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What was the original agreement between the Sioux and the U.S. government?

Q. What was the original agreement between the Sioux and the U.S. government?


1851 First Fort Laramie Treaty or Treaty of Traverse des Sioux signed between Sioux and US government established land rights and attempted to create peace between white miners traveling to California for the Gold Rush and the Sioux people. The U.S. agreed the Sioux held sovereign rights to the Black Hills and the Sioux agreed to allow railroad and trail passage across these territories in exchange for annual federal payments of $50,000 for 50 years to the tribes. Shortly after the treaty was signed, the U.S. government began erecting several fortified trading posts.

Sioux land represented about 5% of the entire continental US – covering most of the present-day states of North and South Dakota, and parts of Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming.

1868 Fort Laramie Treaty (XVII Articles) brought peace between the Sioux and the US government by guaranteeing that the Sioux had “absolute and undisturbed use of the Great Sioux Reservation…No persons…shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in territory described in this article, or without consent of the Indians…No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described…shall be of any validity or force…unless executed and signed by at least three-fourth of all adult male Indians, occupying or interested in the same.”

This treaty proved to be one of the most controversial in the history of US-Indian relations – it ended the war between the Sioux and the U.S. government, split the Oglala nation into those “friendlies” willing to work with the U.S. government and the “hostiles” with whom the U.S. banned trade, and set the legal stage for Sioux claims to the Black Hills that continue into the 21st Century.

The Federal Government and the Lakota Sioux (Chronology of Exploits)

1851 First Fort Laramie Treaty signed between Sioux and US government established land rights and attempted to create peace between white miners traveling to California for the Gold Rush and the Sioux people. The U.S. agreed the Sioux held sovereign rights to the Black Hills and the Sioux agreed to allow railroad and trail passage across these territories in exchange for annual federal payments of $50,000 for 50 years to the tribes. Shortly after the treaty was signed, the U.S. government began erecting several fortified trading posts.

Sioux land represented about 5% of the entire continental US – covering most of the present-day states of North and South Dakota, and parts of Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming.

1852 U.S. government violated the 1851 treaty. The U.S. Senate decreased the annual payment of $50,000 to the Sioux people from 50 years to 10 years.

1862 Gold found in Montana. The US began building the Bozeman Trail through Sioux territory as well as army forts along the trail – both actions being in direct contravention of the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty.

1866 Sioux Indians attacked a supply train traveling on the Bozeman Trail on December 21st. Soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman retaliated but all 80 soldiers were killed by a small Sioux army led by Red Cloud. General Sherman’s response on behalf of the U.S. Army was, “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children.” The Indians called the Fetterman Massacre the Battle of 100-In-The-Hands. This map shows the trail, U.S. forts, and the site of the Fetterman Massacre.

1867 Congress passed a bill for an Indian peace commission to be lead by Lieutenant General William T. Sherman. Government negotiators were to offer $15,000 annual annuites for tribes of 5,000 or 6,000 people if they would remove themselves from the traditional Sioux homelands in the Great Plains – the Powder River Country. During negotiations between government officials and Oglala chief Red Cloud (pictured to the right),

Red Cloud walked out of the meeting declaring: “The Great Father sends us presents and wants us to sell him the road, but the White Chief comes with soldiers to steal it before the Indian says yes or no! I will talk with you no more! I will go – now! – and I will fight you! As long as I live I will fight you for the last hunting grounds of my people.”

Thus began the Powder River War (Red Cloud’s War) as the Lakotas and their Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho allies fought the U.S. Army at the various forts in Lakota territory. Those Sioux friendly to the U.S. government, however, signed a treaty giving Euro-Americans the right to use the Bozeman Trail in return for guns and ammuition. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Army began building more forts along the Trail.

At the Grand Council of 6,000 tribes at Bear Butte, the sacred mountain of the Cheyenne, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull, among other great leaders, pledged to end further encroachment of Sioux territory by the whites.

1868 Fort Laramie Treaty brought peace between the Sioux and the US government by guaranteeing that the Sioux had “absolute and undisturbed use of the Great Sioux Reservation…No persons…shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in territory described in this article, or without consent of the Indians…No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described…shall be of any validity or force…unless executed and signed by at least three-fourth of all adult male Indians, occupying or interested in the same.”

This treaty proved to be one of the most controversial in the history of US-Indian relations – it ended the war between the Sioux and the U.S. government, split the Oglala nation into those “friendlies” willing to work with the U.S. government and the “hostiles” with whom the U.S. banned trade, and set the legal stage for Sioux claims to the Black Hills that continue into the 21st Century.

1874 Gold discovered in the Black Hills and white miners began trespassing on Lakota hunting grounds in the Black Hills. An expedition began into the Black Hills led by George Armstrong Custer. In the photo below, Custer poses with his Indian scouts during the Black Hills expedition. The man pointing to the map was named “Bloody Knife,” a member of the Cree tribe.

Kneeling Bloody Knife next to seated George Custer

1875 Federal government tried to buy the Black Hills for $5 million. The Sioux refused to meet with the government commission.

On December 3, 1875, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs required that all Sioux people report to their agency by January 31, 1876 for a head count.

1876 On February 7, the War Department authorized General Sheridan to move into Indian lands and round up the “hostile Sioux” who had not reported to their agency. The first attack happened on March 17 – sooner than the Sioux were expecting – thus escalating hostilities that culminated in the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 17 – also known as Custer’s Last Stand. The battle occurred after General Custer and the 7th Calvary attacked a Sioux camp. Custer and all his men were killed in what was the largest defeat ever of a U.S. force by Native Americans. Afterwards, Congress voted funds for two new forts along the Yellowstone River, authorized 2,500 new recruits to be sent to Sioux country, and moved control over reservations from the Indian Bureau into the hands of the U.S. Army.

In August, Congress passed the Sioux Appropriation Bill stating that “hereafter there shall be no appropriation made for the subsistence” of the Sioux, unless they first relinquished their rights to the hunting grounds outside the reservation and ceded the Black Hills to the United States. Red Cloud’s Oglala band signed, after which all of his followers were disarmed and dehorsed.

1877 Congressional Act of 1877 violated the Fort Laramie Treaty by requiring the Sioux to relinquish the Black Hills and 22.8 million acres of their surrounding territory. In less than 20 years, the Sioux Nation shrunk from 134 million acres to less than 15 million.

1889 After the Sioux refused to sell 9 million additional acres of their reservation to the US government, Congress passed the Sioux Act. The Act redefined the requested 9 million acres as “surplus lands” open to white settlement under the Dawes Act and divided the Lakotas into five separate reservations: Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Upper and Lower Brule. The remaining land was given to the new states of North and South Dakota. Any Indians who refused to be confined to reservations were declared “hostile.” The 9 million acres was then opened up for public purchase for white ranchers and homesteaders.

1890 The Battle at Wounded Knee occurred after U.S. Army was sent to Pine Ridge Reservation to quell Sioux participation in the Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance originated with Wovoka of the Paiutes who reported that God told him in a dream that if Indians danced for five days, they could meet their departed ancestors. After their reunion, the dead relatives would come back to life and help to save the Sioux from the evils of white domination. To the Indians, the Ghost Dance offered hope and a chance for survival; to the U.S. Army, the dance symbolized resistance and the possibility of Indian rebellion.

On December 29, 1890, Sioux Chief Big Foot met four cavalry units which were under orders to capture him. The Sioux raised a white flag to signal their promise not to fight. They were taken to an army camp at Wounded Knee Creek where they were ordered to give up their weapons. The medicine man, Yellow Bird, started the Ghost Dance, urging his tribesmen to join him by chanting in Sioux, “The bullets will not go toward you.” When one young Indian refused to give up his rifle, confusion ensued during which several braves pulled rifles from their blankets, and the soldiers opened fire. At least 150 Indian men, women, and children were left dead; as many as 300 may have perished when the wounded died soon thereafter. The Seventh Calvary, Custer’s avenged regiment, received 23 Congressional medals of honor for their involvement at Wounded Knee.

1896 On February 22, 1897, President Grover Cleveland established the Black Hills Forest Reserve. This land was protected against fires, wasteful lumbering practices, and timber fraud. In 1905, the Black Hills Forest Reserve was transferred to the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1907, it was renamed the Black Hills National Forest.

1910 The Sioux Reservation was further reduced with the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations losing more land to white homesteaders.

1918 The Lakota Sioux hired an attorney who sought the return of the Black Hills under the Treaty of 1868. Thus began the longest lawsuit in American history.

1923 The Lakota Sioux filed suit with the US Court of Claims demanding compensation for the loss of the Black Hills. It was not until 1942 that the Court finally dismissed the claim.

1946 The Sioux filed suit with the newly-created Indian Claims Commission. In 1954, the Commission dismissed the case on the grounds that it had already been denied.

1956 Sioux reinstated their claim to the Indian Claims Commission on the grounds that they had been represented by “inadequate counsel.”

1973 The American Indian Movement (AIM) began the first organized extralegal battle for the Black Hills. AIM occupied Wounded Knee Cemetery on Pine Ridge Reservation to alert the world about the vested economic interest the U.S. government held in the Hills and the extent to which that interest governed U.S. governmental policy and federal court cases regarding their land. (For a detailed understanding of the upheaval at the Pine Ridge Reservation between 1973 and 1975, as well as the aftermath, click here.)

1974 The Indian Claims Commission decided that the US government had taken Sioux land in violation of the 5th Amendment because it had not paid just compensation, and subsequently awarded the Sioux $17.5 million (the estimated “value” of the land at the time it was misappropriated) plus 5% simple interest calculated annually since 1877 – for a total of $105 million. The US government appealed and the Court of Claims reversed the decision on the grounds that the claim had already been litigated and decided in 1942. However, it also found that “a more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history.”

1978 Congress passed an act enabling the Court of Claims to rehear the case. Sioux argued that they should be compensated on new grounds – “dishonorable dealings.”

1979 The U.S. Court of Claims found that the 1877 Act that seized the Black Hills from the Sioux violated the 5th Amendment. The US had taken the Black Hills unconstitutionally and court reinstated the $17.5 million plus 5% interest for a total of $105 million. The US government appealed.

1980 In the United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the US Supreme Court found that the Congressional Act of 1877 constituted “a taking of tribal property which had been set aside by the treaty of Fort Laramie for the Sioux’s exclusive occupation.” The $105 million award was upheld. The Sioux then turned down the money, claimed that “The Black Hills are not for sale.” Instead, they demanded that the US government return the Black Hills and pay the money as compensation for the billions of dollars in wealth that had been extracted and the damages down while whites illegally occupied the Hills.

AIM, under direction of Russell Means, occupied an 880 acre area in the Black Hills which became known as Yellow Thunder Camp. The U.S. government sued AIM, claiming that they must leave federal property. AIM counter-sued, arguing that U.S. Forest Service policies in the Black Hills violated the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and Lakota religious freedom under both the First Amendment and the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA).

1983 The Black Hills Steering Committee was created and its members drafted a bill for Congress that asked for 7,300,000 acres of federal land in the Black Hills in South Dakota. The Committee promised to keep all federal employees working in the Black Hills.

1985 U.S. District Court Judge ruled in favor of AIM, arguing that the Lakota had every right to the Yellow Thunder Camp, particularly because AIRFA recognized entire geographic areas as well as specific sites to be sacred areas.

1988 The Eighth Circuit Court reversed the U.S. District Court’s decision. AIM ended its occupation of Yellow Thunder Camp.

1995 Controversy erupted when the U.S. National Park Service asked climbers to consider not climbing Devil’s Tower in the Black Hills during the month of June to honor the Lakota’s spiritual traditions. A local climbing company and several climbers sued the National Parks Service by arguing that the Park Service’s actions violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. which prohibits the government from sponsoring, supporting, or becoming entangled in religious affairs.

A Wyoming judge decided that the Park’s policy was an “endorsement” of one religion over another and delivered a court injunction on the Park’s policy. The Park Service appealed.

1999 Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeal determined that the Park’s policy was not an endorsement, but rather was an “accommodation.” The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

2000 The U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s appeal of the 10th Circuit ruling, thus upholding the appellate court’s decision as final. Nonetheless, climbing was allowed to resume. However, National Park Policy requires that during June, rangers ask climbers to voluntarily refrain from climbing on the Tower and hikers to voluntarily refrain from scrambling within the inside of the Tower Trail Loop

2007 On December 19, a small group of activists calling itself the Lakotah Freedom Delegation announced that the Lakotah were withdrawing from all treaties previously signed with the United States and were planning to regain their sovereignty over thousands of acres of traditional territory in North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana. According to the group, the withdrawal immediately and irrevocably ended all agreements between the Lakota Sioux Nation of Indians and the United States Government outlined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties at Fort Laramie Wyoming. The group argued that their declaration of independence was not a secession from the United States, but rather a reassertion of sovereignty. Their leader is Russell Means, one of the prominent members of the American Indian Movement in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

Property ownership in the five-state area of Lakota nation – parts of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana – had been illegally homesteaded. Lakota representatives announced that if the United States did not enter into immediate diplomatic negotiations, liens would be filed on real estate transactions in the five state region, clouding title over literally thousands of square miles of land and property.

2008 Indian activists ask that the 23 Medals of DIS Honor awarded in 1890 to the members of the 7th Calvary of the United States Army be rescinded for the murder of innocent women children and men at Wounded Knee.

2009 Internal conflicts about the Black Hills claim erupted among the Sioux. Some tribal members have hired a lawyer and have filed suit to receive the money rather than the land as compensation. This has caused a great deal of animosity among tribal members, some who feel that taking money for the Black Hills was the equivalent of giving up their identities as Indians.

2012 The monetary compensation gained through the longest legal battle in U.S. history remained unclaimed; the settlement is now worth about $1 billion. The map to the left shows the orginal land promised by the 1868 treaty (gold), the land – including the Black Hills – illegally taken by the U.S. government in the 1877 (orange), and the Lakota reservations as they appeared after 100 years of court actions (brown).

Pine Ridge Reservation, home to many of the Lakota people, is one of the poorest communities in the United States.

Eric W. Weber

Painting by Frank B. Mayer, a witness to the negotiations and signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. Painted in 1885.

The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux of 1851 is an agreement between the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota and the U.S. government. It transferred ownership of much of southern and western Minnesota from the Dakota to the United States. Along with the Treaty of Mendota, signed that same year, it opened twenty-four million acres of land to settler-colonists. For the Dakota, these treaties marked another step in the process that saw them increasingly marginalized in and dismissed from land that was their home.

During the early decades of the 1800s, white immigrants began moving west of the St. Croix River into land held by American Indians. Though their numbers were relatively small at first, they were eager to use the land for farming and industry. They wanted to move further west, deeper into Indian lands. Influential men, including Alexander Ramsey and Henry Sibley, convinced the U.S. government to negotiate the purchase of land from American Indian groups living in the region. Through this transaction, Ramsey and Sibley also hoped to recoup debts that fur traders claimed various Indian bands owed to them.

By 1850, both the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota were in a difficult situation. Animals that they had hunted for food and trade were not abundant enough to support their people anymore. Some groups saw selling their land as a way to gain resources they needed to survive. A land cession treaty, with guaranteed annuity payments, could help them through these tough times and, for some Dakota, offered a way to rebuild their communities.

In July 1851, Sibley, Ramsey, and federal commissioner Luke Lea chose Traverse des Sioux as the site for treaty negotiations. It took several weeks for enough representatives of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands to arrive. Once they had arrived, however, it did not take long to come to an agreement. The Dakota were in a very weak bargaining position because they believed that if they did not sell their land, the United States would take it. Negotiations took several days, and some Dakota leaders initially resisted the demands made by the commissioners because they asked for so much. Ultimately however, the Dakota gave in.

On July 23, the Dakota signed the treaty with the government commissioners. The Treaty had three primary results. First, it ceded much of the southern and western portion of Minnesota to the U.S. for about seven and a half cents an acre. Second, it provided for a reservation of ten miles on each side of the Minnesota River. Finally, the treaty arranged for payment to the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands for the land they had ceded. They were to receive a portion of the money immediately. Some funds were set aside for the construction of schools and other services. The rest was to be placed in an account managed by the federal government. From that account, the bands were to receive an annual interest payment in both cash and goods.

After the Dakota leaders had signed two copies of the treaty, they were directed to a third piece of paper held by Joseph R. Brown, a prominent fur trader. All but two of them also signed this agreement. The paper, known as the Traders’ Paper, directed the government to pay off various debts claimed by white and mixed-race fur traders using the money owed to the bands from the treaty. This repayment method was common at the time, and the Dakota, given the chance, would perhaps have agreed to it. However, the deceptive methods that Brown and other traders used to get the leaders to sign angered the Dakota. No one read the paper aloud or translated it for the Dakota, many of whom believed it to be another copy of the treaty. Many Dakota felt cheated by this process, and they added this incident to a growing list of reasons to distrust the federal government.

Following the treaty, Sibley, Ramsey, and Lea negotiated a similar treaty at Mendota with other Dakota bands, which was signed on August 5. In the decade after the signing of these treaties, over 100,000 white immigrants moved to Minnesota to live on the land that Indigenous peoples had ceded.

© Minnesota Historical Society

Sioux Treaty of 1868

Spotted Tail, Sinte Gleska, Sicangu or Brulé Lakota Sioux Chief of Great Renown, about 1880.


“This war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land from us without price.”

–Spotted Tail

The report and journal of proceedings of the commission appointed to obtain certain concessions from the Sioux Indians, December 26, 1876

The history of Native Americans in North America dates back thousands of years. Exploration and settlement of the western United States by Americans and Europeans wreaked havoc on the Indian peoples living there. In the 19th century the American drive for expansion clashed violently with the Native American resolve to preserve their lands, sovereignty, and ways of life. The struggle over land has defined relations between the U.S. government and Native Americans and is well documented in the holdings of the National Archives. (From the American Originals exhibit script.)

From the 1860s through the 1870s the American frontier was filled with Indian wars and skirmishes. In 1865 a congressional committee began a study of the Indian uprisings and wars in the West, resulting in a Report on the Condition of the Indian Tribes , which was released in 1867. This study and report by the congressional committee led to an act to establish an Indian Peace Commission to end the wars and prevent future Indian conflicts. The United States government set out to establish a series of Indian treaties that would force the Indians to give up their lands and move further west onto reservations.

In the spring of 1868 a conference was held at Fort Laramie, in present day Wyoming, that resulted in a treaty with the Sioux. This treaty was to bring peace between the whites and the Sioux who agreed to settle within the Black Hills reservation in the Dakota Territory.

The Black Hills of Dakota are sacred to the Sioux Indians. In the 1868 treaty, signed at Fort Laramie and other military posts in Sioux country, the United States recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people. In 1874, however, General George A. Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills accompanied by miners who were seeking gold. Once gold was found in the Black Hills, miners were soon moving into the Sioux hunting grounds and demanding protection from the United States Army. Soon, the Army was ordered to move against wandering bands of Sioux hunting on the range in accordance with their treaty rights. In 1876, Custer, leading an army detachment, encountered the encampment of Sioux and Cheyenne at the Little Bighorn River. Custer’s detachment was annihilated, but the United States would continue its battle against the Sioux in the Black Hills until the government confiscated the land in 1877. To this day, ownership of the Black Hills remains the subject of a legal dispute between the U.S. government and the Sioux.

The Documents

Sioux Treaty of 1868

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View Pages: 1 | 2 | 3
National Archives Identifier: 299803

General Alfred Terry’s Telegram

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View Pages:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16
17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21
National Archives Identifier: 300379

Letter from Captain John S. Poland

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View Pages: Endorsement | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
National Archives Identifier: 301973

Selected Photographs of Custer’s 1874 Expedition 519425

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Column of Cavalry, Artillery, and Wagons, 1874National Archives Identifier: 519427

This article was written by Linda Darus Clark, a teacher at Padua Franciscan High School, in Parma, OH.

Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) – Wikipedia

The Treaty of Fort Laramie (also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868 was an agreement between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho Nation signed on April 29, 1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further land and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The Powder River Country was to be henceforth closed to all whites. The treaty ended Red Cloud’s War.


Map showing the major battles of Red Cloud’s War along with major treaty boundaries

The first Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed in 1851, attempted to resolve disputes between tribes and the US Government, as well as among tribes themselves, in the modern areas of Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota. It set out that the tribes would make peace among one another, allow for certain outside access to their lands (for activities such as travelling, surveying, and the construction of some government outposts and roads), and that tribes would be responsible for wrongs committed by their people. In return, the US Government would offer protection to the tribes, and pay an annuity of $50,000 over 10 to 15 years. However, the 1851 treaty had a number of shortcomings which contributed to the deterioration of relations and subsequent violence over the next several years. The federal government never kept its obligation to protect tribal resources and hunting grounds, and only made a single payment toward the annuity. Although the federal government operated via representative democracy, the tribes did so through consensus, and although local chiefs signed the treaty as representatives, they had limited power to control others who themselves had not consented to its terms. Finally, the discovery of gold in the west, and the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad led to substantially increased travel through the area, and conflicts between the tribes, settlers, and the US government, and eventually open war beginning in 1866.

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) Native American Images

Indian Peace Commission

That year the United States Department of the Interior called on tribes to negotiate safe passage through the Bozeman Trail, while the United States Department of War moved Henry B. Carrington along with a column of 700 men into the Powder River Basin, sparking Red Cloud’s War. After losing resolve to continue the war, following defeat in the Fetterman Fight, sustained guerrilla warfare by the Native Americans, exorbitant rates for freight through the area, and difficulty finding contractors to work the rail lines, the US Government, organized the Indian Peace Commission to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities.

A peace counsel chosen by the government arrived on April 19, 1868, at Fort Laramie in what would later become the US state of Wyoming.


The treaty was laid out in a series of 17 articles:

Article I

Article one called for the cessation of hostilities, stating “all war between the parties to this agreement shall for ever cease.” If crimes were committed by “bad men” among white settlers, the government agreed to arrest and punish the offender, and reimburse any losses suffered by injured parties. The tribes agreed to turn over criminals among them, any “bad men among the Indians,” to the government for trial and punishment, and to reimburse any losses by suffered by injured parties.

These terms effectively relinquished the authority of the tribes to punish crimes committed against them by white settlers. It also provided that if the tribes failed to deliver their wrongdoers to the government, the government was authorized to reimburse losses out of annuities owed to the tribe.

Similar provisions appeared in nine such treaties between the government and tribes. In practice, the “bad men among the whites” clause was seldom enforced. The first plaintiff to win a trial case on the provision did so in 2009, based on the provision in the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty.

Article II

Front page of 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, from US Government archives

Article two of the treaty changed the boundaries for tribal land and established the Great Sioux Reservation, to include areas of present day South Dakota west of the Missouri River, which included the Black Hills, and set aside for the “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians”. In total, it set aside about 25% of the Dakota Territory as it exited at the time.

It made the total lands smaller and moved it further eastward. This was to “take away access to the prime buffalo herds that occupied the area and encourage the Sioux to become farmers.”

The government agreed that no parties, other than those authorized by the treaty, would be allowed to “pass over, settle upon, or reside in the territory”.According to one source writing on article two, “What remained unstated in the treaty, but would have been obvious to Sherman and his men, is that land not place in the reservation was to be considered United States property, and not Indian territory.”

Article III

Article three provided for allotments of up to 160 acres (65 ha) of tillable land to be set aside for farming by members of the tribes.

By 1871, 200 farms of 80 acres (32 ha) and 200 farms of 40 40 acres (16 ha) had been established including 80 homes. By 1877, this had risen to 153 homes “50 of which had shingle roofs and most had board floors” according to an 1876 report by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Article IV

The government agreed to build a number of buildings on the reservation: Warehouse, Store-room, Agency Building, Physician residence, Carpenter residence, Farmer residence, Blacksmith residence, Miller residence, Engineer residence, School house and Saw mill.

Article four also provided for the establishment of an agency on the reservation for the purpose of government administration, although in practice, five were constructed and two more later added. These original five were composed of the Grand River Agency (Later Standing Rock), Cheyenne River Agency, Whetstone Agency, Crow Creek Agency, and Lower Brulé Agency. Another would be set up on the White River, and another on the North Platte River, later moved to also be on the White.

Article V

The government agreed the agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and keep his office open to complaints, which he will investigate and forward to the Commissioner. The decision of the Commissioner, subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior, “shall be binding on the parties”.

Article VI

Article six laid out provisions for members of the tribes to take legal individual ownership of previously commonly held land, up to 320 acres (130 ha) for the heads of families, and 80 acres (32 ha) for any adult who was not the head of a family.

This land then “may be occupied and held in the exclusive possession of the person selecting it, and of his family, so long as he or they may continue to cultivate it.”

Article VII

Article seven addressed education for those aged six to 16, in order to, as the treaty states, “insure the civilization of the Indians entering into this treaty”.

The tribes agreed to compel both male and females to attend school, and the government agreed to provide a schoolhouse and teacher for every 30 students who could be made to attend.

Article VIII

In article eight, the government agreed to provide seeds, tools, and training for any of the residents who selected tracts of land, and agreed to farm them. This was to be in the amount of up to $100 dollars worth for the first year, and up to $25 worth for the second and third years.

These were one of a number of provisions of the treaty designed to encourage farming, rather than hunting, and move the tribes “closer to the white man’s way of life.”

Article IX

After ten years the government may withdraw the individuals from article 13, but if so, will provide $10,000 annually “devoted to the education of said Indians … as will best promote the education and moral improvement of said tribes.” These are to be managed by a local Indian agent under the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Article X

Article 10 provided for an allotment of clothes, and food, in addition to one “good American cow” and two oxen for each lodge or family who moved to the reservation.

It further provided for an annual payment over 30 years of $10 for each person who hunted, and $20 for those who farmed, to be used by the Secretary of the Interior for the “purchase of such articles as from time to time the condition and necessities of the Indians may indicate to be proper.”

Article XI

One of the signature pages from the treaty, including X marks for the tribal leaders, as a substitute for signed names

Article eleven included several provisions stating the tribes agreed to withdraw opposition to the construction of railroads, military posts and roads, and will not attack or capture white settlers or their property. The government agreed to reimburse the tribes for damages caused in the construction of works on the reservation, in the amount assessed by “three disinterested commissioners” appointed by the President.

It guaranteed the tribes access to the area to the north and west of the Black Hills[c] as hunting grounds, “so long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase.”

As one source examined the treaty language with regard to “so long as the buffalo may range”, the tribes considered this language to be a perpetual guarantee, because “they could not envision a day when buffalo would not roam the plains”; however:

The concept was clear enough to the commissioners … [who] well knew that hide hunters, with Sherman’s blessing, were already beginning the slaughter that would eventually drive the Indians to complete dependence on the government for their existence.

Article XII

Article seven required the agreement of “three-fourths of all the adult male Indians” for a treaty with the tribes to “be of any validity”.

Hedren reflected on article 12 writing that the provisions indicated the government “already anticipated a time when different needs would demand the abrogation of the treaty terms.”

These provisions have since been controversial, since subsequent treaties amending that of 1868 did not include the required agreement of three-fourths of adult males, and so under the terms of 1868, are invalid.

Article XIII

The government agreed to furnish the tribes with a “physician, teachers, carpenter, miller, engineer, farmer, and blacksmiths”.

Article XIV

The government agreed to provide $100 in prizes for those who “in the judgment of the agent may grow the most valuable crops for the respective year.”

Article XV

Once the promised buildings were constructed, the tribes agreed to regard the reservation as their “permanent home” and make “no permanent settlement elsewhere”

Article XVI

Article 16 stated that country north of the North Platte River and east of the Big Horn Mountains would be “unceded Indian territory” that no white settlers could occupy without the consent of the tribes.

This included 33,000,000 acres (13,000,000 ha) of land outside the reservation which were previously set aside by the 1851 treaty, as well as around an additional 25,000,000 acres (10,000,000 ha).

As part of this, the government agreed to close the forts associated with the Bozeman Trail. Article 16 did not however, address issues related to important hunting grounds north and northwest of the reservation.

Article XVII

The treaty, as agreed to “shall be construed as abrogating and annulling all treaties and agreements heretofore entered into.”


Over the course of 192 days ending November 6, the treaty was signed by a total of 156 Sioux, and 25 Arapaho, in addition to the commissioners, and an additional 34 signatories as witnesses.

Although the commissioners signed the document on April 29 along with the Brulé, the party broke up in May, with only two remaining at Fort Laramie to conclude talks there, before traveling up the Missouri River to gather additional signatures from tribes elsewhere.

Throughout this process, no further amendments were made to the terms. As one writer phrased it, “the commissioners essientially cycled Sioux in and out of Fort Laramie … seeking only the formality of the chiefs’ marks and forgoing true agreement in the spirit that the Indians understood it.”…

Sioux Chiefs

Members of the Peace Commission at Fort Laramie, 1868

Following initial negotiations, those from the Peace Commission did not discuss the conditions of the treaty to subsequent tribes who arrived over the following months to sign. Rather, the treaty was read aloud, and it was allowed “some time for the chiefs to speak” before “instructing them to place their marks on the prepared document.”

As the source continues:

These tribes had little interest in or understanding of what had taken place at the Fort Laramie councils. They wanted the whites out of their country and would fight as long as necessary.

The process of abandoning the forts associated with the Bozeman Trail, as part of the conditions agreed to, proved to be a long process, and was stalled by difficulty arranging the sale of the goods from the fort to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Fort C.F. Smith was not emptied until July 29, and Fort Phil Kearny and Fort Reno until August 1. Once abandoned, Red Cloud and his followers, who had been monitoring the activities of the troops rode down and burned what remained.

The peace commission dissolved on October 10 after presenting its report to Congress, which among other things, recommended the government “cease to recognize the Indian tribes as domestic dependent nations,” and that no further “treaties shall be made with any Indian tribe.”

William Dye, the commander at Fort Laramie was left to represent the commission, and met with Red Cloud, who was among the last to sign the treaty on November 6.

The government remained unwilling to negotiate the terms further, and after two days, Red Cloud is reported to have “washed his hands with the dust of the floor” and signed, formally ending the war.

The US Senate ratified the treaty on Feb. 16, 1869.


Notable signatories presented in the order they signed are as follows. Two exceptions are included. Henderson was a commissioner, but did not sign the treaty. Red Cloud was among the last to sign, but is listed out-of-order along with the other Oglala.


Chiefs and headmen





Aftermath and legacy

Map of the 1868 Great Sioux Reservation, and the subsequent changes in reservation borders. Although the treaty required the consent of three fourth of the males of the tribes, many did not sign or recognize the results. Others would later complain that the treaty contained complex language that was not well explained in order to avoid arousing suspicion.

Yet others would not fully learn the terms of the agreement until 1870, when Red Cloud returned from a trip to Washington D.C.

The treaty overall, and in comparison with the 1851 agreement, represented a departure from earlier considerations of tribal customs, and demonstrated instead the government’s “more heavy-handed position with regard to tribal nations, and … desire to assimilate the Sioux into American property arrangements and social customs.”

According to one source, “animosities over the treaty arose almost immediately” when a group of Miniconjou were informed they were no long welcome to trade at Fort Laramie, being south of their newly establish territory. This was notwithstanding that the treaty did not make any stipulation that the tribes could not travel outside their land, only that they would not permanently occupy outside land, and only expressly forbid the traveling of white settlers on the reservation.

Both the tribes and the government chose to ignore portions of the treaty, or to “comply only as long as conditions met their favor,” and between 1869 and 1876, at least seven separate skirmishes occurred.

The government eventually broke the terms of the treaty following the Black Hills Gold Rush and an expedition into the area by George Armstrong Custer in 1874, and failed to prevent white settlers from moving onto tribal lands. Rising tensions eventually lead again to open conflict in the Great Sioux War of 1876.

The 1868 treaty would be modified three times by the US Congress between 1876 and 1889, each time taking more land originally granted, including unilaterally seizing the Black Hills in 1877.

However, as of 2018, Congress does not recognize these subsequent modifications.

United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians

On June 30, 1980, in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the government had illegally taken the land. It upheld an award of $15.5 million for the market value of the land in 1877, along with 103 years worth of interest at 5 percent, for an additional $105 million. The Lakota Sioux, however, have refused to accept payment and instead continue to demand the return of the territory from the United States. As of 24 August 2011 the Sioux interest on the money has compounded to over 1 billion dollars.


Marking the 150th anniversary of the treaty, the South Dakota Legislature passed Senate Resolution 1, reaffirming the legitimacy of the treaty, and according to the original text, illustrating to the federal government that the Sioux are “still here” and are “seeking a future of forward-looking, positive relationships with full respect for the sovereign status of Native American nations confirmed by the treaty.”

On March 11, 2018, the Governor of Wyoming, Matt Mead signed a similar bill into law, calling on “the federal government to uphold its federal trust responsibilities,” and calling for a permanent display of the original treaty, on file with the National Archives and Records Administration, in the Wyoming Legislature.

See also

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868

Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming

The signing of a peace treaty by William T. Sherman and the Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

Describe the agreement the dakota sioux made the U.S. government and the reason for their uprising? (

Best Answer: Reason for their Uprising –
Land dispute between the government and the Siuox Tribe in Minnesota.

The US set aside two reservations for the Sioux along the Minnesota River, each about 20 miles (30 km) wide and 70 miles (110 km) long.

The Upper Sioux Agency was established near Granite Falls, Minnesota, while the Lower Sioux Agency was established about thirty miles downstream near Redwood Falls, Minnesota. The Upper Sioux were satisfied with their reservation, since it included several of their old villages.

The Lower Sioux were displaced from their traditional woodlands, and were dissatisfied with their territory. The Sioux were also resentful of the separate “trader’s paper” included in the treaty, which paid $400,000 of the promised treaty total to fur traders and mixed-bloods who had financial claims against the Indians.