In September, 1851, an unprecedented gathering of ten thousand
Indians from eleven tribes occured at Horse Creek, near Fort
Laramie. The U.S. negotioted the Horse Creek Treaty with
the Teton. The hunting grounds were defined, agreements were
made to prevent intertribal warfare, and annuities were to be
paid to the Sioux for fifty years. The Tetons also agreed to
allow whites to cross their lands in safety (See sidebar to read
boundary description from 1851 treaty).
|In 1854, a Miniconjou brave who was visiting
some Brules killed a cow belonging to a Mormon, who in turn
complained to the Army. A foolish lieutenant named Grattan
went to the Brule camp with thirty men and demanded payment
for the cow and the surrender of the man who had killed it.
The Brules were willing to pay for the cow but rufused to
give up the man, and Grattan fired artillery on the camp.
Spotted Tail, the war leader, ambushed the soldiers, killing
every one. The Army reacted. General Harney brought 600 troops
and eventually imprisoned Spotted Tail and the others who
had been involved in the Gratton incident. Spotted Tail was
released in 1856 from Fort Leavenworth, convinced that his
people could not ultimately win out in a military battle with
the U. S. (Cash: 1971).
Portion of 1876 Rand McNally map of Nebraska/Wyoming.
In 1859, William F. Raynolds was on his
way up the Missouri River, on assignment with the Topographical
Engineers for the War Department. Arriving at Fort Pierre,
he called a council with the Teton leaders. His mission was
to carry out the terms of the Harney agreement, delivering
goods promised. He also needed to gain passage through Lakota
lands for his mapping expedition.
In his report Raynolds recorded this
speech from Bear's Rib, a head chief of the Unkpapa band of
Lakota. After interpreters had been chosen, Bear's Rib spoke
"My Brother: To whom does this land
belong? I believe it belongs to me. Look at me and at this
ground. Which do you think is the oldest? The ground, and on
it I was born. I have no instruction; I give my own ideas.
The land was born before us; I do not know how many years;
it is much older than I.
"Here we are. We are nine nations,
(or bands.) Here are our principal men gathered together. When
you tell us anything we wish to say "yes," (that
is consent,) to what we like, and you will do the same. There
are none of the Yanctons here. Where are they? It is said I
have a father, (the agent,) and when he tells me anything I
say "yes;" and when I ask him anything, I want him
to say "yes."
"I call you my brother. What you
told me yesterday I believe is true, and I slept satisfied
last night. The Yanctons below us are poor people. I don't
know where their land is. I pity them. These lower Yanctons
I know did own a piece of land, but they sold it long ago.
I do not know where they got any more. Since I have been born
I do not know who owns two, three, four or more pieces of land.
When I get land it is all in one piece, and we were born and
still live on it. These Yanctons, we took pity on them. They
have no land. We lent them what they had to grow corn on it.
We gave them a thousand horses to keep that land for us, but
never told them to steal it and go and sell it. I call you
my brother, and I want you to take pity on me, and if anyone
steals anything from me I want the privilege of calling for
it. If those men, who did it secretly, had asked me to make
a treaty for its sale, I should not have consented.
"We who are here all understand
each other, but I do not agree that they should steal the land
and sell it. If the white people want my land, and I should
give it to them, where should I stay? I have no place else
to go. To-day I talk very good, say good words, and why do
they not report them to my great father? What I say to-day
I assume will go to my great father?
"My brother, what I tell you I tell
my father (agent) also. He takes my words and puts them into
the water, and makes other reports of what words I send to
my great father. I believe there are poor people below who
put other words in the place of those I say. My brother, look
at me; you do not find me poor, but when this ground is gone
then I will be poor indeed.
"My brother, I will speak no bad
words. What I say I will tell you as a good friend; and what
I tell you I wish you to say "yes" to in the same
way. When my great father sends white people to this country
I do not strike them, but help them, and act as their friend.
I know this: if I should go below and have no money, the whites
would not let me go.
"Everything our great father sends
to tell me I know is for our good, and I always listen to him.
One thing I am thinking about, and I am going to tell you.
General Harney has been here and made ten chiefs. What he said
I have not forgotten. General Harney told us that no whites
were going to travel through this country; but I see wagons
landed and you wish to go through. For my own part I am willing,
as you are sent by the great father. I always listen to the
whites. I am an Indian, and not bad. What I think is good.
I hope you will take pity on me, and that the white people
below will keep away.
"I hear that a reservation has been
kept for the Yanctons below. I will speak again on this subject.
If you were to ask me for a piece of land I would not give
it. I cannot spare it, and I like it very much. All this country
on each side of this river belongs to me. I know that from
the Mississippi to this river the country all belongs to us,
and that we have traveled from the Yellowstone to the Platte.
All this country, as I have said, is ours, and if you, my brother,
should ask me for it I would not give it to you, for I like
it and hope you will listen to me" (Raynolds: 1868).
Lieut. G. K. Warren called Bear's Rib "a
great friend to peace with the whites and the most influential
warrior in his nation" (Warren: 1875), following his expeditions
in Lakota country two years earlier.
Courtesy of Karen
M. Strom, retired, prepared while at the University of Massachusetts.