Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Raymond Wilson
In the history of the American West, hundreds of books have been written about Indian Leaders. Two of the most famous leaders are Sitting Bull and Geronimo. However, every history looks at them as individuals and never compares the military and religious aspects of the two men. Both Sitting Bull and Geronimo fought against the westward expansion of the United States to protect their people’s way of life. Each leaders’ religious views influenced their decisions. While Sitting Bull felt that Wakan Tanka chose him to lead his people, Geronimo believed that his Power wanted him to continue his quest for vengeance. While they differed in their conceptions of religious goals, both men ultimately placed the welfare of their people first. Both Sitting Bull and Geronimo’s people trusted them as leaders because of their bravery and “special abilities.” The two men chose to fight until they could no longer guarantee the safety of their people. After that point, they sought refuge for their people in foreign nations. Both men eventually surrendered to protect their followers. Once on the reservation, Sitting Bull and Geronimo continued to function as leaders. Both advocated acculturation as a way to adapt their people to white society. While Sitting Bull’s view of what aspects of white society should be adopted was narrower than Geronimo’s, both men demonstrated exceptional qualities as military and religious leaders. Their people chose to follow them because they trusted in both men’s ability to protect them. Sitting Bull and Geronimo credited their continual success both on and off the battlefield to both their own leadership and faith in their religious abilities. For the two men the military and religious aspects of their lives were intertwined. The reputations that they made on the battlefield gave them a voice on the reservation. While the way they viewed their religious calling differed, both leader trusted that their chosen paths were the best possible options for their people.
Younger, Gary Joseph, "Sitting Bull And Geronimo: A Comparison Of Their Military And Religious Leadership" (2011). Master's Theses. 159.
© 2011 Gary Joseph Younger