On April 29 1868, the second Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed by several bands of Lakota and Dakota leaders. The treaty provided for “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of the land west of the Missouri River, including the Black Hills, for the tribal signatories. While Article Twelve of the treaty requires vote of three-quarters of the male Lakota population could terminate the treaty, its terms were violated just a few years thereafter.
White settlers largely stayed out of the treaty lands until 1874, as chronicled by Smithsonian Magazine. Following the Custer Expedition’s discovery of gold in the Black Hills that year, an onslaught of miners and settlers flooded into the area, in violation of the terms of the treaty and upsetting the rightful owners of the land.
Pressure to open the Black Hills to white settlers built upon President Ulysses Grant, who began to search for ways to annex the area. When Lakota leaders visited Washington D.C. to contest inadequate rations from the government, the President replied that the rations had only been continued as the government still favored the Lakota people, but could indeed be halted at any time.
Miners and settlers continued to infiltrate the Black Hills, and calls for annexation of the region increased. Although the U.S. Military still adhered to the treaty and violated many miners, Brig. Gen. George Crook advised miners to take note of their claims for documentation should the land be opened for settlement.
By November 1875, after meeting with military and civilian officials, President Grant withdrew military efforts to prevent miners from entering the Black Hills, yet made no policy change regarding the ownership of the hills. While the incoming miners were still in the Black Hills territory illegally, the military was instructed to turn a blind eye to their occupation. From that point onward, the Grant Administration described the Lakota bands in the Black Hills as “hostile,” in order to facilitate placing blame upon the Lakota people in the event of future skirmishes.