1868 - Battle for the Black Hills

       To this day, the Black Hills of South Dakota are still sacred mountains to the Sioux, who were recognized in the treaty of 1868 at Fort Laramie as the owners of these mountains 'for as long as the grass shall grow and the rivers will flow."  A few years later, in 1874, George Custer's breached that treaty by marching a thousand men into the Black Hills and declaring to the embedded press, "There's gold in them thar hills!"  Within a year, white men were mounting a stampede to the Black Hills. Towns like Deadwood grew up overnight.


         Chief Red Cloud asked the U.S. government to begin enforcing the treaty provisions signed at Fort Laramie in 1868 and to run the miners off, but the miners turned the tables by asking the government to evict the Sioux.

click here for more

         The government offered to buy the Black Hills from the Sioux for $6 million, but the Sioux turned them down.  Red Cloud asked for $60 million and the government refused to pay.  President Grant then issued an order that all Sioux bands must come into their assigned agencies by January 31, 1876, or be considered hostile and treated accordingly.  This was a double indemnity for the Indians.  The government was not only refusing to honor its pledge made in treaties, it was also threatening to force the nomads onto small reservations.

         The Sioux's defiance of Grant's order led to the great conference of western tribes at the Little Big Horn River, on the Greasy Grass, in June of 1876, where they would vanquish George Custer's regiment of the 7th Cavalry on June 25.

Little Big Horn

   An artist's depiction of Custer's Last Stand at the battle of the Little Big Horn


        In the 20th century, the Sioux sued the federal government for failing to honor its treaty obligations in 1868.  The case took decades to resolve, but it was finally settled in 1978 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in favor of the Sioux.  Money was set aside as compensation for the theft of their sacred homelands, but they have never touched those funds, which for thirty years have been gathering interest in the U.S. treasury.