Timeline of Events Relevant to the Northern Plains Tribes

Pre-1795 - Trading begun with Spanish and French
merchants from St. Louis.
Post Louisana Purchase - Trading posts established
throughout the West to take advantage of established trade networks. Fur trading becomes an important part of Oglala life. Oglala and other Lakota tribes expand their region of influence and control to cover most of the current regions known as North and South Dakota, westward to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and south to the Platte River in Nebraska.
1834 - The Oglala become more centrally organized
with most bands following Bull Bear with many of the rest following Smoke. This was a change from their previous more loosely governed bands with many leaders of comparable influence. The Bear Butte area in western South Dakota, extending west to Devil's Tower was the geographic and spiritual center of their world.

The Oglala needed a base which provided access to the southern buffalo herds upon which their lifestyle depended. The area at the joining of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers was optimum for their needs. Simultaneously the fur trading companies were pushing westward along the Indian trading routes. William Sublette also realized that the region near the joining of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers was an ideal site for a trading post. He realized that the beaver were almost gone and that buffalo hides would become a major trade item. He established a post he called Fort William (later to be Fort Laramie) as a trade center. Hoping to compete with the American Fur Company (owned by John Jacob Astor), he sent messengers to the Oglala encouraging them to trade at Fort Laramie. Bull Bear moved 4,000 Oglala to Fort Laramie and made this area the center of Oglala activity for the next 40 years. Smoke brought his band the next year. Subsequently Sublette sold the Fort to the American Fur Company. While the Oglala drove other tribes from the Fort Laramie area, other Sioux bands would spend time in the area. By the 1860's many Brulé bands moved to the area.

1849 - The U.S. government purchased Fort Laramie
from the American Fur Company and brought troops in.
1851 - A series of Fort Laramie treaties were signed
with the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other Plains tribes delineating the extent of their territories and allowing passage across these territories in exchange for payments to the tribes. The extent of Lakota territories were clearly described. Thus began the incursions of miners and wagon trains on the Oregon and later the Bozeman trails, few at first but an onslaught after the end of the Civil War.
September 3, 1855 - Colonel William Harney uses 1300 soldiers
to massacre an entire Brulé village in retribution for the killing of 30 soldiers who were killed in retribution for the killing of the Brulé chief, Conquering Bear, in a dispute over a cow.
Summer, 1867 - Grand Council of 6,000 tribes at Bear Butte,
the sacred mountain of the Cheyenne, attended by Crazy horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull, among other great leaders, pledged to end further encroachment by the whites.
1862 - The Homestead Act
A flood of settlers was unleashed upon the Indian lands.
August 18, 1862 - Beginning of the Santee War in Minnesota
driving the Santee Sioux survivors from their homeland to the safety of the lands of their western relatives. By 1864 90% of the Santee, and many of the Teton who sheltered them were dead or in prison.
November 29, 1864 - Massacre at Sand Creek
Chivington leads a troop of volunteers and soldiers to Black Kettle's camp at Sand Creek with the sole purpose of killing peaceful Indians. They kill 105 Indian women and children and 28 men, many standing together under a U.S. and a white flag. Afterward, they mutilated the bodies horribly and wore the severed parts on their saddles and their hats.
April 9, 1865 - Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox;
Civil War ends.
April 14, 1865 - President Lincoln assassinated.
Andrew Johnson becomes president.
July 1865 - General Patrick Conner organizes 3 columns of soldiers
to begin an invasion of the Powder River Basin, from the Black Hills to the Big Horn Mountains. They had one order: "Attack and kill every male Indian over twelve years of age." Conner builds a fort on the Powder River. Wagon trains begin to cross the Powder River Basin on their way to the Montana gold fields.
July 24 - 26, 1865 - Battle of Platte Bridge
The Cheyennes and Lakota besiege the most northerly outpost of the U.S. army and succeed in killing all members of a platoon of cavalrymen sent out to meet a wagontrain as well as the wagon drivers and their escorts.
End of August 1865 - Battle of Tongue River
Connor's column destroys an Arapaho village, including all the winter's food supply, tents and clothes. They kill over 50 of the Arapaho villagers.
Late September 1865 - Roman Nose's Fight
The Cheyenne chief, Roman Nose, in revenge for the Sand Creek massacre, led several hundred Cheyenne warriors in a siege of the Cole and Walker columns of exhausted and starving soldiers who were attempting to return to Fort Laramie. Because they were armed only with bows, lances and a few old trade guns, they were unable to overrun the soldiers, but they harasses them for several days, until Connor's returning column rescued them.
October 14, 1865 - The Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Crow groups.
December 21, 1866 - Fetterman Massacre
Early in December the young Lakota warriors, including Crazy Horse, executed an elaborate decoy manuever to draw soldiers out of the fort. They were very successful and killed several officers and severely wounded several other soldiers. In the next weeks an ambush was carefully planned and a location for a trap was chosen. Two thousand warriors moved south and set up camp two miles north of the chosen trap location. Ten young warriors were selected from the different tribal groups represented for the most dangerous job of decoying the soldiers. These decoys performed elaborate manuevers to lure the soldiers into the trap. When they were all inside the trap, the decoys signaled to the concealed warriors who rose up and killed all 80 of the soldiers. Nonetheless, casualties among the Indians were great because they were poorly armed to compete with the new repeating rifles of the soldiers. The Indians named this battle The Battle of the Hundred Slain.

Col. Carrington was appalled by the mutilation of the bodies they found. Had he only seen the bodies of the Indians slain at Sand Creek, the condition of these bodies would have come as no surprise.

Two other timelines are available online:
Annotated Chronology for Bear Butte in the Black Hills, and
A broader timeline of Native American - Euro-American contact from the Heard Museum

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© 1995 - Karen M. Strom