To protect those living along the Missouri River and the migrants and settlers traveling through the area of present-day North Dakota on their way to the Pacific Coast, the federal government built many short-lived military posts in the latter half of the 19th century. The first of these, Fort Abercrombie, was built on the Red River in 1857. In 1862 Sioux peoples from Minnesota besieged Fort Abercrombie for several weeks. In 1863 U.S. General Henry H. Sibley and his troops headed west and drove the Sioux across the Missouri River. General Alfred H. Sully followed Sibley and fought several bloody battles with other Sioux bands that had probably not taken part in the earlier Minnesota war.
The U.S. government, despite building more forts to protect travelers, could not decisively defeat the various Sioux peoples. The government turned to negotiation instead, holding peace discussions with Sioux leaders in the mid-1860s. In 1868 many of them signed a treaty under which the United States agreed to abandon the Bozeman Trail, which led through Sioux lands to the mining camps of Montana, and in exchange the Sioux accepted a reservation west of the Missouri River. Not all Sioux signed the treaty, and many refused to live on the reservation.
In 1853 U.S. General Isaac Ingalls Stevens had led a party across what became North Dakota, surveying possible routes for a transcontinental railroad, and in 1864 the U.S. Congress had provided land grants to help build what became the Northern Pacific Railroad from Minnesota to what is now Washington state. The railroad arrived in northern Dakota Territory in 1871, crossed the Red River in June 1872, and reached Bismarck a year later.
The Sioux deeply resented the construction of the railroad, however, and railroad workers had to be escorted by U.S. troops. In 1874 an expedition led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills in what is now South Dakota, and white miners flooded into the area in violation of the 1868 treaty, which prohibited whites trespassing on Sioux lands.
The Sioux, fearing the loss of their land, went to war. Much of the fighting between the U.S. government and the Sioux, led by the Hunkpapa Sioux Sitting Bull and the Oglala Sioux Crazy Horse, took place outside the area of present-day North 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. 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, marking the end of the military threat posed by Native Americans to white control over the area.
In the late 1880s followers of the Native American messiah Wovoka introduced the ghost dance, which was supposed to help the Native Americans regain their lands and live in peace. The ghost dance gave the Sioux hope and added to their restlessness. In North Dakota the army believed Sitting Bull might instigate a rebellion, and on December 15, 1890, he was arrested at the Standing Rock Reservation south of Bismarck. 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. In the next two decades the U.S. government reduced the size of the Native American reservations dramatically, opening up large amounts of land to white settlement. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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