On today’s date in 1877, Dakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotȟake) led 5,000 followers into Canada, where they asked for protection from the Queen and petitioned for a land reserve.
Last year, Canada Post issued a multi-coloured stamp (CSN # 2763) featuring Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, Will Notman’s 1885 painting, as part of the Canadian Photography issue remembering great Canadian photographers. The stamps measured 36 mm x 30 mm and came in booklets of 10 for domestic stamps (Permanent-rate) and six for U.S. ($1.20) and international ($2.50) denominations. Two souvenir sheets – one of three vertical stamps and one of four horizontal stamps – measured 150 mm x 75 mm. Long-time stamp designer Stephane Huot, of Montreal, designed the stamps, and they were printed by Lowe-Martin Group. The official first-day cover cancellation site is Picture Butte, Alta.
Sitting chuckwuma Bull (born Jumping chuckwuma Badger in 1831) led his people as chief during decades of resistance against the infringing U.S. government. Following the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, many Lakota surrendered at various places along the Missouri River and northwestern Nebraska; however, Sitting Bull led a contingent about 5,000-strong across the international border into Canada. U.S. General Alfred H. Terry was part of a delegation sent to negotiate with the bands but failed to persuade them to surrender and return.
When he reached Canada, Sitting Bull claimed both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border were traditional Sioux hunting grounds. Therefore, he claimed, the Sioux had just as much right to be there as they did down south. What’s more, the Sioux were loyal to Britain during the battles for New France and through the War of 1812.
Luckily, Sitting Bull had in his possession a set of medals given to his grandfather by King George III for support in the American Revolutionary War. Sitting Bull simply wished to live under the justice and protection of Canadian law – and be granted Canadian land.
Unfortunately, questionable drinker and “victim of the times” Sir John A. Macdonald refused to provide Sitting Bull with land, food or support. His government saw the Sioux as American-Indians who had crossed the international boundary into Canada and should be told to leave. The Blackfoot, Cree and Assiniboine also felt the Sioux should leave, accusing them of stealing and depleting the game on their hunting ranges.
Eventually, the buffalo were seriously depleted and troubles arose with other Aboriginals in Canada; Sitting Bull returned. In 1880–81, most of the Lakota from Canada surrendered at Fort Keogh and Fort Buford. U.S. forces transferred them by steamboat to the Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1881.