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Territorial conflicts


Fort Reno in Oklhaoma
Fort Reno in Oklhaoma

In October 1867 at Medicine Lodge Creek in southwestern Kansas, federal negotiators met with 7,000 Native Americans to negotiate treaties that would reduce Indian Territory to about the area of present-day Oklahoma by removing Native Americans from Kansas and other Western states. Treaties negotiated there assigned native peoples like the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche new reservations in western Oklahoma on lands ceded by the native peoples following the Civil War. The treaties were much easier to negotiate than to enforce, however, and Plains tribes continued to follow the bison and attack isolated white settlements in Texas and Kansas.

To discourage these attacks, Major General Philip Sheridan ordered an unexpected military campaign against the Native Americans during the winter of 1868, when Native Americans would be low on food and supplies. During this campaign the Seventh Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer attacked an unsuspecting Cheyenne village under Chief Black Kettle, who had earlier tried to ally himself with the United States. On the banks of the Washita River, Custer’s troops killed Black Kettle and more than 100 Cheyenne men, women, and children, as well as hundreds of Cheyenne ponies.

Thereafter most Native Americans remained on the reservations. To keep them there, the government constructed a number of military posts and camps, the largest at Fort Cobb (near the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation), Fort Reno (on the edge of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation), and Fort Sill (on the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation).

Among the troops that filled those posts were the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry units, all-black groups known as Buffalo Soldiers. Their presence did not assure peace, however. As professional hunters systematically eliminated the great bison herds, Plains bands left their reservations and renewed their raids, generally into Texas, resulting in the so-called Red River War in 1874 and 1875.

United States troops numbering 3,000 soldiers pursued the hostile Native Americans. Although few pitched battles were fought, the army steadily wore down Native American resistance, forced them back onto the reservations, disarmed warriors, confiscated ponies, and jailed their most prominent leaders in Saint Augustine, Florida. Leaderless and unable to maintain any effective resistance, most Native Americans on the southern Plains came to depend mainly on the reservation. "Oklahoma" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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