Authored by U.S. Department of Interior
Although only a short span of time in the history of the Black Hills, the decades between 1851 and 1877 were momentous ones. This was a time when bison began to disappear from the Black Hills and the surrounding prairies, forcing local tribes to move even farther away to find good bison hunting grounds. By the 1860s, only a few areas in the Plains, including the Republican Fork and the Tongue/Powder river countries, held bison herds large enough to sustain a livelihood for the Lakotas, Cheyennes, and Arapahos who hunted there. This was also a period when the growing presence of foreigners created even more hardship for local tribes and when the United States entered into treaties with tribal nations that led to the relinquishment of large tracts of tribal territory. Most of all it was the era of the gold rush when American soldiers, scientists, prospectors, speculators, and settlers entered the Black Hills illegally and made claims on the land, eventually leading the United States to seize the area from the Lakotas, Cheyennes, and Arapahos: as the U.S. Court of Claims wrote in 1975, “a more ripe and rank case of dis-honorable dealings will never, in all probability be found in our history…” (quoted from Lazarus 1991:344).
The history of the Black Hills between 1851 and 1877 is written from two very different, and at times antagonistic perspectives. On one side are the writings of Americans who were attempting to “civilize” local tribes, confine them to reservations and take possession of their lands. These records, which include the writings of soldiers, scientists, government agents, and early settlers, depict a history that ultimately favors and defends American expansionism and the taking of the Black Hills. On the other side are accounts by Indians as well as non-Indians, including traders and federal agents, who viewed the Black Hills in a light more sympathetic to tribal interests and traditions. Today, this divide persists in the various ways the history of the Hills is depicted and interpreted in the writings of contemporary scholars. While all history gets written from different, and at times contested, vantage points, the story of the Black Hills stands out be-cause it continues to be told in a context where questions of their “ownership” on historical, legal, political, cultural, and even religious grounds are still being challenged.
May 28 2014
149969864X / 9781499698640
US Trade Paper
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
History / Native American