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Plains Indians

Milestones 1800-Present


By early 19th century, the Great Sioux Nation dominates the northern Plains, an area including most of the Dakotas, northern Nebraska, eastern Wyoming, and southeastern Montana


The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France. The westward expansion that follows eventually leads to depletion of the buffalo, an animal central to the Lakota way of life.


Red CloudRed Cloud leads the successful fight to close off the Bozeman Trail, a pass leading to the gold mines of Montana. The trail crosses over the traditional hunting grounds of the Teton.


The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 establishes the Great Sioux Reservation, encompassing most of present-day South Dakota west of the Missouri River, including the Black Hills. The U.S. Government pledges to keep whites out of this territory.


An expedition led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer discovers gold in the Black Hills, sending a rush of prospectors to the area. As more and more whites enter the area, the Native American people defend their homes and way of life.


Sitting BullOn June 25, Custer attacks a large Native American encampment. Sitting Bull, Gall, Crazy Horse, and several Cheyenne leaders defeat Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer loses his entire command of more than 200 men in the battle


An act by the U.S. Congress in March 1889 splits the Great Sioux Reservation into six smaller reservations. Some of the tribes begin performing the Ghost Dance, a religious ceremony thought to extinguish the whites, return the buffalo, and the former way of life. South Dakota is admitted to the union in November.


Sitting Bull is murdered on the Standing Rock Reservation. Following this event, Big Foot and his Mnikowoju band flee to Pine Ridge to seek protection under Red Cloud. More than 250 members of Big Foot's band are massacred by the 7th Cavalry on Dec. 29 at Wounded Knee. The event is often described as the last major conflict between the U.S. Army and the Great Sioux Nation.


The Citizenship Act of 1924 naturalizes Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States.


The Indian Reorganization Act recognizes tribal governments as sovereign nations.


Members of the Native American Movement seize the village of Wounded Knee and occupy it for 71 days.


Native American ReconciliationSouth Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson and representatives of the state's nine tribal governments proclaim 1990 a Year of Reconciliation. A Century of Reconciliation is declared in 1991.