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Treaty with Sioux Nation

Treaty With Sioux Nation

The Sioux were an important confederacy of the North American Indian tribes that inhabited the Great Plains. In the seventeenth century the Sioux had comprised small bands of Woodland Indians in the Mille Lacs region of present-day Minnesota. Conflict with the Ojibwa (also called Chippewa or Anishinabe) forced the Sioux to move to the buffalo ranges of the Great Plains. As they became adept buffalo hunters, the tribes grew and prospered. By 1750 the Sioux comprised some 30,000 persons firmly established in the heartland of the northern plains.

An 1825 treaty confirmed Sioux possession of an immense territory including much of present-day Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Wyoming. As white settlers moved onto Sioux lands, violence erupted. Red Cloud's War (1866–1867) resulted in a treaty granting the Black Hills in perpetuity to the Sioux. The United States failed to honor the treaty, however, and allowed gold prospectors and miners to invade the territory in the 1870s. These events were the backdrop for the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, in which General George Armstrong Custer and three hundred troops were killed by Chief Sitting Bull and his Sioux warriors.

In 1877 Congress approved a treaty with certain bands of the Sioux (19 Stat. 254), which changed the terms of the treaty ratified in 1869. Because of pressure by white miners and settlers, the Great Sioux Reservation was reduced, three roads were to be constructed and maintained through the reservation, and the free navigation of the Missouri River was mandated.

In return, the Sioux nation continued to receive annuities negotiated in the 1869 treaty. More importantly, the Sioux were required to select land for a reservation "located in a country where they may eventually become self-supporting and acquire the arts of civilized life." The U.S. government promised the Sioux schools, instruction in "mechanical and agricultural arts," a ration of food, and a "comfortable house." The removal to the reservation meant the end of the Sioux people's traditional way of life. Sporadic resistance continued until the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in December 1890, when U.S. troops slaughtered more than two hundred Sioux men, women, and children.

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