Native American Timeline of Events


July 1865  General Patrick Conner organizes 3 columns of soldiers to begin an invasion of the Powder River Basin, from the Black Hills, Paha Sapa, to the Big Horn Mountains. They had one order: “Attack and kill every male Indian over twelve years of age.” Conner builds a fort on the Powder River. Wagon trains begin to cross the Powder River Basin on their way to the Montana gold fields.
July 24-26, 1865 Battle of Platte Bridge – The Cheyenne and Lakota besiege the most northerly outpost of the U.S. army and succeed in killing all members of a platoon of cavalrymen sent out to meet a wagon train as well as the wagon drivers and their escorts.
Late August, 1865 Battle of Tongue River – Connor’s column destroys an Arapaho village, including all the winter’s food supply, tents and clothes. They kill over 50 of the Arapaho villagers.
Late September, 1865 Roman Nose’s Fight – The Cheyenne Chief, Roman Nose, in revenge for the Sand Creek Massacre, led several hundred Cheyenne warriors in a siege of the Cole and Walker columns of exhausted and starving soldiers who were attempting to return to Fort Laramie. Because they were armed only with bows, lances and a few old trade guns, they were unable to overrun the soldiers, but they harasses them for several days, until Connor’s returning column rescued them.
October 14, 1865 The Southern Cheyenne chiefs sign a treaty agreeing to cede all the land they formerly claimed as their own, most of Colorado Territory, to the U.S. government. This was the desired end of the Sand Creek Massacre.
October, 1865 Connor returns to Fort Laramie leaving two companies of soldiers at the fort they had constructed at the fork of the Crazy Woman Creek and the Powder River. Red Cloud and his warriors kept these men isolated and without supplies all winter. Many died of scurvy, malnutrition and pneumonia before winter’s end. They were not relieved until June 28th by Colonel Carrington’s company.
Late Fall, 1865 Nine treaties signed with the Sioux including the Brulé, Hunkpapa, Oglala and Minneconjou. These were widely advertised as signifying the end of the Plains wars although none of the war chiefs had signed any of these treaties.
December 21, 1865 An illegal Executive Order removed lands from the Oregon Coast Indian Reservation, cutting the territory in half.
1866 The Sioux Nations are angered as the US Army begins building forts along the Bozeman Trail, an important route to the gold fields of Virginia City; Captain Fetterman and 80 soldiers are killed.
April 1, 1866 Congress overrides President Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill, giving equal rights to all persons born in the U.S. (except Indians). The President is empowered to use the Army to enforce the law.
Late Spring 1866


Chief Red Cloud

Chief Red Cloud

War chiefs Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Standing Elk, Dull Knife and others come to Fort Laramie to negotiate a treaty concerning access to the Powder River Basin. Shortly after the beginning of the talks, on June 13, Colonel Henry Carrington and several hundred infantry men reached Fort Laramie to build forts along the Bozeman Trail. It was clear to the chiefs that the treaty was a mere formality; the road would be opened whether they agreed or not. This was the beginning Red Cloud’s War.

July 13, 1866 Colonel Carrington begins building Fort Phil Kearny He halts his column between the forks of the Little Piney and the Big Piney Creeks, in the best hunting grounds of the Plains Indians, and pitches camp. The Cheyenne visit and decide that the camp is too strong for them to attack directly and begin plans for harassing the soldiers who leave the camp and for drawing out soldiers by using decoys. All summer they harasses the soldiers and make alliances with other Plains groups, forming a coalition of Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Crow groups.
December 21, 1866 The Fetterman Massacre was fought near Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming Territory on December 21, 1866. Angered at white interlopers traveling through their country, Sioux and Cheyenne forces continually harassed the soldiers at Fort Phil Kearny, constructed to provide emigrant protection along the newly opened Bozeman Trail. Out maneuvering the soldiers, the Indians killed all 80 of them.
1866 to 1867 Red Cloud’s fight to close off the Bozeman Trail – The Oglala Sioux Chief Red Cloud successfully fought the US army in an effort to protect Sioux lands against American construction of the Bozeman Trail which was to run from Fort Laramie to the Montana gold fields.
October, 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge – After Congress passed a law to confine the Plains tribes to small reservations where they could be supervised and “civilized,” US representatives organized the largest treaty-making gathering in US history. Over 6,000 members from the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa met at Medicine Lodge in Kansas. The Grand Council of tribes was attended by Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull, among other great leaders, and pledged to end further encroachment by the whites. The treaty ensured that all tribes would move onto reservation lands. Thereafter, the army was instructed to punish Indian raids and to “bring in” any tribes that refused to live on reservations.
1868 Nez Perce Treaty – This was the last Indian treaty ratified by the US government.

Indian Chiefs

At Fort Laramie, Wyoming in 1868.

Second Treaty of Fort Laramie – This treaty guaranteed the Sioux Indians’ rights to the Black Hills of Dakota and gave the Sioux hunting permission beyond reservation boundaries. The treaty also creates the Great Sioux Reservation and agrees that the Sioux do not cede their hunting grounds in Montana and Wyoming territories. The Army agrees to abandon the forts on the Bozeman Trail and the Indians agree to become “civilized.”

George Armstrong Custer established himself as a great Indian fighter by leading the Massacre on the Washita in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in which Black Kettle is killed. The entire village was destroyed and all of its inhabitants were killed.

In June, Navajo signed a treaty after the Long Walk when Kit Carson rounded up 8,000 Navajo and forced them to walk more than 300 miles to the Bosque Redondo reservation in southern New Mexico. English officials called it a reservation, but to the conquered and exiled Navajo it was a prison camp.

1869 First Sioux War ends with the Treaty of Fort Laramie; the US agrees to abandon Forts Smith, Kearney, and Reno.

Board of Indian Commissioners – Congress created the Board to investigate and report alleged BIA mismanagement and conditions on reservations where corruption was widespread. The Board continued to operate as an investigative and oversight commission that also helped shape and direct American Indian policy.

Federally-sponsored Sac and Fox and Iowa tribes in Nebraska.

1870 Buffalo herds are diminished to a crisis point for Plains Indians.

On January 20, Buffalo Soldiers, under the command of Captain Francis Dodge, came upon a settlement of Mescalero Apache in the most remote region of New Mexico’s Guadalupe Mountains and attacked them, killing ten Mescalero Apache and taking 25 ponies.

On January 23, in the Massacre on the Marias, 173 Blackfoot men, women and children were slaughtered by U.S. soldiers on the Marias River in Montana in response for the killing of Malcolm Clarke and the wounding of his son by a small party of young Blackfoot men.

On March 30, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. It finally recognized the natural right of all men to vote, including Indians. Women continued to be second-class citizens.

March 3, 1871 Indian Appropriation Act – This Congressional Act specified that no tribe thereafter would be recognized as an independent nation with which the federal government could make a treaty. (From 1607 to 1776, at least 175 treaties had been signed with the British and colonial governments, and from 1778 to 1868, 371 treaties were ratified the US government.) All future Indian policies would not negotiated with Indian tribes through treaties, but rather would be determined by passing Congressional statutes or executive orders. Marking a significant step backwards, the act made tribal members wards of the state rather than preserving their rights as members of sovereign nations.
April 30, 1871 One Hundred Forty-Four Apache, most of them women and children, were murdered outside Camp Grant, Arizona, where they had been given asylum, when members of the Tucson Committee of Public Safety arrived with a force of Papago Indians, the Apache’ long-time enemies. All but 8 of the 144 dead were women and children. They were clubbed to death, hacked to pieces or brained by rocks. The committee members claimed they acted in retaliation for raids by various Apache bands at distant points across the region, but public opinion, particularly in the East, linked the event to the recently investigated Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 as further evidence of Westerners’ deep-seated hatred for Indians.
May 17, 1871 Kiowa war leaders Satanta, Big Tree and Satank lead an attack on a freight train known as Warren Wagon Train Raid in Texas, in which 7 white men lost their lives.
July 5, 1871 Kiowa warriors, Satanta, Big Tree and Satank for the Warren Wagon Train Raid in Texas. Satank is killed while trying to escape. After three days of testimony they are found guilty. Satanta tells the court, “If you let me go, I will withdrawn my warriors from Tehanna, but if you kill me, it will be a spark on the prairie. Make big fire-burn heap.” Although sentenced to be hanged, the Texas Governor, fearing a Kiowa uprising, decides to commute the sentences to life in a Texas prison. Eventually, Big Tree and Satanta are freed.
1872 The Mining Act of 1872 was passed by the U.S. Congress. Alaskan natives were excluded from claiming ownership to their own land. During this period of history natives were not accepted as citizens of the nation and had no land or load claim rights, something that took many years to change.
1873 Custer and the Seventh Cavalry come to the northern plains to guard the surveyers for the Northern Pacific Railroad. He has a chance encounter with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

On June 5, Alcatraz’s first Indian prisoner known as Paiute Tom started his prison term at the infamous facility. Tom’s stay at the prison was short. He was shot and killed by a guard two days after arriving. It’s unknown today what he was convicted of or why he was killed.

1874 George Armstrong Custer announced the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of Dakota, setting off a stampede of fortune-hunters into this most sacred part of Lakota territory. Although the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty required the government to protect Lakota lands from white intruders, federal authorities worked instead to protect the miners already crowding along the path Custer blazed for them, which they called “Freedom’s Trail” and the Lakota called “Thieves’ Road.”

On February 25, the Skokomish reservation was established, near Shelton, Washington .

On July 26, the order was given that friendly Indians were to remain in fixed camps at the Wichita Agency, Indian Territory, and answer periodic roll calls.

On September 10, a group of Kiowa and Comanche attacked a military supply caravan along the Washita River, Indian Territory, in present day Oklahoma. The soldiers barricaded themselves for several days until others came to help. One soldier was killed.

On September 28, 1874, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie at the head of the Fourth U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed a large Indian encampment in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle.

1875 The U.S. government attempts to purchase Paha Sapa (the Black Hills) and fails. Second Sioux War erupts after the Sioux refuse to sell the lands north of the Platte to the federal government.

On November 9, the Indian Bureau reported that Plains Indians outside reservations were “well-fed . . . lofty and independent in their attitudes, and are a threat to the reservation system.”

January, 1876 The U.S. government issues an ultimatum that all Sioux who are not on the Great Sioux Reservation by January 31 will be considered hostile. The winter is bitter and most Sioux do not even hear of the ultimatum until after the deadline.
February 1, 1876 The Secretary of the Interior notified the Secretary Of War that time given to “hostile” Sioux and Cheyenne Indian families to abandon their villages and come into U.S. agencies had expired; it was now a military matter.
February 7, 1876 The War Department authorized General Philip Sheridan to commence operations against “hostile” Lakota, including bands of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
March 17, 1876
Sioux Maiden 1908

Sioux Maiden

General George Crook’s advance column attacked a Sioux/Cheyenne camp on the Powder River in South Dakota, mistakenly believing it to be the encampment of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. The people were driven from their lodges and many were killed. The lodges and all the winter supplies were burned and the horse herd captured.

Spring 1876 George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry begin to forcibly place the Lakota Sioux onto reservations.

Sitting Bullorganizes the greatest gathering of Indians on the northern plains.

May 15, 1876 President Ulysses S. Grant issued an executive order creating the Cabazon Reservation for the Cahuilla Indians. Prior to the order, the Cahuilla moved many times due to Southern Pacific Railroad’s claim to local water rights.
June 17, 1876 In the Battle of the Rosebud, General Crook is forced to retire from the “pincers” campaign.
June 25, 1876 The Battle of the Little Bighorn – Ignoring warnings of a massed Sioux army of 2,000-4,000 men, Custer and 250 soldiers attack the forces of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn. George Armstrong Custer and 210 men under his command are killed. The news reaches the east for the Independence Day Centennial celebrations. In response, the federal government spent the next two years tracking down the Lakota, killing some and forcing most onto the reservation. On July 6, The New York Times referred to those American people as “red devils.”
October 1876 Colonel Nelson “Bear Coat” Miles arrivedon the Yellowstone River to take command of the campaign against the northern plainsIndians. The Manypenny Commission demands that the Sioux give up Paha Sapa or starve. Having no choice, Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, and the other reservation chiefs signed over Paha Sapa.
November 25, 1876 The U.S. took retaliatory action for the Battle of the Little Bighorn against the Cheyenne. U.S. troops under General Ronald Mackenzie burned Chief Dull Knife’s village, even though Dull Knife himself didn’t fight at the Little Bighorn.
Mandan Indian atop the bluffs of the Missouri River

Mandan Indian atop the bluffs of the Missouri River, 1908, Edward S. Curtis

 “I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.” Chief Red Cloud (Makhipiya-Luta) Sioux Chief

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