Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man (circa 1831–1890) known for his steadfast opposition to the intrusion of the US government into Sioux lands and leading the defeat of George Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Seldom-seen and amazingly bold ink signature, “Sitting Bull,” on an off-white 5 x 3 album page, affixed below a vintage halftone portrait of the iconic chief and matted to an overall size of 12 x 14. In fine condition, with a miniscule tear to the upper right corner and a stray ink blot above the first letter of the signature. Sitting Bull joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1885 and stayed for just four months. Despite enduring taunts from the audience that identified him with the massacre at Custer’s Last Stand, he was able to earn a small fortune by selling his autograph to curiosity seekers attending the show. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA.
Category Archives: Sitting Bull
Extremely rare and highly-sought after ink signature, “Sitting Bull,” on the reverse of an off-white 3.5 x 2.25 business card of noted Native American photographer D. F. Barry. Front of the card bears a notation by Barry which reads, “June 12th 1889, Written at Grand River, his home, South Dak., D. F. Barry.” Also accompanied by a 2013 letter of authenticity from Sitting Bull’s great-grandson, Ernie Lapointe, with images of Lapointe and Sitting Bull which reads, in part: “I, Ernie Lapointe am the great-grandson of the famed Lakota Chief, Sitting Bull…This business card is one that has been signed by my Great-Grandfather Sitting Bull and the noted Native American photographer D. F. Barry.” Additionally, a color copy of a letter from Barry sending the signature to H. M. Brown, is included, which reads, in part: “Please find Sitting Bull autograph. This was written on 12th of June 1889…Sitting Bull was sick…when he wrote this.” In very good condition, with scattered toning from old tape to both sides, lightly affecting the tops of a few letters, soiling over portion of last name, not affecting legibility, and some other scattered mild toning and soiling, and slight surface loss at bottom.
David Francis Barry was an accomplished photographer of Native American portraits, especially known for his iconic images of chiefs and other figures of the utmost historical importance. Despite the historically tenuous relationship between the Sioux and whites, Barry was able secure sittings with their warriors and leaders throughout the 1870s, even as they fought against General Custer on the battlefield. Whites called Barry the ‘Sioux Charmer’ because of his ability to ingratiate himself with their tribes, while the Native Americans knew him as ‘Little Shadow Catcher,’ because of his diminutive stature and ability to ‘catch’ images and commit them to paper. What is most remarkable about this piece, however, is the additional provenance provided by the chief’s great-grandson. Lapointe descends from a long line of chiefs—Sitting Bull on his mother’s side—and has spoken on various television programs and published a biography of his great-grandfather. With this outstanding familial history and association with Barry, this is a fabulous example of arguably the most sought-after of all Western and Native American signatures. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man (circa 1831–1890) known for his steadfast opposition to the intrusion of the US government into Sioux lands. Fleeing to Canada following the Battle of Little Big Horn, he later returned to the US and toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Fearing his growing influence, government agents fatally shot him during an arrest attempt at Standing Rock Agency on December 15, 1890. Extremely rare ink signature, “Sitting Bull,” on an off-white 3.25 x 2 card. In very good condition, with some mild rippling, scattered light soiling, and light staining from adhesive residue on the reverse. Accompanied by a letter of provenance from Sarah Edwards Walling, the daughter of the man who obtained the signature for her. Letter reads, in full, “Previous to or about 1890 a party of Indian Chiefs, Sitting Bull, Grey Eagle, Spotted Tail, Rain in the Face, and Crazy Horse with their interpreters went to Washington to see the Great Father, President Benjamin Harrison to right some wrongs in some business matters. During their stay in New York the Government boarded them at the 5th Avenue Hotel. There were a few Squaws in the party. All were on exhibition at the Eden Musee on 23rd St. N.Y. My father Capt Mills Edwards, mother and I went to see them. Sitting Bull was sitting at a table writing his autograph selling them at $2.00 each. My father bought this one, which I saw him write. I remember it perfectly.” A second letter also attests to the authenticity of the signature, “The above signature is an original actually made by the great Sioux medicine man himself in the presence of the undersigned who was at the time a young and interested child.” Also accompanied by a glossy 8 x 10 photo suitable for framing.
After surrendering himself and his followers to US authorities in 1881, Sitting Bull was placed on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in what is now southern North Dakota, under the supervision of Indian Agent James McLaughlin. Cashing in on Americans’ fascination with ‘the Indian who killed Custer,’ as he was initially billed, McLaughlin set up the Sitting Bull Combination, which included the chief, seven other Indians, and two interpreters; the show opened in New York City at the Eden Musee to a crowd of thousands. Misled greatly by McLaughlin—who claimed that the proceeds from the show would go towards building schools on the reservation, and that the group would be meeting with the president to discuss important matters in developing peace between the tribes and settlers—the spectacle essentially just put the group on display as oddities, garnering great interest initially but fading quickly, causing the show to close just one month later. Six years later, McLaughlin would give the order to arrest Sitting Bull, sparking the bloody shootout that left the chief and several others dead. Though some of the details of the exhibit have been misremembered by the young recipient of this signature, the letter of provenance pinpoints a well-known event at the start of Sitting Bull’s touring career, dating this incredibly scarce signature to the year prior to his start with Buffalo Bill’s celebrated Wild West show. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Extremely rare ink signature, “Sitting Bull,” on the reverse of a light brown 4.5 x 2.5 Randall House hotel promotional card. Above the signature is a three-line dated pencil notation in an unknown hand which has mostly faded, and reads, in part, “Autograph of the famous Indian Chief / …to Mr. C.J. Andrews–and by him / presented to…June 1883.” Printed on the front of the card, the information reads, “This Hotel, which is located at Fort Randall, Dakota, has been built by the Post Trader, for the accommodation of all who visit the most pleasant MILITARY POST on the FRONTIER. Although in the INDIAN COUNTRY, this Post is strongly garrisoned and safe from danger. Tourists and others will find it a pleasant place to visit.” In fine condition, with some minor chipping and age wear to card and a crease to top edge, well away from the crisp and bold signature.
Following the defeat of Custer at Little Bighorn, the US government assigned thousands more soldiers to the area in pursuit of the Lakota. Refusing to surrender, Sitting Bull led his band across the border into Saskatchewan, where they remained for the next four years. Struggling to feed his people with the smaller buffalo herds, and troubled by the tension that his presence caused between the Canadian and US governments, he finally returned to Fort Buford (in present-day North Dakota) and surrendered his family and followers on July 19, 1881. From there they were transferred to Fort Randall (South Dakota), where they were held as prisoners of war. It was during his twenty months there that Sitting Bull penned this exceptionally bold signature, magnificent not only in its attractiveness, but also in its important date in the legendary Lakota Sioux leader’s life. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA
Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man (circa 1831–1890) known for his steadfast opposition to the intrusion of the U.S. government into Sioux lands. Sitting Bull’s “vision” of the defeat of American troops prior to the Battle of Little Bighorn proved prescient, indeed, and it was largely through his leadership and inspiration that the Cheyenne and Sioux decisively overcame Custer’s 7th Cavalry. Fleeing to Canada following the battle, Sitting Bull later returned to the U.S. and toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Fearing his growing influence, government agents fatally shot him during an arrest attempt at Standing Rock Agency on December 15, 1890. Very rare original 4.25 x 6.5 cabinet bust portrait, imprinted in the bottom border, “Geo. W. Scott, Fort Yates, Dakota,” signed on the reverse in black ink, “Sitting Bull.” Collector’s notation at top of reverse reads, “Autograph of Famous Sioux Indian War Chief Sitting Bull.” Scattered light rubbing and surface marks to image, some light toning and soiling to bottom border, and an even shade of mild toning to reverse, otherwise fine condition.