For all of time, Native Americans inhabited the western part of America. As Americans began to lay down railroad tracks and roads into Native American land, the Native Americans adapted to the changes and thought that the changes would be small. However, the American settlers believed that they were justified in taking the Natives' land because they would make it more productive. This angered both chiefs and their tribes who had welcomed the settlers onto their land as guests. Originally, the government tried to compromise with the Natives by making treaties that either gave the Natives a reservation that they were confined to, or bought their land at a cheap price. These treaties divided the Natives into "tribes" that were made up of different groups of people who were in no way related. The negotiators of the treaties often cheated the Native Americans by not telling them the full scale of what would happen if they signed it. Eventually, the treaties were so ignored and forgotten that they were declared useless by the federal government. Then, the Americans discovered that there was a lot of gold on the Native land and began to invade it trying to get rich. Each side began to get aggressive and physical with the other to achieve their goals, which is how the fighting broke out.
One of the first major engagements between Native Americans and the army was the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. The southern Cheyenne lived in the central plains, and performed some horrific raids on wagon trains and settlements that were east of Denver.
The chief of the Cheyenne, Black Kettle, arranged a peace meeting with the settlers to apologize for his people's behavior, but Colorado governor took advantage of it. He promised Black Kettle and the other chiefs safety to camp at Sand Creek. Then, Colonel John Chivington descended upon the Cheyenne camp with 700 soldiers, and slaughtered 150-500 people, most of whom were women and children. The next year, many Cheyenne agreed to move onto plantations.
The next major engagement was the Battle of Little Bighorn in the Dakota, Wyoming and Montana Territories where the Sioux tribe lived. This tribe had opposed White expansion, and was particularly enraged when they tried to build a road, the Bozeman Trail, through their hunting grounds in the Bighorn Mountains. To protest the building of the road, a Sioux chief named Red Cloud, started a 2 year war. In 1866, the Sioux tribe killed more than 80 white soldiers, leading to the end of the war in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. This treaty made the US abandon the trail, and create a large Sioux reservation with the Black Hills in half of South Dakota.
In 1874, rumors of gold in the Black Hills caused a white. Investigator to go out and see if it was true; he came back and said there was gold from the grass roots down. This new information made the US government want the land, and they offered to buy if from the Sioux. One of the chiefs, Red Cloud, enteren negotiations with the US, but two more, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse left the reservation. This action caused the hostilities to return, and US troops, led by Custer, were sent to control the Indians. When he arrived at the Little Bighorn River, Custer was expecting a small force, so he split his troops; however, he arrived to a force of 2,000 Sioux warriors, who fell on the troops and killed more than 200 soldiers in the hour. The rest of the army then flooded the scene and forced the Sioux back onto the reservation.
50 years later, the Natives were under constant stress from the white settlers and were willing to try anything to escape them. Many of them turned to religious prophets to lead the way. One prophet, Wovoka, promised a return to the traditional Native way of life if they performed purification ceremonies that included the Ghost dance. The Ghost Dance was a ritual where people joined hands and spun in a circle, and it quickly caught on among the Teton Sioux.
White settlers saw this dance as the Natives becoming nervous, restless, and aggitated, which caused them to fear an attack. They asked for help from the government, and they sent out the Seventh Cavalry. The Seventh Cavalry originally tried to arrest Sitting Bull, but when he was slow to act they shot and killed him. The rest of his followers went quickly back to reservations.