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Treaty signing by William T. Sherman and the Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Photo by Alexander Gardner, 1868.

The Treaty of Fort Laramie (also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868) was an agreement between the United States and the Lakota nation, Yanktonai Sioux, Santee Sioux, and Arapaho signed in 1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing to the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further land and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The Powder River Country was to be henceforth closed to all whites. The treaty ended Red Cloud's War.

The treaty includes an article intended to "ensure the civilization" of the Lakota, financial incentives for them to farm land and become competitive, and stipulations that minors should be provided with an "English education" at a "mission building." To this end the U.S. government included in the treaty that white teachers, blacksmiths, a farmer, a miller, a carpenter, an engineer and a government agent should take up residence within the reservation.

Repeated violations of the otherwise exclusive rights to the land by gold prospectors led to the Black Hills War. Migrant workers seeking gold had crossed the reservation borders, in violation of the treaty. Indians had assaulted these gold prospectors, in violation of the treaty, and war ensued. The U.S. government seized the Black Hills land in 1877.

More than a century later, the Sioux nation won a victory in court. On June 30, 1980, in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371, the United States Supreme Court upheld an award of $17.5 million for the market value of the land in 1877, along with 103 years worth of interest at 5 percent, for an additional $105 million. The Lakota Sioux, however, refused to accept payment and instead demanded the return of their territory from the United States.

Purification ceremony lawsuit

On November 12, 2009 news reported the November 2nd Lakota nation lawsuit against the U.S., Arizona State, James Arthur Ray and Angel Valley Retreat Center site owners, to have Ray and the site owners arrested and punished under the Sioux Treaty of 1868 between the United States and the Lakota Nation, which states that “if bad men among the whites or other people subject to the authority of the United States shall commit any wrong upon the person or the property of the Indians, the United States will (...) proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.”

The Lakota Nation holds that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation” and have caused the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga (purification ceremony) by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”. As well, the Lakota claim that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center fraudulently impersonated Indians and must be held responsible for causing the deaths and injuries, and for evidence destruction through dismantling of the sweat lodge. The lawsuit seeks to have the treaty enforced and does not seek monetary compensation.

The leaders said the ceremony is their way of life and not a religion, as white men see it. It is Native American property protected by U.S. law and United Nation declaration. The ceremony should only be in sanctioned lodge carriers hands from legitimate nations.

References

  • Nina Rehfeld, "Lakota Nation files lawsuit against parties in sweat lodge incident", www.sedona.biz, 11/12/2009 [1]

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