Ernie LaPointe and Cedric Good House —
Reimagining Sitting Bull, Tatanka Iyotake

As some Lakota make an annual pilgrimage on horseback to Wounded Knee in memory of Sitting Bull's death, we'll pull out some of the lesser known threads of the legacy of this complex leader and American icon. And we'll explore why his spiritual character has animated his own people in the last three decades more openly than at any time since his death in 1890.

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Guests

Ernie LaPointe

LaPointe is Sitting Bull's great-grandson and author of Sitting Bull: His Life and Legacy.

Cedric Good House

Good House is an addictions counselor who lives in Fort Yates, North Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Pertinent Posts

1

A brief clip of of archival audio (1946) about Sitting Bull's signature that we found while doing research for this show.

Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Ernie LaPointe

From his home in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Ernie LaPointe, talked with Krista about his great-grandfather's spiritual and lasting legacy on October 20, 2009.

SoundSeen (our multimedia stories)

Pictographs by Sitting Bull's Hand: A Smithsonian Perspective

A closer look at the Lakota leader's 22 drawings reveals important details the contemporary observer might miss. Candace Greene, an ethnographer from the Smithsonian, describes what to focus on and gives fascinating context to these autobiographical portraits.

Pictographs by Sitting Bull's Hand

This slideshow highlights Sitting Bull's actual descriptions of the 22 drawings — currently archived at the Smithsonian — he created while in captivity at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory in 1882.

Selected Audio

Sitting Bull's Music

Hear three Lakota songs performed by the Good House family, including "Sitting Bull's Song," "Song at Fort Buford," and "The Cricket Song."

About the Image

"One Bison, Horizon Cloud"

(photo: Jim Brandenburg)

Episode Sponsor

Funding provided in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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Reflections

Wonderful program .
Stuff that's not in history books , or that you learn in school .
thank you ,
timothy

I am just some 22nd generation European/Irish descended American who (now) believes the native Americans (come on with the caps for Amerika or is that my stoopid program?) were slaughtered for their land. Period again. And again : ) These conversations not only enliven and enlarge my grasp of the once decimated peoples that were here (generally speaking), but they give me hope that the wheel is turning quickly towards change that will eventually be our salvation. It is obvious that we are choking on our own detritus and it should also be obvious that native peoples had sustainable lifestyles that we should be adopting worldwide as they fit.

Sure, 7 billion people are a Big problem, but measure 7 billion who drive cars against 7 billion who walk or ride biciycles, for example, and ther is a huge difference. Probably not a realistic one, but think about it. Do you want to continue or 'advance' your current living situation, or would you rather live so that you and your family could have descendants that also live?

Hi Krista,

As fate/faith would have it, I stumbled onto your show this week about Sitting Bull. I have an unusual relationship with Sitting Bull. One that I don't fully understand just yet, but one that I know is incomplete.

Back in 2001 I had many unusual experiences/visions that eventually led me to be sitting by his grave in Mobridge, South Dakota on June 9th, meditating and praying in the unbearable heat of the early morning sun.

The path that led me there, and the path that followed bringing me to spend 3 difficult days on the Pine Ridge Reservation with a wonderful Ogala Lokota family, is one that I find very hard to describe. In fact, the way in which I most relate to the experience is that if it were not happening to me, and someone else were telling me of the experiences, I would find it very hard to believe. Yet, it did happen to me, and somehow I found myself with the honor of being in a sweatlodge with the elder of the family, a woman who was at the center of the last uprising at Wounded Knee in the 1970s, something that for some reason I recall from my youth. I am left a bit dumb-founded by it all, and amazed at the magic the Universe presents to us if we simply let go into the flow.

Sitting Bull is once again coming back into my life and I wonder what adventure might be in store for me. Perhaps it is soon time to finish the business I ran away from 9 years ago.

I would LOVE to share this experience more fully with you, if you are interested. If you happen to live in or near New York City, I'd love to meet you for a coffee/tea and share it all with you. I'd be very interested in your thoughts, insights, opinions and guidance.

Thanks for all you bring to the airwaves!

Rich Largman
www.empireofhope.com

I woke up on Martha's Vineyard this morning to a Winter blizzard. I turned on the radio and was fortunate enough to hear the tail-end of Krista's feature on Sitting Bull. It was so exciting to hear that you interviewed Cedric & Rick Goodhouse, and so soothing to hear Cedric's voice. When I was a toddler, in the early 70's, my parents adopted a teenager from the Standing Rock reservation. She lived with us for several years and has remained an influence - sometimes distantly, in my life. She went back to the reservation and has become a successful musician, a revered professional within her community, has raised a beautiful family and lived a fascinating life. Her name is Sissy Goodhouse - wife to Cedric and mother to Rick. I am thrilled that you had the opportunity to become acquainted with them and that you were able to share that experience with the NPR community. I'm going to see if I can find the piece being played at another time - or if it is online. What a nice way to start my day, thank you. A gentle reminder at the holidays of someone I am thankful for in my life. I'm off to email Sissy.

( I have a photo of us as a family, but it isn't scanned at the moment. Let me know if you want me to send it to you. )

Dear Ms Krista:

Amazingly, I found your image to be almost as I have imagined you for the past years. I listen to your voice and enjoy your subject matter in one sense of appreciation.
Today you are talking with Mr. Lapointe about Sitting Bull. Earlier in my life I was honored to have conversered with Chief Dan George of the Capilano (Canada) family and tribe. I grew up and went to school with his grandchildren in the 1950's.
Dan George reflected similar pain and frustration to me that was obvious due to his use of alcohol. He always had a soft word for his people and others of the white race.
Separately, I have spent a great deal of my adult life living in Haiti. The religion of Voodoo or Vaudou is well alive. Petro, the "Black" side of African religion is also there. One day you must investigate these two opposed cults and discover how Voodoo has been unfairly damned and blamed for events and mid-sets that are actually the result of Petro.
Should you ever wish to venture to Haiti please do contact me here in Florida or in care of my daughter Roberta at the house in Haiti using her direct number of 954-654-7089.
There are many books on the subject however I am not able at this time to make a recommendation.

Thank you and your associates for your splendid work over the years. Your program, to me, is an expansion of the view upon the spiritual world and how we as humans have manipulated faith into the "preferred" and "not so preferred" status.

I revolted against the Anglican Church at the age of fourteen and have never looked back.

The native peoples of North America have a faith that to me is more than practical, as you will also discover upon investigating Voodoo.

Sincerely

Yesterday I happened to watch Incident at Oglala, the documentary movie made by Robert Redford about what happened at Pine Ridge in the seventies, a series of interviews with the principals involved in the bloodshed on the reservation that implicated Leonard Peltier and others. This same day, towards evening, I opened SOF on my computer, and read about Sitting Bull. This was a powerful coincidence for me. I am feeling, God is in the wings!

Leonard Peltier has been in prison for over thirty-three years for what many believe is a gross miscarriage of justice, and I believe anyone interested in this Native American and in the legacy of Sitting Bull and others ought to read deeply the literature on this subject.

Peter Mathiessen wrote a seminal book on the incidents at Pine Ridge and about the American Indian movement many years ago.It is a book about more than the facts of this case, containing as it does, an outrage for what has happened over the years, to the American Indians and how they have been so cruelly treated.

Leonard himself wrote a book, My Life is My Sun Dance, and I am reminded by this moving commentary about what happened to Sitting Bull about a history that gives most of those who care about sacred and spiritual values, deep and ongoing "reservations" that have to do with the treatment of the American Indian in history.

When Amnesty International cannot get movement on a case they feel is a total miscarriage of justice, as Leonard Peltier seems to have been targeted for a murder he says he did not commit, and when a man has been before appeals boards repeatedly and is never allowed parole, when Clinton himself pulled back, when people like Barney Frank and so many others, thousands around the world, including Nobel prize winners, cannot move this case, then one has to wonder about the notion of justice and also about the values that we say we totally cherish, the values that are about Touch the Earth, the values of deep spirituality, deep love of environment of the sacred in all things, our legacy from the Native American Indian culture.

So I am saying, it seems mighty strange I watched this movie yesterday, and then came to this site. But beyond my own recorded constant history of coincidence I am saying something is so wrong with this picture. Maybe it's time to speak out for justice and that a spirituality that includes social action is a step worth taking, so we can all be in step, about the issue of humanity, and a mandate I do totally believe is our "man date", namely to act to ensure justice and equality for all and a reverence for the American Indian and recognition of the unjust ways we have treated these peoples, this culture.

December l8 was yesterday and I am aware of the significance of numbers, yesterday being Chai, for LIFE in Hebrew.

Krista, This was a wonderful presentation on Native American spirituality as focused on Sitting Bull. One slight correction. You make reference to Sitting Bull's 'Teton' Dakota tribe's name deriving from his name of Tatanka Iyotake. Actually, the name Teton is a contraction of "Titonwan," which means 'dwellers on the prairie'. Furthermore, 'Tatanka' refers to the buffalo/bison.

Dear Krista, Loved your piece on Sitting Bull. Imagine my surprise when you interviewed Cedric Goodhouse, my brother. Cedric's father, The Rev. Innocent Goodhouse (great name for a priest eh?) and his wife Edna adopted me years ago in a "making of relatives" ceremony. Once again, you broke new ground. I've got a coalition of three large LA area Episcopal Parishes that our going to be new underwriters of SOF on KPCC. Hope all is well. Would love to see you when you are out here, or hold a public event to get SOF even better known. Love howard

This program opens my eyes, again, to the spirituality of the natives who lived here before us. It also reminds me how conditioned my upbringing was in the way that history has been passed down to us and how badly we misunderstood, either purposely or through our own ignorance, these people. I appreciate the lessons that Tatanke Iyotake teaches to this day.

I chose this broadcast because it is a subject that is very close to my heart. I am half Native. My father is full-blooded Sioux, from a Lakota tribe. So I was definantly very interested in how Speaking of Faith would go about his story. I was also wondering if I might learn some things I am unaware of. I was impressed.

The story of Sitting Bull is mostly portrayed in war and defiance. But this SOF broadcast digs into the spirit of the man and what he was truly about. His way as a Medicine Man, Visionary, and a protector of his people. Tatanka (his birth name) was a spiritual man, as most Natives were in those days, who was merely trying to preserve his peoples ways. Ms. Tippett interviews his great-grandson in this broadcast and we get the luxury of not only hearing about the ways of the Lakota but also some stories of Tatanka's childhood.

I really like how Mr LaPointe (Tatanka's great-grandson) explained how the use of paint on the body when going into battle was not used to cause fear in the "enemy" but to protect the spirit of the individual wearing the paint. They would go on a Vision Quest prior to battle and were shown the markings that they would need. Very cool and very spiritual.

As for Tatanka the few stories of his childhood were remarkable. As a young boy going on his first hunt he chose to kill a large buffalo bull instead of a smaller cow. He didn't want to kill the cow because it was a mother to a calf. He respected life enough to know that calf needed it's mother to survive. So he would rather take the chance of putting himself in danger than killing two lives.

I see a lot of Tatanka's life closely aligning to the life of Christ. He was viewed as a Visionary, Chief, medicine Man, and he died trying to protect his people. He was highly spiritual and compassionate. It is so upsetting to me that that part of him has been overlooked or not paid credence to. Some of the things the "white people" did to force his hand were abominable and instead of taking blame the government has depicted events in a way that made Tatanka look horrible!

Sitting Bull: Thank you Christa for your feelings, your deep and passionate feelings about the way this country has treated the American Indian and the shame of this story. I want to draw your attention to the ongoing shame of imprisonment of the American Indian, Leonard Peltier, whose cause I and thousands of people around the world, many of them famous writers and Nobel prize winners have espoused, this many years. I believe he has been in prion thirty-four years, and yet, and yet there is really no solid evidence for his conviction. Even Amnesty International has not been able to budge the Injustice System that keeps him incarcerated, a man, who is deeply spiritual, who is a poet and artist and champion of human rights around the world. Robert Redford made a movie about this case, Incident at Oglala. Peter Mathiessen wrote a book about this case, and it has been for me, a case of injustice that has never been righted. Obama was the hope and he hasn't given anyone clemency. It's truly outright shameful that despite our, meaning all of those who care, jamming the White House Lines in support of clemency, that there is no action on this case, ever. I am passionate about this and do hope this goes on line. Maybe people who don't know will learn about this. I believe deeply in the Power of One. We can make a difference. If this is not true, then I think Leonard will die in jail. Amnesty International cannot budge this case and yet they have tried

I have to say I was not surprised. Not because I knew these things, but just for the reason that at times when I have contemplated the life of the leaders of the Native Americans I have believed they were not simply strong and tough but spiritually advanced. I think we could say a man such as Sitting Bull was a prophet in the Hebrew sense of the word, as a messenger of Gd.. Imagine a man who could master the riding of a horse and at an early age hunt buffalo. Imagine a man brave in battle yet generous and humble. Imagine a great hunter who killed only for food and respected the life and spirit of the creatures around him.
We have come a long way since those days; not necessarily the right way. But from the wrong path a man (or woman) can look around and find his right way. In the 60's I thought there was a movement which would take hold all over the world and it would be good. Maybe that was not the time, but maybe this is. Some of you also think this way.
Years ago I was hiking in New Mexico, at Bandalier. In the woods I saw a fox. He looked at me. I was told that was a good thing.

Nothing ever surprises me about Sitting Bull, because he was such a great man when he was alive and his greatness continues to guide us today. This can be seen in the prophecies for the future, especially on campus at Sitting Bull College, where I work. His quotes and leadership style are some of the most important references used during our daily work at Sitting Bull College. Prior to his murder, its too bad the rest of the world wasn't able to see him as a great leader among his people because things may have turned different for the Standing Rock Reservation and its people. Thank you for sharing his legacy through the use of modern media.

Sitting Bull’s legacy may mean more to the Lakota people than anyone else, but he is a historical figure who should be a role-model for all political and spiritual leaders. I can’t help but wonder what American politics would look like if our public offices were only available to people who go through a ceremony like the sundance, or at the very least truly embrace the principles behind it.

The story that struck me the most was the question Ernie asked his professors what would happen if all the history books were suddenly gone, how would we face tomorrow? His acceptance of faith as the highest understanding and his guiding light to tomorrow is incredible for someone living in today’s world where faith has taken a backseat to fact.

WOW ()Wonder Of Wonders) MOM (Mother of Miracles). You have humbly penetrated one of the thickest, most secret veils in the United States. Congratulations on a humbly told story of courage, compassion, generosity, fortitude and spirituality. In the line of Fools Crow, Lame Deer and LaPointe you have managed a most difficult and arduous task. You have done well in bringing the true nature of Sitting Bull to the fore. Amazing. It speaks well of your own spirituality, for otherwise you would never have heard even a tenth of what you were told. Tom Surber

Thank-you for your program about Sitting Bull and the Lakota people. For reasons I don't understand my spirit has become attached to Frank Fools Crow, a descendant of Sitting Bull. For ten years I have read two books written by Thomas Nails about his life. I read these books over and over. Frank was a medicine man and a great and humble leader of his people. I have written children's stories about his young life. I am continually comparing his religious beliefs to my own which are Roman Catholic. In doing this I have discovered we are truly one. I have never been to South Dakota and I have no known Sioux ancestors. I don't understand the connection I feel for Frank and his people. Thank-you again! I enjoy your show so much. Pam McLoughlin

I was very pleased to hear the story on re-imaging Sitting Bull on Sunday, December 5. I hope you would perhaps share my story with Sitting Bull's great-grandson. My great-grandparents, John and Elizabeth Dell, homesteaded in the Dakota Territory and knew Sitting Bull. He often visited their ranch and gave John Dell a peace pipe, a scalping knife and a picture of himself. John Dell was a Quaker and Elizabeth, his wife, a recent German immigrant, and excellent cook, on several occasions provided food to Sitting Bull and the people traveling with him. One of the stories in our family is that when Elizabeth was pregnant with my grandmother, Matilda, she wanted to leave the ranch to go to Iowa to have the baby where her parents lived. She did this with each of her children. There was conflict with the Sioux at that time and John told her she could not travel. She responded that she had never had problems with the Sioux. She sent word to Sitting Bull that she was traveling to the rail head to return to Iowa. The day she left the ranch a party of Sioux accompanied her and one of the ranch hands to the rail head and accompanied the ranch hand home. These stories of the friendship between Siting Bull and my great-grandparents have always been a great source of pride to our family. My great aunt, Ellen Dell Bieler, recorded the stories of Grandma Dell before her death and my cousin, Jean Hastings, has written a short history of the Dell family's years in the Dakota Territory. Thank you for honoring Sitting Bull and his family. Sincerely, Katherine Kidd

Growing up, I've only heard "The Legend of Sitting Bull". To hear from his relatives the great difference in character than the way he was portrayed by the white man, is unsettling at best. It's amazing how no matter what time or place you live, you ARE who you are. It's only the perspective of the person that sees you that gets reported. Sitting Bull was portrayed in the public eye as a savage warrior. The reflections his family shared, certainly reminds me that everyone is more than meets the eye. This great man took the time to stop and think, "What is going to be best for my people?". Only a brave man would make the choice he did. He traded lifestyles.

Thank you again for shining a light on the American Story about Sitting Bull and several native tribes and exposing the lies that our history has told and retold about people that we did not understand. From your story about Sitting Bull I got that he was like the Dalai Lama for Buddist believers. Sitting Bull had some of the same beliefs, and from this I get how interconnected the human family is when we look at it from a spiritual plane.

I remember when I was first married in 1967 and I was living in Scottsdale, AZ, I kept seeing native young men wearing black pants and long sleeved white shirts. When I asked some one who was from AZ, they told me that these young men were going to "Indian School"- i.e. being "Americanized". I was shocked by this and felt great shame that as a Caucasian American, our government was forcing indigenous people to go to OUR schools and that only OUR ways were allowed. This is when I knew for sure that the USA had wronged and were still wronging all native people. At some point I feel that as Americans we must tell the truth about this part of our history in order to heal our nation and to become more compassionate of all people.

Krista,

I loved the interview about Sitting Bull. What a wonderful interview about the Dakotas. You are such a wonderful interviewer. It is a delight every week.

Here is one of my poems and paintings about the spiritual:

Abstract Painting:
Etched acrylic on art board,
Painted on: 01-10-2006
(Archival Collection)

"Exquisite Inclination"

A wellspring foments deep inside,
exquisite inclination, discerning devise.

Pummel, pummel, ravage the soul,
a thousand thoughts stutter in overload.

Inundate, swim the space,
did you seek, did you find?

Splinters of sight split and divide,
was it more than ever implied?

Cling to the moment, cleave to its side,
remember to never let the vision die.

All your life, you waited for this,
each molecule, atom, applauding the wish.

Gari Hatch
02-24-2011

When I say "pummel, pummel" -- you know, when all those thoughts of inspiration and epiphanies pound your brain as they race through your head. It is a wonderful feeling of excitement. This is the embracing of those moments like the the yellow gold and red in this painting underneath moving up through the etched blue-- revelations revealing themselves from the underlayers of our existence. The subconscious whispering to our inner needs...

Sincerely yours,
Gari Hatch

This program opens my eyes, again, to the spirituality of the natives who lived here before us. It also reminds me how conditioned my upbringing was in the way that history has been passed down to us and how badly we misunderstood, either purposely or through our own ignorance, these people. I appreciate the lessons that Tatanke Iyotake teaches to this day.

It is only in the last couple of years I have leart about Tatanka Iyotaki. He was a great man of courage and wisdom and cared about his people very deeply. I would have liked to have known him.