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After increasing levels of violence between the Sioux and American soldiers, officials from both sides agreed on the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. This Treaty failed to quell the violence and ultimately contributed to Custer’s Last Stand.

Violence on the Plains

American prospectors poured into Colorado Territory after gold was discovered there in the late 1850s.

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The Pikes Peak and Denver gold rushes saw white settlements spring up across the territory held by the Sioux Indians. As the Sioux clashed with the gold seekers, Colonel John Chivington, commander of the Colorado volunteers, told his men, ‘Kill all the Indians you come across.’ And kill they did.

In 1864, Chivington ordered his troops to attack a camp of the peaceful Cheyennes and Arapahos on the banks of Sand Creek, in eastern Colorado. The men were out hunting, and the troops proceeded to massacre dozens of women and children in what became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. Even in death, the Indians had no peace. A half-Indian guide named Robert Bent remembered, ‘Every one I saw dead was scalped..

..I saw one squaw cut open with an unborn child, lying by her side.’In response, many Sioux joined with the Cheyennes and Arapahos to exact bloody revenge on American troops and settlers in Colorado. In January 1865 they attacked the town of Julesburg, killing everyone in sight and burning down the city.Meanwhile, prospectors continued to arrive in Sioux lands, as gold was discovered in Montana Territory. The Bozeman Road, protected with forts, funneled settlers and gold seekers into further contact with the Sioux.

In 1866, Sioux warriors Red Cloud and Crazy Horse ambushed 81 men led by Captain William Fetterman, killing them all.

Red Cloud and Sioux warriors
red cloud
Crazy Horse
crazy horse

The Treaty of Fort Laramie, 1868

To address this spiral of violence, Commander of the West, William Tecumseh Sherman, called the Sioux to council at Fort Laramie in eastern Wyoming. There, he gave the Sioux an ultimatum: cease the violence and accept a reservation in western South Dakota, or else.

‘If you don’t choose your homes now,’ he explained, ‘it will be too late next year. We will build iron roads, and you cannot stop the locomotives any more than you can stop the sun or the moon.’

General Sherman meets with Sioux representatives at Fort Laramie
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