The flood of miners into the Black Hills also provoked the Sioux and groups of Cheyenne to attack to prevent the loss of their land. Much of the fighting between the U.S. government and the Native Americans, led by the Hunkpapa Sioux Sitting Bull and the Oglala Sioux Crazy Horse, took place outside the area of present-day South Dakota, including the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, in which Sioux and Cheyenne killed Custer and about 260 U.S. soldiers near the Little Bighorn River in what is now Montana. Within the year, however, the Sioux had suffered a series of defeats, and most returned to the reservations to try to live on the food rations and annuities provided by the U.S. government under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Sitting Bull and his band went to Canada and remained there until 1881, when they returned to surrender at Fort Buford, in northern Dakota Territory.
In the late 1870s railroad construction increased in southern Dakota Territory, strengthening the economy and attracting settlers. In 1880 two east-west lines, the Chicago and North Western Railway and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, reached the Missouri River in central South Dakota. By 1880 the population of South Dakota had risen to about 82,000. By the 1890s, a network of 4,000 km (2,500 mi) of rail tracks covered Dakota east of the Missouri and more and more steamboats traveled on the Missouri River. The white population had grown to 348,600 by 1890. Settlers arrived in even larger numbers during the next few years, encouraged by unusually good weather, which led to large harvests. Nearly all of South Dakota east of the Missouri River had been settled by the mid-1880s.
The rapid rise in population came to an end after 1886, when a period of drought began. Many settlers, realizing that they had greatly overestimated the agricultural potential of the region, left South Dakota, especially central South Dakota. The farmers who remained, particularly those in the central region, began to adapt to a climate considerably drier than many of them had anticipated. "South Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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