Native American Timeline – Westward Expansion

The Black Hills of South Dakota by the National Park Service.

The Black Hills of South Dakota by the National Park Service.

1875 – The U.S. government attempts to purchase the Black Hills and fails. The Second Sioux War erupts after the Sioux refused to sell the lands north of the Platte River to the federal government.

On November 9, 1875, 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.”

1876 – In January, 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 – 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.

George A. Custer

George A. Custer

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

Sitting Bull organizes 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 occurs. Ignoring warnings of an amassed 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.”

General Nelson Miles

Colonel Nelson Miles

October 1876 – Colonel Nelson Miles arrived on the Yellowstone River to take command of the campaign against the northern Plains Indians. The Manypenny Commission demands that the Sioux give up the Black Hills or starve. Having no choice, Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, and the other reservation chiefs signed over the Black Hills.

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.

“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, Sioux Chief

1877 – Nez Perce War – This war occurred when the U.S. Army responded to some American deaths along the Salmon River, said to have been committed by the Nez Perce. To avoid a battle that would have resulted in being forced onto a reservation, about 800 Nez Perce fled 1,500 miles. They were caught 30 miles south of the Canadian border. Survivors were sent to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, despite the promise of the U.S. government to allow them to return to their homeland.

January 15, 1877 – Standing Bear, a Ponca chief, refused to move to a reservation because it was within lands already given to the Lakota.

Lakota Sioux Camp, by John Graybill, 1891

Lakota Sioux Camp, by John Graybill, 1891

February 28, 1877 – The U.S. Government seized the Black Hills from Lakota Sioux in violation of a treaty.

March 23, 1877 – John D. Lee was brought to trial for his part in the Fancher Party Massacre of 1857. He was convicted by an all Mormon jury. On March 23 he was executed by firing squad at the site of the massacre, after denouncing Brigham Young for abandoning him. His last words are for his executioners: “Center my heart, boys. Don’t mangle my body.”

Early May -1877 – Sitting Bull escapes to Canada with about 300 followers.

May 6, 1877 – Crazy Horse finally surrendered to General George Crook at Fort Robinson, Nebraska on May 6, having received assurances that he and his followers will be permitted to settle in the Powder River country of Montana. Defiant even in defeat, Crazy Horse arrived with a band of 800 warriors, all brandishing weapons and chanting songs of war.

May 7, 1877 – A small band of Minneconjou Sioux is defeated by General Nelson A. Miles, thus ending the Great Sioux Wars.

Ponca Indians

Ponca Indians

June 1877 – The Ponca arrived at the Otto reservation. They were forcibly marched from their old reservation to Indian Territory. The Otto took pity on the Ponca and gave them some horses to help carry their people.

September 6, 1877 – By late summer, there were rumors that Crazy Horse was planning a return to battle, and on September 5 he was arrested and brought back to Fort Robinson, where, when he resisted being jailed, he was held by an Indian guard and killed by a bayonet thrust from a soldier on September 6. He was 36.

Congress passed the Manypenny Agreement, a law taking the Black Hills and ending Sioux rights outside the Great Sioux Reservation. The Sioux land – 134 million acres guaranteed by treaty in 1868 was reduced to less than 15 million acres.

Nez Perce Chief Joseph

Nez Perce Chief Joseph

October 5, 1877 – Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph surrendered his rifle at Eagle Creek in the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana after months in which his starving band eluded pursuing federal troops: “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

1877-1888 – The buffalo have disappeared and Lakota now live on handouts from the Federal Government.

1878 – The Northern Cheyenne escape from their reservation in Oklahoma in an attempt to reach their lands in Montana Territory.

January 1878 – A Commission finds the Indian Bureau permeated with “cupidity, inefficiency, and the most barefaced dishonesty.” The department’s affairs were “a reproach to the whole nation.” Carl Schurz had already dismissed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Q. Smith on September 27, 1877. He now discharged many more Bureau employees and began a reorganization of the Indian agents.

Indian Training School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Indian Training School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

1879 – The first students, a group of 84 Lakota children, arrived at the newly established the United States Indian Training and Industrial School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Over the next two decades, 24 more schools on the Carlisle model will be established outside the reservations, along with 81 boarding schools and nearly 150 day-schools on the Indians’ own land.

On January 14, 1879, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Tribe addressed Congress about tribal lands stolen through treaties. He gave the analogy that it was like having horses that he doesn’t want to sell being sold by his neighbor, with the neighbor then letting the buyer take the horses.

In January, the U.S. Army rounded up 540 Paiute in Oregon and, in what’s known as the Paiute Trail of Tears, forcibly took them to the Yakima Reservation in Washington. On February 2, they arrived at the reservation after a forced march through winter snows.

Sun Dance ceremony by George Catlin

Sun Dance ceremony by George Catlin

1880 – Civilization Regulations – Congress set up a series of offenses that only Indians could commit. These regulations outlawed Indian religions, the practices of “so-called” medicine men, ceremonies like the Sun Dance, and leaving the reservation without permission. These regulations were in place until 1936.

1881 –  Helen Hunt Jackson released her book, A Century of Dishonor, detailing the plight of American Indians and criticizing the U.S. government’s treatment of Indians.

January 18, 1881 – The Spokan Indian Reservation was established.

July 19, 1881 – Sitting Bull and 186 of his remaining followers surrender at Fort Buford, North Dakota. He is sent to Fort Randall, South Dakota for two years as a prisoner of war instead of being pardoned, as promised.

Sioux Chief Spotted Tail

Sioux Chief Spotted Tail

Late Summer, 1881 – Spotted Tail is assassinated by Crow Dog. White officials dismiss the killing as a simple quarrel, but the Sioux feel that it was the result of a plot to wrest control from a strong Indian leader.

1882 – A Congressional Act provided funds for the mandatory education of 100 Indian pupils in industrial schools and for the appointment of an Inspector or Superintendent of Indian schools.

The Indian Rights Association was created to protect the interests and rights of Indians. The association was composed of white reformers who wanted to help Indians abandon their cultural and spiritual beliefs and assimilate into American society.

On October 24, 1882, a federal Grand Jury in Arizona charged civil authorities with mismanagement of Indian Affairs on the San Carlos Reservation.

1883 – Ex Parte Crow Dog Supreme Court decision. Crow Dog, a Sioux Indian who shot and killed an Indian on the Rosebud Reservation, was prosecuted in federal court, found guilty, and sentenced to death. On appeal, it was argued that the federal government’s prosecution had infringed upon tribal sovereignty. The Court ruled that the U.S. did not have jurisdiction and that Crow Dog must be released. The decision was a reaffirmation of tribal sovereignty and led to the passage of the 1885 Major Crimes Act which identified seven major crimes, that if committed by an Indian on Indian land, were placed within federal jurisdiction.

A group of clergymen, government officials and social reformers calling itself “The Friends of the Indian” met in upstate New York to develop a strategy for bringing Native Americans into the mainstream of American life. Their decisions set the course for U.S. policy toward Native Americans over the next generation and resulted in the near destruction of native American cultures.

War dance of the Sac and Fox, by Peter Rindisbacher, about 1830

War dance of the Sac and Fox, by Peter Rindisbacher, about 1830

Courts of Indian Offenses – The Secretary of the Interior established these courts to uphold the 1880 Civilization Regulations to eliminate “heathenish practices” among the Indians. The rules of the courts forbade the practice of all public and private religious activities by Indians on their reservations, including ceremonial dances, like the Sun Dance, and the practices of “so-called medicine men.”

In May 1883, Lakota Chief Sitting Bull was released from prison. He rejoined his tribe in Standing Rock where he was forced to work the fields. He spoke forcefully against plans to open part of the reservation to white settlers. Despite the old chief’s objections, the land transfer proceeded as planned. He lived the rest of his life across the Grand River from his birthplace.

On September 8, Sitting Bull delivered a speech, at the celebration of the driving of the last spike in the transcontinental railroad system, to great applause. He delivered the speech in his Sioux language, departing from a speech originally prepared by an army translator. Denouncing the U.S. government, settlers, and army, the listeners thought he was welcoming and praising them. While giving the speech, Sitting Bull paused for applause periodically, bowed, smiled, and continued insulting his audience as the translator delivered the original address.

On November 3, 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Indian is by birth “an alien and a dependent.”

1885 – Sitting Bull tours with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

The Major Crimes Act gave federal courts jurisdiction over Indians accused of rape, manslaughter, murder, assault with intent to kill, arson, or larceny against another Indian on a reservation. The list was eventually expanded to include 14 crimes.

When U.S. troops pursued a band of Apache near Pleasanton, New Mexico, the Indians caught the soldiers in a triple cross-fire trap and killed them all.

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