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Standing Rock Timeline - 1863 to 1874

Waniyetu Wowapi (winter count) | 1650s to 1862 |
1863 to 1874 | 1875 to 1888 | 1889 to present

1863 to 1874


January 1—Dakota Territory opened for homesteading.

September 3—600–700 soldiers under General Alfred Sully attacked Yanktonai hunting camp at Whitestone Hill, Dakota Territory (near present-day Kulm, North Dakota). At least 300 Indians killed. 20 soldiers killed, some form their comrades’ bullets. Sully mistook the Yanktonai for Indians involved in the Minnesota uprising.

September 4 and 5—Sully ordered all Indian property at Yanktonai camp at Whitestone Hill destroyed as well as tons of dried buffalo meat and tallow. Entire winter meat supplies as well as all household goods of Yanktonai burned. Yanktonai were taken to the Crow Creek Agency as prisoners of war.

General Alfred Sully, in charge of about 2,200 troops, traveled up the Missouri River and selected a spot south of present-day Mandan, North Dakota for the construction of Fort Rice.


July—General Alfred Sully leaves Fort Rice in search of Indian encampments.

July 28—Sully found a hunting camp of about 1,600 Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, Sihasapa, and other Teton groups near a branch of the Little Missouri River at Killdeer Mountain. Sully’s troops attack, killing about 100 Indians, and force them to leave behind most of their property at the campsite. The soldiers gather into heaps and burn tons of dried buffalo meat, great quantities of dried berries, buffalo robes, tepee covers and poles, and household utensils.

Sully chases remnants of the Sioux bands from the Killdeer Mountains into the North Dakota Badlands and attacks them along the Yellowstone River on August 12. The U.S. government is hopeful these Dakota and Lakota people will now be interested in a treaty after “their severe punishment in life and property for the last 2 years ...” (letter to Sully from John Pell, October 26, 1864)


Treaties with Hunkpapa and Yanktonai at Fort Sully on October 20th. Treaty with Upper Yanktonai on October 28 at Fort Sully. Signers included Two Bears, Big Head, Little Soldier, and Black Catfish. In these treaties the Indians agreed to cease all hostilities with U.S. citizens and with members of other tribes. They also agree to withdraw from overland routes through their territory. They accept annuity payments and those who take up agriculture will receive implements and seed. Yanktonai hunting territories limited by treaty and this often led to starvation.


Red Cloud’s War. Red Cloud opposed the opening of the Bozeman Trail to travel by whites and the staffing of forts in the traditional hunting lands of the Teton. For two years he led the Oglalas and other Teton bands in battles against the United States Army and forced the U.S. to abandon the forts.


U.S. signs Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with Lakota, Dakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. This treaty confirms a permanent reservation for the Sioux in all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, and the Indians in turn released all lands east of the Missouri River except the Crow Creek, Sisseton, and Yankton Reservations. In this treaty the government promised that no whites would enter the Sioux reservation without Sioux permission and that further negotiations must be ratified by the signature of three-fourths of the adult Sioux males. The Yanktonai, under Two Bears, voiced objections to the reservation proposal since they wish to remain on the east side of the Missouri River.


Three agencies established along Missouri River to handle affairs on Great Sioux Reservation. These were Grand River Agency (moved and renamed Standing Rock in 1874), Cheyenne River Agency, and Whitestone Agency (renamed Spotted Tail in 1874).


Federal Indian policy forces Indians onto reservations, and is backed by military support. Since Indians are confined to the reservation area, the government begins to distribute food rations and clothing to the Indian people. The government withholds food rations from any Indian who opposes government policy, criticizes the agent, or practices Native American ceremonies or customs.


Congress passes a law prohibiting army officers from being appointed Indian agents, prompting President Ulysses Grant to turn control of Indian agencies over to various Christian denominations to hasten “Christianization” of the Indians.

Grand River Agency (Standing Rock) assigned to Catholic Church. William F. Cady was the first agent. He assumed his duties in December 1870. Military post established at site of Grand River Agency to provide military support to government appointed agent.


March 3 — Congress passes legislation formally ending treaty-making with Indian tribes. From now on the federal government will negotiate acts or agreements ratified by both the U.S. House and Senate. Acts and agreements have the force of law. All treaties remain legal.

June — Jesuit priests travel to Grand River Agency to determine if prospects are favorable for establishing a mission. After witnessing a sun dance they recommend no mission be established as the people are too entrenched in their traditional beliefs.

73 surveyors for the Northern Pacific Railroad invaded the Great Sioux Reservation in direct violation of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.


Grand River Agency moved lo present-day Fort Yates, near military fort. Land better for farming and natural boat landing at this site.

Census at Standing Rock Agency reveals: Upper Yanktonai, 1,386; Lower Yanktonai, 2,534; Hunkpapa, 1,512; Blackfeet, 847.


Census figures reveal the following populations: Upper Yanktonai, 1,406; Lower Yanktonai, 2,607; Hunkpapa, 1,556; and Blackfeet, 871. Many of the people still living in the un-ceded lands as provided in the 1868 Treaty are uncounted.

December — Rain-In-The Face, Hunkpapa, is arrested for killing two civilians under clouded circumstances on Sioux treaty lands. Blackfeet and Hunkpapa bands angry, more troops move onto agency to prevent problems. Tensions mount among Dakota and Lakota at Standing Rock after illegal intrusion into Black Hills.

Under government orders, George Armstrong Custer left Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, to lead a geological expedition into the Black Hills. Expedition is illegal according to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Discovery of gold led to a stampede of goldseekers into the area in direct violation of the 1868 Treaty. Sioux protest to no avail. Bad feelings between federal officials and the Sioux escalate.

December 22 — Standing Rock Indian Agency is officially named. The name comes from a legend important to both Dakota and Lakota people.

Census figures reveal these populations at Standing Rock: Upper Yanktonai, 1,473; Lower Yanktonai, 2,730; Hunkpapa, 2,100; and Blackfeet, 1,019. Many remain uncounted as they live in un-ceded land.

June 6 — The Grand River military post is officially abandoned and transferred to site of Standing Rock Agency. The Post was named Fort Yates in December 1878 to honor Captain George Yates, killed at the battle of the Little Bighorn. In 1878 it became the largest Missouri River military post.

A federal commission meets to discuss the proposed sale of the Black Hills. Standing Rock Sioux initially refuse to attend the conference stating it is a sham. Eventually, they attend and join other members of the Sioux Nation in refusing to cede sacred Black Hills. Federal authorities continue to work on strategies in order to take the Black Hills.

Continue to 1875 to 1888...