When I think back of the stories that I have heard about how the Native American Indians were driven from their land and forced to live on the reservations one particular event comes to my mind. That event is the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It is one of the few times that the Oglala Sioux made history with them being the ones who left the battlefield as winners. When stories are told, or when the media dares to tamper with history, it is usually the American Indians who are looked upon as the bad guys. They are portrayed as savages who spent their time raiding wagon trains and scalping the white settlers just for fun.
The media has lead us to believe that the American government was forced to take the land from these savage Indians. We should put the blame where it belongs, on the U.S. Government who lied, cheated, and stole from the Oglala forcing Crazy Horse, the great war chief, and many other leaders to surrender their nation in order to save the lives of their people. In the nineteenth century the most dominant nation in the western plains was the Sioux Nation. This nation was divided into seven tribes: Oglalas, Brule, Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, No Bow, Two Kettle, and the Blackfoot. Of these tribes they had different band.
The Hunkpatila was one band of the Oglalas (Guttmacher 12). One of the greatest war chiefs of all times came from this band. His name was Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse was not given this name, on his birth date in the fall of 1841. He was born of his father, Crazy Horse an Oglala holy man, and his mother a sister of a Brule warrior, Spotted Tail. As the boy grew older his hair was wavy so his people gave him the nickname of Curly (Guttmacher 23). He was to go by Curly until the summer of 1858, after a battle with the Arapahos.
Curlys brave charged against the Arapahos led his father to give Curly the name Crazy Horse. This was the name of his father and of many fathers before him (Guttmacher 47). In the 1850s, the country where the Sioux Nation lived, was being invaded by the white settlers. This was upsetting for many of the tribes. They did not understand the ways of the whites.
When the whites tore into the land with plows and hunted the sacred buffalo just for the hides this went against the morale and religious beliefs of the Sioux. The white government began to build forts. In 1851, Fort Laramie was built along the North Platte river in Sioux territory (Matthiessen 6). In 1851, the settlers began complaining of the Indians who would not allow them to go where they wanted. U.S.
Agents drew up a treaty that required the Indians to give safe passage to the white settlers along the Oregon Trail. In return the government promised yearly supplies of guns, ammunition, flour, sugar, coffee, tobacco, blankets, and bacon. These supplies were to be provided for fifty-five years. Ten thousand Sioux gathered at the fort to listen to the words of the white government and to be showered with gifts. In addition the treaty wanted the Indians to allow all settlers to cross their lands. They were to divide the plains into separate territories and each tribe was not to cross the border of their territory.
The treaty also wanted no wars to be waged on other tribes. They wanted each Indian nation to choose a leader that would speak for the entire nation. Many Indians did not like this treaty and only after weeks of bribery did the whites finally convince a sizable group of leaders to sign. The Oglalas were among those who refused (Matthiessen 6). This Treaty however did not stop the trouble between the Indians and the settlers. The Indians however, did not cause violent trouble, they would perhaps approach a covered wagon to trade or extract gifts of food.
The most daring warrior might make away with a metal pot or pan but nothing violent like the books and movies lead us to believe (Matthiessen 7). The straw that broke the camels back took place on August 17, 1854 when the relations between the Indians and Whites were shattered. Among the settlers heading west was a group of Mormons and as they were passing, a few miles south of Fort Laramie, an Indian stole a cow. The Mormons reported this to Lieutenant Hugh B. Fleming, the commander of the post.
Fleming demanded that the offender, High Forehead of the Minneconjou, face charges. Chief Conquering Bear suggested that the Mormons come to his herd of ponies and pick out the best pony he had to replace the cow, which to the Sioux these ponies were their wealth. This seemed to be a very gracious offer. Fleming would not agree and sent Lieutenant John L. Grattan to bring back the warrior.
When Grattan arrived at Conquering Bears camp, he was given another offer. This time they could choose five ponies from five herds among the tribes. Grattan refused and began to open fire (Guttmacher 14-19). This outrageous act of war was not called for. The Mormons would have surely been satisfied with the ponies or the money the ponies would have bought.
The government just did not want to keep the Indian-White relationship peaceful. Crazy Horse, then called Curly, was only thirteen when the soldiers and the Indians fought. The Indians outnumbered the soldiers and won the battle (Guttmacher 20). Crazy Horse eventually became a leader of his people. In todays society our leaders are given money and gifts but in the times of Crazy Horse it was almost the opposite. He was expected to live modestly, keep only what he needed and give away the rest. After hunting he would give the needy the choicest meat and keep the stringy meat for himself.
He did however, have the honor and prestige that allowed him to make the decisions for the tribe (Ambrose 125). As well as other Sioux leaders, Crazy Horse lead his people into the Powder River country. The reason for this move was to leave behind the ways of the white man and continue living the ways of the Sioux. The white man had brought to their country sickness, liquor and damaging lifestyles much different from the lifestyles of the Sioux. In 1865, U.S.
officials wanted to obtain land from the Indians. They offered many different bribes, such as gifts and liquor, to the Indians who lived around the forts. They were very good at making the sell of land seem temporary and they convinced many that what the right thing to do was sell. The land they wanted was access land into the Powder River country. The government did not have the luck they needed in obtaining the land with money or bribes.
So in the summer of 1865 they sent more than two thousand soldiers from Fort Laramie into the Powder River country (Ambrose 151). In 1866 the government, knowing that the land they wanted was worth much more, offered the Sioux fifteen thousand dollars annually for access into Powder River country. The Indians did allow whites to use the Bozeman Trail just as they allowed immigrants to use the Holy Road. The U.S. Government had an obligation to protect its citizens but not to provoke a crisis.
They did create a crisis when they established forts in the heart of Oglala territory. After conquering the confederates the U.S. Army was full of optimism and wanted desperately to have an all out war to exterminate the Sioux. Although the Indians were allowing the whites to use the Bozeman Trail, the government was not satisfied. They wanted the legal right to use the trail.
E.B. Taylor, a government agent at one of the Indian Offices, tricked some of the Indian Leaders into going to Fort Laramie in 1866 for a treaty. He deliberately attempted to deceive them; he said nothing about building forts along the trail, only that they wanted to use the Bozeman Trail. He offered them guns, ammunition, gifts plus money. The Indians did not sell (Ambrose 213-214).
In June 1867, the government officials produced a new treaty. This treaty, like all the ones before, only promised lavish gifts to those who would sign. One of the Oglala chiefs, Red Cloud, wanted more for his nation than th …