Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)

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The Treaty of Fort Laramie (also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868) was an agreement between the
United States and the Lakota nation, Yanktonai Sioux, Santee Sioux, and Arapaho signed in
1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing to the Lakota ownership of the
Black Hills, and further land and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.
The Powder River Country was to be henceforth closed to all whites. The treaty ended Red
Cloud’s War.

The treaty included articles intended to “ensure the civilization” of the Lakota; financial
incentives for them to farm land and become competitive – and stipulations that minors should
be provided with an “English education” at a “mission building”. To this end the US
government included in the treaty that white teachers, blacksmiths, a farmer, a miller, a
carpenter, an engineer and a government agent should take up residence within the reservation.

Repeated violations of the otherwise exclusive rights to the land by gold prospectors led to the
Black Hills War. The treaty explicitly described, “the permanent home of the Indians, which is
not mineral land…” Migrant workers seeking gold had crossed the reservation borders, in
violation of the treaty. Indians had assaulted migrant workers, in violation of the treaty. War
ensued. The U.S. government seized the Black Hills land in 1877.

More than a century later, the Sioux nation won a victory in court. On June 30, 1980, in United
States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371, the United States Supreme Court upheld an
award of $17.5 million for the market value of the land in 1877, along with 103 years worth of
interest at 5 percent, for an additional $105 million. The Lakota Sioux, however, refuse to accept
payment and instead demand the return of their territory from the United States.