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Tribal Historical Overview - Establishment of the Great Sioux Reservation - Establishment of Standing Rock Agency

Intro | Lakota Migration | Establishment of the Reservation |
Breakup of the Reservation |

Reservation | Standing Rock | Little Bighorn | Black Hills

Establishment of Standing Rock Agency

At the time gold was discovered in the Black Hills, the United States government was beginning in earnest to implement its policy to confine all western Indians on reservations. The government wanted all Lakota and Dakota within the bounds of the Great Sioux Reservation and out of the un-ceded territories. In order to make the Grand River Agency more functional, the Indian agency and its army support moved 55 miles up the Missouri River to a high tableland at a point where the river was narrow and deep. This new site had a river landing accessible to steamboats, an abundance of cottonwood timber, and good farming land. This area was outside the bounds of the Great Sioux Reservation but an Executive Order signed March 16, 1875, extended the reservation’s northern boundary to the Cannonball River. Fort Yates became the military support for the agency and late in 1874 the agency officially became known as Standing Rock Agency.

Standing Rock Council.
Standing Rock Council. Meeting at the newly established Standing Rock
Agency, Fort Yates. (Photo courtesy of the State Historical
Society of North Dakota, C0242)

Since the Standing Rock Agency’s new location at Fort Yates was to be a permanent location, the Yanktonai, under Two Bears, living and farming on the eastern side of the Missouri River were forced to move across the river. The federal agent at Standing Rock implemented government policies aimed at “civilizing” the Indians; these included encouraging Indians to construct log homes and take up farming. The federal government also distributed rations of food to all Indians living within the bounds of the Great Sioux Reservation. These rations consisted of flour, lard, bacon, sugar, coffee, and beef. Rations were used as a way to keep people on the reservation and discourage the people from pursuing a traditional lifestyle of hunting; only those Indians living on the reservation were eligible for rations. In time, when Indians changed to a farming economy the government planned to end the rationing system. As another way to encourage adaptation of the “white man’s civilization,” as it was referred to in government documents, the federal government distributed clothing, blankets, and cloth to the Indians on an annual basis. This, too, was done to discourage pursuit of the old lifestyle with cloth replacing leather for clothing. But more importantly to the government, the clothes made the Indians look more like their counterparts in the majority society and less like Indians. Nonetheless, winters were harsh and rations were often late so Indians continued to leave the reservation to hunt in the un-ceded territory as provided in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

Continue to the Battle of the Little Bighorn...