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IN HISTORY: President Harrison Issues Proclamation to Diminish Great Sioux Reservation U.S. Department of Interior
February 13, 2018

IN HISTORY: President Harrison Issues Proclamation to Diminish Great Sioux Reservation

On February 10, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation affirming the March 2, 1889 Act passed by the United States Congress which reduced the Great Sioux Reservation by 9.2 million acres. The president’s affirmation also created the boundaries of the Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Standing Rock reservations.

The creation of the aforementioned reservations followed two additional and substantial land transactions. A Congressional Act passed on February 28, 1877 diminished the Great Sioux Reservation—which was established through the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty—from its original 60 million acres to approximately 22 million acres. In the passage of 30 years, the Lakota and Dakota tribes retained only 18.3% of the lands allocated to them through treaties and Acts of of Congress. Approximately 9 million acres outside of the reservation boundaries were then opened up for public purchase and homesteading.

In addition to noting the boundaries of each of the newly established reservations, President Harrison’s proclamation issued a warning to individuals who planned to settle upon the reservation lands. Individuals were also warned against “interfering with the occupancy” by tribal members on tribal lands. However, the proclamation did not prescribe any consequences for individuals who chose to violate these provisions.

Lakota and Dakota people have long disputed how the federal government opened treaty land to settlement, especially in the Black Hills region. The earliest cases against the government were brought up in the 1920s and continued until 1980, when the issue bubbled up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In United States vs. Sioux Nation of Indians, the Court ruled that the government had not adequately compensated the Lakota people in exchange for the land it had taken. The Court offered the value of the land in 1877 as well as 5% interest each year thereafter. A full return of the land instead of a monetary settlement was not offered.

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