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Unit 5


Notable Dakotans, 1850-1900


Lesson 3
Spotted Tail and Mary Collins


     In 1877, the Great Sioux Reservation stretched for many miles. It went west from the Missouri River almost all the way to the Black Hills. But the Lakotasí nomadic way of life was over. No longer could they hunt buffalo. Instead, their food and clothing came from the United States government. It was payment for the land the Lakotas had given up. Government agents played a large role in the peopleís lives. Agents urged them to send their children to school. They told them to take up farming.

Winter Count
Winter Count


Spotted Tail and the Sicangu Lakotas

     Spotted Tail was a Brulť (Sicangu) Lakota. As a strong voice for his people, he led them in their dealings with the United States. He was born in about 1823 near the White River. He earned honor among his people as a warrior. He fought other tribes and United States soldiers. He spent time in prison in Kansas for killing soldiers.

     There he saw the size of the United States Army. He saw that the Lakotas would have to stay friends with the white people. They would have to give up their old life or die. Spotted Tail was one of the leaders who signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. His people settled on the reservation. He sent his children to boarding school so that they could learn English. He worked with his agent to get the best for his people.

Spotted Tail
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

Rosebud Agency
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

     When gold seekers came to the Black Hills, Spotted Tail visited the mines. He saw that the hills were of great value. He urged the Lakotas not to sell them. Even so, he kept his people at their agency during the fighting in Montana. Spotted Tail was one of the leaders who signed the agreement with the government. He gave up the Black Hills so that his people could eat. Spotted Tail settled with the Sicangus on what would become the Rosebud Indian Reservation. He remained a powerful leader until his death in 1881.


Mary Collins and Sitting Bull

     Christian missionaries now came to the reservation. President Ulysses S. Grant asked them to teach the Indians a new way of life. The missionaries taught about the Christian religion. They taught reading and writing.  Some missionaries taught in both Lakota and English. They taught farming and home building. They were not always welcome. Missionaries had to win the trust of the people.

     Mary C. Collins came to work among the Lakotas. She left thirty-five years later as a friend. She was born in Illinois in 1846. She taught school in Iowa for a few years. Then she came to work at the Oahe Mission on the Missouri River. Later Collins moved to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. She lived among Sitting Bullís band. Collins learned the Lakota language. She and Sitting Bull were friends. They valued each otherís opinions.

Mary Collins
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society


     These were desperate times for the Lakotas. New laws and treaties broke up the Great Sioux Reservation. First Congress allotted land to the Lakotas. Each adult got 160 acres. This was the same size of farm that settlers got as a homestead. Three-quarters of the adult men signed a paper  agreeing to sell the rest of their lands. This is called the Sioux Agreement of 1889. Then Congress made six smaller reservations. All land not allotted to Lakotas was opened to settlers the next year. The Lakotas were not happy about this. The government was behind in payments of food and supplies. People were hungry. Missionaries like Mary Collins did what they could to help. Then a new religion spread among the people.

     The Ghost Dance religion promised that the settlers would disappear; the buffalo would come back to feed the people. Many Lakotas came together to dance so that this might come to pass. Fear spread among the settlers. The new religion looked like the start of a new war. The United States Army was afraid that Sitting Bull would be the leader. Mary Collins asked Sitting Bull to stop the dancing. She feared that many Indians would be killed. Her advice was too late. United States soldiers and Indian policemen came to arrest Sitting Bull. There was a fight, and Sitting Bull was killed. Some Lakotas fled south to the Badlands. The army stopped one group at Wounded Knee Creek. Over 150 Lakota men, women, and children were killed. About thirty soldiers died. For the Lakotas, it was the end of all hope for the old style of life.

Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull


     Mary Collins stayed with the Lakotas. She tried to help them adapt to the reservation. She fought to get them more money for their lands. She moved back to Iowa when she retired. Even there, she worked to make friends for the Indians. She died in 1920.

agency (n.), a government office that gives rules on the reservation

allotted (v.), divided and given out as lots

opinions (n.), beliefs or thoughts