What started the Sioux wars?
First a little history..
When white men came in 1640 at first they were French trappers. We welcomed them as brothers and they loved our way of life and became part of our nation. We did have immigration and naturalization laws already. These trappers now Lakota themselves had all rights of any Lakota because they were Lakota.
Between 1640 and 1803 (The Louisiana purchase) french men and women came, some became Sioux and some remained french brothers living in peace and sharing the bounty of the land.
By 1804 white settlers began arriving from the United States of America. They settled the land where the French used to live and enjoyed peace. Some Sioux spoke English or French so trade became easy.
When more white men came they were settlers and we welcomed them too as brothers. By 1808 settlers began arriving more regularly. We traded and helped each other for many years. Then a few years later as the settlements got larger, in 1848 the first soldiers came and we welcomed them to as brothers.
More settlers and more soldiers came. Eventually in the summer of 1854 a Lt. Gratton came to Ft. Laramie and he is described as contemptuous toward natives. The military overstepped its mandate and broke a treaty when it entered a Lakota encampment (over a cattle dispute) and shot its chieftain.
After entering the encampment the chief told the soldiers take any cow from our herd as payment for the one mistakenly killed. Gratton said no we are going to arrest the one who killed the cow. But the treaty from 1810 defined who will punish it’s citizens for perceived crimes and appointed a representative from the bureau of Indian affairs. It would take two days for the representative to arrive and the army refused to wait. They shot the chief who only wanted the treaty honored and refused the street justice of the soldiers. 29 US soldiers died for that crime in the battle that followed the shooting of Chief conquering bear.
It all could have been avoided had they allowed the treaty to be honored.
This was August of 1854. Two score and 10 years (50 years) after the first US settlers arrived the US opens fire on the Lakota. Prior to this no violence had occurred and we even traded openly and shared the land as one people, as brothers. We’d already negotiated mediators who spoke both English and Lakota and justice had always been served using these methods outlined in our treaty of cooperation.
A peace treaty was signed following what the US defined as a slaughter of innocent and unarmed US civilians when it was soldiers who entered the camp and opened fire. They paid with their lives for the transgression. But we were made the savages for killing well-armed soldiers who shot first.
Could there have ever been peace when Col. William Henry incharge of US lead troops had been quoted in his letters to Washington DC as saying “By God, I’m for battle—no peace.”
Sept. 1855 is the second massacre and this time it was Lakota women and children who were killed. The truth of this event isn’t a village caught in the cross fire. It is when well-armed soldiers enter a Lakota encampment while all the men were off hunting and they opened fire killing every elderly man, woman and child in the camp. More than 250 innocent and unarmed Lakota were killed and 70 taken prisoners by 600 brave and armed US soldiers.
How much courage does it take well armed soldiers to enter an unarmed village and kill the unarmed inhabitants there with numbers of 2 to 1 on your side as well. Yet the US government awarded several medals for courage and valor.
Of the seventy nearly all women taken prisoners they were held about a year and released. They reported daily beatings and systematic gang rapes. The bureau of Indian affairs called the claims preposterous despite more than a dozen women were pregnant when released.
So who were the savages?
This nation started the Sioux wars. This nation breaking all its own treaties signed in good faith and honored by the Lakota and the Sioux nation only to be broken by the nation that requested the treaties.
Even after this slaughter the Lakota sought peace over war. Again and again, treaty after treaty, broken promise after broken promise. Peace would never be our reward. Every battle following new treaties was begun by the US army and not the peace loving Lakota or the Sioux nation.
These treaties were made by “the sovereign nation of the United States of America and are subject to “Gods law” and good faith as hereby sworn unto God.” We honored that peace because Lakota seek peace.
These are the facts not found in your history books. Every battle where the US engaged our warriors they lost except the battle of Killdeer mountain, in the other battles you’ll read about villages “caught” in the cross fire when in reality they opened fire on unarmed villagers. The untold story is the US army trapped the Sioux on the mountain and waited for hunger to kill many. As the natives came down to negotiate surrender they were gunned down while unarmed.
Few survived this battle because peace was not an option for the US army who had been beaten and humiliated by these “primitive savages”. They needed a victory and took this as such rather than the cowardice act of killing unarmed people attempting to negotiate peaceful surrender.
Ultimately you can ask yourself 1640-1854 we lived in peace with whites who came. We traded, protected and helped one another. We treated them as brothers and sisters. Some became Sioux, others just friends of the Sioux. So for 214 years peace prevailed. So what changed?
Hate changed, greed changed and all due to the US government which also came. Still believe the ruthless savages who murder, scalp and rape? Now that you know the real history leading up to the Sioux wars. Still believe we started it as history books have taught?
214 years of peace should tell you all you needed to know about who started the Sioux wars. And as Paul Harvey would say “now you know; the rest of the story”.