Fort Laramie (in present-day southeastern Wyoming, not far from the Nebraska border) was the main military outpost in the Great Plains during the mid-1800s. It was also an important stop on both the Oregon and Mormon trails.

As more and more wagon trains of emigrants passed through the plains, concern over "trouble" with Indians increased. In an attempt to avoid confrontation and violence, as well as to insure its own potential territorial claims, there was a treaty (or more precisely, several: one signed per tribe) written up (it was also known as the "Horse Creek Treaty" after where the Indians camped). In part, it was meant to establish rights and boundaries for the various tribes.

In the treaty, the government promised the Indians of the plains certain annuities and payments for 50 years (later changed to 10). It also promised that it would protect them from (and punish those in violation of) " depredations" by whites. Finally, they were promised land amounting to probably close to a 100 million acres, each tribe represented given a part of that territory. The land was part of what are now five states and was mostly in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska, centering on the Black Hills (Paha Sapa to them) an area sacred to them. This essentially gave them status as their own nations.*

On the Indians' side, they had to keep to their respective territory and could not fight amongst themselves. They could not harm whites and had to agree to pay restitution and accept punishment if they did (giving the US government authority in such matters). Also, the army was allowed to build forts, roads, and posts where they wished.

In what may have been the largest single gathering of Indians in North America, an estimated 10,000 camped near Fort Laramie for the signing of the treaty. Not all groups were represented, but most of the plains tribes were. The signing led to relative peace among the nations and the United States that lasted until 1854/1855 with the Grattan massacre and subsequent "restitution" by the army with the massacre at Blue Water Creek. This helped set an atmosphere of unease, distrust, and resentment (perhaps something stronger) that helped lead to the Indian wars of the 1860s and to the second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868.

Some oddities of the treaty
About the emendation at the end of the treaty (below). When Congress reduced the number of years for payments, it needed to get Indian approval—some thought approval was unnecessary but the Commisioner of Indian Affairs insisted, calling a treaty a "contract" and something that by definition must be agreed to by both parties. Further:

I am aware that there are several instances in which Indian treaties have been amended and promulgated as duly ratified without submitting them to the Indians for approval, but how such a proceeding, in view of the legal principles involved, can be considered anything but a mockery of the highest and most solemn form of contract it is difficult to perceive.
Agents were sent out to get tribal approval. It was attained in 1853-4, but there was some question (possibly due to haste or sloppiness) as to whether it actually had been attained. One copy of the treaty claimed that the Indians had not all gotten together "for the purpose" but acknowledged payment, nonetheless. When the treaties made during the 1850s were printed up together, it was omitted due to not having the assent of all the tribes and, despite "appropriations" being dealt out, was "not yet in proper form for publication."

When it was compiled in 1904, the addition found below was added. In 1929, it was admitted to have been an error (of course, some question whether or not it wasn't intentional on someone's part) and the copy of the Crow approval was produced. An undated memo from the mid-twenties notes that:

Through oversight or inadvertence the Indian Service and the Department of the Interior neglected to formally advise the Secretary of State of the assent of the Indians to the ratification of article 7 of the 1851 treaty, and for that reason it would seem it would seem the treaty was never formally promulgated by the President of the United States.
It was given to the current Secretary of State to be officially ratified. This was denied based the act from 1871 (see *) that disallowed any further treaties. He also questioned whether the terms had been fufilled and "duly ratified by all the signatory bands and tribes of Indians so as to warrant ratification by the President." To this, the Department of the Interior responded:
There is no question as to the lack of ratification by the President of the United States, nor is there any question as to the ratification by all the signatory bands and tribes of Indians. However, the provisions of the treaty have all been fulfilled, and the only purpose in obtaining ratification by the President at this time was to obtain it publication in the Statutes at Large.
No action was taken.

*This was overturned in 1871 when Congress stated that "no Indian tribe or nation shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe or power, with whom the United States may contract by treaty"—not that the Indians hadn't already been forced to give up much of the territory promised them before that (and after). This culminated in the government basically stealing and then removing them from the Black Hills land. After a long legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the treaty was valid and they were the rightful owners of the land, awarding them $105 million. The money sits in a trust fund in their name because accepting it would mean giving up the claim to the land—not to mention it doesn't come even close to comparing to the vast amount of money taken out of the hills, just in gold, let alone other minerals and such (though the desire for the return of sacred land is paramount, the rest is merely insulting).

(Sources: www.councilfire.com/treaty_hist/treat-d.htm—the quotes are from here, www.loyno.edu/history/journal/1992-3/garcia.htm, http://heritage.uen.org/cgi-bin/websql/query.hts?type=6&tid=49, several other sites consulted; the text of the treaty is widely available online)


TREATY OF FORT LARAMIE

September 17, 1851

Articles of a treaty made and concluded at Fort Laramie, in the Indian Territory, between D. D. Mitchell, superintendent of Indian affairs, and Thomas Fitzpatrick, Indian agent, commissioners specially appointed and authorized by the President of the United States, of the first part, and the chiefs, headmen, and braves of the following Indian nations, residing south of the Missouri River, east of the Rocky Mountains, and north of the lines of Texas and New Mexico, viz, the Sioux or Dahcotahs, Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, Crows, Assinaboines, Gros-Ventre, Mandans, and Arrickaras, parties of the second part, on the seventeenth day of September, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one. (a)

ARTICLE 1
The aforesaid nations, parties to this treaty, having assembled for the purpose of establishing and confirming peaceful relations amongst themselves, do hereby covenant and agree to abstain in future from all hostilities whatever against each other, to maintain good faith and friendship in all their mutual intercourse, and to make an effective and lasting peace.

ARTICLE 2
The aforesaid nations do hereby recognize the right of the United States Government to establish roads, military and other posts, within their respective territories.

ARTICLE 3
In consideration of the rights and privileges acknowledged in the preceding article, the United States bind themselves to protect the aforesaid Indian nations against the commission of all depredations by the people of the said United States, after the ratification of this treaty.

ARTICLE 4
The aforesaid Indian nations do hereby agree and bind themselves to make restitution or satisfaction for any wrongs committed, after the ratification of this treaty, by any band or individual of their people, on the people of the United States, whilst lawfully residing in or passing through their respective territories.

ARTICLE 5
The aforesaid Indian nations do hereby recognize and acknowledge the following tracts of country, included within the metes and boundaries hereinafter designated, as their respective territories, viz;

The territory of the Sioux or Dahcotah Nation, commencing the mouth of the White Earth River, on the Missouri River; thence in a southwesterly direction to the forks of the Platte River; thence up the north fork of the Platte River to a point known as the Red Buts, or where the road leaves the river; thence along the range of mountains known as the Black Hills, to the head-waters of Heart River; thence down Heart River to its mouth; and thence down the Missouri River to the place of beginning.

The territory of the Gros Ventre, Mandans, and Arrickaras Nations, commencing at the month of Heart River; thence up the Missouri River to the mouth of the Yellowstone River; thence up the Yellowstone River to the mouth of Powder River in a southeasterly direction, to the head-waters of the Little Missouri River; thence along the Black Hills to the head of Heart River, and thence down Heart River to the place of beginning.

The territory of the Assinaboin Nation, commencing at the mouth of Yellowstone River; thence up the Missouri River to the mouth of the Muscle-shell River; thence from the mouth of the Muscle-shell River in a southeasterly direction until it strikes the head-waters of Big Dry Creek; thence down that creek to where it empties into the Yellowstone River, nearly opposite the mouth of Powder River, and thence down the Yellowstone River to the place of beginning.

The territory of the Blackfoot Nation, commencing at the mouth of Muscle-shell River; thence up the Missouri River to its source; thence along the main range of the Rocky Mountains, in a southerly direction, to the head-waters of the northern source of the Yellowstone River; thence down the Yellowstone River to the mouth of Twenty-five Yard Creek; thence across to the head-waters of the Muscle-shell River, and thence down the Muscle-shell River to the place of beginning.

The territory of the Crow Nation, commencing at the mouth of Powder River on the Yellowstone; thence up Powder River to its source; thence along the main range of the Black Hills and Wind River Mountains to the head-waters of the Yellowstone River; thence down the Yellowstone River to the mouth of Twenty-five Yard Creek; thence to the head waters of the Muscle-shell River; thence down the Muscle-shell River to its mouth; thence to the head-waters of Big Dry Creek, and thence to its mouth.

The territory of the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, commencing at the Red Bute, or the place where the road leaves the north fork of the Platte River; thence up the north fork of the Platte River to its source; thence along the main range of the Rocky Mountains to the head-waters of the Arkansas River; thence down the Arkansas River to the crossing of the Santa Fe' road; thence in a northwesterly direction to the forks of the Platte River, and thence up the Platte River to the place of beginning.

It is, however, understood that, in making this recognition and acknowledgment, the aforesaid Indian nations do not hereby abandon or prejudice any rights or claims they may have to other lands; and further, that they do not surrender the privilege of hunting, fishing, or passing over any of the tracts of country heretofore described.

ARTICLE 6
The parties to the second part of this treaty having selected principals or head-chiefs for their respective nations, through whom all national business will hereafter be conducted, do hereby bind themselves to sustain said chiefs and their successors during good behavior.

ARTICLE 7
In consideration of the treaty stipulations, and for the damages which have or may occur by reason thereof to the Indian nations, parties hereto, and for their maintenance and the improvement of their moral and social customs, the United States bind themselves to deliver to the said Indian nations the sum of fifty thousand dollars per annum for the term of ten years, with the right to continue the same at the discretion of the President of the United States for a period not exceeding five years thereafter, in provisions merchandise, domestic animals, and agricultural implements, in such proportions as may be deemed best adapted to their condition by the President of the United States, to be distributed in proportion to the population of the aforesaid Indian nations.

ARTICLE 8
It is understood and agreed that should any of the Indian nations, parties to this treaty, violate any of the provisions thereof, the United States may withhold the whole or a portion of the annuities mentioned in the preceding article from the nation so offending, until, in the opinion of the President of the United States, proper satisfaction shall have been made.

In testimony whereof the said D. D. Mitchell and Thomas Fitzpatrick, commissioners as aforesaid, and the chiefs, headman, and braves, parties hereto, have set their hands and affixed their marks on the day and at the place first above written.

D. D. Mitchell,
Thomas Fitzpatrick, Commissioners.

Sioux

Mah-toe-you-whey his x mark
Mak-kah-toe-zah-zah his x mark
Bel-o-ton-kah-tan-ga his x mark
Nah-ta-pah-gi-gi his x mark
Mak-toe-sah-bi-chis his x mark
Meh-wha-tah-ni-hans-kah his x mark

Cheyennes

Wah-ha-nis-satta his x mark
Voist-ti-toe-vetz his x mark
Nahk-ko-me-ien his x mark
Koh-kah-y-wh-cum-est his x mark

Arrapahoes

Be-ah-te-aqui-sah his x mark
Neb-ni-bah--seh-it his x mark
Beh-kah-jay-beth-sah-es his x mark

Crows

Arra-tu-re-sash his x mark
Doh-chepit-seh-chi-es his x mark

Assinaboines Mah-toe-wit-ko his x mark
Toe-tah-ki-eh-nan his x mark

Mandans and Gros Ventres

Nochk-pit-shi-toe-pish his x mark
She-oh-mant-ho his x mark
Arickarees


Bi-atch-tah-wetch his x mark

In the presence of:

A. B. Chambers, secretary
S. Cooper, colonel, U. S. Army
R. H. Chilton, captain, First Drags
Thomas Duncan, captain, Mounted Riflemen
Thos. G. Rhett, brevet captain R. M. R.
W. L. Elliott, first lieutenant R. M. R.
C. Campbell, interpreter for the Sioux
John C. Smith, interpreter for Cheyenne
Robert Meldrum, interpreter for the Crows
H. Culbertson, interpreter for Assiniboines and Gros Ventres
Francois L'Etalie, interpreter for Arickarees
John Pizelle, interpreter for the Arrapahoes
B. Gratz Brown
Robert Campbell
Edmond F. Chouteau

(a) This treaty as signed was ratified by the Senate with an amendment changing the annuity in Article 7 from fifty to ten years, subject to acceptance by the tribes. Assent of all tribes except the Crows was procured (see Upper Platte C., 570, 1853, Indian Office) and in subsequent agreements this treaty has been recognized as in force (see post p. 776).

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