Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Richard O’Connor’s Sitting Bull: War Chief of the Sioux proceeds chronologically from the chief’s childhood to his death and describes the social, military, and political events in which he was influential. Sitting Bull’s defensive tactics, designed to protect the freedom of the Sioux, forestalled but could not prevent white dominance in the West. The personal qualities evident in him as a child—patience, careful thought, and open-mindedness—developed into the diplomatic tactics of a great leader. The book’s eleven chapters begin with Sitting Bull as a fourteen-year-old who was called “Slow” because of his deliberate manner. Subsequent chapters include the Sioux tribe’s battle with whites and with other Native Americans, treaty negotiations, and flight from white encroachment. Their lands seized and their warriors vastly outnumbered by U.S. soldiers, the Sioux at last submitted to reservation life, suffering poverty, indignity, and finally the loss of their chief.

O’Connor’s detailed, anecdotal book emphasizes key events in Sitting Bull’s childhood: his bravery during a battle with Crow warriors, his being “warned” by a small bird that a grizzly bear was near, and his avenging of the death of his father. His diet included “soup and broth, pemmican (dried meat) larded with buffalo tallow, buffalo hump, haunch of venison, bear’s ribs, and smaller game,” and his ambition was to become a great warrior. He gained his education at the council fire, listening to his...

(The entire section is 620 words.)