Chief Sitting Bear: Foundation Of An Oklahoma Family.
"Lost Stories"- Metro
Dennis W. Zotigh
Sitting Bear is well documented as the leader of the Kiowa 10 Bravest War Society (called the Ko-eetsenko in the Kiowa Language). In historical documents, he is more popularly referred to as Satank (aka. Set-angya to the Kiowa). Sitting Bear was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota approximately 1810. He had six wives and several children before his death in 1871.
legacy tells of early history when Oklahoma was simply called, "Indian
Territory." This legacy extended before the reservation period in which
his lands and way of life dwindled before his eyes. Rich in drama, his
day-to-day life demonstrated the leadership of a bygone era.
spirit of preservation and perseverance is a testament to Oklahoma's rich
American Indian heritage. In a dark part of American history where Indian
families were disjointed and separated by forced reservation life, Sitting
Bear laid his life on the line to protect and keep his family together. Below
is one story that illustrates this legacy:
Chief Sitting Bear left the Kiowa reservation against the threats of his U.S.
Army overseers. His reason was to retrieve the bones of his son in Texas and
bring them back home. Following Kiowa beliefs, the family unit was of primary
importance throughout ones life.
his return, he was captured, shackled and taken by wagon to Ft. Sill for
leaving the reservation. With Ft. Sill in sight, he told the wagon driver and
escort, "See that tree up ahead? You will not live to see the other
side." He then stood up and began to sing his death song:
'O sun. You remain forever, but we Ko-eetsenko must die.
'O earth you remain forever, but we Ko-eetsenko must die."
to Kiowa oral history, when he ended his song, he pulled a knife that he had
been concealing - out of his
throat and took the life of the wagon driver. The escort immediately shot Old
Chief Sitting Bear to his death. It is said that Sitting Bear would rather
give up his life than live without the remains of his cherished son."
people traditionally believe in a strong family unit. In the Kiowa tribe,
aunts and uncles are referred to as mothers and dads. Family members are
considered "close relatives" up to 5 generations. Immediate families
are incredibly large and extended families are made through "Indian
the family unit is cohesive and youngsters who lose their parents are
immediately taken in by their other
mothers or fathers. Elders who are no longer able to care for themselves
typically live with family members until their death. It is at this time that
their rich repository of cultural knowledge is passed on to their youngest of
Sitting Bear's death epitomizes the family unit of the Kiowa and the length a
Kiowa warrior will go to preserve the family unit. Many of his descendents
still carry on the warrior traditions of protecting family, homelands and way
of life. These descendents are still active in Kiowa ceremonials and have
participated in all the major wars America has fought. Sitting Bear's great,
great, great grandchildren are currently in the Persian Gulf defending the
their homelands, like all the
generations before them.
Dennis W. Zotigh is a member of the Kiowa tribe. He is currently the American Indian Research Historian for the Oklahoma Historical Society. He is also the director of the internationally known dance company The Great American Indian Dancers. Recently he presented a cultural paper at the British Museum in London and also served as a cultural consultant for the Hallmark miniseries "Dream Keepers" which will air on ABC television May 11 and 12, 2003.