Sitting Bear: Portrait of an Honorable Man

Memorial Grave of Satank
Memorial Grave of Satank

Little is known about Sitting Bear, also known as Satank or Satanta, was a noble man who led the Koitsenko in Oklahoma. The Koitsenk was known as the society of the bravest Kiowa warriors. Think of them as the native American version of the Special Forces. Koitsenko translates into "Ten Bravest Warriors"

His origins are a little hazy. He was believed to be born sometime in 1810 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His life was a testament to native American leadership in his era.

As you may know, the era in which he lived marked the time of great struggles between America and the native Americans. Many were displaced and forced further west, tricked into giving up land, or killed. In 1867 Satank was forced to sign the Medicine Lodge treaty and moved to the area around Ft Sill, Oklahoma.

Satank chose to fight against the settlers. With his band of elite warriors they carried out raids against many settlers and resisted the numerous regulations that were forced on his tribe. in 1870 his son was killed during a raid in Texas and he decided to increase his resistance.

Satank set up an ambush with his party to kill the next group of settlers and soldiers that approached. Their intent was to kill them all in revenge but their medicine man had a vision that showed a larger group arriving later. Desiring a larger group to increase their effect they allowed the smaller group to pass unharmed. A little-known fact was that William Tecumseh Sherman was part of that group.

Eventually the medicine man's vision proved to be true and a larger group appeared. They killed all the settlers and captured all the horses and mules and riches. This put their group on the army's radar and, sure enough, Satank's days were numbered.

After returning to the reservation his warriors boasted of their deeds. It was only a matter of time before the army narrowed it down and arrested Sitting Bear. They shackled his hands and put him in a carriage for transportation back to Texas for his trial and execution.

During the ride back to Texas Satank hid his head underneath his blanket. The soldiers thought it was out of shame for his capture and what he did. He was actually chewing off his own skin in order to escape his shackles. Once this was accomplished he looked to his captors and told them that they won't see the other side of the trees ahead and sang his death song, which went as follows:

'O sun. You remain forever, but we Ko-eetsenko must die.

'O earth you remain forever, but we Ko-eetsenko must die."

After he finished he pulled a knife that he had hidden in his clothes and killed the soldiers in the carriage with him. He escaped the carriage but was shot numerous times by the soldiers as he escaped. Seeing that he was still alive they shot him again. Still he survived. Out of fear they refused to shoot him again and left him in the road to die.

In the end, Sitting Bear died as he lived. A free man. He knew he wouldn't escape but he wouldn't die as a prisoner. He chose to die a free man. To this day his memorial grave can be found in Ft Sill at the post cemetery in Oklahoma.

Joseph Macy's Sculpture of Sitting Bear's escape from his shackles by chewing off his own skin. This sculpture is currently in the Favell museum in Klamath Falls, OR
Joseph Macy's Sculpture of Sitting Bear's escape from his shackles by chewing off his own skin. This sculpture is currently in the Favell museum in Klamath Falls, OR

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Comments 8 comments

Brooke.Crawford profile image

Brooke.Crawford 5 years ago from Missouri

Being from Oregon myself, I find native American history fascinating. Wonderful post.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Superb hub about a fascinating individual. Thank you.


Michaelmas profile image

Michaelmas 5 years ago from St Louis, MO Author

Thank you. I really appreciate the feedback. I read about him at the Favell museum in Oregon and was immediately impressed. I started looking around and was surprised by how little was known about him.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Excellent hub.

What a fascinating man, not to mention a very brave one. Native Americans have a fascinating culture and history. Here's hoping you'll be tempted to write more. Many thanks for sharing.


Dana Anquoe 4 years ago

Satank is my great great great grandfather. He was not known as Satanta, that was an entirely different chief, one of satank's contemporaries...And I'm wondering where you got the first picture? are you certain it is him? The second picture is the only know portrait that Satank ever sat for, so I was curious. thanks for the tribute to my grandfather.


June 4 years ago

Yes I am also a descendant of setting bear. Lovely tribute but the man in the headress was not satank. Satank was a war chief and would not be wearing a feather headress. Also satank had a gash in his upper lip.(hidden by his trademark mustache)


GreenTamarind 3 years ago

The portrait at the top is of another important man known as Sitting Bear, who was a head Chief of the Sahnish (Arikara) Nation. His name in Sahnish was Ku-Nuh-Ti-Wit, translated into English as Sitting Bear.


scarlett 6 weeks ago

wow im a decendent also and the top is a fake the 2nd however is real he looks like me

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