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Understanding Indigenous Culture in North Dakota Series: Tribal Makeup/Enrollment - Part 1: Treaties

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was the foundation for the recognition of Indigenous people as distinct tribes in America with sovereignty not yielded to the Crown, therefore preceding the United States Constitution after Independence.

For what is known as the United States, the US government signed international treaties with various Indigenous tribes to achieve 95% of the current land base along with promised education, health care, food and annuity payments. Some of these treaties included: The Treaty of Hopewell (1785), the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit (1830), the Treaty of New Echota (1835) and the treaties of Fort Laramie (1851 and 1868). The main goal of a treaty was land interest and it varied depending on who wanted to settle there. Many times, indigenous people gave up land to avoid attack from the settlers or after a war and/or massacre at the hands of the US military.

Even though each treaty dealt with different areas and tribes, they all had similar governmental selfish and breaching themes. The Treaty of Fort Laramie, signed on April 29, 1868 (in present day Wyoming), was between the US and the Sioux nation. The Sioux nation is closest in proximity to North Dakota, wherein Sioux people reside primarily and currently on federal reservations in North Dakota and South Dakota. This specific treaty recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, therefore reserved exclusively for the use by the Sioux peoples.

Everything changed when in 1874, General George A. Custer of the United States Army, accompanied by miners, led a voyage through the Black Hills. GOLD was found, and once that happened, violation of the treaty began. Miners began defying the treaty by entering the Sioux land and demanding protection from the US Army.

In 1876, General Custer led an Army detachment and confronted an encampment of Sioux and Cheyenne at the Litle Bighorn River. Custer’s army group was destroyed, and the US would continue its battle against the Sioux in the Black Hills until the government TOOK the land in 1877. Therefore, to this day, the ownership of the Black Hills still is a subject of a legal dispute between the US government and the Sioux Nation.

Subsequently, there were 367 undeniable treaties between the United States government and Indigenous tribes from 1772-1871. During the treaty-making period, concepts of tribal citizenship differed from treaty to treaty. In these negotiations, the federal government treated American Indians differently based on their descendancy, and impacted the political and legal status of tribal citizens in terms of race.

The end of treaty-making was the result of the House of Representatives Indian Appropriation Act of 1871, no longer recognizing any Indian nation or tribe as “an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty. American Indians were then considered wards of the government.”

In 1972, Indigenous people held the first occupy protest called the Trail of Broken Treaties, to focus on the lack of honoring of the governmental legal promises with Indigenous tribes. It wasn’t until the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act when authority was delegated to Indian tribes to oversee direction of services provided by the Federal government. This especially impacted control of education policies for American Indian children. "We took charge of our own destinies. We are now capable of meeting our communities’ needs more effectively than any other government. We know our people and are sensitive to their cultural traditions and realities. Our people take comfort in knowing that their governments—not the state or federal government—are making decisions on their behalf.” —W. Ron Allen, chairperson of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington State

Today, Tribal Nations voices have increased the ability to self-determine their future and address past injustices. Nation to Nation consultation policies address and revitalize cultural education, language, health, economic stability, and sovereignty rights.

Red Basket, Dr. Kathy Froelich, an MHA elder and CREA Indigenous Culture Coordinator suggests this classroom activity to educators: “We are more alike than we are different.”

Goal: Students will research the meaning of Treaties and implications for today.

Step 1 – The teacher will show the following photo and present four questions for students to think about:,_Wyoming,_ca._1_-_NARA_-_531079.jpg

Who are the individuals in the photo?

Where does this photo take place?

What is the mood of the people in the photo?

What role do the individuals play?

Step 2 – Watch the following video and explore the website: Erick Peterson - Ft Laramie Treaty 1868

Step 3 – Together with students, the teacher will create questions for a Kahoot game to be played at the end of the week (Each student will write two questions with answers).

· "Rights of Native Americans" visual timeline of the history of American Indian treaties and of Native American activism to defend tribal sovereignty




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