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Sitting Bull grave site.

Disputed Grave of Sitting Bull

Field review by the editors.

Mobridge, South 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.

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

Everyone accepts that Sitting Bull was killed and buried in Fort Yates, North Dakota, in 1890. But he was born 50 miles downriver, in Mobridge, South Dakota, and as time passed Mobridge increasingly believed that he should be buried there. So on April 8, 1953, several Mobridge citizens -- including a few Sitting Bull descendants -- drove to Fort Yates 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 mocked the efforts of Mobridge. It claimed that all that was taken were some horse bones, or maybe the bones of an anonymous pioneer who'd been buried near the surface. Mobridge, however, acted as if it really had Sitting Bull. It encased the bones in a steel vault embedded in a 20-ton block of concrete, then buried the whole thing on top of a very visible bluff overlooking the Missouri River. It erected billboards directing tourists to the site and built a granite pedestal over the grave, topped by a seven-ton rock bust of Sitting Bull, carved by the designer of Crazy Horse Mountain, Korczak Ziolkowski.

The reason for this possessiveness eludes us. There's probably enough Sitting Bull to satisfy both states and, from a tourism perspective, the Mobridge site seems to be just as quiet as the one in Fort Yates.

Also see: Sitting Bull's Other Grave Site

Disputed Grave of Sitting Bull

US Hwy 12, Mobridge, SD
On a bluff across the Missouri River from the town. From US Hwy 12, just west of the river, turn south onto Hwy 1806 and drive about four miles to the grave.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Cowboy Rides Giant WalleyeCowboy Rides Giant Walleye, Mobridge, SD - 3 mi.
Fool Soldiers MonumentFool Soldiers Monument, Mobridge, SD - 3 mi.
Standing Rock: Do Not MoveStanding Rock: Do Not Move, Fort Yates, ND - 40 mi.
In the region:
Cup House, Fort Rice, ND - 67 mi.

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