A North Star Dakotan Interview with Colonel George Armstrong Custer
September 2, 1874
Just a short time ago, Colonel Custer and his men returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln from exploring the Black Hills. He has consented to give us his views about the results of his expedition.
Have reports about the richness of the gold discoveries been exaggerated?
The reports are not exaggerated in the least; the prospects are even better than represented. I am familiar with and interested in Colorado mines, and I saw localities in the Black Hills similar, as to formation, to the richest regions in Colorado, where the geologists insisted the precious metals must be found, that were not explored by the miners at all. These localities were met with in my rambles along the valleys when the explorers were not within reach.
You have stated that the best route to the Hills runs southwesterly from Bismarck. Any chance of problems with Indians on that route?
The country is neutral ground and is not occupied by them, though small war or hunting parties pass over it occasionally. It is unquestionably the safest route; the Indians located at the agencies south and southeast of the Black Hills are very liable to give trouble to immigrants. Many outrages have occurred in that locality of late, while not a single outrage has occurred in my district during the past season except two cases of stock stealing.
Gold will attract miners. What is the policy of the military towards people who seek to enter the Black Hills?
The government has entered into a solemn treaty with the Indians whereby they agree to keep off all trespassers. This is a law of the land, and should be respected, and Gen. Sheridan has already issued instruction to the military to prevent expeditions entering upon the reservation and parties contemplating going have been warned to keep off.
What is the agricultural potential of the region?
Too much cannot be said in favor of the agricultural worth of the valleys in the Black Hills. No country in the world is superior for stock growing—the grazing is unsurpassed, the valleys are sheltered from driving storms, the snow fall is evidently light, the rain fall abundant. Think of those brooks in which the water is pure as crystal and only twelve degrees above freezing the warmest days in summer in connection with butter and cheese making.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council