Nebraska Moments

By Donald R. Hickey; Susan A. Wunder et al. | Go to book overview

9. Red Cloud and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868

On November 4, 1868, after weeks of delay, a large delegation of Sioux warriors rode into Fort Laramie, the U.S. Army’s primary outpost on the northern Plains. Fort Laramie was the site of numerous diplomatic gatherings during the mid-nineteenth century. This time, however, what was about to transpire constituted a major turning point in terms of control of the northern Great Plains.

The Sioux delegation included a number of prominent representatives of various divisions of the Sioux nation. The largest Indian nation on the northern Plains, the Sioux include three broad political and cultural groups: the Tetons, the Yanktons, and the Yanktonais. They speak three closely related dialects of the Siouan language: Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota, respectively. The Tetons held dominance over much of western Nebraska, eastern Wyoming and Montana, and the Dakotas west of the Missouri River, and they would be dominant at the Fort Laramie treaty gathering. Seven tribes make up the Tetons, and three of them— the Oglalas, the Hunkpapas, and the Brulés—attended.

Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglalas, quickly showed everyone at the peace parley that he was a person to whom deference was required. Maj. William Dye had been left in command, because the members of the official delegation from the federal Peace Commission had tired of waiting and had left Fort Laramie. Red Cloud stayed seated when introductions were made, and he extended only the tips of his fingers for handshakes. He stated that nothing could be accomplished because Major Dye’s superiors were not present, but Dye told the Sioux chief he had authority to represent the Peace Commission, which had provided him with a treaty to discuss.

For three days Red Cloud tried a variety of diplomatic maneuvers

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