The Question of Land and Treaties
The history of the United States government's dealings with the Native Americans has been a long one of conquest, treaties, and subsequent treaty violations. The Mount Rushmore monument is inextricably tied up with this historical pattern, since Mount Rushmore itself is part of over seven million acres worth of land that the United States federal government took from the Sioux in violation of the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.
In 1868 the federal government entered into armed conflict with the Sioux in their attempts to open up the Bozeman Trail for use by settlers and prospectors seeking gold in Montana, Wyoming, and points west. (www.philkearny.vcn.com) The United States armed forces were unable to defeat the Sioux at that time, so the government sued for peace and entered into the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty with the Sioux Nation. It was the only time in history that the United States recognized defeat on the field of war against a sovereign nation.
What the 1868 treaty did was to acknowledge the Sioux ownership of the Black Hills, as well as to create a kind of neutral zone surrounding the Sioux Territory. This zone was federal land but the Sioux were recognized as having perpetual rights to use the land for hunting and dwelling. Under Article 12 of the treaty, the Federal Government provided troops to keep the settlers and prospectors out of these hunting grounds. The treaty also established a series of rations and provisions which were paid to the Sioux annually. (www.pbs.org) Because of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills and because of changes to prospecting laws with the 1872 Mining Act, by 1877 the federal government had abandoned direct enforcement of Article 12.
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