Fort Laramie Treaty 1868 Essay

Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868


Lieutenant General William T. Sherman, General William S. Harney, General Alfred H. Terry, General O. O. Augur, J. B. Henderson, Nathaniel G. Taylor, John G. Sanborn, and Samuel F. Tappan, duly appointed commissioners on the part of the United States, and the different bands of the Sioux Nation of Indians, by their chiefs and headmen, whose names are hereto subscribed, they being duly authorized to act in the premises.


From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall for ever cease. The government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it. The Indians desire peace, and they now pledge their honor to maintain it.

If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent, and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.

If bad men among the Indians shall commit a wrong or depredation upon the person or property of nay one, white, black, or Indian, subject to the authority of the United States, and at peace therewith, the Indians herein named solemnly agree that they will, upon proof made to their agent, and notice by him, deliver up the wrongdoer to the United States, to be tried and punished according to its laws, and, in case they willfully refuse so to do, the person injured shall be reimbursed for his loss from the annuities, or other moneys due or to become due to them under this or other treaties made with the United States; and the President, on advising with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, shall prescribe such rules and regulations for ascertaining damages under the provisions of this article as in his judgment may be proper, but no one sustaining loss while violating the provisions of this treaty, or the laws of the United States, shall be reimbursed therefor.


The United States agrees that the following district of country, to wit, viz: commencing on the east bank of the Missouri river where the 46th parallel of north latitude crosses the same, thence along low-water mark down said east bank to a point opposite where the northern line of the State of Nebraska strikes the river, thence west across said river, and along the northern line of Nebraska to the 104th degree of longitude west from Greenwich, thence north on said meridian to a point where the 46th parallel of north latitude intercepts the same, thence due east along said parallel to the place of beginning; and in addition thereto, all existing reservations of the east back of said river, shall be and the same is, set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians herein named, and for such other friendly tribes or individual Indians as from time to time they may be willing, with the consent of the United States, to admit amongst them; and the United States now solemnly agrees that no persons, except those herein designated and authorized so to do, and except such officers, agents, and employees of the government as may be authorized to enter upon Indian reservations in discharge of duties enjoined by law, shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in the territory described in this article, or in such territory as may be added to this reservation for the use of said Indians, and henceforth they will and do hereby relinquish all claims or right in and to any portion of the United States or Territories, except such as is embraced within the limits aforesaid, and except as hereinafter provided.


If it should appear from actual survey or other satisfactory examination of said tract of land that it contains less than 160 acres of tillable land for each person who, at the time, may be authorized to reside on it under the provisions of this treaty, and a very considerable number of such persons hsall be disposed to comence cultivating the soil as farmers, the United States agrees to set apart, for the use of said Indians, as herein provided, such additional quantity of arable land, adjoining to said reservation, or as near to the same as it can be obtained, as may be required to provide the necessary amount.


The United States agrees, at its own proper expense, to construct, at some place on the Missouri river, near the centre of said reservation where timber and water may be convenient, the following buildings, to wit, a warehouse, a store-room for the use of the agent in storing goods belonging to the Indians, to cost not less than $2,500; an agency building, for the residence of the agent, to cost not exceeding $3,000; a residence for the physician, to cost not more than $3,000; and five other buildings, for a carpenter, farmer, blacksmith, miller, and engineer-each to cost not exceeding $2,000; also, a school-house, or mission building, so soon as a sufficient number of children can be induced by the agent to attend school, which shall not cost exceeding $5,000.

The United States agrees further to cause to be erected on said reservation, near the other buildings herein authorized, a good steam circular saw-mill, with a grist-mill and shingle machine attached to the same, to cost not exceeding $8,000.


The United States agrees that the agent for said Indians shall in the future make his home at the agency building; that he shall reside among them, and keep an office open at all times for the purpose of prompt and diligent inquiry into such matters of complaint by and against the Indians as may be presented for investigation under the provisions of their treaty stipulations, as also for the faithful discharge of other duties enjoined on him by law. In all cases of depredation on person or property he shall cause the evidence to be taken in writing and forwarded, together with his findings, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, whose decision, subject to the revision of the Secretary of the Interior, shall be binding on the parties to this treaty.


If any individual belonging to said tribes of Indians, or legally incorporated with them, being the head of a family, shall desire to commence farming, he shall have the privilege to select, in the presence and with the assistance of the agent then in charge, a tract of land within said reservation, not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres in extent, which tract, when so selected, certified, and recorded in the "Land Book" as herein directed, shall cease to be held in common, but the same may be occupied and held in the exclusive possession of the person selecting it, and of his family, so long as he or they may continue to cultivate it.

Any person over eighteen years of age, not being the head of a family, may in like manner select and cause to be certified to him or her, for purposes of cultivation, a quantity of land, not exceeding eighty acres in extent, and thereupon be entitled to the exclusive possession of the same as above directed.

For each tract of land so selected a certificate, containing a description thereof and the name of the person selecting it, with a certificate endorsed thereon that the same has been recorded, shall be delivered to the party entitled to it, by the agent, after the same shall have been recorded by him in a book to be kept in his office, subject to inspection, which said book shall be known as the "Sioux Land Book."

The President may, at any time, order a survey of the reservation, and, when so surveyed, Congress shall provide for protecting the rights of said settlers in their improvements, and may fix the character of the title held by each. The United States may pass such laws on the subject of alienation and descent of property between the Indians and their descendants as may be thought proper. And it is further stipulated that any male Indians over eighteen years of age, of any band or tribe that is or shall hereafter become a party to this treaty, who now is or who shall hereafter become a resident or occupant of any reservation or territory not included in the tract of country designated and described in this treaty for the permanent home of the Indians, which is not mineral land, nor reserved by the United States for special purposes other than Indian occupation, and who shall have made improvements thereon of the value of two hundred dollars or more, and continuously occupied the same as a homestead for the term of three years, shall be entitled to receive from the United States a patent for one hundred and sixty acres of land including his said improvements, the same to be in the form of the legal subdivisions of the surveys of the public lands. Upon application in writing, sustained by the proof of two disinterested witnesses, made to the register of the local land office when the land sought to be entered is within a land district, and when the tract sought to be entered is not in any land district, then upon said application and proof being made to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and the right of such Indian or Indians to enter such tract or tracts of land shall accrue and be perfect from the date of his first improvements thereon, and shall continue as long as be continues his residence and improvements and no longer. And any Indian or Indians receiving a patent for land under the foregoing provisions shall thereby and from thenceforth become and be a citizen of the United States and be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of such citizens, and shall, at the same time, retain all his rights to benefits accruing to Indians under this treaty.


In order to insure the civilization of the Indians entering into this treaty, the necessity of education is admitted, especially of such of them as are or may be settled on said agricultural reservations, and they, therefore, pledge themselves to compel their children, male and female, between the ages of six and sixteen years, to attend school, and it is hereby made the duty of the agent for said Indians to see that this stipulation is strictly complied with; and the United States agrees that for every thirty children between said ages, who can be induced or compelled to attend school, a house shall be provided, and a teacher competent to teach the elementary branches of an English education shall be furnished, who will reside among said Indians and faithfully discharge his or her duties as a teacher. The provisions of this article to continue for not less than twenty years.


When the head of a family or lodge shall have selected lands and received his certificate as above directed, and the agent shall be satisfied that he intends in good faith to commence cultivating the soil for a living, he shall be entitled to receive seeds and agricultural implements for the first year, not exceeding in value one hundred dollars, and for each succeeding year he shall continue to farm, for a period of three years more, he shall be entitled to receive seeds and implements as aforesaid, not exceeding in value twenty-five dollars. And it is further stipulated that such persons as commence farming shall receive instruction from the farmer herein provided for, and whenever more than one hundred persons shall enter upon the cultivation of the soil, a second blacksmith shall be provided, with such iron, steel, and other material as may be needed.


At any time after ten years fro the making of this treaty, the United States shall have the privilege of withdrawing the physician, farmer, blacksmith, carpenter, engineer, and miller herein provided for, but in case of such withdrawal, an additional sum thereafter of ten thousand dollars per annum shall be devoted to the education of said Indians, and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs shall, upon careful inquiry into their condition, make such rules and regulations for the expenditure of said sums as will best promote the education and moral improvement of said tribes.


In lieu of all sums of money or other annuities provided to be paid to the Indians herein named under any treaty or treaties heretofore made, the United States agrees to deliver at the agency house on the reservation herein named, on or before the first day of August of each year, for thirty years, the following articles, to wit:

For each male person over 14 years of age, a suit of good substantial woollen clothing, consisting of coat, pantaloons, flannel shirt, hat, and a pair of home-made socks.

For each female over 12 years of age, a flannel shirt, or the goods necessary to make it, a pair of woollen hose, 12 yards of calico, and 12 yards of cotton domestics.

For the boys and girls under the ages named, such flannel and cotton goods as may be needed to make each a suit as aforesaid, together with a pair of woollen hose for each.

And in order that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs may be able to estimate properly for the articles herein named, it shall be the duty of the agent each year to forward to him a full and exact census of the Indians, on which the estimate from year to year can be based.

And in addition to the clothing herein named, the sum of $10 for each person entitled to the beneficial effects of this treaty shall be annually appropriated for a period of 30 years, while such persons roam and hunt, and $20 for each person who engages in farming, to be used by the Secretary of the Interior in the purchase of such articles as from time to time the condition and necessities of the Indians may indicate to be proper. And if within the 30 years, at any time, it shall appear that the amount of money needed for clothing, under this article, can be appropriated to better uses for the Indians named herein, Congress may, by law, change the appropriation to other purposes, but in no event shall the amount of the appropriation be withdrawn or discontinued for the period named. And the President shall annually detail an officer of the army to be present and attest the delivery of all the goods herein named, to the Indians, and he shall inspect and report on the quantity and quality of the goods and the manner of their delivery. And it is hereby expressly stipulated that each Indian over the age of four years, who shall have removed to and settled permanently upon said reservation, one pound of meat and one pound of flour per day, provided the Indians cannot furnish their own subsistence at an earlier date. And it is further stipulated that the United States will furnish and deliver to each lodge of Indians or family of persons legally incorporated with the, who shall remove to the reservation herein described and commence farming, one good American cow, and one good well-broken pair of American oxen within 60 days after such lodge or family shall have so settled upon said reservation.


In consideration of the advantages and benefits conferred by this treaty and the many pledges of friendship by the United States, the tribes who are parties to this agreement hereby stipulate that they will relinquish all right to occupy permanently the territory outside their reservations as herein defined, but yet reserve the right to hunt on any lands north of North Platte, and on the Republican Fork of the Smoky Hill river, so long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase. And they, the said Indians, further expressly agree:

1st. That they will withdraw all opposition to the construction of the railroads now being built on the plains.

2d. That they will permit the peaceful construction of any railroad not passing over their reservation as herein defined.

3d. That they will not attack any persons at home, or travelling, nor molest or disturb any wagon trains, coaches, mules, or cattle belonging to the people of the United States, or to persons friendly therewith.

4th. They will never capture, or carry off from the settlements, white women or children.

5th. They will never kill or scalp white men, nor attempt to do them harm.

6th. They withdraw all pretence of opposition to the construction of the railroad now being built along the Platte river and westward to the Pacific ocean, and they will not in future object to the construction of railroads, wagon roads, mail stations, or other works of utility or necessity, which may be ordered or permitted by the laws of the United States. But should such roads or other works be constructed on the lands of their reservation, the government will pay the tribe whatever amount of damage may be assessed by three disinterested commissioners to be appointed by the President for that purpose, one of the said commissioners to be a chief or headman of the tribe.

7th. They agree to withdraw all opposition to the military posts or roads now established south of the North Platte river, or that may be established, not in violation of treaties heretofore made or hereafter to be made with any of the Indian tribes.


No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described which may be held in common, shall be of any validity or force as against the said Indians unless executed and signed by at least three-fourths of all the adult male Indians occupying or interested in the same, and no cession by the tribe shall be understood or construed in such manner as to deprive, without his consent, any individual member of the tribe of his rights to any tract of land selected by him as provided in Article VI of this treaty.


The United States hereby agrees to furnish annually to the Indians the physician, teachers, carpenter, miller, engineer, farmer, and blacksmiths, as herein contemplated, and that such appropriations shall be made from time to time, on the estimate of the Secretary of the Interior, as will be sufficient to employ such persons.


It is agreed that the sum of five hundred dollars annually for three years from date shall be expended in presents to the ten persons of said tribe who in the judgment of the agent may grow the most valuable crops for the respective year.


The Indians herein named agree that when the agency house and other buildings shall be constructed on the reservation named, they will regard said reservation their permanent home, and they will make no permanent settlement elsewhere; but they shall have the right, subject to the conditions and modifications of this treaty, to hunt, as stipulated in Article XI hereof.


The United States hereby agrees and stipulates that the country north of the North Platte river and east of the summits of the Big Horn mountains shall be held and considered to be unceded. Indian territory, and also stipulates and agrees that no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the same; or without the consent of the Indians, first had and obtained, to pass through the same; and it is further agreed by the United States, that within ninety days after the conclusion of peace with all the bands of the Sioux nation, the military posts now established in the territory in this article named shall be abandoned, and that the road leading to them and by them to the settlements in the Territory of Montana shall be closed.


It is hereby expressly understood and agreed by and between the respective parties to this treaty that the execution of this treaty and its ratification by the United States Senate shall have the effect, and shall be construed as abrogating and annulling all treaties and agreements heretofore entered into between the respective parties hereto, so far as such treaties and agreements obligate the United States to furnish and provide money, clothing, or other articles of property to such Indians and bands of Indians as become parties to this treaty, but no further.

In testimony of all which, we, the said commissioners, and we, the chiefs and headmen of the Brule band of the Sioux nation, have hereunto set our hands and seals at Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory, this twenty-ninth day of April, in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight.


Lieutenant General

Brevet Major General U.S.A.



Brevet Major General

Brevet Major General U.S.A.



A. S. H. WHITE, Secretary.


Executed on the part of the Brule band of Sioux by the chiefs and headman whose names are hereto annexed, they being thereunto duly authorized, at Fort Laramie, D. T., the twenty-ninth day of April, in the year A. D. 1868.


MA-ZA-PON-KASKA, his X mark, Iron Shell.

WAH-PAT-SHAH, his X mark, Red Leaf.

HAH-SAH-PAH, his X mark, Black Horn.

ZIN-TAH-GAH-LAT-WAH, his X mark, Spotted Tail.

ZIN-TAH-GKAH, his X mark, White Tail.

ME-WAH-TAH-NE-HO-SKAH, his X mark, Tall Man.

SHE-CHA-CHAT-KAH, his X mark, Bad Left Hand.

NO-MAH-NO-PAH, his X mark, Two and Two.

TAH-TONKA-SKAH, his X mark, White Bull.

CON-RA-WASHTA, his X mark, Pretty Coon.

HA-CAH-CAH-SHE-CHAH, his X mark, Bad Elk.

WA-HA-KA-ZAH-ISH-TAH, his X mark, Eye Lance.

MA-TO-HA-KE-TAH, his X mark, Bear that looks behind.

BELLA-TONKA-TONKA, his X mark, Big Partisan.

MAH-TO-HO-HONKA, his X mark, Swift Bear.

TO-WIS-NE, his X mark, Cold Place.

ISH-TAH-SKAH, his X mark, White Eye.

MA-TA-LOO-ZAH, his X mark, Fast Bear.

AS-HAH-HAH-NAH-SHE, his X mark, Standing Elk.

CAN-TE-TE-KI-YA, his X mark, The Brave Heart.

SHUNKA-SHATON, his X mark, Day Hawk.

TATANKA-WAKON, his X mark, Sacred Bull.

MAPIA SHATON, his X mark, Hawk Cloud.

MA-SHA-A-OW, his X mark, Stands and Comes.

SHON-KA-TON-KA, his X mark, Big Dog.



ASHTON S. H. WHITE, Secretary of Commission.

GEORGE B. WITHS, Phonographer to Commission.




CHAR. E. GUERN, Interpreter.

LEON T. PALLARDY, Interpreter.

NICHOLAS JANIS, Interpreter.


Executed on the part of the Ogallalla band of Sioux by the chiefs and headmen whose names are hereto subscribed, they being thereunto duly authorized, at Fort Laramie, the 25th day of May, in the year A. D. 1868.


TAH-SHUN-KA-CO-QUI-PAH, his + mark,


SHA-TON-SKAH, his + mark, White Hawk.

SHA-TON-SAPAH, his + mark, Black Hawk.

EGA-MON-TON-KA-SAPAH, his + mark, Black Tiger

OH-WAH-SHE-CHA, his + mark, Bad Wound.

PAH-GEE, his + mark, Grass.

WAH-NON SAH-CHE-GEH, his + mark, Ghost Heart.

COMECH, his + mark, Crow.

OH-HE-TE-KAH, his + mark, The Brave.

TAH-TON-KAH-HE-YO-TA-KAH, his + mark, Sitting Bull.

SHON-KA-OH-WAH-MEN-YE, his + mark, Whirlwind Dog.

HA-KAH-KAH-TAH-MIECH, his + mark, Poor Elk.

WAM-BU-LEE-WAH-KON, his + mark, Medicine Eagle.

CHON-GAH-MA-HE-TO-HANS-KA, his + mark, High Wolf.

WAH-SECHUN-TA-SHUN-KAH, his + mark, American Horse.

MAH-KAH-MAH-HA-MAK-NEAR, his + mark,

Man that walks under the ground.

MAH-TO-TOW-PAH, his + mark, Four Bears.

MA-TO-WEE-SHA-KTA, his + mark,

One that kills the bear.


One that kills in a hard place.

TAH-TON-KAH-TA-MIECH, his + mark, The Poor Bull.

OH-HUNS-EE-GA-NON-SKEN, his + mark, Mad Shade.


his + mark, Whirling hawk.

MAH-TO-CHUN-KA-OH, his + mark, Bear's Back.

CHE-TON-WEE-KOH, his + mark, Fool Hawk.

WAH-HOH-KE-ZA-AH-HAH, his + mark,

EH-TON-KAH, his + mark, Big Mouth.

MA-PAH-CHE-TAH, his + mark, Bad Hand.

WAH-KE-YUN-SHAH, his + mark, Red Thunder.

WAK-SAH, his + mark, One that Cuts Off.

CHAH-NOM-QUI-YAH, his + mark,

One that Presents the Pipe.

WAH-KE-KE-YAN-PUH-TAH, his + mark, Fire Thunder.

MAH-TO-NONK-PAH-ZE, his + mark,

Bear with Yellow Ears.

CON-REE-TEH-KA, his + mark, The Little Crow.

HE-HUP-PAH-TOH, his + mark, The Blue War Club.

SHON-KEE-TOH, his + mark, The Blue Horse.

WAM-BALLA-OH-CONQUO, his + mark, Quick Eagle.

TA-TONKA-SUPPA, his + mark, Black Bull.

MOH-TOH-HA-SHE-NA, his + mark, The Bear Hide.











NICHOLAS JANIS, Interpreter.

LEFROY JOTT, Interpreter.

ANTOINE JANIS, Interpreter.


Executed on the part of the Minneconjou band of Sioux by the chiefs and headmen whose names are hereunto subscribed, they being thereunto duly authorized.


HEH-WON-GE-CHAT, his + mark, One Horn.

OH-PON-AH-TAH-E-MANNE, his + mark,

The Elk that Bellows Walking.

HEH-HO-LAH-ZEH-CHA-SKAH, his + mark,

Young White Bull.


One that is Afraid of Shield.

HE-HON-NE-SHAKTA, his + mark, The Old Owl.

MOC-PE-A-TOH, his + mark, Blue Cloud.

OH-PONG-GE-LE-SKAH, his + mark, Spotted Elk.

TAH-TONK-KA-HON-KE-SCHUE, his + mark, Slow Bull.


The Dog Chief.

MA-TO-TAH-TA-TONK-KA, his + mark, Bull Bear.

WOM-BEH-LE-TON-KAH, his + mark, The Big Eagle.

MATOH, EH-SCHNE-LAH, his + mark, The Lone Bear.

MA-TOH-OH-HE-TO-KEH, his + mark, The Brave Bear.

EH-CHE-MA-KEH, his + mark, The Runner.

TI-KI-YA, his + mark, The Hard.

HE-MA-ZA, his + mark, Iron Horn.










Executed on the part of the Yanctonais band of Sioux by the chiefs and headmen whose names are hereto subscribed, they being thereunto duly authorized:


MAH-TO-NON-PAH, his + mark, Two Bears.

MA-TO-HNA-SKIN-YA, his + mark, Mad Bear.

HE-O-PU-ZA, his + mark, Louzy.

AH-KE-CHE-TAH-CHE-KA-DAN, his + mark, Little Soldier.

MAH-TO-E-TAN-CHAN, his + mark, Chief Bear.

CU-WI-TO-WIA, his + mark, Rotten Stomach.

SKUN-KA-WE-TKO, his + mark, Fool Dog.

ISH-TA-SAP-PAH, his + mark, Black Eye.

IH-TAN-CHAN, his + mark, The Chief.

I-A-WI-CA-KA, his + mark, The One who Tells the Truth.

AH-KE-CHE-TAH, his + mark, The Soldier.

TA-SHI-NA-GI, his + mark, Yellow Robe.

NAH-PE-TON-KA, his + mark, Big Hand.

CHAN-TEE-WE-KTO, his + mark, Fool Heart.

HOH-GAN-SAH-PA, his + mark, Black Catfish.

MAH-TO-WAH-KAN, his + mark, Medicine Bear.

SHUN-KA-KAN-SHA, his + mark, Red Horse.

WAN-RODE, his + mark, The Eagle.

CAN-HPI-SA-PA, his + mark, Black Tomahawk.

WAR-HE-LE-RE, his + mark, Yellow Eagle.

CHA-TON-CHE-CA, his + mark, Small Hawk,

or Long Fare.

SHU-GER-MON-E-TOO-HA-SKA, his + mark, Fall Wolf.

MA-TO-U-TAH-KAH, his + mark, Sitting Bear.

HI-HA-CAH-GE-NA-SKENE, his + mark, Mad Elk.




LITTLE CHIEF, his + mark.

TALL BEAR, his + mark.

TOP MAN, his + mark.

NEVA, his + mark.

THE WOUNDED BEAR, his + mark.

WHIRLWIND, his + mark.

THE FOX, his + mark.

THE DOG BIG MOUTH, his + mark.

SPOTTED WOLF, his + mark.

SORREL HORSE, his + mark.

BLACK COAL, his + mark.

BIG WOLF, his + mark.

KNOCK-KNEE, his + mark.

BLACK CROW, his + mark.

THE LONE OLD MAN, his + mark.

PAUL, his + mark.

BLACK BULL, his + mark.

BIG TRACK, his + mark.

THE FOOT, his + mark.

BLACK WHITE, his + mark.

YELLOW HAIR, his + mark.

LITTLE SHIELD, his + mark.

BLACK BEAR, his + mark.

WOLF MOCASSIN, his + mark.

BIG ROBE, his + mark.

WOLF CHIEF, his + mark.




Captain 4th Infantry, and Bvt. Lieut. Col. U. S. A.,
Commanding Fort Laramie.

Brevet Major, Captain 4th Infantry.

Captain 4th Infantry.

Second Lieutenant 4th Infantry.



November 6, 1868.


MAH-PI-AH-LU-TAH, his + mark, Red Cloud.

WA-KI-AH-WE-CHA-SHAH, his + mark, Thunder Man.

MA-ZAH-ZAH-GEH, his + mark, Iron Cane.

WA-UMBLE-WHY-WA-KA-TUYAH, his + mark, High Eagle.

KO-KE-PAH, his + mark, Man Afraid.

WA-KI-AH-WA-KOU-AH, his + mark, Thunder Flying Running.




Brevet Colonel U. S. Army, Commanding.

Captain 4th Infantry, Brevet Major U. S. Army.

Captain 4th Infantry, Bvt. Lieut. Col. U. S. Army.

Captain 4th Infantry.

First Lieutenant 4th Infantry, Bvt. Capt. U. S. Army.

Second Lieutenant 4th Infantry.

Toward sunset one evening in March 1866, a large group of Indian, white and mixed-blood people moved away from the parade ground at Fort Laramie and out toward a graveyard on a hill. Leading them was an army wagon with a coffin in it. Next came a small group of relatives of the dead girl. Their clothes, a feather or two, and the fur around the edges of their buffalo robes fluttered slightly in the breeze. Next came a large crowd of officers, enlisted soldiers, and tribespeople, walking quietly and paying attention to the weather and their steps. Slowly they made their way over the ground past the sutler’s store and hospital, and up a low rise beyond.

At the cemetery was a platform on four posts about seven feet high. The relatives of the dead girl gathered closest around the coffin: her mother, her aunts, and her father, Spotted Tail or Sinte Gleska, chief of the Brulé or Sicangu Lakota, called Sioux by the whites. The other Indians and soldiers stood in rings around the relatives.

Then in the silence a chaplain gave a prayer, which an interpreter translated it into Lakota. The dead girl’s mother and aunts wept quietly. Other people placed special things on the coffin. Col. Henry Maynadier, the highest-ranking soldier at the fort, laid down his best kid gloves. Then the girl’s relatives covered the coffin with a buffalo robe and a red wool blanket, raised it to the platform, and tied it down with leather thongs.

By 1866 war between Indians and whites had become almost constant on the high plains of what soon would become Wyoming. An event like this was rare. Old-timers regarded it as “unprecedented,” Col. Maynadier reported to officials back in Washington, D.C. But he had high hopes, he added, that the mutual feelings of loss would allow both sides to come together in “a certain and lasting peace.”

Young Mni Akuwin

Spotted Tail’s daughter Mni Akuwin—Brings Water Home—was born about 1848, so she would have been 17 or 18 when she died. Probably she was with her people when trouble broke out in their village in 1854, and 2nd Lt. John Grattan and his 30 soldiers were killed, and with her people also when they were attacked in turn by Brig. Gen. William Harney’s cavalry on Blue Water Creek in western Nebraska the following year. Many children and women were killed in that fight, and many more were taken back to Fort Laramie by the soldiers, as hostages.

When her father went to prison at Fort Leavenworth in distant northeastern Kansas the year after that, his family went with him. On their way home, after he was released, they spent some months at Fort Kearny in Nebraska. And each year after that, when Spotted Tail and the Brulé people visited Fort Laramie to trade and to pick up the food and clothes the government had promised them, Mni Akuwin went along.

She became a particular friend of the officers and their wives—“they made a pet of her,” one historian put it. She loved to watch soldiers march and turn and slap their rifles to the ground. And they liked showing off for her. “Among ourselves we called her ‘the princess,’” an officer remembered many years later. “She was looking, always looking, as if she were feeding upon what she saw.”

Years of war

Relations worsened between whites and Indians as tens of thousands of people poured each year past Fort Laramie on Oregon/California/Mormon Trail. The Brulé people stayed more friendly than other Lakota bands did—the Oglala and the Hunkpapa, for example. But after the massacre of a peaceful Cheyenne village on Sand Creek in Colorado near the end of 1864, even the Brulé felt they had to make war. That winter, the southern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and various Lakota bands all moved north, raiding as they went. On the Powder and Tongue Rivers in northern Wyoming, they joined up with the Oglala, in gatherings of great power.

The following summer was all-out war. Lt. Caspar Collins and 26 other soldiers were killed in a fight at what’s now Casper, Wyo. General Patrick Connor led a successful attack on an Arapaho village on the Tongue River, but his 2,500 troops came close to starving later that summer as they chased the tribes all over the Powder River country. From Fort Laramie, Col. Thomas Moonlight sent Spotted Tail and the Brulé under guard down the Platte to Fort Kearny, as prisoners of war. But they escaped, crossed the river, and headed north. When the cavalry came after them the Indians ran off all the soldiers’ horses, and they had to walk 100 miles back to Fort Laramie in disgrace, carrying their saddles.

The whites realized they were getting nowhere, and decided to see if they could make peace. In the fall, Col. Maynadier sent messages out to the Oglala and Brulé bands in the Powder River country. After three months the messengers returned: Red Cloud and 250 Oglala lodges would come the fort to talk, also Swift Bear, Spotted Tail, and the Brulé people. Despite their victories, it had been a hard winter. Buffalo were harder than ever to find, and when the generally peaceful tribes like the Brulé made war, they had to do without the yearly supplies the government owed them otherwise.

Just as the Brulé were starting on the long trip south to Fort Laramie, Mni Akuwin died, probably of tuberculosis or pneumonia, perhaps of simple hunger and exhaustion. She had never done well away from the forts. Before she died she asked her father to have her buried near the fort. Spotted Tail sent a message to Maynadier asking if this would be possible. Maynadier immediately answered yes.

The colonel had known the family years before, perhaps when he spent the winter on Deer Creek near what’s now Glenrock, Wyo., with an army expedition mapping new routes to Montana. But up to this point Maynadier had been unsure of Spotted Tail’s real intentions—whether peaceful or warlike. Now he was sure the chief meant peace. He rode out with a small group of officers to welcome the Brulé when he learned they were near.

Back at the fort, Maynadier told Spotted Tail that a special commission of peacemakers would arrive from the East in a few months to work out details of a treaty. Meanwhile, he was honored that the chief would trust him with his daughter’s remains, and they should have a funeral at sunset.

Spotted Tail was moved, yet calmed by the colonel’s sympathy. He said the tribes were due payments to make up for the vanishing buffalo, and all the new roads being built through their lands. But such matters could wait for later, he said, when the peace commissioners came. The chief’s emotions had a strong effect on the other Indians, Maynadier reported, “and satisfied some [whites] who had never before seemed to believe it, that an Indian had a human heart to work on and was not a wild animal.”

An attempt at peace

Within a few days, Red Cloud and 200 Oglala warriors arrived. As weeks went by, more and more Indians camped nearby, coming and going all the time. The soldiers were nervous, especially when the Indian men walked around with their bows strung and their hands full of arrows. The soldiers didn’t trust their officers, either. Private Hervey Johnson wrote home to his sisters in Ohio that Maynadier had been making nothing but promises to the Indians all spring, “the most of which he is unable to fulfil, and in fact being drunk most of his time I guess he don’t know half the time what he is promising.”

Johnson was right. Maynadier was making a lot of promises, and giving out a lot of presents and supplies so the tribes would stick around. This was risky. Though it was clear the grieving Spotted Tail was for peace, neither Maynadier nor any of the white officers had bothered to find out what Red Cloud and the Oglalas thought.

At last the peace commissioners arrived. The government had no desire, they told the Indians, to buy or occupy their land. All they wanted was a safe way through the Powder River country. Gold had been discovered in Montana, and much of the fighting had been along the Bozeman Road, the new road north to the gold fields. Whites would stay on the roads and wouldn’t kill off the buffalo or otherwise disturb the game, the commissioners promised. If the tribes would agree, they would be paid well in yearly supplies. Red Cloud and Spotted Tail asked for time to bring in the rest of their people, camped in Nebraska, a few days’ journey away.

The day the peace talks reopened, by sheer coincidence, Col. Henry B. Carrington and 700 troops showed up at Fort Laramie. They were on their way to build new forts on the Bozeman Road. No one had told the Indians about this. Red Cloud was disgusted. Here the Indians had agreed to nothing, and yet the whites were sending a new army to build new forts in the country they still had no rights to travel through. With the other fighting Indians, mostly Oglala, he left and went back north.

Spotted Tail, the Brulé people and some southern Oglala people signed the treaty. They were tired of war, tired of living away from the big forts, and they had never really regarded the Powder River country as theirs in any case. The commissioners had signatures on paper, but their loose promises and the army’s bad timing only ensured more war.

More war

It came to be called Red Cloud’s war. Carrington’s troops strengthened Fort Reno on the Powder and built two more forts—Fort Phil Kearny on Piney Creek near what’s now Story, Wyo., and Fort C.F. Smith on the Bighorn River in Montana Territory. The tribes raided the road constantly, making travel almost impossible. In December, Red Cloud’s Oglala warriors and their Cheyenne allies lured Captain William Fetterman and 80 soldiers out of Fort Phil Kearny and killed them all in the snow. Two more fights near the forts the following summer ended in a draw.

Again, the government was ready to try peace. But this time, the Union Pacific Railroad was being built across the plains, changing everything. After the Indians made just a few raids on the railroad route, company officials had threatened to stop work altogether unless the government could protect the crews.

Congress appointed a new peace commission in 1867. These men met first with leaders of the southern plains tribes in Kansas—Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache. The leaders agreed their people would move onto reservations. But the people didn’t like the idea much, and soon rejected it. At Fort Laramie, no Lakota people would come in to talk at all. Red Cloud sent word that the war would stop as soon as the army abandoned the new forts and closed the Bozeman Road.

Peace again on the horizon

And this, the government was ready to do. For one thing, the army had shrunk drastically since the end of the Civil War. There simply weren’t enough troops to protect the Bozeman Road, the railroad builders and the new black citizens and their right to vote in the Reconstruction South.

Second, war was expensive. Congressmen who favored peace argued it was cheaper to feed the Indians than to fight them. Third, it was unjust. Ever since Sand Creek, Congress and the nation had been rethinking the fairness of making war on Indians to force them to give up their lands.

Finally, as soon as the new railroad was finished, there would be a much shorter wagon route north from Utah to the gold fields of western Montana. Whites would not need the Bozeman Road anymore. It wasn’t worth more war.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sent word to abandon the forts on the Bozeman Road. The peace commission took the train to Cheyenne in early April 1868, and from there took the road to Fort Laramie. With them they brought Spotted Tail and his headmen from Nebraska, and a load of presents for any Indians willing to sign a new treaty.

A new treaty, an uncertain future

The Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868, as it came to be called, set aside a reservation for the Lakota that included all of what is now South Dakota west of the Missouri River. This was a lot of land, but not nearly as much had been set aside for the Lakota in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, seventeen years before. The new treaty also allowed the Lakota to keep hunting on what was called “unceded Indian territory.”

This included the Powder River country the Oglala had fought so hard to keep—all the land north of the North Platte and east of the Bighorn Mountains. It also included land south of the South Platte along the Republican River in Kansas and Nebraska, which was meant for Spotted Tail’s Brulé people.

But most of the words in the treaty are about farming—how the Indians could file land claims on the new reservation, how they could eventually own the land as individuals, separate from their tribes, how owning land would allow them to be full U.S. citizens, how the government would provide them with seeds, tools, and oxen to pull their plows, and provide them too with expert farmers to advise them, blacksmiths to fix their tools, millers to grind their grain, and teachers to teach their children an English-language education.

Many Indians, including various Brulé, Oglala, Minniconjou, and Yankton Lakota people, plus some Arapaho people, signed in April and May, but all who did so had been more or less friendly already. The army finally abandoned Fort C.F. Smith on July 29. Red Cloud and his warriors burned it down the next day, and burned Fort Phil Kearny after it and Fort Reno were abandoned a few days later. Red Cloud sent word he might come in after a while, but first, the Oglalas would go hunt buffalo, as they did every fall.

On November 4, Red Cloud came to Fort Laramie. With him were about 125 men, leaders of the Oglala, Hunkpapa, Brulé, Blackfeet, and Sans Arc bands of the Lakota. The peace commissioners had all left months before, Maynadier was no longer in charge, and only Col. William Dye was on hand at the fort to take their signatures.

When Dye was explaining the complicated parts of the treaty about land claims and farming, Red Cloud interrupted. His people were not interested in leaving their country for a new place, or in farming, he said. He added that he had not come because he’d been sent for, but only to hear the latest news, and to get some ammunition for fighting the Oglala’s old enemies, the Crow. Dye said he couldn’t provide powder and lead for any Indians still at war with the U.S. The next day, Red Cloud had more questions, especially about how far the hunting grounds and reservation actually extended. It seemed as if the talks would bog down in detail and suspicion.

Finally, nervous and reluctant, Red Cloud rubbed his hands in dust from the floor, washed them with a dusty washing motion, took a pen, and made his mark on the treaty paper. He asked all the white men to touch the pen, which they did. Then he shook hands all around, and made a speech. He was ready for peace, he said. There was no need for more war. He wasn’t sure if he’d go to the reservation anytime soon, however, and he hoped the Oglala could visit and trade at Fort Laramie again, as they had in the more peaceful years of the past. His people had no desire to farm, and as long as there was game, he saw no need for them to learn.

Each side was lost in a dream of the other’s point of view. The whites assumed the buffalo would only last a few more years, and soon the tribes would move peacefully onto the reservation and start farming. The Indians, and especially the Oglala, assumed they had won the war and protected their traditional hunting ground.

Both would turn out to be very, very wrong. Anyone who looked up toward the hill beyond the sutler’s store and the hospital would have seen Mni Akuwin’s coffin still up there, on top of the four-post platform. That view, and the loss it recalled, would have been something both sides understood, if they’d bothered to look.


Primary Sources

  • “Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868,” the full text of the treaty, in New Perspectives on the West, a website published by PBS, accessed April 12, 2013 at
  • Maynadier, Col. Henry E. “Letter to Headquarters West Sub-District of Nebraska, March 9, 1866,” in Report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Year 1866. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866, No. 86, pp. 207-208. Accessed April 12, 2013 at This letter is Maynadier’s description of the funeral the day it happened.
  • Johnson, Hervey. Tending the Talking Wire: A Buck Soldier’s View of Indian Country, 1863-1866. Edited by William E. Unrau. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1979, pp. 331-32, 342, 345. Johnson, an enlisted man in the 11th Ohio Cavalry, which served along the North Platte River in the mid 1860s, wrote about 100 letters home to his mother and sisters. He is frank in his opinions of his officers, including Maynadier.

Secondary Sources

  • Clough, Wilson O. “Mini-Aku, Daughter of Spotted Tail.” Annals of Wyoming, vol. 39 No. 2, (1967), pp. 187-216, accessed April 12, 2013 at Clough gives Maynadier’s account of the funeral verbatim, quotes heavily from the account of the chaplain, Asa Wright, and goes on to do a thorough job sifting fact and likelihood from the many more romantic or misguided versions of the fascinating story of Spotted Tail’s daughter. He also works carefully to figure out what the young woman’s real name was, and comes to a conclusion nearly identical with modern Sicangu (Brulé) Lakota tradition.
  • Flannery, L.G. (Pat). “A Backward Looking Prelude: Ahho-appa, Daughter of Shan-tag-alisk (The Legend of Fallen Leaf).” John Hunton’s Diary, vol. 4. Lingle, Wyoming: The Guide-Review, 1963, pp. 15-25. Hunton was a trader at Fort Laramie beginning in 1873, and kept a terse diary for decades. Flannery knew Hunton in the 1920s. This article is good example of how a small amount of information can get romantically expanded.
  • “Fort Laramie Treaty Land.” Indian Ancestry, accessed April 12, 2013 at A useful map of the reservation specified by the Treaty of 1868, together with the “unceded Indian territory” overlain with the boundaries of today’s reservations.
  • Hafen, Leroy R. Fort Laramie and the Pageant of the West. Glendale, California: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1938, pp. 341-345. Good maps of the Fort are on pp. 308 and 376.
  • Hyde, George E. Spotted Tail’s Folk: A History of the Brulé Sioux. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.
  • Larson, T.A., History of Wyoming. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965, 21-35.
  • Olson, James C. Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965, 12-95.
  • Nadeau, Remi. Fort Laramie and the Sioux. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967, pp. 201-205.
  • National Park Service. “Peace Talk and War on the Bozeman Trail, 1866-1868.” Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Accessed April 12, 2013 at
  • Smith, Jean Edward. Grant. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001, 434-435; 516-541. A good book for the interplay between the politics of Reconstruction and the Indian wars.
  • Theobald, Mary Miley. “The Story,” in Honoring Maynadier & Spotted Tail, accessed April 12, 2013 at

For Further Reading

  • “Coda Chiazzata (Spotted Tail).” Farwest.It, accessed April 12, 2013 at, a biography of Spotted Tail in Italian, which includes an account of Mni Akuwin’s funeral, “un elborato funerale,” on a website for Italians who love the American West.
  • Honoring Maynadier and Spotted Tail, accessed April 12, 2013 at This website is maintained jointly by descendants of Maynadier and Spotted Tail, and gives the young woman’s name as I have used it in this article.
  • “Report to the President from the Indian Peace Commission, January 7, 1868,” accessed April 12, 2013 at This is the peace commission’s report after it had concluded a treaty with the southern tribes but before making any headway with the Lakota. The document includes remarkable statements, such as this, about the fighting in 1865: “The result of the year's campaign satisfied all reasonable men that war with Indians was useless and expensive. Fifteen or twenty Indians had been killed, at an expense of more than a million dollars apiece, while hundreds of our soldiers had lost their lives, many of our border settlers had been butchered, and much property destroyed. To those who reflected on the subject, knowing the facts, the war was something more than useless and expensive; it was dishonorable to the nation, and disgraceful to those who had originated it.”
  • Viegas, Jennifer. The Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty That Established a Sioux Reservation in the Black Hills of Dakota. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2006, accessed April 12, 2013 at An excellent introduction to the subject for students, with illustrations, maps, background, and a point-by-point examination of the treaty itself.


  • The 1863 sketch of Fort Laramie is from the collections of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. Used with permission and thanks.
  • The photo of Spotted Tail about 1880 is by David Francis Berry, from the Library of Congress via Wikipedia. Used with thanks.
  • The photo of Col. Henry Maynadier is from, a handy site for photos of Civil War generals and brevet generals. Used with thanks.
  • The 1881 photo of Mni Akuwin’s grave is from the Wyoming State Archives, via the National Park Service. Used with thanks.
  • The 1891 photo of Red Cloud is from, a site packed with thousands of early photos of North American Indian people. Used with thanks.
  • The photo of Man Afraid of his Horses smoking a ceremonial pipe at the Fort Laramie treaty negotiations in 1868 is image MS 4605 (01601208) from the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution. Used with permission and thanks.

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