UNITED SNAKES of AMERICA
#1 – Indian Skull
"This Will Always Be Your Land..."
In 19th Century America, white settlers pushed westward into the great continent in search of lands and even greater freedom. Unfortunately, this Manifest Destiny often led to violent clashes with native “Indians”, who fiercely fought to defend their homes, customs, hunting & burial grounds, and often their very way of life.
Throughout the 1860’s & 70’s, skirmishes broke out frequently on the American frontier. To deal with the violence, the American government established the Indian Peace Commission, resulting in a series of treaties with the Indian tribes. In 1868, the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed in present day Wyoming, marking the end of hostilities. Sioux & Arapaho nations agreed to relocate to the Black Hills in the Dakota Territory while retaining their hunting & fishing rights; they promised to not attack railroads or settlers.
The Great Sioux Reservation was established, consisting of a large portion of the western half of what is now the state of South Dakota, including the sacred Black Hills. The land area was but a fraction of territories committed to the tribes in previous treaties. The treaty language was considered by many to be overly complex and hard to understand, arousing suspicion. Those that did grasp its terms knew full well how it represented the government’s “more heavy-handed position with regard to tribal nations, and … desire to assimilate the Sioux into American property arrangements and social customs.”
The Black Hills Gold Rush of 1874
Thanks to a series of poorly documented rumors regarding the sightings of various metals on tribal lands, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition of 1000+ men from modern day North Dakota. His orders were to set up a fort on the sacred treaty lands and confirm the claims. Throughout the expedition, civilians along for the journey located traces of gold in the rivers. Examinations at numerous points confirmed the existence of gold in the Black Hills. Word east spread quickly by telegraph, and soon thereafter, tens of thousands of fortune-seekers flocked to the Deadwood settlement in search of their treasures. It is estimated that a skilled miner could earn upwards of $150 per day panning in the riverbeds.
The influx of settlers & the desecration of the sacred tribal lands did not sit well with the natives, and war was declared once again in 1876.
Custer's Last Stand
Unfortunately for the US government, The Great Sioux Nation was unwilling to cede ownership of the Black Hills.
The famous Battle of Little Bighorn was a crushing defeat for the US & Custer’s 7th Cavalry Regiment at the hands of war leader Crazy Horse. Of the 700 army in the battle, 268 were killed and 55 more severely wounded, among them Custer himself. The scattered Sioux and Cheyenne feasted and celebrated during July with no threat from soldiers.
Meanwhile, Congress responded by enacting what the Sioux call the “sell or starve” policy, cutting off rations to the once nomadic tribe and plunging the Indian women and children into starvation. Desperate to save their loved ones, Crazy Horse surrendered with his band the following year at Red Cloud on May 5. Knowing what a fierce opponent Crazy Horse was, the Army arrested and fatally bayoneted the warrior on September 5, 1877.
Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
For as long as they existed, native Americans of the great plains were fierce nomadic savages that lived off the land & the abundance it provided for them. They followed the buffalo and survived from their sharply honed hunting skills. But by 1877, nearly two-thirds of all Lakota had settled at Indian agencies to accept rations and gain subsistence, and support for more fighting was almost non-existent. Deep political divisions plagued the tribes for decades, and without a formidable effort, the tribes continued to cede land to the US government.
A bloodlust for gold & treasures drove the US Congress to renege on their promises to the native Americans, again & again. It wasn’t until more than 100 years later that the US Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the Sioux Nation, declaring that the government had illegally taken land in the Black Hills granted by the 1868 treaty, and awarding more than $100 million in compensation – a whopping $1.25 per acre. The Lakota Sioux, thus far, have refused to accept payment and instead demand the return of their land.