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Sioux Culture Before European Contact

They lived on small game, deer, and wild rice, and were surrounded by large rival tribes. Conflict with their enemy, the Ojibwa people û contact forced in at least some measure by the encroachment of the Europeans onto Ojibwa land û forced the Sioux to move to the buffalo ranges of the Great Plains. They made the necessary economic and cultural shifts with relative ease to this new environment, becoming adept buffalo hunters, and the tribes grew and prospered. By 1750 the Sioux comprised some 30,000 people firmly established in the heartland of the northern Great Plains where they dominated this region for the next century. They transformed themselves into what Utley calls 'true horse-and-buffalo Indians (1994, p. 4). This same level of cultural adaptability no doubt helped them survive the terrible dislocations that they would face during the 18th and 19th centuries and continues to help the Sioux maintain their sense of self in a world in which indigenous peoples have very little foothold.

The Sioux had fought on the side of the British during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. In 1815, however, the eastern groups made treaties of friendship with the United States, and in 1825 another treaty confirmed Sioux possession of an immense territory that included much of present-day Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Wyoming. In 1837 the Sioux sold all their territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States; additional territory was sold in 1851 (Hyde, 1956, pp. 229-242).

At this time a pattern of assault and counterassault developed as settlers pushed forward onto Sioux lands. The first clash was in 1854 near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, when 19 U.S. soldiers were killed. In retaliation, in 1855 U.S. troops killed about 100 Sioux at their encampment in Nebraska and imprisoned their chief. Red Cloud's War (1866-1867), named after a Sioux chief, ended in a treaty granting the Black Hills in perpetuity ...

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