Burial Site of Sitting Bull sign.

Disputed Grave of Sitting Bull

Field review by the editors.

Fort Yates, North Dakota

Tatanka Iyotake - "Sitting Bull" -- was a defiant foe of 19th century Manifest Destiny. Neither North nor South Dakota wanted him while he was alive. However, attitudes have changed, and Sitting Bull is now a point of pride in the Dakotas, many, many years too late for him to enjoy it.

Burial Site of Sitting Bull.

Two towns, one on each side of the Dakota state line, claim to have Sitting Bull's bones. Which to believe?

Fort Yates, North Dakota, has the scythe of history on its side. In 1890 Sitting Bull was shot in Fort Yates and buried nearby. A dirt road leads to the grave site, which is at the far end of a small, dusty parking area. It's covered by a thick slab of concrete, a bronze plaque, and a big rock. Historical signs and a couple of picnic tables round out the site. Ceremonial offerings and small rocks are often left on the slab.

Is Sitting Bull still in this grave? Not according to folks 50 miles downriver in Mobridge, South Dakota, which is where Sitting Bull was born.

Mobridge freely admits that several of its citizens -- including a few Sitting Bull descendants -- drove to Fort Yates on April 8, 1953, and stole Sitting Bull's bones. They dug up the grave with a backhoe and scurried back across the border before Fort Yates had finished breakfast. Fort Yates scoffed; they said that all Mobridge got were some horse bones, or maybe the bones of an anonymous pioneer who was buried on top. Sitting Bull, they said, was buried deep -- in quicklime -- so that he would return to the earth quickly. Fort Yates then installed the slab of concrete and the big rock, suggesting that there was still something beneath them worth stealing.

The bronze plaque admits, at the end of a lengthy inscription, that Sitting Bull "may have been disinterred in 1953 at the request of four of his grandchildren." But that's as far as Fort Yates will go.

Also see: Sitting Bull's Other Grave Site

Disputed Grave of Sitting Bull

Address:
ND Hwy. 24, Fort Yates, ND
Directions:
Fort Yates, about a mile east of ND 24, north side. If you pass Rockin Tacos you've gone too far.
Admission:
Free
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Standing Rock: Do Not MoveStanding Rock: Do Not Move, Fort Yates, ND - < 1 mi.
Lawrence Welk BirthplaceLawrence Welk Birthplace, Strasburg, ND - 21 mi.
Disputed Grave of Sitting BullDisputed Grave of Sitting Bull, Mobridge, SD - 40 mi.
In the region:
North Dakota Hall of Fame, Bismarck, ND - 51 mi.

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November 27, 2020

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