Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Homeland of the Lakota
All My Relations
Camp Life & Seasonal Round
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Arts and Artists
Tribal Government
Tribal Colleges
Self-Determination and Sovereignty
Recommended Web Sites and Bibliography

  Relationship with the U.S.
  Fur Trade
Making Treaties
The Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

Read entire 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie on the Red Road Canku Luta website.

1851 Council at Fort Laramie: Boundary of Sioux Nation defined
Portion of 1876 Rand McNally "Dakota"
Courtesy the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library, The University of Montana.
Group on the Black Hills Council. Lower Brules are as follows:
Big Mane, Plays With Iron, White Buffalo Man, Leed or Black Elk, Standing Cloud, Lone Horn. Courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society, State Archives.
Treaty Council - Dakota
Dakota Indians taking the ferry across the North Platte River. Taken near Ft. Laramie, D.T. during the Treaty Council of 1868. Neg. #704. Courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society, State Archives.

What Wyoming school children learned of the treaties...

Pierre > Culture > Making Treaties

Early Treaties

The war of 1812 divided Sioux loyalties - some eastern bands aligned with the British, while many western bands had tacit loyalties with the United States, through trade relations. In 1815 Teton representatives signed a treaty of peace and friendship with the U.S. at Portage des Sioux. This was the first extension of federal jurisdiction over the Sioux (DeMallie: 2001).

The Teton were signers of the O'Fallon /Atkinson treaty of 1825, too. This was a military expedition securing treaties giving the U.S. the right to regulate all trade with the tribes, recognizing the supremacy of the government, and claiming protection for the treaty signers.


Horse Creek Treaty

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.

Bears Rib

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 as follows:

"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.
Great Sioux Nation

In June of 1866, the Army and peace commissioners met at Fort Laramie with all the Sioux. They wanted to build a road through the Powder River country to the mines in Montana. Red Cloud, the Oglala, refused and stormed away from the council. Spotted Tail agreed to the U.S. terms, but Red Cloud declared war, and won. In 1868 the government abandoned the Powder River.

In April of 1868 another peace commission arrived at Fort Laramie and the treaty that created boundaries for what would be known as the Great Sioux nation was negotiated and signed. This treaty is considered sacred by many Lakota people today.

The government wanted agencies established on or near the Missouri because they were easily supplied by steamboat and close to army posts. Spotted Tail and other leaders found conditions unfavorable for their people on the Missouri. They wanted no part of the government plan to turn them into farmers. Whiskey traders had easy access to the young braves. The river was "an artery of civilization to the white man but a cesspool of corruption to the Indian" (Cash: 1971).

Treaty Council at Ft. Laramie - Dakota
Group as follows: Left to right:
Spotted Tail (Brule), Roman Nose (Miniconjou), Old Man Afraid of His Horses (Oglala), Lone Horn" (Miniconjou), Whistling Elk (Miniconjou), Pipe and Slow Bull (Oglala). Photo by Alexander Gardner, 1868. Neg. #3678.
Courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society.


Background courtesy of National Archives Records Administration. Images used for page link buttons at top of page are courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, #'s 9380-H and 9380-K, by No Two Horns."