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Wyoming in the 1860s


Sioux
Sioux

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, government troops that had been serving in the Wyoming region were called East to fight for the Union. Conflict again broke out with the Sioux, and army detachments were dispatched to the region. So many battles occurred in 1865 that the year became known as the Bloody Year on the Plains. Whites sought access to the gold fields of Montana over the Bozeman Trail, which went through Sioux territory, but the Sioux were determined to maintain control of their hunting grounds.

To make the Bozeman Trail safe for gold hunters, in 1866 the army began building a number of garrisons despite the objections of the Sioux. They included Forts Reno and Phil Kearny in northeastern Wyoming, and Fort C. F. Smith in Montana. Red Cloud led a group of Sioux who fought to keep the trail from opening. In December 1866 Captain William Fetterman and his forces were decoyed into a Sioux ambush near Fort Phil Kearny. Fetterman and 81 members of his command died. Red Cloud’s war ended with the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. The government agreed to abandon the forts and withdraw from the Bozeman Trail.

The treaty also granted the Sioux a 57,000 sq km (22,000 sq mi) tract of land in South Dakota west of the Missouri River, a reservation on which the government planned to relocate the Sioux. Some Sioux, including chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, dissatisfied with the agreement, continued to live in their traditional territory.

In the 1870s prospectors began invading Sioux land in the Black Hills of South Dakota in search of gold. Some Sioux, who resented white encroachment on their land, left the reservation to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming. In 1876 the United States government sent troops, including Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his regiment, to remove the Sioux to the Dakota reservation. On June 25, 1876, a Sioux force under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated Custer’s troops at the Little Bighorn in Montana.

Their victory resulted in a massive U.S. retaliation and a succession of Native American defeats that reverberated throughout the West. As a result, by the spring of 1877 almost all the Native Americans in Wyoming were settled on reservations.

The Shoshone had also signed a treaty at Fort Bridger in 1868, granting them a reservation in the Wind River region of 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres). In 1877 the Shoshone leader Chief Washakie agreed to allow the federal government to bring Arapaho, ancestral enemies of the Shoshone, to the reservation for a temporary stay until such time as a permanent reservation could be established for them. The Arapaho remained on the Shoshone territory until 1938 when the federal government granted the Arapaho joint title to the reservation, paying the Shoshone $4 million for the rights. "Wyoming" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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