Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People

by S D Nelson (Author)

Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
Sitting Bull (c. 1831-1890) was one of the greatest Lakota/Sioux warriors and chiefs who ever lived. From Sitting Bull's childhood--killing his first buffalo at age 10--to being named war chief to leading his people against the U.S. Army, Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People brings the story of the great chief to light. Sitting Bull was instrumental in the war against the invasive wasichus (white men) and was at the forefront of the combat, including the Battles of Killdeer Mountain and the Little Bighorn. He and Crazy Horse were the last Lakota/Sioux to surrender their people to the U.S. government and resort to living on a reservation.

The book includes an extensive author's note and timeline, historical photographs, a map, a bibliography, endnotes, and an index.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-6--Sitting Bull witnessed great changes in the lives of Native Americans during his lifetime (1831-90). Nelson, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas, presents Sitting Bull's life as an entry point into that period of history. A detailed time line and author's note reflect extensive research and a depth of understanding about the topic. The book is engagingly told in the first person, with Sitting Bull describing his childhood training to be a warrior and a hunter. White people had been in the area for many years, but increased westward expansion and the decision to build forts brought the tensions among the various Native groups and white settlers and soldiers to a higher level. The book does not attempt to present all sides of the issue but instead concentrates on what happened to the Hunkpapa people and other Sioux groups and the pivotal battles of Killdeer Mountain, Rosebud Creek, and Little Bighorn. Although Sitting Bull was illiterate and did not leave memoirs, Nelson's choice to use the man's voice will draw in readers and give the events a sense of immediacy. The book is visually appealing, combining art inspired by ledger book art style (a note explains that American Indians incarcerated on military bases sometimes were given discarded books in which to draw) with period photographs and quotations, demonstrating the intersection of two cultures in a tangible manner. Though the images aren't overly graphic, they do depict death and violence (one picture includes a small detail of George Custer shooting himself in the head). VERDICT Not a typical report book, this portrait of a committed leader provides a unique perspective on the man and his time period.--Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

First-person narration, while invented, makes Nelson's (Digging A Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys) illustrated biography of Native American warrior Sitting Bull both powerful and poignant: "The white men came to our land with two faces. They said one thing but did another. The trespassers spoke of peace and sharing while taking our hunting grounds." Calm, measured storytelling details Sioux life and customs, as well as horrific battles with the U.S. Army. Archival b&w photos punctuate Nelson's dynamic ink-and-colored-pencil illustrations, featuring stylized Native American warriors on horseback. His fluid artwork appears atop ledger paper, juxtaposing chaotic, all-over-the-page battle scenes with lined backdrops representing the white man's more rigid, record-keeping ways. Harkening to an era when imprisoned tribespeople were given discarded ledger paper on which to draw, Nelson (a member of the Sioux tribe) succeeds in showing the disconnectedness of the two cultures. The tale ends with Sitting Bull's tragically ironic death at the hands of fellow Native Americans. An extensive time line and author notes provide substantial background to reinforce the more creative tack Nelson uses to share Sitting Bull's story. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
S D Nelson
S. D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the Dakotas. He is the award-winning author and illustrator of Black Elk's Vision--recipient of a Western Writers of America Spur Storyteller Award and named a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. Visit him online at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
November 20, 2015
Age Range
8 - 12 years
American Indian Youth Literature Award
Honor Book 2016

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