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From the time he was a young boy, Sitting Bull was destined to become a leader within the Sioux society. Sitting Bull was part of the Hunkpapa tribe of Lakotas, located in the northern area now known as South Dakota. Kinship played an important role in Sitting Bull’s youth, and his identification with the Icira-hingla wicotipi set the precedence for the power and leadership that Sitting Bull would later obtain.
Because of the nature of the kinship of the Hunkpapa, Sitting Bull was in the unique position of being the only younger male among three brothers, all of whom held important status within the tribe. These relatives doted on Sitting Bull, enabling him to get training in horsemanship, war, and hunting. Sitting Bull also gained recognition with his power of visions and his ability to communicate with animals. Because he possessed these abilities at such a young age, he gained the respect of elders in the society and further paved the way for his future leadership.
Sitting Bull continued to grow as a leader as he fought in and won battles over the next few years, eventually wearing a headdress with over thirty feathers. The feathers represented a coup of an enemy, so the more feathers a leader wore, the more he was respected as a brave warrior. He was also respected within the community for his possession of a scared medicine bag, in addition to his ability to see visions. Because of these traits, he was considered an important man among the Hunkpapas and made it a priority to help and assist the members of his tribe.
Sitting Bull was not in the position to become a hereditary chief among the Lakota, so he chose to gain political stature by joining influential societies. As a young boy, Sitting Bull was asked to join the Strong Hearts, and then later the Silent Eaters. He became well respected and influential within both of these groups, and in the early 1860s he was granted membership to the Fox Society, which had delegates from other Lakota bands. Sitting Bull was later elevated to the position of blotaunka and used his position to unite the Sioux people against the threat of Americans. This, combined with his vision, made Sitting Bull a key leader among the Sioux people during their later defense of their homeland.