Sioux Indian Wars

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Sioux Indian Wars

The Sioux Wars were a series of conflicts between the United States and various subgroups of the Sioux people that occurred in the latter half of the 19th century. The Teton Sioux tribes were comprised of Oglala, Hunkpapa, Brule, Miniconjou, Blackfoot, San Arc, Two Kettle in the nineteenth century. Santee, Lakota,

1854 – 1890

The earliest conflict came in 1854 when a fight broke out at Fort Laramie in Wyoming, when Indian warriors killed 29 U.S. soldiers after their chief was shot in the back, in what became known as the Grattan Massacre. The U.S. exacted revenge the next year by killing approximately 100 Sioux in Nebraska.

Sioux War 1862

By 1862, the Santee Sioux had given up their traditional homelands, which comprised most of southern Minnesota, in exchange for a narrow reservation on the southern bank of the Minnesota River. As compensation for their lands, the Sioux were to receive cash annuities and supplies that would enable them to live without the resources from their traditional hunting grounds. Because of administrative delays, however, both the cash and food had not arrived by the summer of 1862. Crop failures the previous fall made the late food delivery particularly distressing to the Indians. Encroachment by settlers on reservation land and the unfair practices of many American traders also fueled Sioux suspicions and hatred.

Sioux War of 1866-1868

Travelers along the Bozeman Trail soon found themselves under fierce attack by hostile Indians. Under the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the U.S. government had set aside the Powder River country, through which the Bozeman Trail ran, as Oglala and Brulé Sioux, Arapaho, and Cheyenne hunting land. Thus, these tribes objected to the intruders and attempted to turn back their wagons and herds. In 1865, responding to the demands of the settlers for protection, the U.S. Army sent a column under General Patrick E. Connor to the region. Connor constructed a stockade, Fort Reno, 169 miles north of Fort Laramie at the forks of the Powder River, but his attempt to subdue the tribes failed.

Sioux War of 1876-1877 or Red Cloud’s War

The Sioux War of 1866-68 clearly established the dominance of the Oglala Sioux over U.S. forces in northern Wyoming and southern Montana east of the Bighorn Mountains. The treaty of 1868 between the Sioux nation and the United States thereby recognized the right of the Sioux to roam and hunt in the areas depicted in gray on the map. This territory was called unceded in recognition of the fact that although the United States did not recognize Sioux ownership of the land, neither did it deny that the Sioux had hunting rights there. This provision clearly established the solemn rights of the Sioux to perpetual ownership of the reservation.

Custer’s Approach to Little Bighorn

After receiving his instructions and leaving Custer for the last time, Reno recrossed to the left bank of Reno Creek and followed the stream to its confluence, with the Little Bighorn, where he briefly stopped to water the horses. Five minutes later, Reno’s battalion forded the Little Bighorn and deployed into a line across the narrow, flat valley. For the first time, Reno could see the edge of what now appeared to be an enormous Indian village.

Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890 near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Cankpe Opi Wakpala) on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside intercepted Spotted Elk’s (Big Foot) band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them 5 miles westward to Wounded Knee Creek where they made camp.

 Suggested Reading

Through Dakota Eyes – Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862,” oral history is the only game in town. Every selection in the book is an oral story from Indians or mixed-blood Indians about the disastrous uprising that killed hundreds of soldiers, settlers, and Indians. One of the editors of “Through Dakota Eyes” is none other than Gary Clayton Anderson, the premier scholar on Dakota history.

Fort Phil Kearny: An American Saga – There recently was written a book on Fort Phil Kearny and the Fetterman Massacre that defended William Judd Fetterman’s role in the fiasco that took place on December 21, 1866. Life on the Wyoming frontier was not a place one would relish to be during this time period. It is true that Colonel Henry Carrington was ill-suited to be placed at the helm of this command. However, the author makes a strong case for Carrington in this book.

Troopers with Custer: Historic Incidents of the Battle of Little Big Horn – More incisively than many later writers, Brininstool considers the causes of Custer’s defeat and questions the alleged cowardice of Major Marcus A. Reno. His exciting reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn sets up the reader for a series of turns by its stars and supporting and bit players.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – First published in 1970, this extraordinary book changed the way Americans think about the original inhabitants of their country. Beginning with the Long Walk of the Navajos in 1860 and ending 30 years later with the massacre of Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, it tells how the American Indians lost their land and lives to a dynamically expanding white society. During these three decades, America’s population doubled from 31 million to 62 million. Again and again, promises made to the Indians fell victim to the ruthlessness and greed of settlers pushing westward to make new lives.



MLA Source Citation:

US Military Records. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 28 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/military/sioux-indian-wars.htm - Last updated on Mar 27th, 2014


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