Overview: Life on the Indian Reservations
By 1889 when North Dakota became a state, the reservation system for Native People was firmly established. These areas were much smaller than the United States government had earlier promised. The government’s policy was to turn Indians into farmers and Christians; this meant the abolition of Indian traditional ways of life. This was a difficult, almost impossible, transition for the people.
The Lakota, Sitting Bull’s people, especially resisted the government’s policies. In 1890 the Ghost Dance became a way of protesting the government’s attempts to wipe out Indian ways. The Ghost Dance came to the Dakotas from Nevada where Wovoka had had a vision of returning the country to the way it was before white people came. The Dance promised a new world with the return of the dead and the great buffalo herds. The Lakota chiefs endorsed this new spiritual movement; Sitting Bull allowed the Ghost Dance in his camp. The endless Dance ceremonies frightened white settlers who feared an Indian uprising.
This fear led the Indian agent to arrest Sitting Bull and the army to put a stop to the Ghost Dance. While being arrested on December 14, 1890, Sitting Bull was killed. On December 29, 1890, the army engaged the Lakota at Wounded Knee, leaving 146 dead Lakota.
The North Star Dakotan presents accounts of reservation life after the tragedies of 1890.
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.
Describe how community life has changed from past (i.e., pioneer and tribal) to the present
Identify examples of how different groups, societies, and cultures are similar and different (e.g., in beliefs, traditions, family relationships, celebrations, institutions, folklore)
Identify similarities and differences between past events and current events in North Dakota (e.g., in the lives of people from different cultures past and present)
Identify the characteristics of a sovereign nation in terms of tribal government in North Dakota
Explain the contributions of various ethnic groups (e.g., Native Americans, immigrants) to the history of North Dakota (e.g., food, traditions, languages, celebrations)
Explain how regional Native American groups influenced U.S. history (e.g., historical events, development of the U. S.)
Explain how differences among cultures (e.g., differences in beliefs and governments) often result in conflict.
Explain how political leaders (e.g., Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler) dictated national policy (e.g., States’ rights, closure of National Bank, Indian Removal Act)
Analyze the rationale for western expansion and how it affected minorities (e.g. reservations, Indian Removal Act, treaties, Chinese Exclusion Act, Dawes Act, Manifest Destiny, Homestead Act)
Explain the significance of key events (e.g., settlement and homesteading, statehood, reservations) and people (e.g., Roughrider Recipients) in North Dakota and tribal history
Explain how political and economic forces have affected the sovereignty of tribal nations (e.g., constitutional provisions; Supreme Court cases; laws used in forming the basis of the federal-tribal relationship; political and economic forces affecting sovereignty of tribal nations)
Analyze historical and contemporary examples of civil liberties and civil rights in the U.S. (e.g., incorporation of the Bill of Rights, amendments, key legislation, and landmark Supreme Court cases)