Native Village
Youth and Education news
 December 1, 2010, Volume 1

Fox News gets Sitting Bull history wrong
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Condensed by Native Village


Washington D.C.:  The President of Fox News, Roger Ailes, recently said President Barack Obama was un-American. That same week, Fox News chided Obama for admiring Indian Chief Sitting Bull.

The problem began with President Obama’s release of a children's book called, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.” The 31-page book pays tribute to 13 Americans whose traits he sees in his own children. 

One of the historical figures Obama chose was Chief Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux spiritual leader. He led his people as a war chief when they resisted U.S. government policies. Obama called him “a Sioux medicine man who healed broken hearts and broken promises.”

Sitting Bull is remembered by Americans today for protecting his culture, his people, and their lands.  One act was the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 which resulted in the death of General George Armstrong Custer.

When Fox News reviewed Sitting Bull's place in the President's book, their headline read “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General." That headline fit with Aile's statements saying Obama has a “different belief system than most Americans.”

But Fox News got its history wrong, and commenters soon proved it. Sitting Bull had not killed Custer. The network had posted a false headline.

“As has been pointed out, Crazy Horse of the Teton Lakota was one of the leaders at Little Big Horn,” wrote one commenter. “The other two were Gall of the Hunkpapa Lakota and Two Moons of the Northern Cheyenne. Sitting Bull was in the village but did not participate in the battle.”

“These kind of articles do not help those of us that are anti-Obama,” wrote another. “It gives ammunition to the other side claiming that Fox News is biased. Please stick to facts and avoid re-writing history.”

One journalist said Fox News rewrote history to attack the president. “The Indian wars have been over for roughly 130 years," wrote Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times,
"but at Fox News, no war is too distant in memory to go unnoticed, especially when it comes to opening up a new avenue of attack on Barack Obama, ”

The American public was fascinated by Custer’s defeat. While some believed Sitting Bull had killed him, he had actually been leading a camp of Sioux when Custer stumbled upon then and attacked.

Not knowing how large the camp was, Custer and his men were overwhelmed, and he was killed in the battle. 

“They say I murdered Custer,” Sitting Bull told a reporter in 1877. “But it was a lie. He was a fool who rode to his death.”

After the battle, Sitting Bull led his band across the border into Saskatchewan, Canada. He remained in exile for many years, refusing a U.S. pardon.

Sitting Bull later performed in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Afterwards, he returned to his homelands. In 1890, police who were trying to arrest him ended up killing him.  That led to much sadness for his people. It also ensured Sitting Bull's historical legacy.

But the Fox News headline wasn't about legacy's or the truth. After many comments and complaints, they changed the headline to “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Defeated U.S. General.” An editor’s note followed, saying, “Headline has been corrected for historical accuracy.”

For some, however, a new headline isn't enough. Rhonda LeValdo, president of Native American Journalists Association, called on Fox News to apologize “to the Native American nations across this country who consider Sitting Bull a hero and a warrior who stood up for his people.”

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