Chief Red Cloud from the Oglala Sioux Nation
As a warrior and a statesman, Red Cloud’s success in confrontations with the United States government marked him as one of the most important Lakota leaders of the nineteenth century.
Beginning in 1866, Red Cloud orchestrated the most successful war against the United States ever fought by an Indian Nation. Red Cloud’s strategies were so successful that by 1868 the United States government had agreed to the Fort Laramie Treaty. The treaty’s remarkable provisions mandated that the United States abandon its forts along the Bozeman Trail and “guarantee” the Lakota their possession of what is now the Western half of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, along with much of Montana and Wyoming. The peace, of course, did not last; neither did the treaty. After the military defeat of the Lakota nation, Red Cloud continued to fight for the needs and autonomy of his people, even if in less obvious or dramatic ways than waging war. He died in 1909, but his long and complex life endures as testimony to the variety of ways in which Indians resisted their conquest.