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Three Affiliated Tribes - Timeline of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish, 1870-1949

900-1868 | 1870-1949 | 1950-Present

Timeline of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish, 1870-1949


Southern most portion of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara territory is taken by Presidential Executive Order. Fort Berthold Reservation is established, small tract of land on east side of Missouri is added to territorial claim to ensure Like-A-Fishhook Village is located on the reservation. Total acreage lost 7,833,043. After internal conflict, Chief Crow Flies High, Bobtail Bull, and their followers leave Like-A-Fishhook Village and move northwest to an area near Fort Buford. Agent H.L. Clifford opens a day school at Fort Berthold. A total of 22 girls and 16 boys attend. In the spring, when the services of the students are needed at home, attendance declines. Agent Tappen closes the school.


Durfee and Peck, fur traders, sell old Fort Berthold to the government for $8,000, and it becomes the Agency headquarters.


There are now 40 Sahnish Scouts in the U.S. Army. Frederick Gerard, trader, is the interpreter.


Sperry becomes U.S. government agent at Fort Berthold and opens a government day school which operates continuously to 1876. The Northern Pacific Railroad is completed to Bismarck. It opens the way to bring in homesteaders. Yellowstone Expedition in which Ree Scouts accompany Generals Stanley and Custer.


The old government agency buildings burn down and along with them all the records of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Edward Smith, urges the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara to leave Fort Berthold and move to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. A delegation makes the trip and returns choosing to remain where they had lived for centuries. Sahnish scouts are in the Black Hills with Custer when gold is discovered. Discovery brings a tide of gold miners into Sioux territory, violating the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties.


The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara meet in council with their hereditary enemies, the Sioux, at Fort Abraham Lincoln to sign a treaty of peace.


Thirty-four Sahnish enlist to serve as scouts for a 7th Cavalry military expedition to Greasy Grass, Montana. C.L. Hall of the Congregational Church arrives at Like-A-Fishhook Village and opens mission school. Son of the Star (Arikara Chief), Crows Breast (Hidatsa Chief), and Red Cow (Mandan Chief), sign a document to give land for the congregational mission. Battle of the Little Bighorn takes place between the Sioux warriors and Custer’s Seventh Cavalry.


Captain Richard H. Pratt takes 12 Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara children and a 26-year-old mother of the youngest child from the Fort Berthold Reservation to Hampton Institute in Virginia.


Son of the Star (Sahnish Chief) and Poor Wolf (Awaxawi Chief), go to Hampton Institute in Virginia. After this visit, the chiefs allow more Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara children to attend. A majority of the reservation, a total of 1,193,788 acres, is ceded by Executive Order without consultation or consent of the tribes.


Oscar H. Will, a horticulturist, establishes a seed company in Bismarck and obtains squash, corn, beans, and sunflower seeds from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara at Like-A-Fishhook Village, who planted and perfected the seeds.


The Indian agent breaks land 20 miles upstream from Like-A-Fishhook Village and has the earthlodges and cabins burned to persuade the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara to relocate and take up farming.


Like-A-Fishhook Village is abandoned. Eight communities—Beaver Creek, Charging Eagle, Elbowoods, Independence, Lucky Mound, Nishu, Red Butte, and Shell Creek are gradually settled along the Missouri River. The government issues an order prohibiting the practice of tribal ceremonies, such as the Okipa (Mandan ceremony) and Naxpike (Hidatsa ceremony). Act of Congress passed May 15, 1886, ratified in 1891, provides for the allotment of the tribal land base. The U.S. Government obtains agreement of the tribes to relinquish lands. Under this allotment act, nearly two-thirds of reservation is ceded leaving 965,620 acres. The tribes receive $80,000 annually for 10 years “for their civilization and education.” Congress passes Dawes Allotment Act, providing for allotment of Indian lands in severalty.


Rations (dry goods and food) are withheld by the agent from families who do not send their children to school. White ranchers trespass on tribal lands that lie west of the Missouri River and illegally graze six to ten thousand cattle on the reservation. The government meets with stockmen and they agree to pay in beef cattle or fifty cents an acre.


North Dakota becomes a state.

Last Mandan Okipa ceremony held.

Wolf Chief, Hidatsa, and Son of the Star, Sahnish Chief, request the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. to grant Fort Berthold a school. A boarding school and a day school are authorized.


Fort Berthold government agency building burns down. New agency is located at Elbowoods, 20 miles upstream.


May 20—The United States Congress ratifies the Agreement of 1886. Passage of the Allotment Act of 1891 allows tribal members to become citizens “with the same rights and immunities as all American citizens.” Tribal members pay taxes, vote, and thousands of acres of land are lost to taxes. The Department of Interior distributes cattle of each Indian family to maintain a living.


The government prohibits sale of liquor to Indians.


Crow Flies High band is returned to the Shell Creek area of the Fort Berthold Reservation. Fort Berthold Reservation is officially surveyed and 949 allotments are made to individual tribal members.


Two day schools are opened. One is located at Independence and the other at Elbowoods.


The government opens a day school at Shell Creek. Charles Hoffman, a young, educated Sahnish, is hired as a teacher.


The deserted military reservation of Fort Stevenson, approximately seventeen miles from Fort Berthold, is sold by the War Department. Charles L. Hall establishes a school at Fort Stevenson and operates the school for ten years.


Harry Eaton (Hidatsa), Allan Horn (Hidatsa), and Eli Perkins (Sahnish) enlist in the Army and serve in the Spanish American War.


Fort Berthold citizens register to vote and cast more than 100 votes at a county commissioner election in Elbowoods and Armstrong.


U.S. Indian Scout Post #1 Scout Cemetery is established ten miles east of Nishu.


Sacred Waterbuster Bundle of the Hidatsa is sold to the Heye Museum in New York.


Winters v. United States—Supreme Court case that creates the Reserved Water Rights Doctrine which forms the basis of case law establishing the Doctrine of Reserved Rights to water.


June 11—The Homestead Act is passed and Congress opens 21 townships (13 full townships and 8 partial townships) north and east of the Missouri River which opens up 320,000 acres of prime grasslands in the northeast quadrant of the reservation for homesteading. As a token of Indian self-government, a business committee of ten members including four Hidatsa, three Mandan, and three Arikara is formed. They are appointed to serve as advisory body to the Indian Bureau superintendent. This council is referred to as “The Ten.” of 21 townships (13 full townships and 8 partial townships)


World War I—30 Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish enlist and serve. Some are not citizens.

Arikara narratives of the Battle of the Little Bighorn are published by O.G. Libby of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.


All American Indians are unilaterally granted United States citizenship.


Seven of the original twelve Sahnish Bundles are still in existence.


Melvin Gilmore writes a series of articles on the Arikara in a publication called Indian Notes, published in New York.


Twenty thousand dollars is appropriated by Congress for a hospital on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The hospital is built in 1930 at Elbowoods. The Meriam Report is submitted to the Secretary of the Interior, called “The Problem of Indian Administration,” and decries the appalling conditions of Indian people.


Alfred Bowers begins his study of the Mandan and Hidatsa. Martha Beckwith, a folklorist, publishes three volumes of Myths and Legends of the Mandan and Hidatsa.


The Court of Claims orders the federal government to compensate the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara for 11 million acres for the 1870 and 1880 land cessions. Five million acres is awarded. The Bureau of Indian Affairs offsets three million acres for services rendered. The remaining two million acres is distributed as per capita payments.


The U.S. Department of Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers conduct the first feasibility study of a dam on the Missouri River (Garrison Dam). The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara strongly object.


John Collier is appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs.


The Johnson O’Malley Act is passed. The administration of Indian programs is assigned to numerous federal agencies. Congress passes the Indian Reorganization Act to reverse the trend of splitting and the sale of Indian land holdings and provides for a system of tribal self-governance. The Four Bears Bridge is built over the Missouri River near Elbowoods connecting Red Butte, Charging Eagle, and Halliday.


An Indian Health Services Division in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior, is established. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara accept the Indian Reorganization Act and adopt a constitution, by-laws, and business charter. A 10-member tribal council is elected.


The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara adopt a corporate charter.


Foolish Bear, Drags Wolf, and interpreter Arthur Mandan go to the Heye Museum, New York City, to bring back the Hidatsa Waterbuster Bundle to the Fort Berthold Reservation.


The United States enters World War II. Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish women (10) and men (214) serve. Six men are killed in action.


Colonel Lewis A. Pick and W. Glenn Sloan draw up separate proposals for a dam on the Missouri River. Tribal Council passes resolution strongly opposing any dam below the reservation.


The National Congress of American Indians, an advocacy organization for national Indian issues, is formed in Denver, Colorado. The Flood Control Act of 1944 is passed by Congress. Known as the Pick-Sloan Project, the act is named after the two engineers, Lewis A. Pick and W. Glenn Sloan.


Indian Claims Act passed establishing the Indian Claims Commission. The Act provided a forum for Indian tribes to settle land claims against the U.S. government.


Garrison Dam construction. This time is a period of great upheaval for tribal members as they are relocated to the uplands, and movement from a subsistence to a cash economy.


Public Law 296 appropriates $5,105,625 as partial payment of lands taken as a result of dam.


Hoover Commission on Reorganization is authorized and recommends the termination of federal control over Indians and their lands. Public Law 437 provides an additional $7.5 million allocation for “land readjustment” and to compensate for U. S. breach of treaties as a result of the construction of the Garrison Dam. Land area taken includes 154,911.61 acres within reservation boundaries. Funds are distributed on per capita basis in 1956. The Three Tribes members vote to accept the law.

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