Restoring Dignity to Sitting Bull, Wherever He Is

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Here, on a snow-dusted bluff overlooking the Missouri River, rests Sitting Bull. Or so it is said.

Stand before the monument and see the pocks left in the granite by bullets. Notice where the nose was replaced after vandals with chains and a truck yanked the bust from its pedestal. Spot where the headdress feather was mended after being shot off. And wonder, along with the rest of the Dakotas:

Is Sitting Bull here?

The 12-foot monument rises where Sitting Bull is supposedly buried and where he certainly once felt at home; where the steel-blue clouds of winter press down upon the hills of dormant grass; where nothing moves but a solitary bird in flight, and the whinnies of a distant horse sound almost like an old man’s rueful laughter.

It all seems fitting, even the vandalism, given how this world-famous American Indian has never received the respect in death that was often denied him in life. Now two men are trying to pay that respect, in late but earnest installments.

As one of them, Rhett Albers, collects another beer bottle discarded near the base of the monument, the other, Bryan Defender, gazes up at the bust of Sitting Bull. As always, the face of stone gives away nothing.

Maybe in the end it does not matter where the holy man actually rests, says Mr. Defender, who is Hunkpapa Sioux. Like the man whose history he honors.

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