On This Day, Dec. 15, 1890 – Sitting Bull Killed in Melee with Indian Police
1890 – American Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and 11 other tribe members were killed in Grand River, SD,
One of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th century, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) was a fierce enemy of Anglo-Americans from a young age. Deeply devoted to the traditional ways, Sitting Bull believed that contact with non-Indians undermined the strength and identity of the Sioux and would lead to their ultimate decline. However, Sitting Bull’s tactics were generally more defensive than aggressive, especially as he grew older and became a Sioux leader. Fundamentally, Sitting Bull and those associated with his tribe wished only to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, but the Anglo settlers’ growing interest in the land and the resulting confinement of Indians to government-controlled reservations inevitably led to conflicts. Sitting Bull’s refusal to follow an 1875 order to bring his people to the Sioux reservation directly led to the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn, during which the Sioux and Cheyenne wiped out five troops of George Custer’s 7th Cavalry.
After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and his followers fled to Canada for four years. Faced with mass starvation among his people, Sitting Bull finally returned to the United States and surrendered in 1883. Sitting Bull was assigned to the Standing Rock reservation in present-day South Dakota, where he maintained considerable power despite the best efforts of the Indian bureau agents to undermine his influence. When the apocalyptic spiritual revival movement known as the Ghost Dance began to grow in popularity among the Sioux in 1890, Indian agents feared it might lead to an Indian uprising. Wrongly believing that Sitting Bull was the driving force behind the Ghost Dance, agent James McLaughlin sent Indian police to arrest the chief at his small cabin on the Grand River.
The Indian police rousted the naked chief from his bed at 6:00 in the morning, hoping to spirit him away before his guards and neighbors knew what had happened. When the fifty-nine-year-old chief refused to go quietly, a crowd gathered and a few hotheaded young men threatened the Indian police. Someone fired a shot that hit one of the Indian police; they retaliated by shooting Sitting Bull in the chest and head. The great chief was killed instantly. Before the ensuing gunfight ended, twelve other Indians were dead and three were wounded.
1791 – The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, went into effect following ratification by the state of Virginia.
One of the many points of contention between Federalists and Anti-Federalists was the Constitution’s lack of a bill of rights that would place specific limits on government power. Federalists argued that the Constitution did not need a bill of rights, because the people and the states kept any powers not given to the federal government. Anti-Federalists held that a bill of rights was necessary to safeguard individual liberty.
James Madison, then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, went through the Constitution itself, making changes where he thought most appropriate. But several Representatives, led by Roger Sherman, objected that Congress had no authority to change the wording of the Constitution itself. Therefore, Madison’s changes were presented as a list of amendments that would follow Article VII.
The House approved 17 amendments. Of these 17, the Senate approved 12. Those 12 were sent to the states for approval in August of 1789. Of those 12, 10 were quickly approved (or, ratified). Virginia’s legislature became the last to ratify the amendments on December 15, 1791.
1840 – Napoleon Bonapart’s remains were interred in Les Invalides in Paris, having been brought from St. Helena, where he died in exile.
1854 – In Philadelphia, the first street cleaning machine was put into use.
1877 – Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.
1938 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt presided over the ground-breaking ceremonies for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.
1939 – “Gone With the Wind,” produced by David O. Selznick based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, premiered at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta. The movie starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.
1944 – A single-engine plane carrying U.S. Army Major Glenn Miller disappeared in thick fog over the English Channel while en route to Paris.
1944 – American forces invaded Mindoro Island in the Philippines.
1961 – Former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death in Jerusalem by an Israeli court. He had been tried on charges for organizing the deportation of Jews to concentration camps.
1961 – The U.N. General Assembly voted against a Soviet proposal to admit Communist China as a member.
1964 – Canada’s House of Commons approved a newly designed flag thereby dropping the Canadian “Red Ensign” flag.
1966 – Walter Elias “Walt’ Disney died in Los Angeles at the age of 65.
1970 – The Soviet probe Venera 7 became the first spacecraft to land softly on the surface of Venus.
1973 – J. Paul Getty III was found in southern Italy after being held captive for five months, during which his right ear was cut off and sent to a newspaper in Rome.
1978 – President Jimmy Carter announced he would grant diplomatic recognition to Communist China on New Year’s Day and sever official relations with Taiwan.
1982 – Paul “Bear” Bryant announced his retirement as head football coach at the University of Alabama.
1983 – The last 80 U.S. combat soldiers in Grenada withdrew. It was just over seven weeks after the U.S.-led invasion of the Caribbean island.
1995 – The U.N. Security Council authorized NATO to take over the peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.
2000 – The Chernobyl atomic power plant in Kiev, Ukraine, was shut down.
2000 – New York Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed to accept an $8 million book deal with Simon & Schuster. The book was to be about her eight years in the White House. The advance was the highest ever to be paid to a member of Congress.
Source: billofrightsinstitute.org; On-This-Day.com; History.com