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The Rescue of Sitting Bull's Portrait


Thanks to the quick-thinking of Matthew Steele, one of North Dakota's historical treasures was rescued from destruction. Born on this date in 1861, Steele joined the US Army and was serving at Fort Yates in 1890 when Sitting Bull was killed. Arriving shortly after the fight, Lieutenant Steele began searching the cabins where he discovered a full-length portrait of Sitting Bull painted by Catherine Weldon. Steele later wrote, "Suddenly, one of the policemen, whose brother lay dead on the ground outside, killed by Sitting Bull's band, came into the cabin crying, and saw this portrait on the wall. He snatched it down and with his Winchester...broke through the canvas. I snatched the portrait away and carried it back to Fort Yates." Matthew Steele later purchased the portrait from Sitting Bull's widow. It was donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota in 1953, the year of Steele's death at age 91.

Dakota Datebook written by Christina Sunwall


"Finding Aid to the Matthew Forney Steele Photograph Collection."

Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo. http://library.ndsu.edu/repository/bitstream/handle/10365/8599/Photo2103.pdf

"Collections and Exhibits." Plains Talk 40, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 11.

Vestal, Stanley. Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957