Black Hills War

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BLACK HILLS WAR. The Black Hills of western South Dakota and adjacent northeastern Wyoming were hunting grounds, as well as sacred territory, for the western bands of the Sioux, or Dakota, Indians. Under the terms of the Laramie Treaty of 1868, the Black Hills were recognized as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. Although whites were to be excluded from the reservation, persistent rumors of mineral wealth attracted gold seekers. In 1874, yielding to the demands of the prospectors, the U.S. government dispatched troops into the Black Hills under General George Armstrong Custer to establish sites for army posts.

After the Sioux threatened war over the intrusions, the government offered to purchase the land, but the Indians refused to sell. In November 1875 all Indians who had been roaming off the reservation hunting buffalo were ordered to report to their agents, but few of them complied. In March 1876 General George Crook headed north from the Platte River to round up the absentee bands.

In June the military mounted a three-pronged invasion of the Indian country, with Crook leading the attack. Crook was stopped on Rosebud Creek in south central Montana by Oglala Sioux under the war leader Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse joined a large encampment of Northern Cheyenne on the Little Bighorn River, in Montana, where they defeated Custer and his troops on 25 June 1876.

After their victory at the Little Bighorn, the Indians dispersed and were unable to organize against renewed military offensives. Under the terms of a treaty in 1877, the Sioux were obliged to cede the Black Hills for a fraction of their value, and the area was opened to the gold miners.


Lazarus, Edward. Black Hills/White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States: 1775 to the Present. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

Robinson, Charles M. A Good Year to Die: The Story of the Great Sioux War. New York: Random House, 1995.

Sajna, Mike. Crazy Horse: The Life behind the Legend. New York: Wiley, 2000.

Kenneth M.Stewart/h. s.

See alsoLaramie, Fort, Treaty of (1868) ; Little Bighorn, Battle of ; Sioux .