IntroductionChief Red Cloud was a Native American war leader who became an important part of history for his role in fiercely defending his peoples land against the U.S. government. As leader of the Lakota Indians in the 1860s, a time when the United States was attempting to seize Indian territory, he is best known for his long standing opposition to a proposed road through Indian territory. The two year battle with the U.S. government where Chief Red Cloud fought to protect Indian land in Montana and Wyoming became known as Red Clouds War. The below facts about the life of Chief Red Cloud focus on what made him such an interesting leader and why he became such an important historical figure.
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Red Clouds War Facts
- During the Gold Rush period in the 1860s, settlers began using a newly discovered direct route called The Bozeman Trail to get them from Montana to Wyoming. The route went directly through several Indian territories including the Lakota territory.
- As the Bozeman Trail became more heavily traveled, the road was widened to accommodate caravans and the army set up forts along it. This threatened to destroy the Indians hunting ground and prompted Chief Red Cloud to take action.
- Chief Red Cloud led one of the most successful and unforgettable attacks against the U.S. government of any Indian attack in history. This valiant attempt to fend off the intruders to his peoples land became called Chief Red Clouds War.
- The war lasted for two years as Chief Red Cloud and his men prevented further advancements on the trail, attacked army forts, and ambushed soldiers.
- During Red Clouds War, his biggest accomplishment was successfully forcing the U.S. government off the section of the Bozeman Trail from the North Platte River to the gold fields in Montana.
- Since the U.S. Army was unprepared for such a show of force by the Indians, their attempt at forcing them off their land dissolved into more peaceful negotiations.
Fort Laramie Treaty Facts
- In 1868, the U.S. government proposed a treaty to the Indians led by Red Cloud that promised gifts, financial incentives, retention of some of their land and a reservation for the people to live on peacefully.
- Chief Red Cloud eventually signed the treaty which has been named the Treaty of Fort Laramie (also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868) and agreed to move the Lakota to a reservation, ending Red Clouds War. The peace, however, did not last long.
- Gold seekers continually violated the treaty by passing through the reservation. In response to the violations, the Indians attacked trespassers and further violence ensued.
Red Cloud General Facts
- Chief Red Clouds uncle, Old Chief Smoke mentored and raised him after his parents died when he was a young boy.
- The Lakota War took place between 1876 and 1877 in retaliation for continued trespassing by the government and settlers on Indian land. Although he approved of the war, Red Cloud did not join Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse in the Lakota War.
- After years of fighting between the U.S. government and the Lakota, Chief Red Cloud finally, reluctantly, agreed to move his tribe to the Pine Hill Reservation located in South Dakota in 1878.
- Red Cloud married a woman named Pretty Owl. They were married for over 50 years.
- Chief Red Cloud remained chief of the Lakota until 1881 when he was removed from his position.
- He died at the age of 87 while living on Pine Ridge Reservation where he was buried.