Lakota is an association of seven tribes which was known as warriors and buffalo-
hunters. The Tetons was the name given to them sometimes, meaning “prairie dwellers”. The
tribe began to use horses after which this band migrated west from Minnesota. In the mid 18 th
century, there were about 20,000 Lakota and today the number has increased to about 70,000.
When Europeans began their explorations and settling the land in the 1600s, the Lakota’s
location was Minnesota. They lived on wild rice, small game, deer and large rival tribes
surrounded them. The Ojibwa were there enemy and conflict between them forced the Lakota to
There were multiple treaties made and broken as white settlers continued pushing west
onto Sioux lands. Major wars, numerous battles and skirmishes came up as a result of the Sioux
retaliating. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, was known by his people as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat
which meant thunder coming up over the land from the water. He was best known for his
resistance to the United States government. The U.S government was attempting to force his
tribe onto reservations (Santella, 2000).
The Nez Perce tribe had maintained good relations after the Lewis and Clark expedition
and was a peaceful nation spread from Idaho to Northern Washington. Chief Joseph’s father
signed a treaty with the U.S in 1855. It allowed his people to retain much of their traditional
lands and another one was signed in 1863. The second treaty reduced the amount of land and was
considered a “non-treaty” causing a showdown in 1877 after Chief Joseph assumed his role as
chief. After months of fighting, the Sioux had no choice but to move to a reservation.
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As the Sioux moved, they were followed by armies who fought them. The Nez Perce
were finally surrounded by soldiers just 30 miles from Canada. At this point chief Joseph
declared that he was not going to fight anymore and promises were made to him but never kept.
In 1885, Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce were sent to barren lands; a reservation in Washington
where many died from malaria and starvation. While Chief Joseph was patient and willing to
negotiate with the white settlers, Lakota Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota tribes led them in their
struggle for survival in the northern plains.
After the Nez Perce were fought and most of them died, Chief Joseph finally gave up
fighting but Lakota Chief Sitting bull of the Lakota remained defiant toward American military
power and their promises to the end. The U.S policy affected the tribes in five ways. They lost
their land to the white settlers and therefore could not cultivate the land for their food. Their
buffalo supplies were soon depleted because of over hunting. Many of them died due to
starvation and diseases they got in the areas they were forced to move to. Many of them were
also beaten to death for no reason by soldiers who had been sent to “protect” them (Dwyer &
The last major battle conflict between the Lakota and the United States was at the battle
at Wounded Knee Creek. By the time the battle was over, there were 25 troops and more than
150 Lakota Sioux who lay dead. Having faced many challenges and injustices, the Lakota Sioux
are still here, proud strong and still surviving with the hope of better days ahead. There are
numerous issues facing the Nez Perce today as a result of land and natural resource development.
The development of water resources lies at the center of these issues, provoking a wake of
problems for the Nez Perce environment and people.
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Santella, A. (2000). The Lakota Sioux. Dunbury: Children’s Press (CT).
Dwyer, H & Stout, M. A. (2012). Nez Perce History and Culture. New York: Gareth Stevens