May 2, 2010
In 1848 a series of gold and silver discoveries signaled the first serious interest by white settlers in the arid and semiarid lands beyond the Mississippi, where many Indian nations had been forced to migrate. To open more land, federal officials introduced in 1851 a policy of “concentration.” Tribes were pressured into signing treaties limiting the boundaries of their hunting grounds to “reservations” The Sioux tribe was limited to the Dakotas. The treaties that claimed the Indians provisions would not follow through; land hungry pioneers broke promises of the government by squatting on Indian lands and then demanded federal protection. The government in turn forced more restrictions on the Indians. This cycle of broken promises was repeated until a full-scale war between whites and Indians raged in the west. (U.S. A Narrative History, 2009)
By the mid-1880’s there were some 180 reservations in the west, containing approximately 240,000 American Indians. Among the last to be confined were the Sioux, who fought fiercely to keep their freedom. Nevertheless, a treaty in 1889 created six small reservations in the Dakotas: Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, and Standing Rock. The Sioux tribe suffered crop failures in the summers of 1889 and 1890. White settlers were killing all the bison, plus epidemic of sickness, brought bitterness and poverty to the Sioux, who were ripe for any vision promising them relief. (U.S. A Narrative History, 2009) (Stanley I. Kutler, 2003)
In 1890 a religious revival spread when word came from the Nevada desert that a humble Paiute named Wovoka had received revelations from the Great Spirit. Wovoka preached that if his followers adopted his mystical rituals and lived together in love and harmony, the Indian dead would rise, whites would be driven from the land, and game would be thick again. As the rituals spread, alarmed settlers called the...