Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Last Tribe to get the Black Hills

The Black Hills are a small isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming. Harney Peak, which rises to 7,244 feet is the range's highest summit. Today the Black Hills encompass the Black Hills National Forest.

The name "Black Hills" is a translation of the Lakota Sioux Indian tribe who called them Ȟe Sápa, but the Cheyenne called them Moʼȯhta-voʼhonáaeva for a hundred years or more before the Lakato-Sioux ever arrived there. The hills were so-called "Black Hills" because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they were covered in trees. 

We do know that the Arikara Indian nation arrived by 1500 AD. After reading about the Arikara Indians, it is pretty much a given that the Arikara had the Black Hills the longest and before everyone else. If there are people who want to give the Black Hills back to the Indians, than it should be to the right Native American Indian nation, the right tribe.

The Arikara in the Black Hills was followed by the Crow, Pawnee, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, and then the United States. The Lakota Sioux arrived in the region after getting kicked out of Minnesota in the late 1700s by other tribes. The Lakota Sioux took over the Black Hills after they drove out the Cheyenne nation. The Sioux forced the Cheyenne to move West. The Lakota-Sioux, who are also known simply as the Lakota or the Sioux, 

Among tribes, the wars were more brutal than most realize. The Lakota took over the territory of the Black Hills only after they got kicked out of Minnesota by other tribes. The Lakota people, and Teton Sioux, are part of a confederation of seven related Sioux tribes, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ or Seven Council Fires.

Siouan language speakers may have originated in the lower Mississippi River region and then migrated to or originated in the Ohio Valley. They were agriculturalists and may have been part of the Mound Builder civilization during the 9th–12th centuries CE.

The tribes belonging to the Siouan linguistic family are the Lakota, Assiniboin, Omaha, Ponka, Kansa, Osage, Kwapa, Iowa, Oto, Missouri, Winnebago, Mandan, Hidatsa, Crow, or Absaroka, tribes whose territories sat in the region now known as Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. The Biloxi, who were formerly near Mobile Bay, the Catawba, of South Carolina, the Tutelo, Sapona, Occanechi, of North Carolina and Virginia were also part of the Siouan language speaking nation. The Dakota-Lakota-Nakota speakers lived in the upper Mississippi Region in present day Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and later in the Dakotas. 

Wars between Native American tribal nations did not always turn out well for the Lakota-Sioux. Wars with Anishnaabe and Cree nations pushed the Lakota-Sioux west and onto the Great Plains in the mid- to late-1600s.

Historically the Anishinaabe peoples maintained close alliances with Cree nations including the Atikamekw, Montagnais, Moose Cree, Swampy Cree and Plains Cree. Others allies included the Noos (Abenaki), Miijimaag, Nii'inaa-naadawe (Wendat), Omanoominiig, Wiinibiigoog and Zhaawanoog. Other closely related Algonquin groups such as the Zhiishiigwan and Amikwaa were incorporated into the Anishinaabe family of nations through alliances.

Due to competing interests for land and resurces, from time to time the Anishinaabeg had strained relations with the various Iroquois nations, Sauk, Fox and Dakota peoples. From the east in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Anishinaabe, who the Lakota called the "Chippewa" (Ojibwe), fought with the use of muskets supplied by the French and British. This superior technology for waging war on other tribes enabled the Anishinaabe to pushed the Lakota further into Minnesota and then West and Southwest. 

No, this is not the only example of European war-fighting technology being given to one native nation to conquer another. We should remember that even in Hawaii, King Kamehameha The First could not have united the islands without the use of musket, swords, and even a small cannon given to him by the British. 

The use of the European superior technology and the support of the British enabled the ruler of one island to conquer the other islands who were said to be as different as Germany is from France. Yes, warfare among the Native American Indian nations were brutal and not unlike savage warfare anywhere else in the world.

Americans gave the name "Dakota Territory" to the northern expanse West of the Mississippi River and up to its headwaters. Around 1730, the Cheyenne nation introduced the Lakota to horses. Yes, the Cheyenne are said to have been the tribe that introduced horses to the Sioux, and taught them to ride. The Cheyenne called horses "šuŋkawakaŋ" which means "dog of power, mystery, wonder". After their adoption of horse, like the Cheyenne, the Lakota became a horse culture. Thus they became a society centered on the buffalo hunt on horseback.

The total population of the Sioux, which included the Lakota, Santee, Yankton, and Yanktonai, was estimated at 28,000 by French explorers in 1660. The Lakota population was first estimated at 8,500 in 1805, growing steadily and reaching 16,110 in 1881. The Lakota were one of the few Native American tribes to increase in population in the 19th century.

After 1720, the Lakota branch of the Seven Council Fires split into two major sects, the Saône who moved to the Lake Traverse area on the South Dakota–North Dakota–Minnesota border, and the Oglála-Sičháŋǧu who occupied the James River valley. But by about 1750 the Saône had moved to the East bank of the Missouri River, followed 10 years later by the Oglála and Brulé (Sičháŋǧu).

The large and powerful Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa villages had long prevented the Lakota from crossing the Missouri. Though that was the case for years, with the arrival of Europeans came the great smallpox epidemic of 1772–1780 which destroyed three-quarters of these tribes. And yes, make no mistake about it, because Native Americans did not have built-up immunities to diseases such as measles, that killed thousands of Native Americans. Yes, thousands more than in wars with the Europeans, such as the French, the British, the Spanish, and Americans.

With less resistance from other tribes, the Lakota crossed the river into the drier, short-grass prairies of the High Plains. These newcomers were the Saône, well-mounted and increasingly confident, who spread out quickly.

In 1765, a Saône exploring and raiding party led by Chief Standing Bear discovered the Black Hills, then the territory of the Cheyenne. Yes, the Lakota Sioux only found out about the Black Hills in 1765. Ten years later, the Oglála and Brulé also crossed the river.

In 1776, yes the same year that Americans went to war with the British to claim America as own nation, in bloody warfare the Lakota defeated the Cheyenne who had earlier taken the Black Hills from the Kiowa after a lengthy war.

Author and historian Mark van de Logt wrote: "Although military historians tend to reserve the concept of “total war” for conflicts between modern industrial nations, the term nevertheless most closely approaches the state of affairs between the Pawnees and the Sioux and Cheyennes. Both sides directed their actions not solely against warrior-combatants but against the people as a whole. Noncombatants were legitimate targets. ... It is within this context that the military service of the Pawnee Scouts must be viewed."

The Cheyenne then moved west to the Powder River country, and the Lakota made the Black Hills their home until they were forced out by war with the United States. Initial United States contact with the Lakota during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 was marked by a standoff. Lakota bands refused to allow the explorers to continue upstream, and the expedition prepared for battle, which never came.

Nearly 50 years later, after the United States Army had built Fort Laramie without permission on Lakota land, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was negotiated to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. The Northern Cheyenne and Lakota had previously attacked emigrant parties in a competition with each other over resources, and also because some settlers had encroached on their lands.

Because of this, soon all sorts of Indian bands attacked settlers and even emigrant trains, causing public pressure on the US Army to punish the hostiles. Then there was the Grattan Massacre, also known as the Grattan Fight, which was the opening engagement of the First Sioux War, fought between United States Army and Lakota Sioux warriors on August 19, 1854. It occurred east of Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory, in present-day Goshen County, Wyoming.

A small detachment of soldiers entered a large Sioux encampment to arrest a man accused of taking a immigrant's cow, although such matters by treaty were to be handled by the US Indian Agent. The situation became hostile and one of the soldiers is believed to have shot Chief Conquering Bear and killed him, the Brulé Lakotas then killed all of the soldiers and their civilian interpreter -- a total of 29 soldiers, Lieutenant John Grattan, and a civilian interpreter.

The Grattan Massacre is considered a significant event in the Plains Indian Wars.
It was a the spark that escallated the U.S. vs Indian Wars. In fact, on September 3, 1855, about 700 soldiers under American General William S. Harney avenged the Grattan Massacre by attacking a Lakota village in Nebraska, killing about 100 men, women, and children. Yes, women and children as well.

A series of wars followed, 1862–1864, as refugees from the "Dakota War of 1862" in Minnesota fled west to their allies in Montana and Dakota Territory. Increasing illegal settlement after the American Civil War caused war once again.

In 1868, the United States signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. Four years later gold was discovered there, and prospectors descended on the area. The Fort Laramie Treaty acknowledged Lakota sovereignty over the Great Plains in exchange for free passage on the Oregon Trail for "as long as the river flows and the eagle flies".

It is interesting that during the Black Hills War in 1876, that some Arikara served as scouts for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in the Little Bighorn Campaign. The Black Hills was seen as worth keeping, especially after the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, the United States government simply could not enforce the treaty restriction against unauthorized settlement. The Black Hills were considered sacred by the Lakota, and they objected to mining.

The attacks on settlers and miners were met by military force conducted by army commanders such as Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. And yes, General Philip Sheridan encouraged his troops to hunt and kill the buffalo as a means of "destroying the Indians' commissary."

The allied Lakota and Arapaho along with the unified "Northern Cheyenne" were involved in much of the warfare after 1860. It should be noted that the Lakota Sioux were still fighting other Indian tribes while fighting the United States. For example, the battle of Massacre Canyon on August 5, 1873. It was the last major battle between the Pawnee and the Sioux tribes. The Sioux attempted to exterminate the Pawnee.

General George Crook's army fought  the Sioux at the Battle of the Rosebud. That battle occurred June 17, 1876, in the Montana Territory between the US Army and its Crow and Shoshoni allies -- yes, we had Indian allies -- against a force consisting mostly of Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians

The battle is known to have prevented Gen.Crook from locating and attacking their camp. It also prevent Gen. Crook from playing a role in the Battle of Little Bighorn eight days later. Gen. Crook's Crow and Shoshoni allies left the Army for their homes shortly after the battle. The Lakota and Northern Cheyenne returned to the battlefield after Gen. Crook's departure and piled up rocks at the location of key events in the battle. Some of the rock piles they built are said to still be there.

Eight days after Battle of the Rosebud, the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians tribes combined to wipe out the US 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to Lakota as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, occurred June 25–26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory. It was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall. That fight was inspired by the supposed visions of Sitting Bull.

The U.S. 7th Cavalry, including the Custer Battalion, a force of 700 men led by Col. George Armstrong Custer, suffered a severe defeat. Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated. Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count at the Little Big Horn, including scouts, was 268 dead and 55 injured. They wiped out the entire Custer battalion in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and inflicting more than 50% casualties on the regiment.

Col. Custer attacked a camp of several tribes, much larger than he realized. Their combined forces numbers over 5,000 were led by Chief Crazy Horse. After the battle, the Indian's folded their camp and scattered. It is said that the Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne feasted and celebrated during July with no threat from soldiers. After their celebrations many of the Indians slipped back to the reservation, perhaps sensing that the summer of 1876 would be the last of their hurrah.

In response, the US Congress authorized funds to expand the Army by 2500 men specifically to reinforced the Army. With reinforcements, Generals Crook and Terry finally took the field against the Indians in August. General Nelson A. Miles took command of the effort in October 1876.

Following the defeat of the Lakota and their Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho allies in 1876, the United States took control of the region though low-intensity conflicts continued in the Black Hills.

In May 1877, Sitting Bull escaped to Canada. Within days, Crazy Horse surrendered at Fort Robinson. The Great Sioux War of 1876 ended on May 7th with Gen. Miles defeated the remain band of Miniconjou Sioux. The Lakota Sioux were eventually confined onto reservations, prevented from hunting buffalo and forced to accept government food distribution. In 1877 some of the Lakota bands signed a treaty that ceded the Black Hills to the United States.

Fourteen years later, Sitting Bull was killed at Standing Rock reservation on December 15, 1890.  Then the US Army attacked Spotted Elk, who was also known as Bigfoot, the Mnicoujou band of Lakota at the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890 at Pine Ridge.

The Lakota Sioux, just as the Arikara, the Crow, Kiowa, Pawnee and the Cheyenne did before them and made the Black Hills central to their culture. Of course the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie had previously confirmed the Lakota's ownership of the Teton Sioux mountain range, but that treaty was rendered null and void because of the war. Besides, both the Sioux and Cheyenne claimed rights to the land. Both tribes said that in their nation's cultures, the Black Hills are considered the "axis mundi" or "sacred center of the world."

The Indians ceded the Black Hills to the United States, but the Sioux never accepted the legitimacy of the transaction. After lobbying Congress to create a forum to decide their claim, and subsequent litigation spanning years, on July 23, 1980, in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Black Hills were illegally taken and remuneration of the initial offering price plus interest is to be paid. That came out to nearly $106 million.

The 1980 decision acknowledged the United States had taken the Black Hills without just compensation. The Sioux refused the money offered, and continue to insist on their right to occupy the land. The Lakota Sioux never accepted the validity of the US appropriation. They continue to try to reclaim the property. The money supposedly remains in an interest-bearing account, which now amounts to over $757 million, but the Lakota still refuse to take the money.

The number of Lakota has now increased to about 70,000, and about 20,500 still speak the Lakota language. On the whole they believe that accepting the settlement would allow the U.S. Government to justify taking ownership of the Black Hills. So who would be the rightfully owner of the Black Hills?

Well, since the Arikara arrived by 1100 AD, and were the first tribe to inhabit the Black Hills, but were forced off and were followed by the Crow, Pawnee, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Lakota, and then the United States, it belongs to the last occupying nation. Yes, the United States.

The fact that the Lakota Sioux arrived in the West after being being on the losing end of a war with other tribes in Minnesota in the late 1700s. The Sioux waged genocidal war on other tribes before they took over the Black Hills from the Cheyenne. Yes, the did the same thing that the United States did to drive the Lakota out. And yes, the history of the Black Hills point to the fact that the Black Hills didn't belong to the Lakota-Sioux in the first place.

It is interesting that there is a movement to try to return the Black Hills to the Lakota-Sioux, yet they are not its historical occupants. The Lakota are saying it belongs to them, but historically its longest occupants were the Arikara.

Can you just imagine if the United States said they were only going to turn over the land to the original occupants, the Arikara Indians who arrived there around 1500 AD? Can you imagine the uproar by the Lakota Sioux? And yes, I do find it hypocritical for Lakota-Sioux to make claim to the Black Hill when they in fact took it over after a bloody war with the Cheyenne that ended in 1776. In reality, they did the exact same thing the United States did 1876.

Americans should not accept the lie that is being perpetuated regarding some aspects of American History. Who the Black Hills "belongs" to is one of the great lies. Native American Indian tribes slaughtered each other routinely. And yes, these different tribes were independent nations with their own cultures. languages, customs, religious beliefs, completely separate from other Indian nations.

Until the United States came along, the Lakota Sioux were only the most recent Indian nation to occupy the Black Hills after a horribly bloody war with the Cheyenne nation. Fact is so many separate tribal nations have waged all out war to get the Black Hills, in the end the Arikara lost the area to the Crow nation, the Crow lost it to the Pawnee, the Pawnee nation lost it to the Kiowa, the Kiowa nation lost it the Cheyenne, the Cheyenne nation lost  it to the Lakota Sioux, and then finally the Lakota Sioux nation lost the Black Hills to the another nation -- the United States.

If we look at the United States no differently than any other tribal nation, then the United States is the last tribe to get the Black Hills. After all,  warfare being warfare, the United States took the Black Hills in the exact same thing as the tribal nations did from other tribes. The United States did the very same thing in that the United States fought for it, and got it after a long line of other tribes fought for it and got it. Yes indeed, the United States is the last tribe to get the Black Hills.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


  1. Yeah It's good I appreciate this article. I recommand it to my friends,I,ll be back here again and again . Visit our blog for more .

  2. I find it interesting that I've gotten mixed results on this article. Some hate me for writing it while others like it. As for this article and how it upsets some Native American Indian tribes, I did get a great email from a reader, one that I love to quote about this article. My reader wrote to say, "You have made Native Americans angry -- but not me, I am Cheyenne!" And yes, I smile when I think about that.

  3. I am part Ojibwe, and the Sioux, for many generations, even up to the 1900s, were trying to wipe out the Ojibwe. Love your history stories. Thank you!

  4. All peoples have their own times about which they can brag and times that they would rather leave hidden. When it comes to history, it is a disservice to the decedents to paint the past with only certain colors from the crayon box. Our history influences our present and our future; and it is imperative that we know and understand all of the truth about our past -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- so our view of the present is not distorted by half-truths and a selectively gilded memory.


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