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Fort Laramie Wyoming Territory

Sioux Treaty of 1868

The Sioux Treaty of 1868, formally known as The Treaty of Fort Laramie , was signed between the United States of America and the Indian tribes of the Lakota nation, Yanktonai Sioux, Santee Sioux, and Arapaho. Signed at Fort Laramie Wyoming Territory, it guaranteed the Indians ownership of the Black Hills and hunting rights along with further lands in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Effectively ending Red Cloud’s War, the Powder River Country was to be closed to whites.

The treaty included many now controversial items to "civilize" the Indians. They were promised money and other financial incentives to become farmers. The treaty also forced a white education in a mission setting upon the Indian children. I can understand why the Indians did not want to give up their way of living, as the land promised was certainly large enough to continue it. The children would need the white education in the near future but it would be impossible to accomplish with the Indian way of life. In an attempt to ensure Indian compliance, the United States required white teachers, blacksmiths, a farmer, a miller, a carpenter, an engineer and an Indian Agent be stationed on the reservation.

Both sides made repeated violations of the treaty almost before the ink dried. The US Army initially made a sincere effort to keep whites out. As expected, the Indians defended their land in the usual way, killing or attacking the trespassers. Anyone who would deny the Indians this right to defend their land is way off base. I can assure you that any white who entered this territory knew of the possible consequences. The US Army did a reasonably good job of keeping white trespassers out until stories of gold started appearing. In an unknown error the treaty had stated "the permanent home of the Indians, which is not mineral land...".

Once an expedition led by General George Armstrong Custer confirmed the presence of gold, the floodgates opened and the US Army realized that with it’s usual understaffing it could not stem the flow. The Army’s mission began to transform from one guarding the Indian lands to guarding the whites intruding on Indian lands. War erupted once again with the US government seizing the Black Hills in 1877.

On June 30, 1980, in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371, the United States Supreme Court awarded $17.5 million for the market value of the land in 1877, with 103 years of 5% interest accounting for an additional $105 million. Despite the victory in the white man’s court of law, the Sioux refused the money and still hold fast in their demand for the return of their lands.

A photo of the signing of the Sioux Treaty Of 1868. Note General William Sherman, second from the right of the tent pole on the right, an Indian hater who believed "the only good Indian is a dead Indian".

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