Sioux arrived at Fort Pierre to air their grievances with the new
agent, Samuel Latta. The Indians told him they wanted no
presents because Choteau, the previous agent, had been cheating
their people "for a long time" and they refused to accept the
annuities he was contracted to deliver.
the age old problem that Medill had attempted to correct a decade
earlier -- the problem of thievery by the middle men. The
Sioux condemned the Great Father's failure to keep his promises as
expressed by Commissioner Mitchell (at Horse Creek), and later, by
General Harney, and they served notice that friendly relations with
the government were terminated.
The Sioux, Cheyenne
and Blackfeet put up a fierce defense of their homelands and the
buffalo that roamed there. Historian Anne Helouise Able asked
the question: "When Americans defend their homeland they're called
patriotic. Why is it that Indians, doing the same, are
branded as 'savages?'
The fears caused by Harney's strong threats of 1856 had faded in
the intervening years, and the support Mitchell had promised to
Frightening Bear in 1851 (and the assistance Harney had pledged to
Bear's Rib and other chiefs he had designated at the start of
1856), never amounted to anything. Frightening Bear was dead,
and the other 'paper chiefs' were scattered before the winds.
Sioux discontent grew as power wielded by the American Fur
Company waned. The Choteau family was forced to sit and
listen to his company being publicly criticized without the aid and
comfort of his agent, Charles Galpin, who had joined the
competition. Choteau's long domination of the agents
assigned by Indian Office to the tribes of the upper Missouri had
weakened, and within months, agent Latta would file charges against
the AFC for illegal trade in whiskey, a charge he could not have
made (or wouldn't have dared to make) thirty years earlier.
Latta told his
superiors that by being beholden to the fur companies for
transportation, shelter, interpreters, etc., the agents could
neither correct the wrongs built into the system, nor long wear
their facades as independents. Moreover, in the minds
of the Indians, the Great Father was inextricably identified with
the thieving agents.
Latta went on
to report: "They (the agents) have involved the government in their
speculation and schemes; they have enslaved the Indians, kept them
in ignorance, taken from them year after year their pitiful
earnings, in robes and furs, without giving them an
notes: "The gravity of these charges can hardly be
exaggerated." The entire annuity system was rotten to the