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Thank you for listening to the Rest is History. For bonus episodes, early access, ad-free listening, and access to our chat community, sign up at restishistorypod. Com. That's restishistorypod. Com. I have a very big and exciting announcement. Tom and I will be following in the footsteps of Adele, Jimi Hendrix, and Jay Z, or Jay Z, as I call him, to name but a few, because we will be performing at the Royal Albert Hall. It's on Friday, the 18th of October. We will be accompanied by a live orchestra. Don't worry, Tom will not be singing because what we will be doing is we will be diving into the lives of Mozart and Beethoven, arguably the two greatest composers in history, if you discount Bach. We will be exploring their music, their lives, how the French Revolution overshadowed Mozart's final years, and how the Napoleonic Wars played their part in the making of Beethoven's greatest symphony. You've got all that to look forward to.


Tickets are on sale now, and you can, of course, get them at therestishistory. Com. And on that bombshell, on with the show.


I have lived a long time, and I have seen a great deal, and I have always had a reason for everything I have done. Every act of my life has had an object in view, and no man can say that I have neglected facts or failed to think. I am one of the last chiefs of the independent Sioux Nation, and the place I hold among my people was held by my ancestors before me. If I had no place in the world, I would not be here. And the fact of my existence entitles me to exercise any influence I possess. I am satisfied that I was brought into this life for a purpose. Otherwise, why am I here? This land belongs to us, for the great spirit gave it to us when he put us here. We were free to come and go and to live in our own way. But white men who belong to another land have come upon us and are forcing us to live according to their ideas. That is an injustice. We have never dreamed of making white men live as we live. What would you do if your home was attacked?


You would stand up like a brave man and defend it. That is our story. I have spoken.


So that, Dominic, was Sitting Bull again. Yeah.


It's great to have him back on the show.


Who introduced the last episode. And I think that my resonant Bull-like voice very powerfully conveyed.


You do think that, do you? Yes. That's nice. There you think it. Don't you think? I felt there was a little bit of Gordon Brown in that term.


He also is a slightly ponderous but impressive person. Right. Anyway, so that was Sitting Bull, and he was giving an interview to a Canadian journalist called James Creelman in 1882, which is six years after the little Big Horn.




And is that when he is still in Canada? Because he goes to Canada after.


Yes, he does go to Canada. He was being held in a place called Fort Randall at the time. And what hangs over that whole interview is, I mean, this is just Creelman's account of it, right?


Of course. Yeah.


So is that actually what Sitting Bull said? Is Creelman embellishing it for his readers who expect Sitting Bull to say slightly ponderous semi-spiritual things of that kind? Or did Sitting Bull say it? And is Sitting Bull consciously playing a part? I mean, he literally goes on to play a part, doesn't he? Because he appears in Buffalo Bill's touring show.


Well, Dominic, we know he didn't actually say that because he didn't speak much English. So apparently, the phrases of English that he spoke were, Hello, you bet, and Cedar Boo.


Cedar Boo?


A Sitting Bull.


All right.


Okay. And How makhti, which apparently was either how much or how are you? Or can I borrow a Hold on.


No very different things. Can I borrow a match and how are you?


Well, there was disagreement among people who knew him.


No phrase adequately expresses both of those thoughts, I think.


It's fair to say. And also he was very keen on shaking hands. Was he?


That's nice. So we've He's never done a history of the handshake. Of course, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron had that incredibly long handshake, didn't they? When neither of them would let go. So Sitting Bull might have enjoyed that.


I think he probably would. I'm not sure whether he went around crunching the hands of people. I mean, he might have done because the thing about Sitting Bull, he He's simultaneously very charming. People really like him.


He's great fun, isn't he? He's good humored.


But he's also simultaneously terrifying. Yes, he is.


I agree.


I mean, he fights and fights, and he does the whole killing and mutilating stuff as well.


Yeah. Personally, Tom, I find him more congenial than Crazy Horse.


But you don't really know about Crazy Horse.


Well, I never like a loner. I don't like an eccentric. Crazy Horse, he didn't turn up to meetings, went off on his own, didn't wear enough clothes. He saw himself as a little bit different, whereas Sitting Bull is more conventional, I would say. He conforms to stereotype more than Crazy Horse does, and I like that in a man.


I don't think he's conforming to stereotype. I think he's upholding the customs of his people.


Yeah, well, that's what I like. I like a traditionalist. Fair enough. We should perhaps get back to the story.


Just to remind listeners, we've got this extra episode because Dominic, this has never happened before.


Oh, never.


You've gone the full Dan Carlin, and what was meant to be four episodes is spiraling out of control.


There's a spectrum, isn't there? You've got Dan Carlin on one end and actually another Dan on the other, Dan Snow. And we're somewhere, we've moved from the snow.


But we're definitely moving from Dan Snow to Dan Carlin.


We are. Listen, that's too much inside baseboard. We should talk about history. So last time we talked, didn't we, about Native Americans, generally, about how this is a world of shifting alliances, of people constantly moving around, of war. And it's also a changing one. So it's not a timeless, traditional world, but culture transformed by the horse and by guns and so on and so forth. We talked about the Plains Indians, in particular, the Dakota who had moved from Minnesota, Southwest towards Montana, Wyoming, and so on, and moved from woodland people to Plains people, and how they are feeling under tremendous pressure from mass migration, from the migration of American settlers westwards towards Oregon, California, and so on in the trails.


And so that is what Sitting Bull is talking about.


Exactly. And railroads, which mean the death of the Bison culture on which they have come to rely. And so last time we said, this comes to a bit of a peak in the mid-1860s. The Lakota think they've done brilliantly because they've finally seen off the crows and taken the powder river country, which they're very keen on.


Scalped them with their long, big bear grease This permaded hair.


Exactly. The crows. Yes. There's another theme in this, isn't it? About hair products as well as handshaking. Yeah.


Which I wasn't anticipating when we began it, I have to say.


No. So the crows have let themselves down with their permades.


I don't think so. I approve.


I think they spent too much time on that, Tom, and not enough on military tactics, and that's what caused them.


No, because they got wiped out by disease. Well, that's true, too. And that's the difference with the Lakota, isn't it?


Of course, they didn't because the Lakota are more nomadic and they've been inoculated by missionaries. Red Cloud had got all this. He's the big man in the Lakota world, although they're not a top-down quality. He was outraged by the Bozeman Trail, Tom, which is your favorite trail. You're on record of saying that, aren't you?


Yeah, it's a top trail.


So Red Cloud is the political leader, and actually, Crazy Horse is the great military tactician. And it's Crazy Horse, who we talked about last time, who inspires the most celebrated or indeed, notorious, of all of the Lakota attacks on the American army, which is the so-called Fetterman Massacre or the Fetterman fight.


Well, it depends which side you're on, right?


On your perspective, of course.


Because if you're Lakota, you'd say it's a great victory.


Of course, you would.


And if you're the Americans, you say it's a massacre.


Exactly. Crazy Horse does this thing, which they often try to do the Lakota, and they normally make a mess of it, but in this case, it really works. They basically entice a group of American soldiers led by this chap, Captain William Fetterman, there's about 80 of them out of Fort Kearney. They decoy them out, and then they ambush them. There are 81 of the Americans, and every single one of them is killed. They are horrendously mutilated afterwards. Or so it seems to the people who find their bodies, of course, as we talked about last time, the Lakota argument is this means they won't be able to get us in the afterlife.


Well, they will. I mean, they'll be in the afterlife, but they'll be shuffling around without any eyes and with their testicles on rocks and their arms falling off and things.




So it's the living dead.


That'd be much less effective.


But, Dominic, you know, of course, what this reminds me as someone who's read British Imperial history. I mean, this is a very familiar episode from the animals of Kipling or something, isn't it? Shades of the Northwest frontier or Isandwana.


Oh, totally it is. Totally it is. People being lured out of forts.


And the notion that this is not a imperial project is clearly not true. I mean, it's very imperial. It's very, very like British military expeditions in the 19th century.


Of course it is. Yes. It's like something that you would see in Afghanistan or the Northwest frontier or something. And all of the package that goes along with it. So on the one hand, the idea of the the noble Savage. And on the other hand, the idea of our plucky boys who are only trying to export civilisation and that liberal norms, but have found themselves in a world they don't understand. I mean, all of that is exactly the same partArt of darkness. Art of darkness, exactly. So the Fettermann Massacre is a shocking event. It's just over a year after the Civil War. East Coast opinion is horrified by it. But the interesting thing is that unlike Little Big Whore, It doesn't provoke massive American reprisals. It has two or three interesting repercussions. Number one, everybody knows that Crazy Horse is responsible. And it's this fight, this ambush, that enshrines him in the American imagination as the Supreme Warlord.


Right. So one of the reasons, surely, why it doesn't impact on American public consciousness in the way that Bighorn does is that the defeated person is not as glamorous and exciting and charismatic as Custer.


Yeah, Captain Fetterman.


Yeah. But it's interesting that the Lakota Commander, Crazy Horse, does have that element of charisma. And so he does imprint himself on the popular imagination. Yeah, he does. So there does seem to be a quite a strong element that these engagements, their profile depends on the stature of the commanders.


I think that's fair. And I think it depends when they happen as well. This is happening in the middle of US, in the throes of reconstruction. So all the attention is on the old Confederacy and what's happening there. But in 1876, the Little Bighorn, it's the nation's birthday, and they want a nice birthday present, the defeat of the Lakota. When it turns out the other way around, it becomes such a resonant story. As you say, it's Custer who's already a celebrity. Secondly, I think a really important thing, up to this point, although the Lakota Sioux did have a mystique with their headdresses and all that stuff, they weren't seen, I think, as uniquely terrifying, dangerous, or formidable. Or formidable. And so I think it elevates them, as one historian says, into the most powerful and intransigent enemy on the plains. And people say this themselves internally. So General Sherman writes to Ulysses S. Grant a few weeks, I think, or a few days after the Fetimah Massacre. And he says, We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children. In other words, people are thirst for revenge.


Well, I mean, that's literally a genocidal mission statement.


Yes, genocidal. Actually, that language of extermination. We can perhaps talk about that a little bit later, how much they really mean that or how much they're just throwing around the word.


Well, I mean, Sherman is a great one for vindictive earnestness, isn't he? Yes.


But the really interesting thing is that actually, the American reaction to this is to close the Bozeman Trail and to close the forts to say, Fine, you win. We'll go back home. Now, that might seem an extraordinary thing to do. The reason they do it, of course, is partly because the army, which has been cut the whole time, cannot do two things at once. Cannot enforce order in the former Confederate South and the former slave South against parametric violence and all these kinds of things.


And that is obviously the priority.


And that is the priority. And it can't fight the Lakota at the same time. So they say, Sod the Lakota, let's put a lid on this, close the Trail and all that. Secondly, I think the interesting thing is that American attitudes to the natives are always much more complicated and nuanced than we think. So the trend now is to say, Well, the whole Congress of the West was a genocidal project. Everybody He hated the Indians. Irredeme would be racist, all of this stuff. And of course, there is an element of truth in that. But for example, in the aftermath of the Fettiman fight, Congress has an investigation under Senator James Doolittle, and he says, Well, the big problem here is not the Lakota. It's what he calls the aggressions of lawless Whites, the steady and resistless.


So Custer. I mean, Custer is very, very aware of the fact that there is a lot of public sympathy in the United States for the Lakota. East Coast, Liberals. It's that talk. They don't know what they're talking about. They're at a distance. They haven't seen people with their eyeballs gouged out. That thing.


I think that tension, that political argument, there are always some people on the East Coast who say, this whole business is absolutely terrible. The poor Lakota. I mean, even at this point, I think there are people who say, The Earth is weeping. Let us commune with the spirits and all that stuff.


So this is why the paleontologist I mentioned yesterday, Charles Othnill-Marsh, who is with Cope. They're the two rival paleontologists who are digging up dinosaurs, sending them back, attacking each other. I mean, he's unbelievably sympathetic to the Lakota. He feels deep, deep shame as an American for what is happening. And I suppose because he is going out there as someone who's not a prospector, not a soldier, not someone who is trying to take things because Lakota don't mind if he digs up a diplodicus or whatever. And he then, as I said, he becomes a big partisan of red clouds in Washington, a big friend.


Tom, the interesting thing is, isn't that your parallel with the European empires yet again? Yeah. At the heyday, the British Empire, there are people who go out to India or whatever and are accused of going native, of championing the locals over their own country and who become very conflicted about the Imperial project. It's the same thing. Actually, President Andrew Johnson, who is always seen as one of the worst presidents in American history because of his role in reconstruction, he's seen as this terrible racist, he sets up a peace commission. When that reports in 1868, it's actually really worth dwelling on this. The conclusion of the peace commission is, and I quote, If the lands of the white man are taken, civilization justifies him in resisting the invader. Civilization does more than this. It brands him a coward and a slave if he submits to the wrong. But if the savage resists, civilization with the Ten Commandments in one hand and the sword in the other demands his immediate extermination. The argument of the Peace Commission is not, Well, therefore, we should just let them get on with it and not expanded. They do believe in manifest destiny as all of these people do.


But they say, listen, we should be more straight with the plains Indians. We should actually listen to them. We should be more sensitive. All of this stuff that actually now from the perspective of 2024, you think, well, there's a lot of truth in that, isn't there? I mean, they're never going to stop going. There's no conceivable alternative reality in which there aren't railroads across the West.


Well, I mean, the other thing, of course, that is happening at this time, and Marsh is a representative a figure of it because he's a great partisan of Darwin, is that notions of evolution and racial hierarchies and survival of the fittest is really starting to kick in at this point. I think it's possible for scientifically literate figures back in Washington to hold two contrary opinions in their head at the same time. Firstly, that pity for the Lakota and the Plains Indians more generally, admiration for them, a feeling of regret, maybe even a feeling of shame at what is happening. But also they can wash their hands of it and say, Well, this is what biology is all about. This is the way of the world, the strong, replace the weak.


Actually, Tom, I think that's dead right. Absolutely right. I think that social Darwinism has permeated into mainstream culture, into mainstream political opinion.


I mean, you could also almost argue that Darwinism takes off as fast as it does because it's answering a need.


Yeah, that's a good point.


People raised in Christian, in British or American contexts, in democratic notions of fair play or whatever, they need a justification for what they're going to do anyway, which is basically to grab stuff, grab land, grab resources from people who are weaker than them.


Actually, Really, again and again, the characters in this story say things like that. General Sherman, the guy who I quoted talking about the extermination of the Indians, he despises a lot of the white settlers and the miners and so on. And again and again, he will say, They're behaving very badly. If I were a Lakota, But then in the next breath, as Custer does, he will then say, However, it is the law of nature, it is the law of life that civilization must proceed and steamroller this antiquated, backwards I mean, they will say this again and again. I think you're absolutely right that the Darwinist mentality is at the center of American attitudes, generally. Anyway, the upshot of it all is they sign a big treaty with the Lakota, with Red Cloud.


Well, it's two-thirds of the Lakota, isn't it? About.


Yes, we'll get to this. So they give them a huge reservation, the Great Sioux Reservation. And this will include pretty much all of modern day South Dakota, west of the Missouri. American listeners in particular will reflect that not all of South Dakota currently belongs to the Lakota, so they will know how that ended up. And the promise is this will all be yours. We'll have agencies that will give you goods and stuff. But slightly confusingly, you can roam a little bit with your hunting. You can roam south. As long as there are abundant Buffalo to justify the chase, you can roam. And the huge wilderness to the west of the reservation, which is to say Wyoming and Montana, that is designated very confusingly as unseeded Sioux territory. So it's yours, but white people can settle there if they get your permission, and the army can go in and do things. Again, they'll ask you first. So it's deliberately a very gray area. But actually, they sign the treaty, and at first, Red Cloud is very cross. He says, You're not obeying the treaty. And he actually makes a trip to Washington.


He does, yeah.


And everybody is very impressed with him. They say, What a tremendous fellow he is.


So this is when all the photos are taken, isn't it? Of him in top hats and things. Yes.


And he actually goes to meet Ulysses S. Grant, and he says, You're not honoring the treaty. You're not keeping settlers out of the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains. Grant actually says to him, Fair enough. You're obviously an impressive bloke. We haven't delivered. And so Red Cloud goes back and he says, Well, brilliant. I've gone to see the great father in Washington, and all is good. Actually, most of the Lakota follow his... He's a war hero, Red Cloud. So people say, You know what? He knows what he's talking about. Actually, we have to accommodate to reality. We'll go on the reservation. We'll get all the food and supplies. He manages to persuade most of the Lakota and a large number of Cheyenne and Arapajo, their usual allies, Let's go on to this in South Dakota. It's not ideal, but there's no point fighting reality. However, as you say, Tom, there are people who don't follow him, and they are particular groups. So the Hunk Pappers, the Sons Arks, the Blackfeet, the Two Kettles, the Mini Conjus, some of the aglalas, and a Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is like, No way am I going into a reservation.


That's not my thing at all, because, of course, he hates any sense of being confined, doesn't he, crazy horse? He's the man who walks alone.


He does. He's wild as the wind.


Yeah, wild as the wind, Tom. Very nice. The guy who really says, No way, is the man you so beautifully voiced at the beginning of this episode in the last episode, and that is Sitting Bull.


I guess for us, the idea of a A sitting bull, it implies a stationary quality, doesn't it?


Yeah, it does.


But a bull, presumably, is referring to the Buffalo. Yes. The Buffalo is the most sacred animal on the plains, and it's a creature of immense power. It is. You would not want to face a Buffalo.


He's a very I think he's a very impressive person, sitting Bull. So as far as we know, he's probably born in 1831. He's a hunk papa.


I love that name.


His father.


Sounds like a 1970s children's.




Hunk Papa, Hunk Mama, Hunk Kids, Barber Papa.


Actually, do you know, you're getting into the world of the Teletub is there on your top.


No, I was thinking Barber Papa.


Okay, yeah.


Do you remember Barber Papa? It was great and wobbly thing.


Yeah. The Moomins. He could have been a moomin.


Anyway, listen, this is very disrespectful to the Hunk Puppers.


It is. So his father is called Returns Again.


Good name.


Old name. But apparently this is because his father went out to fight some people once, and they all were going home, and his father said, I'm going back for more, actually. I love this. There's more of them left. People called him Returns Again. You couldn't get him off the battlefield. His mother is called Her Holy Door. Returns Again is quite an impressive guy. He's a headman of a lodge, which means he's He's got a group. He's not a chief, but he's got a group of several dozens, maybe even 100 people, extended family.


So he's the rising gentry. Yeah.


He's a prosperous Yeomen farmer, Tom. Yes, that's what he is. He's the middling sort.


He's a Sandbrooke's person.


Right. Thanks.


He's middle Sioux.


Right. Okay. So he's a healer.


Again, like you.


Yeah, right. He's very brave. He has powerful dreams and visions, as I do.


I think we found the person in history who most resembles you.


You did a terrible thing the other day because when I read out that description of Captain Bente about how behind his chubby voluability was a- It was a sinister Machiavallian cruelty. You said that. Then I was so shocked by that, that later that day, I went to my wife and I read that passage out. I started reading that passage. What did she say? I hadn't even got to the point where I said, Tom Holland said that reminded him of me. And before I could say that, she said, You just read me something about yourself.


Okay, so you found yourself both in Captain Benteen and in Sitting Bull. I think that... Nothing to be ashamed of about that.


Sitting Bull's father. Sitting Bull's father.


I think Sitting Bull as well.


So Sitting Bull's original name, do you know what his original name is? No.


It's sit or something?


No, he later is called Slow.


Slow, that's right.


Yeah. But before then, he's called Jump Badger.


Oh, I like that.


Jump Badger is a great name. Jump Badger is his official name, but people nickname him Slow because Because, apparently, well, there are two possible reasons. One is that he's literally quite slow. But the other is just more plausible is that he always thinks before talking, and he's very deliberate and considered.


So again, like Crazy Horse, getting off his horse to aim his gun.


Exactly. Now, interestingly, the Sitting Bull name, that comes into the equation when his father has a chat with a Buffalo. It's a Buffalo who tells his father about this. So Returns Again and some other men are sitting around campfire, and this Buffalo arrives and starts bellowing at them, grunting. Oh, bellowing? Buffalo wobbles from side to side. I read that Return Again's companions were awestruck, but Return Again understood what the Buffalo was saying. What the Buffalo was saying was. I've never done a Buffalo. I don't know what a Buffalo's voice sounds like. Yeah, it'd be deep. It'd be very deep.


I can do a Buffalo.


Can you? The Buffalo gives them four names.


So the four names Buffalo Bulls sits down. Jump Bull, Bulls It's Down, and One Bull. Bull stands with a cow and Womble.


I felt you threw those away to some degree, Tom. Actually, I thought it would be more...


I mean, a Buffalo is not a showman.


Okay. It's not appearing in Buffalo Bill's Show. No.


I mean, he says the names, and then he goes off and eats his grass.


He does. So he says these four names, Buffalo Bulls It's Down, Jump Bull, Bulls It's Down, Jump Bull, Bulls It's Down, and One Bull. And four is a sacred number, by the way, to the Lakota. And returning He, once again, is very, very impressed with this. And he thinks they're a gift to him, these names. He goes back to the village and he says, Listen, I'm changing my name. I'm going to call myself. Basically, Buffalo Bull sits down, Sitting Bull. That's what he calls himself. So he's called that, but his son isn't. The man we think of as Sitting Bull is called Slow. He has a chat to an eagle around this point, Tom, right? Yeah, he's about 30. The eagle sings to him and sings, My father gave me this nation to care for. I'm trying to fulfill my duty.


Do we know what the song was like? Was it a good song?


I don't want to hear you doing an eagle. Okay. I mean, that could be for the bonus for that Rest It's History Club member subscribers.


I'm amazed that this hasn't been done as a track.


It'd be a concept album, wouldn't it? It'd be a pro-rock concept album from the '70s.


Sacred spirit could do it.


Definitely. The eagle sings to him and says, You have a special responsibility, all of this thing. Actually, by this point, he's not very slow. He's really good at archery and hunting and all that thing. Then when He's 14 years old. He has the great moment in his life when he counts his first coup.


Yeah, so he touches an enemy with a stick.


They've gone out on a hunting expedition. Because he hasn't ever got any war on us, and he's only 14, He's naked except for some beads and a little loincloth. He doesn't carry a weapon, but he knocks a crow off his horse with this stick.


It's very homeric, isn't it?


It's very homeric, the great hero. When you read this stuff, It's much as we are enjoying doing the voice of a Buffalo and imagining eagles singing, it's no different to telling the stories of the Greek heroes. No. I mean, that's the imaginative world, I think. Anyway, he knocks this bloke off his horse with a stick. His friends then rush up and they scalp the guy and kill him. And this is a tremendous moment for Slow. He goes back home. He has a great parade. His body is painted black and he has a single eagle feather in his hair to mark his coup. And his father stands up in front of everybody and he says, Great moment for my son. In order of this moment, I will change my name again, and I will now be Jump Bull and my son, you are the new Sitting Bull.


This seems to be a thing then, doesn't it? Crazy Horse's dad hands on his name. The guy who's going to become Sitting Bull has handed on his name.


Has handed on his name. I think we should take a break there, Tom, because it's such an exciting and moving moment. We'll return afterwards to talk about how Sitting Bull, how his career unfolds. We haven't really talked about religion at all. I know you like to talk about religion, so we'll talk about sun dancing.


But, Dominic, you will also know that I am suspicious of the use of the word religion.


Cosa, what a schoolboy era.


In this context, because they don't have a notion of religion as something separate. This is the crucial point. Why shouldn't eagles talk? Why shouldn't bulls talk?


Okay, agreed.


Because the wonder and power of the supernatural is manifest in everything.


I was trying to get us to the break, but I failed because I made it. I made a schoolboy era. You did.


You walked into that one.


I walked right into it.


Like Custer charging the little big horn.


Custer, the nominal topic of this series, will return at the very end of this episode. So that's something to look forward to. We'll see you after the break.


Comrade, whoever runs away, he is a woman, they say. Therefore, through many trials, my life is short.


That, Dominic, was a song, a song by Sitting Bull. Yes. As he charged a crow chiefton in 1856, apparently had a very high resonant singing voice like mine.


Yeah, it could not have been less like what I imagine.


Shall I do it again?


No, for God's sake, don't do it again. No, he's 25.




That's not the voice of a 24-year-old man, Tom.


And this is a highly significant moment in Sitting Bull's career, isn't it? Because we were talking about the homeric quality of his life before the break. And this is Achilles against Hector. It is. It's a standoff between two mighty warriors on rival sides, and everybody else has stood back to watch it. The crow drops to one knee, and he's got a rifle. He fires. The bullet goes through the shield that Sitting Bull is holding and goes into his left foot rather oddly. It must have been quite a bad shot, I think. It goes in at his toe and goes out his heel. Again, very Achilles. Now, Sitting Bull turns, aims his rifle, fires. The Crow Chief tumbles, Sitting Bull takes out his knife. Obviously, he's got a bullet through his foot, so he's got to limp. He takes his knife, raises it over his fallen opponent, plunges it into the heart. Yeah. Thrilling stuff.


It is exciting stuff. It makes Sitting Bull a great hero, gets all kinds of war on us. And actually the song, the idea of him singing the song, so that reminds me of the Norse sagas or something.


Yeah, scaldic verse.


They are, aren't they? They're like, he raised his ax, smote the guy's head, and he sang as he did so.


Yeah. So there are Viking chieftains who are famous for their ability to do this and to sing and celebrate their own victories. Yeah. And this is clearly what Sitting Bull is doing. Yeah.


And I think, I mean, this is the weird thing about this whole story. This world that feels very reminiscent of Homereic epic or Norse epic is taking place in the same arena as there are railroads and the Aster family and Custer and all of these things that are from the world of modernity. I mean, that's what makes the story so rich and so fascinating, isn't it? Yeah.


I think also the fact that Custer is the intersection point between those two worlds. I mean, he is cast as a night errant from medieval chivalry, and Sitting Bull is cast as a hermetic or Norse warrior. And so this is part of the dynamic of the story that makes it so interesting to people back in the 19th century, but also, let's be honest, to us.


Yes, of course. Absolutely. Yeah, I completely agree. Anyway, Sitting Bull, by the 1860s, by his 20s, 30s, he's a big man. He is a very celebrated warrior. He has a great Buffalo horned headdress with feathers to show that he has won all these victories and killed all these chiefs and things. We talked before, I think we were talking about the dog soldiers and the Cheyenne, we were talking about how they had these warrior fraternities. He's in loads of them, and he's an officer of loads of these fraternities, which is a real achievement. Actually, although they don't really have a formal political structure, they have an informal one. He's very high in it.


And it's prestige-based, isn't it?


It is prestige-based. But the biggest thing about him that makes him different and gives him this fascination is his Holiness, is the sense that he has a link to what you, undirectly, would call the dimension of the supernatural.


One of my favorite phrases, as people will know.


It is. So he's danced The Sun Dance. Oh, yeah. I mean, this must be something that you must love all this. I really do. Because you basically love torture and religion, even though I know religion is not the right word.




This combines both your interests.


Yes. So the sun dance This is the big thing. It provides an opportunity to directly see into the dimension of the supernatural, to be given visions of the future, to be given advice for what you should do that derives from the gods from the spirits that lie beyond the realm of the human.


The big God is Wack and tanker. That's right, isn't it? He is the great father.


The great mystery.


The great mystery, yeah.


So the sense is great spirit, the great mystery. Dominate you as the master of tongues. Presumably, you would alert to that way in which- Very alert to the nuances, yeah. The sense of mystery, but also spirit is an important part of what's being tapped into.


I think it is. I think it's less anthropomorphic than the mythology that we associate with Greece or the Wendell. It's not all people stealing each other's wives and wooden horses or all of that. It's more mysterious than that, isn't it? The world of Lakota faith.


Well, it's shamanistic, I guess, would be the word that anthropologists would use. Yes. I mean, probably anthropologists are now suspicious of the word shamanistic. But the idea that you put yourself through excruciating austerities and physical pain and open yourself up to visions that you wouldn't otherwise have. We were talking about medicine yesterday, that you either have medicine or you don't. Sitting Bull definitely does. And there seem to be two ways that are associated with the Sundance. So one, which Sitting Bull does shortly before the Battle of the Little Big Horn, is that you give flesh. So Sitting Bull will have someone take out 50 gobbets of flesh from each of his arms.


Yeah. They're often described as the size of the head of a match. So they're quite small, but somebody will basically go at your arm with an all, and they will rip out 50 bits of flesh as an offering to the gods.


But the Sundance itself, it sounds to me as an absolute worse, even worse.


Much worse. Yeah.


You set up Buffalo heads in a circle, and then you have a medicine pole, which is fixed into the ground. What is it? You have a pole, don't you?


Yeah, you have this big pole. Actually, medicine pole, it is called a medicine pole, but as we said last time, the language of medicine is very unhealthy.


Yeah, it's not a thing you get at the NHS.


So this huge pole, everyone assembles. There's a big feast. It's like a religious feast, festival. Lots of people have assembled. They've been drinking and they've been dancing and they've been having fun and stuff. But now that's very solem. And they watch while you step forward and whoever else is going to do the Sundance. And a holy man, basically, he pierces your skin around your nipples.


It goes under the muscles, doesn't it?


And he puts a skewer through it, a wooden skewer. And then he ties leather thongs to this skewer. And those are then tied to a rope.


A lariat, I believe, is the technical word.


Right. And the rope is tied to the pole.


And it's tightened so that you have to stand on your feet.


It's so horrible.


And that's the basic package. But you can have worse ones, which will obviously raise your prestige because they're much more painful. So you might have sticks that get pushed through the cheeks of the dancer just beneath the eyes, or you might have them through the back muscles, which are obviously very dense. So That would be completely excruciating. Essentially, you get hooked up by these, and you then get given a whistle, and you have to blow on the whistle, and then you have to dance.


They will be drumming and stuff, won't they, while you're dancing.


Yeah, but you have to dance for hours and hours and hours, and you have to lift your face to the sun. While you're doing it, you're giving away various stuff. You might give away a weapon or a pony or something like that. And again, those who are going to the limits, those who've got the sticks through their muscles or whatever, they will give everything away. So there are even warriors who give away their sisters, which must have been a bit grim for the sister, I guess.


Very grim for the sister, yeah.


And the thing is that if you fail the test, if you don't measure up, if you think you can do it and it proves you can't, you faint or you just say, God, this hurts too much. I'm stopping. Then you lose your status as a warrior. You're given a woman's dress and you are set to picking berries or doing the washing up or whatever.


To be honest, I can see why you might choose that voluntarily. It's a good way to get into the berry picking business. It sounds horrendous. Basically, the point of the dance is to try and break free from the hooks, isn't it?


I think it's to have a vision.


Yeah, of course. You'll have the vision through pain. That's the point.


Correct. But if you just faint and you don't have the vision, that's no good.


Yeah, no good. I mean, it is It's weird. On the other hand, I suppose I think it's really worth stressing that to us in 2024, as people living in a fairly secular country, it seems extremely unsettling. But is it any more weird and unsettling that so many other religious rituals? I mean, think about the self-mortification in Christianity.


Or people going off into the desert and taking drugs and having visions that way. People want visions. It's people taking acid.


Yeah, absolutely. So Sitting Bull does this, doesn't he? And nobody doubts that he is a very holy man, that he has enormous endurance and he will show off all of the scars, his scars on his chest, his scars on his back, he has scars on his arms. That's our testament to his courage in various sun dances and similar religious rituals.


And he's a large man, isn't he? Yeah, he's a big man. So there's quite a lot of him to take bits of flesh out of, to gouge out. Yes.


Because he becomes, obviously, later on, after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, because he becomes such a celebrity, there's no other word for He's an international celebrity.


Well, so as well as the handshaking after the Little Bighorn, he is also shown how to write his name. And his autograph, apparently, was the most prized after the president's.


I mean, I would much rather have Sitting Bull's autograph than some of the presidents of the 1880s who nobody remembers. Yeah, of course. I mean, who wants Chester Arthur's autograph when you could have Sitting Bull's autograph? Anyway, so later on, when he's a celebrity, all these stories are told about him, and nobody ever undermines him or questions his Holiness. So people say, listen, this is a chap. He's always communing with badgers, doing all this stuff, getting information from the spirit world. Bulls, eagles. Yeah. He can see into the future, and his predictions are generally right. He will say, We will have meat in the spring, all this stuff.


And this ability to foretell the future will be crucial for the build up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn. So just keep that in mind.


It will indeed. But also the interesting thing about him, I think the likable thing Tom, is that he's not a stereotypical caricatured, very forbid holy man, is he? He's a laugh.


No, he's fun.


He's good fun. He loves singing, as you have beautifully demonstrated.


Yeah, he's a very good mimic.


Yeah, he likes jokes. Very good actor. Yeah, he's like me, a very good actor.


And very affectionate as well to people he loves.


Yeah, he's a nice person. He's a nice person. Also, he struggles with his mental health, Tom. Did you see this? He suffers from bouts of depression.


I didn't know that.


So it's very relatable in that sense. Anyway, the one thing that perhaps is, well, I don't know what listeners will think, whether it's relatable or not. After Red Cloud has done this deal and said, fine, let's yield to reality. We'll go on this big reservation in South Dakota. Sitting Bull, the one thing that really marks him out, he says, no way, absolutely no way. I will never, ever compromise with Washington Washington with the Americans. And he says of Red Cloud, he said, Red Cloud saw too much. The white people must have put bad medicine over Red Cloud's eyes to make him see everything and anything that they pleased. This is after Red Cloud's trip to Washington. And when people say to him, Listen, if we go on the reservation, sure, it won't be as exciting, and it won't be shooting crows through the heart or all that stuff that was great fun before. However, we'll have food, and we'll have somewhere to live, and we'll be safe. He says, Look at me, see if I am poor or my people either. The Whites may get me at last, as you say, but I will have good times till then.


You are fooled to make yourself slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard tack, and a little sugar and coffee. And of course, the thing is, there are loads of people who would agree with that, particularly younger warriors who want to make a name for themselves. But also, you made the point last time, didn't you? It's exhilarating. I mean, it must be terrifying at times, but it's exciting.


I assume that you don't need to divide it into saying, well, it's simultaneously fun and noble, because to be noble is to be fun, I guess.


Yeah, I guess that's right. I think that's right. And I think there are also a lot of people who say, do you know what? We could do both. I mean, this undoubtedly happens. There are a lot of people who say, in the winter, I'll go to the reservation, I'll hang around, I'll have their coffee and make small talk with the federal agent. And then when summer comes, I'm out of here.


Well, again, as we'll see at the Battle of the Little Bitcoin, a lot of reservation, Lakota, are there.


Yeah. So there's not a neat, very stark divide between the reservation and non-reservation Indians.


But the man who says, I'm not having this, I'm not compromising. I'm staying free, obviously comes to be a figure of tremendous charisma and significance. Yes. So the fact that Sitting Bull has done that is what enables him to serve as the focus of loyalty, admiration, devotion for so many of the younger warriors.


Yeah. So by the end of the 1860s, '60s, he has now achieved a position that really nobody has ever achieved before. He's almost a paramount chief. They have a big meeting in 1869 of the Lakota who are dead against the reservation. And at that, his uncle, who's got four horns, says to him, For your bravery on the battlefields and as the greatest warrior of our band, we've elected you as our war chief, as leader of the Sioux Nation. When you tell us to fight, we shall fight. When you tell us to make peace, we shall make peace. So in other words, he's been cast in this new role, which is again another sign of how it's not actually a timeless culture.


No, it's evolving in response to the pressures on it. Exactly.


So in the late 1860s, early 1870s, Sitting Bull is sending people on raids and things, but they're all quite small scale. However, all the time, the railroad is coming closer. And one railroad in particular, which is the Northern Pacific. And the Northern Pacific has basically decided on its route, and that route leads right through the Lakota lands. In 1872, they sent out a survey party. And Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, because Crazy Horse is also holding out, of course, they got together to see it off. And then a year later, in the summer of 1873, Sitting Bull, it's been a quiet summer, and they're minding their own business, They're going out hunting. He's talking to eagles and doing his thing. Then he hears news that a new survey expedition with a US Army escort is advancing on the Yellowstone River. The head of this expedition, Tom.


Who is it, Dominic? Who is it?


None other than our old friend, George Armstrong Custer. And on that bombshell, we should draw a close over the story, and we will return next time to find out what happens at the Yellowstone between Custer and Sitting Bull, and we'll get into the story of the Black Hills Expedition a year later.


Yeah, that's a terrible story.


Now, if you want to hear the rest of this thrilling series early before everybody else, then you know what to do. You just need to go to therestishistory. Com, sign up to join our warrior band. You get all kinds of thrilling benefits, but most importantly, you will get those episodes before or your neighbors. And so you can lord it over them because you will know what happened to George Armstrong Custer, but they won't.


I mean, amazing. We got four episodes to go. We did the whole of the Reformation in five episodes.


I'm so bitter about this. So bitter. So many complaints that I hear about that.


And I was only allowed four on Byron.


Exactly. This is the thing. The complaint isn't really that there are too many on the Lakota. Your complaint is that you weren't given enough on Byron.


No, I stuck to our agreement, and you were just spraying notes everywhere you go. No. Roaming like a Lakota chieftan.


No, it's a gross calumny, because when I send you the notes, thinking you'll suggest things to cut, which I would be delighted to hear, what actually happens-I just shovel a whole load more in that you shovel a whole load of new notes in. The only thing you wanted to cut, and you rang me up in a great agitation about, was you said...


Custer's father's beard. I just felt that was an extraneous detail.


An extraneous detail. The Custer's father had a beard. But that was really important.


People do want to go back and listen to episode one. There's a lot of Custer's Father beard-related badanage going on, and this is the subtext for it. Anyway, listen, we will be back. We still have four episodes to go. The build up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the battle itself, and then the aftermath and the tragic, terrible story of the Ghost Dancer. So that is all to come. Wonderful.


See you next time. Bye-bye. Tom, I've just learned some absolutely extraordinary and exciting news. And anybody who's a history lover, anybody who, like me, loves spending their summer at festivals will delight and rejoice at this news, won't they?


They absolutely will. And the news is that in June, it is the Chalk History Festival in Broadchalk, in the Chalk Valley, the very village in which I grew up. My brother James and I, we talked about this the other day on a Restless History bonus episode. But for all of you who didn't hear that, I can't recommend the festival enough. There's an unbelievable array of talks from top historians and others beside, plus a mass of other things to see and do. Live music every day, living history, performances, and of course, lots of food, drink, camping, all historically themed, and an absolutely stunning setting.


It's an amazing setting, Tom, and it's a real highlight of my year. I've had it inked into my diary for months. Really looking forward to it. And the highlight of the week, I have to say, has to be a special live performance of The Rest is History, which we will be doing on the Tuesday, won't we? Tuesday, the 25th of June.


Yes. So that's the day you'll be there, Dominic. I know you've got to head off after that, but I will be still there doing a host of other things. And basically, I'll be there for most of the week. So please do join us. Tickets are on sale now, and you can get them at www. Chalkfestival. Com. And that's C-H-A-L-K-E. So chalk with an E on it, festival. Com. It'd be wonderful to see you there.