This Day in Resistance History: Sitting Bull’s Railway Speech

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On September 8, 1883, the Sioux leader Sitting Bull made a speech to government officials, railroad barons, and the U.S. military in honor of the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway. And on this one occasion, after a long and bloody attempt to defend his people and their lands from White invaders, Sitting Bull seized the chance to express his opinion of those he had opposed for so long against tremendous odds.

Some context: The lands of northern Montana and Idaho had not drawn as many settlers as other parts of the U.S. west, and for good reason. The harsh prairie environment included scalding summer heat, winter temperatures ranging from 10 to 40 degrees below zero, relentless winds without any tree breaks to slow them down, and a lack of water. But to the Sioux, these lands were perfect. The prairie tableland meant that they could ride their horses during…

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