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Sioux Wars

The word Sioux is the shortened version of Nadouessioux, the buffalo-dependent Plains Indian peoples of Siouan linguistic stock. An alternative word is Lakota. Sioux warriors assisted the British during the War for Independence as well as the War of 1812. Nevertheless, in 1815, the bands in the East inked peace treaties with the infant country. An additional agreement in 1825 assured the Sioux control of a vast region that encompassed much of what is today Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming, the Dakotas*, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 1837, the United States purchased from the Sioux all their possessions east of the Mississippi River, followed by more land acquisition in 1851. Attacks and counterattacks ensued, then increased when white settlers encroached westward upon Sioux lands. The year 1854 saw the first significant incident in Wyoming, not far from Fort Laramie. Nineteen U.S. soldiers were killed by Sioux fighters. The next year, U.S. soldiers took revenge and annihilated approximately 100 Sioux in their Nebraska camp; their chief was taken prisoner. In 1862, Chief Little Crow launched an insurrection in Minnesota. The warriors slaughtered hundreds of settlers in the New Ulm area before U.S. Army soldiers defeated them. Many surviving Sioux linked up with others of their nation farther west. Throughout the 1860s, Red Cloud and other strong leaders held the whites at bay and out of Sioux lands. A one-year conflict dubbed Red Cloud’s War (1866-1867), concluded with a treaty that guaranteed the Sioux permanent possession of the Black Hills of present-day South Dakota. The covenant, however, was not observed by the United States. Prospectors and miners itching for gold inundated the territory in the 1870s. In the ensuing hostilities, Brigadier General George Crook commanded the Sioux to move onto a reservation. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refused to comply and move their people. Infuriated by unjust assaults, Sitting Bull gave notice: "We are an island of Indians in a lake of whites... These soldiers want war. All right, we'll give it to them!" On June 17, 1876, a war party of Sioux and Cheyenne took Crook's soldiers by surprise in southern Montana and routed them in the Battle of the Rosebud. General George A. Custer then led a force against the Indians. On June 25, he and his men ran into a Sioux war party on the Little Bighorn River. Not a single soldier in Custer's immediate command of some 300 men survived "Custer's Last Stand." The Sioux then separated into bands to get away more easily. The army caught some, and others surrendered. A few, including Sitting Bull's band, escaped to Canada. The final Sioux insurrection took place in 1890. Fearing another broader conflict, Brigidier General Nelson A. Miles ordered the apprehension of Sitting Bull, who was living in South Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation. When the chief resisted, Indian policemen slayed him. Then Big Foot took command of the last band of fighting Sioux. In December these Indians were trapped by the U.S. Army on Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, and annihilated.

*The name Dakota means "allies" in the Siouan language.
See also Indian Wars Time Table, and Black Elk.