Skip to Main Content

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. The early settlers of neither North nor South Dakota wanted him while he was alive. However, attitudes have changed, and Sitting Bull is now a person 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 end of a small, dusty parking area. It's surrounded by protective bollards, and 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 tableau. Ceremonial offerings, including bottled water 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 -- which at the time was marked with a simple wooden headstone -- with a backhoe, and scurried back across the border before Fort Yates had finished breakfast.

Fort Yates scoffed; it said that all that Mobridge got were some horse bones, or maybe the bones of an anonymous pioneer who'd been buried near the surface. Sitting Bull, it said, was buried deep -- and in quicklime -- so that he would return to the earth promptly.

To prove its point, Fort Yates then installed the bollards, 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

ND Hwy. 24, Fort Yates, ND
Fort Yates, about a mile east of ND 24, north side. If you pass Rockin Tacos you've gone too far.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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:
Reflections: Big Shiny Ball and Eagle, Bismarck, ND - 51 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in North Dakota

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in North Dakota.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create Your Own Bizarre Road Trips! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

North Dakota Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum, Gibsland, Louisiana (May 20-26, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Favorite Quirky City Sights