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The White Bull Manuscript, as it is commonly known, was commissioned by Usher Burdick in 1931. Burdick encouraged White Bull to chronicle his life. In a black bound business ledger, White Bull recorded the events of his life in his native Dakota language. The ledger measures 14.75 x 10.5 inches and contains writings and/or pictographs on a total of 51 pages. The pictographs are rendered in ink, lead pencil and colored crayon, with explanatory text in Dakota. Buffalo and bear hunts, horse raiding exploits, instances of "counting coup," and battles and skirmishes are among the subjects. White Bull also included a typical Teton winter count, or calendrical history. No pictographs were created for the winter count.

In the manuscript, White Bull claims to be the warrior who killed Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 26, 1876. This battle was a decisive victory for the Native Americans and a total defeat for the U.S. Army. The battle has remained the subject of historical controversy and debate ever since.

An English translation of the manuscript was published with the title The Warrior Who Killed Custer: The Personal Narrative of Chief Joseph White Bull. Translated by James Howard, this book was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1968.

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Geographic Subjects



Battle of the Little Bighorn; Dakota Indians; Manuscripts; Personal narratives; History

Personal Subjects

White Bull, Joseph, 1849-1947. Sioux history in pictures : the White Bull manuscript, 1781-1931.

Chronological Subjects

Little Bighorn, Battle of the (Montana : 1876)


Indigenous Studies | Military History | United States History

Sioux History in Pictures (the White Bull Manuscript)