The Story of Grant Short Bull

Among the players during the Great Sioux War of the mid 1870s in the Dakota Territory was a Oglala Lakota scout named Grant Short Bull, or often called Short Bull. Short Bull was a key participant in the legendary Battle of Little Big Horn, where Lt. Col. George Custer had his famous “Last Stand.”

Because Grant Short Bull was an American Indian, much about his life was based on an oral history. Over the years, as his family died away and history was being put to paper, there was some confusion about his life. Let’s look a little deeper.

Some Short Bull Confusion

For a while, two prominent Short Bulls had merged into the same man and the same life, which did a disservice to both of them.

Grant Short Bull was a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and spent much of his life on the Great Sioux Reservation and was a lifelong member of the Soreback band of the Lakotas, affiliated with the Sioux. He was a prominent scout for the Sioux during the Great Sioux War and was known to be a compatriot of legendary warrior and chief Crazy Horse.

Albert Short Bull, who lived during the same time, was a well-known religious leader and medicine man on the Rosebud Reservation. He is most known for the Brule Ghost Dance of American Indian tradition. Now that you know we are talking about Grant, let’s cover his life as an Oglala Lakota.

Early Life

Grant Short Bull was born around 1851 near Fort Laramie. He was born to Black Rock and Scatter the Feather and had an older brother, He Dog. Grant Shot Bull lived a traditional American Indian life as much as he could, deliberately staying away from the federal-government-run agencies that were scattered throughout the reservations. In 1875, he married Good Hawk, who was known as Nellie Short Bull, and they had two children, Charlie and Katie.

Great Sioux War

Grant Short Bull became involved in the Great Sioux War, but his nonparticipation in an early raid was a key moment in starting the war. He was part of a raiding party in January and February 1876, while his northern bands received an “eviction” notice from the U.S. government. While Short Bull and his tribesmen were on the raid, the village where his people were residing (with Cheyenne along the Powder River) was attacked by U.S. troops who were looking to enforce the “eviction” order. Short Bull and his men got back in time to reclaim many of the village’s horses, but mutany of the villagers were killed or forced out by the troops.

Short Bull later said, “If it had not been for that attack by Crook on Powder River … there would have been no Sioux war.”

Wounded Knee

Just less than 15 years later, Grant Short Bull played an important role in trying to avert the tragedy that occurred at Wounded Knee in 1890. As a scout and mediator, Short Bull was involved in talks with U.S. General Nelson Miles that ws meant to avoid a conflict in the wake of the Treaty of 1889, of which Short Bull’s Oglala Lakota Tribe did not participate.

However, despite Short Bull’s best efforts to find common ground, Wounded Knee was a devastating event for the Lakota and it was painted in such a way as to make the U.S. government and the American people look like conquering foreigners – a reputation that has been hard to break in the century-plus since.

Tragic Ending

Though Wounded Knee was bad for his people, Grant Short Bull survived that battle and wound up being a well-known and respected headman on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He lived until 1935, when he and his son, Charlie, were killed in a car accident.