The Western American Indian: Case Studies in Tribal History

By Richard N. Ellis | Go to book overview

friendly Sioux along the Missouri River. Preparations were made to hold additional councils on the Missouri and at Fort Laramie in the spring, but the goal of peace was not so easy to attain with the more hostile elements of the tribe. Red Cloud, a leader of the Western Sioux, displayed a total lack of interest in treaty talks, and it was only with great effort that he was finally persuaded to meet with government agents. Edward B. Taylor, the government negotiator, was less than candid with the Indians. He wanted approval of unhindered use of the Bozeman Trail, a short cut to the Montana gold regions that traversed the heart of the Powder River country, one of the last great undisturbed hunting grounds of the Sioux. During the talks United States troops arrived to guard the road, and Red Cloud and his followers marched out of the council, warning that all travelers on the Bozeman Trail risked their lives.

Red Cloud's abrupt exit removed the primary obstacle to a treaty, but it also meant that the one man whose approval was essential was not a party to it. Taylor was heard to say that he would have a treaty even if only two Indians signed, and he concluded an agreement with the friendly bands who had no direct interest in the Powder River country--whereupon it was announced that peace had been made with the Sioux. Red Cloud, true to his word, resisted the fortification of the Bozeman Trail. The resulting conflict, known as Red Cloud's war, saw the soldiers locked in their forts in a state of seige, the massacre of a command of eighty men under Captain William J. Fetterman, and other dramatic battles. In the end the government conceded its mistake and concluded a new treaty with Red Cloud in 1868 by which it abandoned the Bozeman road.


"A Lasting Peace"--Fort Laramie, 1866

JAMES C. OLSON

The hope that the Powder River Sioux would come in and that peace might be secured set everyone atwitter. On January 16, 1866, [Maj. Gen. Grenville M.] Dodge [commander of the De

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