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South Dakota in the 1880s


Big foot
Big foot

The Canadian exile of Sitting Bull, who had helped lead the Sioux and Cheyenne against the U.S. Army in 1876 (he returned to a Dakota Territory reservation by 1883), followed by federal efforts to arrange more cordial relations with the Sioux, kept the peace in southern Dakota Territory until 1889. That year U.S. government officials obtained more land from the Sioux for settlement by whites.

In this unsettled atmosphere a new religious movement called the ghost dance spread among the Sioux, promising that the whites would disappear and the buffalo would return. Local white settlers and U.S. Indian agents feared that the movement could be the beginning of a new Native American rebellion, and tried to stamp out the new belief by banning the ghost dance and depriving dancers of annuities due them from the government.

On December 15, 1890, the U.S. government tried to arrest Sitting Bull, now living on the Standing Rock Reservation south of Bismarck, North Dakota, to prevent him from leading a rebellion. As he was being led away from his cabin over the objections of his men, a gunfight erupted during which Sitting Bull and 12 others were killed. Sitting Bull’s followers then fled, some to the camp of Minneconjou Chief Big Foot. The U.S. Army pursued the Sioux and found one group at an encampment near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. On December 29, 1890, during a search of the camp, a shot was fired and the U.S. Army began shooting, killing between 150 and 370 Sioux men, women, and children, most of whom were unarmed. Those who attempted to escape the fighting were pursued and killed.

By fighting, the Sioux peoples managed to preserve a sanctuary for tribal traditions on approximately 10 percent of their prehistoric lands, much greater than the 3.5 percent retained by Great Plains tribes overall. As a result most of the Sioux, who lived in South Dakota, entered the statehood era in a much stronger position than did most other Native Americans in the West. "South Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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