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Sitting Bull: A Hero of Lakota Resistance

Editor’s note: November is Native American Heritage Month. First proclaimed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, it is an opportunity to acknowledge the histories and cultures of Native people across the U.S., highlighting the challenges they have faced, their sacrifices and their contributions.

“Native Americans have influenced every stage of America’s development,” noted President Donald Trump in his October 31, 2017 proclamation. “They helped early European settlers survive and thrive in a new land. They contributed democratic ideas to our constitutional framers. And, for more than 200 years, they have bravely answered the call to defend our Nation, serving with distinction in every branch of the United States Armed Forces.”

This month, VOA will highlight prominent Native Americans and their role in U.S. history, culture and society.


Sitting Bull was born around 1831, a member of the Hunkpapa band of Lakota. The location of his birth is disputed. Most historians say he was born in what is today South Dakota. His descendants cite Montana as his birthplace.

Mentored by his uncle, a healer and spiritual leader, the boy killed his first buffalo at age ten and at 14, distinguished himself during a raid on the Lakota’s traditional enemy, the Crow. He earned the warrior name Thathanka Iyotake, translated as “Sitting Bison Bull.”

Sitting Bull was accepted into at least two warrior societies, the Midnight Strong Heart and Kit Fox, brotherhoods whose members were bound by principles of bravery, generosity and morality. He would also become a wichasha wakan, a spiritual leader whose visions would help guide his people.

By the end of the 1840s, the U.S., then just 25 states, extended only as far the continent’s midpoint. The Plains, considered inhospitable, were designated as “Indian Territory.” But everything changed in 1849, when gold was discovered in California, and President Polk decided it was America’s “manifest destiny” to push U.S. boundaries all the way west to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1862, the government passed the Homestead Act, handing out free 65-hectare (160-acre) lots in the West, setting off an unprecedented land rush. It also authorized the first transcontinental railroad.Wave after wave of miners, railroad workers and settlers began crossing the Plains, looking to the U.S. Army to protect them from attacks by the region’s tribes, and the 1860s saw often brutal warfare by both sides. 

Refused to submit

Sitting Bull first encountered the American Army in 1863, when the military mounted a broad campaign against the Lakota in retaliation for a Dakota massacre in Minnesota. He went on to lead the Lakota in many attacks on U.S. military forts, rejecting government efforts to negotiate or contain him.

Sitting Bull refused to join other Lakota bands, the Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho Nation in signing an 1868 treaty negotiated at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The treaty guaranteed the Lakota “absolute and undisturbed use of the Great Sioux Reservation,” including the Black Hills, sacred to Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other tribes. It held only until the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, in 1874. The government then confiscated the Hills and ordered tribes back to the reservation. Sitting Bull resisted, setting up camp along the Little Big Horn River in Montana.

In early June of 1876, Sitting Bull held a Sun Dance, a prayer ceremony in which he pierced his arms in an act of sacrifice and danced to exhaustion. During the ritual, he is said to have had a vision of a military defeat of many soldiers.

That same month, General George A. Custer, a former Civil War hero, led a surprise attack on Sitting Bull’s camp. The Lakota, said to be inspired by Sitting Bull’s vision, fought fiercely. Within hours, Custer and more than 200 soldiers were dead, news that shocked Americans and caused the Army to redouble efforts to contain the tribes.

In video below, Sitting Bull’s great grandson Ernie LaPointe talks about his ancestor and the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Sitting Bull and his followers fled to Canada, but scarce food resources led him to finally surrender to the U.S. Authorities sent him to the Standing Rock Agency in North Dakota, where he lived as a prisoner, refusing to renounce his traditions and spiritual beliefs. This created tension among those Lakota who had embraced assimilation into Christian culture and likely led to his death.

Ghost Dance

The late 1880s saw the birth of a spiritual movement which promised that if Natives lived a good life and performed a ceremonial Ghost Dance, their former way of life would be returned to them.The prophecy spread across the Plains, where it was adapted by the Lakota, now living in harsh conditions on the reservation, dependent on inadequate government rations. 

The government viewed the dance as an act of sedition and tried in vain to stop it. Sitting Bull, say his descendants, merely tolerated the prophecy, which was to his eyes a preferable alternative to Christianization

​On December 16th, 1890, tribal police, acting on the government’s behalf, entered Sitting Bull’s cabin to arrest him. He was shot and killed in the melee that followed. On the 29th of December, the Army launched an attack on about 300 Lakota men, women and children camped at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation, killing most of them and burying them in a mass grave.

Today, Sitting Bull’s descendants still pray for their ancestor, whom they revere as a visionary acting not only on behalf of his contemporaries but future generations of Lakota. And every December 29, Lakota gather at Wounded Knee to remember their ancestors and celebrate their resilience.


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US Destroyer Damaged by Japanese Tug Boat in Pacific

A U.S. guided missile destroyer sustained minimal damage Saturday when a Japanese tug boat lost propulsion and drifted into it during a towing exercise in Sagami Bay off central Japan in the Pacific Ocean.

The Navy said in a statement the USS Benfold sustained had scrapes on its side, though no one was injured on either vessel.

“Benfold remains at sea under her own power. The Japanese commercial tug is being towed by another vessel to a port in Yokosuka. The incident will be investigated,” read the statement from the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

The commercial tug boat was being towed to a port in Yokosuka, the home of the Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet, which has had two fatal accidents in Asian waters this year in which Navy warships and commercial ships collided at sea.

Seventeen sailors were killed this year in the two collisions with commercial vessels involving guided-missile destroyers, the USS Fitzgerald in June off Japan, and the USS John S. McCain in August as it approached Singapore.

The incidents prompted dismissals of Navy commanders, and the U.S. Navy announced a series of reforms this month aimed at restoring basic naval skills and alertness at sea after a review of deadly ship collisions in the Asia-Pacific region showed sailors were under-trained and over-worked.



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As Sex Harassment Scandal Grows, Minorities Seldom Involved

In the weeks since dozens of women have accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape or sexual, unleashing an avalanche of similar charges against other prominent men across American life, women and men of color have been largely absent from the national furor.

The stories of abuse have roiled the entertainment industry, politics, tech and more, raising the possibility that this could be a watershed moment to end tolerance of such behavior. But some observers fear minority women may miss the moment, as they often are more reticent to speak up about sexual harassment.

“The stakes are higher in a lot of instances for us than they are for a lot of other women,” said Tarana Burke, a black activist who founded the #MeToo movement on Twitter in 2006 to raise awareness around sexual violence. “That creates a dynamic where you have women of color who have to think a little bit differently about what it means for them to come forward in cases of sexual harassment.”

A few high-profile minority actresses have come forward. New York authorities are investigating claims from actress Paz de la Huerta that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010; he has denied charges of non-consensual sex with any woman.

When Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o wrote in a New York Times op-ed last month that she had an unsettling encounter with the producer in 2011 at his home, Weinstein quickly denied doing anything inappropriate with Nyong’o, after days of silence following similar accusations by famous white accusers.

Author and activist Feminista Jones said that Weinstein’s denial of Nyong’o’s allegations sent the message to black women that they can’t be harassed, they can’t be assaulted.”

For black women, that is a message that dates back to slavery, when black women’s bodies were not their own and racist stereotypes were used to justify abuse, said Rutgers University historian Deborah Gray White.

“Historically, African-American women have been perceived as promiscuous,” said White, author of the book, “Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South.”

“Black women’s bodies, from Day One, have been available to all men,” she said.

As a result, White said, black women have had a hard time proving sexual exploitation. In response, many chose to remain silent as a form of self-preservation.

“Somehow talking about it is admitting , ’I walk the land unprotected,’” White said. “They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.”

For Asian-American women, speaking up after sexual assault can be daunting for a variety of cultural reasons, said Anna Bang, education coordinator at KAN-WIN, a Chicago-based domestic violence and sexual assault services group that frequently helps Asian-American and immigrant women. Bang said she has noticed the absence of Asian-American women from the Weinstein conversation and, as a Korean immigrant, doubts that she would tell her family if she were ever assaulted.

“It’s such a shame and guilt,” she said. “You don’t want your parents to be worried about you … When we are growing up, your parents teach you, ‘Don’t share your family problems with people.’ We’re trying to break that silence by educating our community members.”

Many of the women who seek help from KAN-WIN do so a decade or more after the abuse took place, she said.

“In our culture, women … they teach you how to suck it up,” she said. “They teach you to swallow your anger, your fear. It’s tough.”

Women of Latin American descent also weigh economic and cultural issues when deciding whether to speak out about sexual abuse.

Women of Latin American descent have been stereotyped as being submissive and sexually available, according to Monica Russel y Rodriguez, a Northwestern University ethnographer whose research includes sexuality, race and class in Latino communities. She said that undocumented immigrants in the United States would be even less likely to report an assault or harassment, fearing anything from job loss to blackmail or deportation.

“Even for white women, there’s not going to be any guarantee of an equitable resolution, so it’s a lot to expect women in a more highly vulnerable situation to be willing to speak out at the same rate,” Russel y Rodriguez said. “There’s no reason to expect that Latinas aren’t being sexually harassed or raped at the same degree or more.”

While most of the recent spate of sexual abuse allegations have been against white men, men of color have not been immune to such charges. Before the Weinstein scandal upended Hollywood, Bill Cosby’s name became synonymous with sexual abuse, as more than 50 women came forward and said the pioneering black actor once known as “America’s Dad” forced sexual contact with them over decades. Last June, Cosby went to trial on charges that he drugged and molested a woman in 2004. The case ended in a mistrial and Cosby is expected to be retried next year.

Since the Weinstein scandal, a writer for The Root, a website geared toward the black audience, said both Jesse Jackson and John Singleton sexually harassed her. Jackson and Singleton declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press, as did the Root writer.

George Takei, best known for his role in the original “Star Trek,” was recently accused of groping a man decades earlier; he denied the allegations. Actor Terry Crews went public with a claim that a Hollywood agent groped him, and that agent was later fired.

And an actress, Demi Mann, filed a lawsuit Thursday in which she alleged agent Cameron Mitchell sexually assaulted her. Mitchell, who is black, was fired by Creative Arts Agency, LLC.; he called Mann’s claims false.

But compared to the dozens of well-known white men named and white women who have made allegations, people of color have not played a prominent role in this evolving scandal.

Nearly three decades ago, an African-American attorney started the conversation on the topic. Anita Hill detailed allegations of sexual harassment by her former boss, then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, during the 1991 congressional hearings held ahead of his confirmation. Thomas, also African-American, framed the hearings as a “high-tech lynching” and went on to be confirmed to the high court.

Hill was treated as a pariah by some for coming forward, but she was hailed by others and has spent the decades since as an advocate for women’s equality.

Burke, whose online #MeToo campaign was resurrected by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of the Weinstein charges, doesn’t want minority women to miss the moment. She is launching a series of webinars to help women understand sexual violence and is encouraging women of color around the world to speak out.

“At some point, we have to confront this as a community,” Burke said. “This is a great place for this to happen.”

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US Senate Candidate Moore’s Wife Says ‘He Will Not Step Down’

The wife of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama said on Friday her husband would not end his campaign in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, dismissing reports about his past behavior toward some women as political attacks.

“He will not step down,” Kayla Moore said at a news conference on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery. “He will not stop fighting for the people of Alabama.”

The former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice’s campaign has been in turmoil since the Washington Post published a story last week detailing the accounts of three women who claim Moore pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

More women have since spoken out with allegations of their own.

Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the accusations.

Before the allegations came to light, Moore was heavily favored to defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the special election next month.

Two polls this week showed Moore now trailing Jones. Fox News released a poll on Thursday putting Jones ahead with 50 percent to 42 percent for Moore.

But Moore’s embattled candidacy also got a boost on Thursday, when the Alabama Republican Party said it would continue to support him, putting it at odds with Republican leaders in Washington who want him to withdraw.

Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday told reporters she would vote for Moore, emphasizing the importance of keeping Republican control of the U.S. Senate.

Asked whether she believed the women accusing Moore of sexual improprieties or unwanted romantic overtures, Ivey said, “the timing is a little curious but at the same time I have no reason to disbelieve them.”

The White House has said President Donald Trump finds the allegations troubling and believes Moore should step aside if they are true.

White House legislative director Marc Short on Friday said Trump previously backed Moore’s opponent, Luther Strange, in the primary contest and that Moore’s explanations “so far have not been satisfactory.”

“At this point, we believe it is up to the people of Alabama to make a decision,” Short told CNN. “The president chose a different candidate.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, several women went public with accusations that Trump had in the past made unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate personal remarks about them.

Trump denied the accusations, accused rival Democrats and the media of a smear campaign, and went on to be elected president.

Kayla Moore noted that the Washington Post endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump in last year’s election, accusing it of being part of a concerted effort to push back against anti-establishment conservative candidates.

“All of the very same people who were attacking President Trump are also attacking us,” she said.

The Post’s editorial board, which endorsed Clinton, works separately from the reporters and editors who work on news stories, as is common at most newspapers.


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Pentagon: Raytheon Gets OK for $10.5B Patriot Sale to Poland

The U.S. State Department approved a possible $10.5 billion sale of Raytheon Co’s Patriot missile defense system to Poland, the Pentagon said on Friday. NATO member Poland has sped up efforts to overhaul its military following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and in response to Moscow’s renewed military and political assertiveness in the region.

Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said in March that Poland expected to sign a deal with Raytheon to buy the Patriot missile defense system by the end of the year.

Patriot missile defense interceptors are designed to detect, track and engage unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise missiles and short-range or tactical ballistic missiles.

Support services part of deal

The proposed sale includes 208 Patriot Advanced Capabilty-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement missiles, 16 M903 launching stations, four AN/MPQ-65 radars, four control stations, spares, software and associated equipment.

In addition, Poland is authorized to buy U.S. government and contractor technical, engineering and logistics support services as well as range and test programs for a total estimated potential program cost of up to $10.5 billion.

A Raytheon representative said “it is Raytheon’s experience that the estimated cost notified could be larger than the final negotiated contract amount,” signaling that the final price could be lower as negotiations on a final amount proceed.

Raytheon added that it “will work closely with the U.S. and Polish governments to ensure Poland is able to procure Patriot at a mutually agreeable price.”

NATO allies have same system

The Pentagon said the sale will take place in two phases.

If a deal is finalized, it would allow Poland to conduct air and missile defense operations with NATO allies the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Greece, which currently have the Patriot system, a U.S. State Department official said.

The contract still requires approval from the U.S. Congress, because it involves a purchase of advanced military technology for which special permission must be obtained.

Poland, which had said it was planning to spend around $7.6 billion on the whole project, said the negotiations are not over.

“This does not mean that this amount ($10.5 billion) is the final value of the LOA (Letter of Offer and Acceptance),” the Polish Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding it has a “good track record” in negotiating similar offers.

Lawmakers can block sale

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which implements foreign arms sales, said it had delivered notification to Congress on Tuesday.

U.S. lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, but that rarely happens.

In addition to Raytheon, the prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Corp and Northrop Grumman.


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White House Seeks $44B in Hurricane Aid From Congress

The White House on Friday said it had asked Congress for $44 billion in supplemental disaster assistance to help those affected by the recent hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The request was far short of what some government officials have said is needed, with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello asking for $94.4 billion to rebuild the U.S. territory’s infrastructure. Texas was seeking $61 billion and Florida had asked for $27 billion.

“This request does not come close to what local officials say is needed,” Democratic U.S. Representative Nita Lowey of New York, whose state has strong ties to Puerto Rico, said in a statement.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the $44 billion “does not represent the final request” for assistance for the victims, especially in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where needs were still being assessed.

He said it takes 60 days to produce initial recovery cost estimates after a major hurricane and can take up to 90 days to prepare reliable estimates.

“At this time, the administration is requesting an additional fiscal year 2018 funding in the amount of $44 billion and the necessary authorities to address ongoing recovery efforts,” Mulvaney said in the letter.

Ryan said in a statement that the House of Representatives would review the request and “work with the administration and members from affected states to help the victims get the resources they need to recover and rebuild.”

Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, which was also affected by a recent storm, called the supplemental request “one more step toward helping states and communities recover from the destruction.”

However, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, dismissed the latest request as “wholly inadequate” for his state, the Dallas Morning News reported.

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US Senator in Trouble After Being Accused of Sexual Harassment in 2006

A U.S. senator from Minnesota is the latest in a string of well-known personalities from entertainment and politics to be accused of sexual harassment. Democrat Al Franken is under fire after a radio newscaster said he kissed and groped her without consent during a tour to entertain U.S. troops in the Middle East in 2006. Meanwhile, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama is battling charges of sexual abuse of underage girls. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.

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Chinese Envoy to Head to North Korea, Hopes to Improve Ties

China was preparing Friday to dispatch its highest-level envoy to North Korea in two years in a bid to improve chilly relations, after President Donald Trump last week urged Beijing to use its influence to persuade Pyongyang to cease its nuclear weapons program.


Song Tao will report on the outcomes of China’s ruling Communist Party congress held last month and visit counterparts in his role as President Xi Jinping’s special envoy, according to Chinese state media. China has given no other details about his itinerary or said whether he’ll meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 


The visit could be seen as a “starting point to explore new China-North Korea relations,” said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.

China initiative 

Xi wants to take the initiative on the North Korean nuclear issue to head off further pressure from Washington, Lim said. 


“For Xi, the resolution of the North Korean issue is directly related to relations with the United States. He would continuously get pressed by the United States and be placed on the defensive unless he settles the North Korean problem,” he said. 


Song heads the Communist Party’s International Department and holds the rank of minister. 

Relations chilly


China’s relations with North Korea have deteriorated under Kim, who has ignored Beijing’s calls to end nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests and return to disarmament talks. 


Expectations for Song’s visit are mixed. In announcing it, China made no mention of Trump’s visit to Beijing or the North’s weapons programs. Song is not directly connected to China’s efforts to persuade Pyongyang to return to denuclearization talks, seemingly reducing the chances for a breakthrough in that highly contentious area.


North Korea staged its sixth nuclear test Sept. 3, detonating what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb, and last launched a ballistic missile Sept. 15, firing it over the Japanese island of Hokkaido into the Pacific Ocean.


Song is expected to relay China’s hopes for the North to stop conducting nuclear and missile tests in return for incentives and to assess whether the North has any intention of returning to disarmament talks, said Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.

North Korea, for its part, would “find it difficult to reject China’s envoy dispatch because it faces a very serious international isolation … and wants to know what position China has and if there are any ways to ease international sanctions,” Cheong said.

China, South Korea talks


Song’s visit to Pyongyang also comes as China and South Korea are repairing their relations that soured over China’s objection to Seoul’s deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to visit China next month for talks with Xi.


Song will be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015, when Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan met with Kim. Liu delivered a letter to Kim from Xi expressing hopes for a strong relationship, although the respite in frosty ties proved short-lived. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin visited Pyongyang in October last year.

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