The Indian Ghost Dance

There is always a record of a “resistance” when a side is defeated, no matter the conflict. There can also be a rebellion. Sometimes it’s an actual rebellion, other times it is more symbolic. Rock n’ roll music was considered a kids’ rebellion against parents’ tastes in music, for example.

For the American Indians in the West, they had developed their own “flipping the finger” to the U.S. government in response to all of the expansion and military conflicts with the Western tribes during the 1800s.

Consider the Ghost Dance the rebellion.

The Ghost Dance started in the 1870s reportedly by a Nevada Paiute religious leader named Jack Wilson, but the Dance became a religious movement around the Western tribes by 1890, as many of the tribes had adopted some aspects of the Ghost Dance ritual into their own belief systems by accident.

The premise of the Ghost Dance is based on a vision that Jack Wilson had – a vision during a New Year’s Day solar eclipse in 1889 that called for an apocalypse that would destroy the whites and the Earth. Those who were spiritually-minded (according to Wilson) would be elevated and saved from destruction and would enjoy the new Earth when it was created in the previous natural pristine state the Indians enjoyed prior to white settlement.

Within the next year after Wilson’s vision, his Dance had grown in popularity, and many chiefs and leaders from many Western tribes traveled to Nevada to be taught the Dance by Wilson himself, and he traveled around to instill some of the principles of his religion, which had some commonalities with Christianity – belief in one God being prominent among them.

While Wilson was promoting pacifism and teaching the American Indians to live a more pure life without the “vices” brought by the whites in order to have elevated spirituality, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs had gotten wind of the Dance and were concerned. Considering that these agents were noting that many of the tribes were conducting the same ritual, it looked like a unifying ritual that was encouraging warlike rebellion against the American government. The federal government banned the Ghost Dance anywhere on U.S. land, but at least some remnants of the tradition are still being performed today.

The dance is a five-day-long ceremony in which believers would dance every evening, and all night on the fifth night, calling forth the warrior spirits of yesteryear (those who fought against the U.S. Army) to fight on the behalf of the living, defeat and chase out the whites and restore the lands to the American Indians.

Wilson spoke about peace from his vision, saying that if American Indians lived a clean life, loved each other, did not fight like ancestors and shunned much of the lifestyle brought from the whites (which he believed were intended to destroy Indian culture and society), those who were believers would be saved and allowed to walk the Earth with the Christ, who he predicted would come to Earth in the spring of 1890.  After the Wounded Knee massacre and Christ not coming , many believers left the religious movement, though the Ghost Dance has not been fully eliminated from tradition. It is now more of a private ceremony with many tribes.

Standing Elk and The Northern Cheyenne

Among those warriors who were a thorn in the side of the U.S. military during the Indian Wars of the mid-19th century, one played a significant role but has not gotten much publicity in the history books.

Many who read up on the Indian Wars will learn about Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse for their strong leadership with their tribes in the many battles they had against the U.S. Army over the years, as the Indians resisted being moved onto reservations and escaped reservations while protecting and defending their sacred ancestral lands from invasion by the white American settlers.

It all came to a head in the mid-1870s when gold was discovered in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory, which was a prominent religious landmark for the Lakota Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne in the area.  After a couple years of the Black Hills Gold Rush, the Sioux and Cheyenne of the area took exception and offense to the invasion of their Black Hills lands by prospectors.

As the Great Sioux War got started in the spring of 1876 with the military searching for the “non-compliant” clans of the area tribes who resisted negotiating a sale of the Black Hills, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Standing Elk were all leaders of their various tribes and were prominent in several of the key battles of the Great Sioux War, including the Battle at the Little Bighorn.

Standing Elk was a leader and warrior with the Northern Cheyenne, serving a s a right-hand man to Crazy Horse, who was continually leading the Army on chases through the Great Plains, even retreating to Canada at one point.

But finally, as the Great Sioux conflict was winding down in the fall of 1877, and the Northern Cheyenne was dwindled down in numbers from several defeats as well as starvation, Standing Elk joined Dull Knife to negotiate the surrender of the Northern Cheyenne, which was then to be sent away from the Black Hills area and down to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

After a few months in the strange land, Dull Knife and Standing Elk led an “escape” from the Indian Territory, guiding the Cheyenne on a 1,000-mile journey back to its ancestral home.

There is very little information about Standing Elk and his actual roles in the Indian Wars or in the exodus, but he was considered a strong leader for the Cheyenne and a worthy lieutenant for Crazy Horse. He was valuable in the process of the war in keeping the Northern Cheyenne viable throughout the war, and was vital in keeping the tribe from extinction. His important may not be known in U.S. history books, but he certainly measures up among Northern Cheyenne lore as one of the men who kept the Cheyenne still in America more than four generations later.

 

The Reno Attack At The Little Bighorn

The Battle at the Little Bighorn in June 1876 is known as one of the major defeats in U.S. military history and was the highest moment for American Indians in their constant battles with the U.S. military. Over more than 10 years after this, the Indians didn’t have a single victory.

We can say that Little Bighorn was the military’s wake-up call that American Indians were not going to leave their lands quietly.

This battle is infamously known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” named after Gen. George Custer, who commanded the cavalry at the Little Bighorn and was killed in battle, in which American Indians overwhelmed the military detachment of about 700 men.

Military Might

The U.S. Army was already considered the best in the world by the end of the Civil War, and after taking down a well-trained Confederate Army just a few years earlier, a renegade and ragtag group of American Indians would certainly be no match.

By the time of the Little Bighorn conflict, the military has had some trouble with larger bands of warriors, but the majority of the skirmishes involved only a couple hundred or so at a time. There was a belief that the American Indians were already on the run and it would not be long before they were led to submit, and taking about 700 men to one place would decide this conflict once and for all.

Here‘s The Miscalculation

As the military neared the Little Bighorn River, the leaders found from the scouts that it was hard to estimate how large the village was. With only about 700 men, they were possibly going to face more than 2,000 warriors – the village was much larger than anyone had seen to that point.

Custer’s attack plan was not to consolidate all his forces in one place, but instead to split up his command, with the taking the majority to the north of the village,  the other part going to the south, one group to attack a second flank and another group stationed to prevent the Indians from escaping to the south.

The Attack that Wasn’t

Major Marcus Reno was in charge of a couple hundred soldiers to the south of the village, and he was to lead the southern flank attack on the village at the Little Bighorn River. Reno worked his way through some woods near the river, approaching the village. The warriors that were hiding out the woods were being dispatched with relative ease, setting up Reno’s men to take on the village.

But Reno stopped short, as he wrote in his report to Congress, sensing that he might have been walking into a trap. He ordered his men to dismount their horses and to encounter the enemy on foot, aligning into what was known as a “skirmish line.” That turned out to be a questionable decision, as before long, Reno noted a large flurry of Indian warriors were attacking his group from the village.

Reno then led his group back into the woods for a more defensive position, but Sioux warriors soon infiltrated the woods, with one of them shooting Reno’s Crow Indian scout in the head as he sat behind Reno on his horse. Reno then ordered his troops to mount and led them on a charge out of the woods – looking like an attack but was actually serving as a retreat to a bluff on the other side of the river. Reno then assumed a defensive posture but was unprepared for when Custer’s troops needed assistance to the north after the warriors abandoned the attack on Reno and focused on Custer, ultimately killing the general and ensuring Indian victory and military embarrassment.

You can watch this movie about him here:

General Custer At Minneconjou Ford

There is Custer Hill and Custer Ridge along the Little Bighorn River, some of the landmarks of one of the more decisive U.S. military defeats. General George Custer made his last stand here, dying in battle against more than 2,000 warriors from Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes at the peak of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77.

The Battle at the Little Bighorn signifies the river around which this confrontation occurred, featuring warriors from a large Indian village and the 7th Calvary of about 700 men led by Gen. Custer. Custer and his scouts had underestimated the size of the village when the general decided to plan an attack where his five companies and more than 200 men would attack th camp from the north, while the other seven companies would split on the south, one group attacking from the south and the other stationed to the south to prevent Indians from escaping.

Custer had planned to cross the Little Bighorn River at Minneconjou Ford, which was a group of ravines, hills and bluffs just to the north of the river, but was considered advantageous high ground. But things got complicated when Major Reno and his detachment was working through the trees on its way to its southern attack position.

Reno wound up getting trapped in the trees, as he stopped his advance toward the village, thinking that he was leading his group into a trap. He kept his companies in among the trees as some warriors found their way into the woods to hold off Reno’s forces. With the soldiers pinched in, the warriors turned their attention to Custer on the ridge at Minneconjou Ford.

On his second attempt to cross the river, Custer was trapped on the ridge by warriors who were coming from the north, and those which had stalled Reno’s advance from the south and east. While Custer was at the high ground, his group of about 200 men was far outnumbered. Reno’s men who escaped the woods were able to scramble to the top of the ridge to provide some help to Custer’s forces, but it only took about 30 minutes for Custer’s Last Stand to be over. Custer was shot off his horse and died in the battle, and about 275 soldiers died – including Custer and three of his family members – and another 55 were wounded.

The actual details of the battle are still in dispute, as to whether Custer was launching an attack when he was killed, or whether he was trying to execute a retreat. Those who knew about Custer’s career suggest that he was attacking based on his aggressive nature, while some of the evidence and recollections from interviews seem to suggest that Custer was retreating because he was outnumbered and was hoping to get his men out of the area to fight another day.

In the end, Custer lost five of the 12 companies under his command, making it one of the more humiliating defeats on U.S. soil in U.S. military history. But it was the last significant win by American Indians over the next 10 years.

The Importance of Dull Knife

In a kitchen or in survival training, a dull knife is not very useful.

In American history, specifically during the various Indian Wars, Dull Knife was an indispensable tool in keeping the Cheyenne from extinction.

The Sharpness of Dull Knife

Dull Knife, as he is known to the Lakota Sioux, was a prominent Northern Cheyenne chief who went by the Cheyenne name of Morning Star, and was a prominent figure in many of the Indian wars during his lifetime, including the important Great Sioux War of the late 1870s.

Dull Knife was one of the leaders of the Battle at Little Bighorn, along with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, helping the Indians to their greatest triumph and “Custer’s Last Stand.” He was a strong advocate for the Cheyenne territory in Montana, and had long advocated and fought for his tribe’s rights to live in their ancestral lands despite all of the settlement by whites from the east.

The Warrior

Dull Knife was born in Montana (not Colorado) in 1810, but once he got to adulthood he was almost constantly on the run, either being moved to another part of the country or he was leading the charge in attacks and defense of the homeland, or resisting placement on a reservation a thousand miles away.

Dull Knife was very active in fighting against the federal government, having participated in the Cheyenne-Arapahoe War in the mid-1860s in Colorado, the war of 1866-67 and the War of the Black Hills (also called the Great Sioux War)  in 1876-77 (which included the Battle at Little Bighorn).  He led his small band of Cheyenne warriors into battle after battle before finally surrendering in 1877 and being forced to the Southern Cheyenne Reservation in Oklahoma.

But even in surrender, Dull Knife didn’t go down without a fight.

The Advocate

After surrendering, Dull Knife didn’t sit back and just accept his fate nor the fate of his people. After a few months on the reservation in Oklahoma, realizing that the land was harsh and there were hardly any animals to hunt and eat, Dull Knife decided to combat starvation by leading a group of Cheyenne out of Oklahoma and on a trek back across the West toward the ancestral home of Montana.

The Cheyenne fought valiantly and traveled great distances, with many of them perishing on the way. But his continued work and advocacy for his people and their homeland led to some changes in U.S. policy toward the Indians. This resulted in some additional reservation land, which included a Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, which the remaining Dull Knife Cheyenne moved to just after the great chief’s death in 1883.

Dull Knife was essentially an ambassador to the United States from the Northern Cheyenne tribes in the Rocky Mountain area, spending much of his early life in and around Cheyenne territory in Montana. He was one of the signatories to the important 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which was created to maintain tribes into their ancestral lands and maintain peace with settlers who were coming into the area.

But while he was one who wanted peaceful co-existence, he was also one of the first to stand up and seek to defend and protect the lands of his people when the settlers came, and he was unrelenting in his passion for his people and its history in the area. He is always remembered as one of the great warriors and leaders of the American Indians in the 19th century.

Indian Appropriation Of 1876

To say that the U.S. government and the various Indian tribes on the continent have had a contentious relationship might be one of the great understatements of American history.

That’s akin to saying the American Civil War was a “skirmish.”

As the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” was taking hold on the country, expansion plans to the west were already taking place. In the wake of Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the California Gold Rush, the fledgling United States was growing as a rapid pace. Settlers were packing up their safe, city lives in the United States and moving west to grab more land for their families and to be the first pioneers in the new frontier.

We Were Here First

American Indians populated much of the western frontier, and there were conflicts over land and resources as white settlers moved into the areas. Indian warriors often defended their lands by attacking white settlements. After forced “removals” of Indians under President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s, even more bad blood ensured, making the pioneer spirit in the West an even more dangerous and risky proposition than dreamed of before.

It came to a head with the passage of the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851, which was the first official act that established Indian reservations in the United States, with the first one to be located in Oklahoma. During this entire time until this Act, the federal government had entered treaties with the various Indian tribes, respecting each as their own sovereign nation with self-determination. But establishing reservations and relocating tribes was the first time that the previously recognized sovereignty was being compromised, though at first the Indians were not forced to the reservations but were encouraged or asked to relocate.

So Much for Sovereignty

The reservation system that was established was causing more problems than they were meant to solve, as the goal was to “save” the tribes from having to assimilate or surrender to white settlement. For various reasons, tensions continued to flare, and finally in 1871 a new Indian Appropriations Act was passed that officially eliminated tribal sovereignty and essentially put all tribes under the auspices of government agencies. Reservations were now considered lands of the federal government which were “allotted” to the Native Americans – often, land that the settlers were not using because it was considered uninhabitable.

An Update to 1871

As Indian sovereignty was taken away and reservation borders were being drawn, a gold rush happened in the Dakota Territory, which impacted the sacred lands of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes of the area. The settlers’ stress on the land and mining of natural resources led to the start of the Great Sioux War when the federal government tried to forcibly restrain the Sioux and Cheyenne to the Black Hills area of the Dakota Territory to work out a sale of the Black Hills themselves so gold mining can resume.

In 1876, just after General Custer’s defeat at Little Bighorn – the Indians’ greatest triumph of the Sioux War, though it lasted about 18 months longer – the federal government extended its authority powers over the tribes by re-drawing the lines for the Sioux and Cheyenne people, taking the Black Hills away from their designated lands and leaving them open for settlement and mining without negotiation with the tribes. The sacred mountains of the Great Plains Indians were ripped away without any compensation.

Needless to say, that further engendered animus from the Indians toward the federal government, and conflicts continued in various forms until the 1890s. Two more Indiana Appropriations Acts were passed, in 1885 and 1889, to finally put at least a legislative end on the conflicts and to bring the tribes to heel while America kept adding states.

In the end, a 1990 Supreme Court decision established that the Black Hills did rightfully belong to the Sioux and Cheyenne people, but three generations of culture were compromised in the meantime and has not been fully repaired.

The Battle of Powder River

It is said the love of money is the root of all evil.

When it comes to the Great Sioux War between Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and the U.S. military, this could reasonably be seen as the cause for all of the harm that an 18-month war brought to bear on both sides.

All over a bunch of gold rocks.

Negotiations Gone South

As the Black Hills Gold Rush was on in 1875, white settlers from the East were flowing into the area to find their piece of prosperity, but they were broaching Sioux and Cheyenne lands around the Black Hills. The U.S. government had negotiated land for the Sioux people with the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, which included the Black Hills, considered highly sacred ground to the American Indians in the area.

Settlers and prospectors were not part of the original deal, and the Sioux were not real happy. The government wanted to buy the Black Hills from the Sioux in order to mine the gold. The government asked the tribes to meet at their local agencies by January 31, 1876, to negotiate sales terms. Several bands of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne did not comply with the request, and the order was given to the military to “enforce” an order that would drive the “hostile” American Indians away from the Black Hills and onto reservations.

The Powder (River) Keg

By March of that year, events were coming to a head with the first major confrontation of the Great Sioux War. Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne were in a village near the Powder River, where U.S. military scouts spotted them. After a long trek through winter blizzards and chilling cold, the U.S. military had finally caught up to a camp of these “hostiles.”

The attack plan of the U.S. forces was to split up into two groups, one to attack the village and the other to secure about 1,000 horses belonging to those in the village. The group that attacked the village was split up, with part of the group going into the village itself and the other meant to stay on the ridge to prevent escape.

Poor Execution

But at the time that attack was commenced, fewer than 50 soldiers (out of about 300) made it to the camp; the rest were delayed by terrain and weather as the village was a full mile farther than initially reported. The key group delayed was the one meant to be on the ridge; the ridge was captured by the Indians. The village and all the supplies were burned while the Indians had a raid party take back most of its animals.

No Winner?

The U.S. military had twice as many men in the battle as the Lakota and Cheyenne did but one could argue that the battle was a draw, if not a win by the Indians. Despite losing the entire village, the Indians had one killed and one wounded in the battle, while the military had four deaths and six wounded, and ultimately gained only about 100 horses – and ended up killing them anyway. The military withdrew to base rather than chasing the Indians to where Crazy Horse was located – one of the military’s primary targets, along with Sitting Bull.

Having that attack executed poorly essentially prolonged the Great Sioux War, as the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors were able to survive and keep fighting for 18 months, when most of the “resistance” could have been subdued by that one encounter along the banks of the Powder River. The Powder River, in effect, caused Custer’s Last Stand three months later.

You can watch a famous movie about it here or view various websites:

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.

The Standing Rock Agency: Fort Laramie To Dakota Access

When environmentalists wanted to take a stand in the Dakotas, they had no better representative than the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

It has always taken a stand and still does to this day, in national headlines. The Sioux have always been a very proud people, and their veterans fight hard for all they believe in and especially the lands of their ancestors.

The Standing Rock Reservation

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is based on the Standing Rock Reservation, which is one part of six Sioux reservations in the northern Great Plains. The original Great Sioux Reservation was created by the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, which gave specific land boundaries for the Sioux Indians. This included the Black Hills area of South Dakota and the Missouri River, both of which were deemed vital and sacred topographical assets for the Sioux people.

The Standing Rock Reservation as it’s known now was established by Congress in 1889, when the Great Sioux reservation was split six ways, and Standing Rock is one of the pie pieces.

The Standing Rock Agency

As a result of the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty, the U.S. government established the Grand River Agency, to be based in Grand River, South Dakota, and serve as the field office for the fledgling Bureau of Indian Affairs within the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The agency was moved to Fort Yates, North Dakota in 1873 and became known as the Standing Rock Agency and has served the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ever since the reservation was established in 1889. The Agency serves as liaison between the federal government and the Standing Rock Sioux, providing health, government, and other services to the people living on the reservation. These services include real estate, probate and estate, wildland and structural fire management, and social services including tribal enrollment.

Standing Rock in the News

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Standing Rock Agency were in the headlines a lot over the last couple years, as hundreds and thousands of protestors invaded the Standing Rock Reservation to protest the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The pipeline was to be built across Standing Rock land, and the Standing Rock Agency originally worked with the Sioux tribe to secure rights on behalf of the developer of the pipeline, and a deal was struck after there were assurances that the pipeline would not traverse over sacred lands (such as gravesites) and would not generate a significant environmental impact on the land.

However, despite the deal, environmentalists came to the area to protest the pipeline on “behalf” of the Standing Rock Tribe, which was in the headlines.  There was reportedly very little participation in protests by members of the Standing Rock Tribe, but with recent developments of the Dakota Access Pipeline already spilling nearly 100 gallons of oil on reservation land, protests may just get even more animated.

Needless to say, the battle is not over. But Standing Rock will continue to stand up and fight for its people and its land. History bears it out, and there is no reason to think that it will change.

The Black Hills Gold Rush: Adding Insult To Injury

Let’s just say that after the first Thanksgiving, relations between European whites and American Indians were not always so congenial. And as “Manifest Destiny” was taking hold across the Great Plains and the West, things progressively got worse, until there was an olive branch. Only to see that get snapped in two.

The Treaty of Fort Laramie

For a couple of decades in the middle of the 19th century, settlers coming from the burgeoning United States into frontier areas of the West encountered resistance from American Indians who had claimed land in the West as its own and even as sacred ground. A number of skirmishes and small battles broke out across the West, and things finally got to a point that the U.S. government, trying to protect its people, entered into an agreement with local tribes of the Sioux and Cheyenne called the Treaty of Fort Laramie that was supposed to bring some peace. The settlers were to leave the prized Indiana lands alone, and the Indians would not attack settlers without provocation.

Eureka!

In 1874, there were rumors floating around about a key precious metal being found in the Daokta Territory. The same mineral that led to California statehood 25 years earlier, was rumored to be found among the Black Hills in the territory. At first, it was just rumor or very small discoveries, but rumors grew like a conflagration and within weeks thousands of people from the East raveled to the Black Hills area to try to find their future. There were some finds in the area, but two men paired up and found a motherlode along a river, and that vein of gold produced for more than a century.

However, the Black Hills were much like the Yellowstone area of Montana – it is considered sacred and vitally important land for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian peoples. The settlers and prospsectors who came to the rea were not as aware of the “boundaries” of Indian lands nor of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, so they poured into the area. That further angered the Indians, and by 1875 some settlements were being attacked due to their “invasion” of the land.

Enough is Enough

At the start of the rush, a military detachment was sent to the Dakota Territory to assess the gold mining opportunities and the yield of gold. Upon this work, the government gave the local tribes a deadline of January 31, 1876, to move into reservation land in the Dakota Territory or the government would force them. The government began forcible movement of the Indians off their ancestral lands to make room for the gold-rush settlers, but by the fall of 1876, the Indians were not going to go quietly – having already been “invaded” by the Northern Pacific Railroad earlier in the decade – and an 18-month campaign called the Great Sioux War went on, involving at least 10 major battles between military and Indian forces. And yes, Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Big Horn River effectively ended the conflict.