to stay sitting for another day while reflecting on your vision and what has happened over this time period.

Many people will have a momentary experience where they see an image or something that represents their personal truth and then it's gone just as quickly so not everyone keeps these visions forever but it's definitely worth it to keep sitting.

Once you're finished with this ritual, many people will go out into the forest and do a small ceremony for Mother Earth before coming home again. They'll also clean themselves up so they can be back in society as well because after being isolated from everything else that has happened over these days it may feel overwhelming at first.


The ghost dance movement was a powerful and transformative event in the history of Native Americans. It brought back pride, unity, spirituality, and hope for many tribes that had been displaced by colonization.

He was not an Indian who simply resisted white encroachment on his land, but he understood that in order to survive as Native Americans they would need to change their ways.

Today we face similar challenges- how can we maintain our own culture while adapting?

In order to fully understand what we can learn from Sitting Bull's message today, it is important to do our own personal vision quest and answer these questions: What does my life look like? How am I living? Who am I bringing into my life? Why am I here on Earth?

Randy Salars

Randy Salars

Copywriter and marketing consultant. Author of ‘Stories And Recipes From The Soup Kitchen.’ Freedom lover, adventurer, and treasure hunter.
Silver City, NM, USA