Loyalty is a passion, a belief, a gift bestowed only upon those who earn it. Few leaders fired the vehemence of loyalty greater than Tatanka Iyotake, the Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. To The People, loyalty was not only a charac-teristic of man, but also extended to the natural and animal world. In his final years, Sitting Bull proudly rode Circus Horse, a gift from Wild West impresario Wild Bill. Some scoffed at the horse, trained to act and dance in the renowned traveling show but, with the talent of any great leader, Sitting Bull recognized in Circus Horse the fire of a true noble spirit. This was the late 1800s, the time of the Ghost Dance, a ceremony to rid the land of white people and restore the Indians’ way of life. The American government feared that Sitting Bull would join the movement and bring the Lakota with him. Indian police were sent to arrest him and a battle quickly ensued. At the sound of bullets, Circus Horse began the act he had been trained to do: a dance of pawing the ground and throwing his mane. To the Lakota it was far more. Circus Horse’s great white body remained at Sitting Bull’s side throughout the battle and, after the Chief was struck down, danced for hours more in respect for the fallen man. It is said that Circus Horse was possessed with a spirit, for throughout the entire battle, this imposing target was not struck by a single bullet. Discover the face of loyalty in Judy Larson’s "The Gift."
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