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WSC to commemorate Sitting Bull's return

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
Posted by Roxane Molinari

WILLISTON, N.D. - Williston State College invites the public to help celebrate the 130th anniversary commemoration of the return of Sitting Bull from exile in Canada. The event is scheduled for Saturday, July 16, on the college campus, and continuing on Sunday, July 17, on site at Fort Buford State Historic Site, 25 miles west of Williston on Highway 1804.

Saturday's events will kick off at 1 p.m. with a Native American performance by Kevin Locke, Lakota dancer and indigenous flute player. Locke is known throughout the world as a visionary Hoop Dancer, the preeminent player of the indigenous Northern Plains flute, a traditional storyteller, cultural ambassador, recording artist and educator.

Special guest Ernie LaPointe, Sitting Bull's great-great grandson, will bring a blessing of the Sitting Bull monument that will grace the front entrance to Stevens Hall, which will be unveiled that day. During an ice cream social at about 2:30 p.m., LaPointe will be on hand for a book signing of his work, "Sitting Bull - His Life and Legacy," which will be available for sale through the WSC Bookstore.

Sitting Bull, the most revered of all Lakota Indians, presented himself to American agents at Fort Buford, located 25 miles southwest of Williston on Highway 1804, on July 19, 1881. The room in which he surrendered still stands on site at Fort Buford, where the commemoration will continue on Sunday.

According to Richard Stenberg, Assistant Professor of History at WSC, the surrender of Sitting Bull is probably the most significant event that took place at the fort.

"To commemorate this event, back around 1995, a number of ideas were bantered about and enough support was gained through the Friends of Fort Union/Fort Buford for a fund-raising project to erect a ‘heroic' sized statue at Fort Buford of Sitting Bull," Stenberg said. "A special bronze plaque was struck with an inscription of the event and Sitting Bull's oration. Due to a number of factors, most notably Paul Hedren's departure from the superintendency of Fort Union Trading Post, the statue project languished and eventually came to a complete stop. The plaque was placed in storage in the State Historical Society of North Dakota's archives."

In the fall of 2009, Stenberg brought the Friends of Fort Union together with WSC to revisit the Sitting Bull statue project launched more than a decade ago. Nadolny was very taken with the earlier project and especially the oration that Sitting Bull gave was, in part, an educational mission statement. In the resulting discussions the Friends of Fort Union/Fort Buford, who had ownership on the project, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with WSC to allow the resurrection of the statue project. However, instead of placing a statue at the Fort Buford State Historic Site, it would be on the campus of WSC, the first of three statues to placed on the campus. The other two will be a statue of Lewis and Clark and the final statue will be a likeness of a pioneer.

The Sitting Bull statue was designed and created by Michael Westergard, a professional sculptor from Plentywood, Mont.

According to his website,, "Being raised in this area on a grain and livestock operation, Michael became aware at an early age of the old Indian campsites, buffalo kills and vision quest sites, etc. It was this experience, combined with his intense interest in early history of the West, that helped form what was to become the nucleus of his work. His bronzes portray the history, wildlife and people of the American West in not only an artistic manner but also with accuracy, detail and a respect for the subject."

Sunday's events at Fort Buford will begin at 1:30 p.m. with a performance by Cheaper Than Therapy, a women's barbershop quartet. At 3 p.m., Locke will perform and at 4 p.m. LaPointe will speak on the Life and Legacy of Sitting Bull. Also on hand will be Dakota Goodhouse who will speak on winter counts.

"It is a significant event (Sitting Bull's surrender) at Fort Buford and add to that the fact that we still have the surrender room in the Field Officer's Quarters is amazing," said Fort Buford Site Supervisor Steven Reidburn.

"To have Ernie LaPointe speak to us on this day is an awesome event," Reidburn said. "I've had many conversations with him and it is wonderful that he has agreed to come share with us. As well as being very knowledgeable, he is very genuine and easy to listen to."

All events are free and open to the public.

For more information on the events at WSC, contact Tara Irgens at 774-4267; and for more information on the Fort Buford event, contact the site at 572-9034.