While most Americans observe the second Monday in October as “Columbus Day,” South Dakota became the first state to officially celebrate Native Americans’ Day in 1990 at the urging of Gov. George S. Mickelson. We celebrate Native Americans’ Day to recognize and honor the Lakota, Dakota, and Dakota people who called this place home long before European settlers arrived.
Among the leaders of these native people 150 years ago was Sitting Bull. This bust honoring the Lakota spiritual leader, created by famed sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski who is well known for the Crazy Horse monument in the Black Hills, is part of a monument located about seven miles southwest of Mobridge;
Here is some background about Sitting Bull and the monument as recorded by the Mobridge Chamber of Commerce.
Sitting Bull, or Tatanka Iyotake, was a Hunkpapa Teton. In the 1870s, Sitting Bull had relocated to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near the Grand River in present day Corson County. He became a great spiritual leader and organized a resistance movement against U.S. expansion on treaty-reserved lands. On Dec. 15, 1890, nine years after surrendering to the U.S. government, he was shot to death by Indian police. The police had been executing an arrest warrant in order to prevent Sitting Bull from attending a Ghost Dance revivalist ceremony. Sitting Bull was buried about 500 yards south of the agency cemetery in present day Ft. Yates, N.D.
The tragedy of his death has been compounded by the story of his remains. In 1953, one of Sitting Bull’s descendants and a group of businessmen from Mobridge obtained an opinion from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the descendants of Sitting Bull should determine his final burial site. On April 8 of that year, the group used the BIA letter as justification the clandestine relocation of the great chief’s remains to a site in the southern portion of the Standing Rock Reservation that overlooks the Missouri River near Mobridge. Less than five months later, South Dakota dedicated a memorial to Sitting Bull on the site of the relocated remains. It is in an isolated park that remains serene, impressive and free to visitors.