FEBRUARY 8, 1876


In July 1874, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer went into the Black Hills to find a site for a military post.  He also brought two prospectors who discovered gold.  To a nation in a depression, this was great news.  Newspapers and the public demanded annexation, yet, under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the sacred Black Hills were for the Lakotas’ “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation.”  In a May 1875 meeting with Lakota chiefs, President Grant demanded they cede the Hills.  By November, after failed efforts to buy them, Grant decided on warfare and met with Generals Philip Sheridan and George Crook.  Uninvited was their superior, General William T. Sherman, who had signed the treaty and had no regard for miners on Indian land.  In January, Lakota were told to return to the reserve or be deemed hostile.  They refused.  With that, on February 8, 1876, Sheridan sent orders to begin what became known as the “Great Sioux War” of 1876-77.  One engagement in that war was the Battle of the Little Big Horn.    

Source:  Peter Cozzens, “Ulysses S. Grant Launched an Illegal War Against the Plains Indians, Then Lied About It,” Smithsonian Magazine, 11/2016.  Retrieved 6/7/2019, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ulysses-grant-launched-illegal-war-plains-indians-180960787
Photo:  Author unknown, 1868.  William T. Sherman Collection of Alexander Gardner Photographs, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.  Public domain. Photograph taken by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

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