One of several similar treaties between the United States government and various tribes in the 1850s, the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was signed on July 23, 1851, at Traverse des Sioux in Minnesota Territory between the United States government and the Upper Dakota Sioux bands
In the 1850s, the United States government cut treaties with various Plains tribes, forcing them on to reservations, but in return giving gifts to the leaders and providing food. Not all the natives accepted the welfare nor the geographical restrictions. With thousands of Americans moving westward and the discovery of gold in California and other places, Indian land was crisscrossed with wagon trains of settlers, and with greedy miners and young men looking for “the main chance.” They sometimes slaughtered the buffalo and left them to rot. Conflicts with the natives became inevitable, misunderstanding and cultural ignorance commonplace. In Minnesota in 1862, violence and resistance resulted in the hanging of thirty-eight Sioux warriors on order of Abraham Lincoln, which sent a message to the other clans that life on the Plains was going to change, or else.
The public hanging of thirty-eight Sioux Indians at Mankato, Minnesota, December 25, 1862, by order of President Abraham Lincoln for revolt against the government
In South Dakota, Crazy Horse and other tribal head-men decided they would defend their homes against the encroachment of the easterners. Crazy Horse led raids against army patrols and posts, looking to arm his warriors with more modern weapons. In 1865, south of the Dakotas, army attacks massacred Cheyenne women and children, so Crazy Horse gathered some of his warriors and set out to help the Cheyenne cut off the “Oregon Trail.”
An artist’s depiction of breaking camp at sunrise along the Oregon Trail
The Arapaho tribe also joined Crazy Horse as an ally after the U.S. soldiers massacred some of their families in an effort to keep them away from the miners and the settlers on the Oregon Trail. In 1866 the American Army built three new forts and added a thousand soldiers to the western command. Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Custer—three of the most destructive and notorious Union Generals from the War of Southern Independence—were soon sent west to “pacify the natives.” Scorched earth and repeating rifles would again accompany the blue-coats.
Custer leads United States Cavalry on an attack at the Cheyenne camp of Washita