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        Montana | Activity 7.1: Sitting Bull and the Sioux Treaty of 1868

        Students watch a video about Sitting Bull to learn about his military and spiritual leadership. They study excerpts of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (also known as the Sioux Treaty of 1868), and answer questions about Sitting Bull and the Treaty.  

        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video about Sitting Bull to learn about his military and spiritual leadership. They study excerpts of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (also known as the Sioux Treaty of 1868), and answer questions about Sitting Bull and the Treaty.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Montana | Unit 7: Conflict" where students will learn about how building tensions led to violent combat between Montana’s American Indians and the US government.

        Time Allotment

        35 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        3.5: Use appropriate geographic resources (e.g., atlases, databases, charts, grid systems, technology, graphs, maps) to gather information about local communities, reservations, Montana, the United States, and the world.

        4.1: Identify and use various sources of information (e.g., artifacts, diaries, photographs, charts, biographies, paintings, architecture, songs) to develop an understanding of the past.

        4.4: Identify and describe famous people, important democratic values (e.g., democracy, freedom, justice) symbols (e.g., Montana and U.S. flags, state flower) and holidays, in the history of Montana, American Indian tribes, and the United States.

        4.7: Explain the history, culture, and current status of the American Indian tribes in Montana and the United States.

        6.5: Identify examples of individual struggles and their influence and contributions (e.g., Sitting Bull, Louis Riel, Chief Plenty Coups, Evelyn Cameron, Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi, Rosa Parks).

        Supplemental Standards:

        Helena District 6.5: Identify examples of personal struggles of historical figures in Montana history and how their struggles influenced their accomplishments.


        Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Teaching With Documents: Sioux Treaty of 1868. [Also known as the "Treaty of Fort Laramie."]


        1. Tell students they will be watching a video about Lakota leader Sitting Bull. Explain to students that when white settlers moved westward, the US government brokered treaties with American Indians. The government resorted to using military force to claim land for the United States. Sitting Bull of the Lakota nation took a strong stand against the US government. The resulting battles took place in Montana Territory along Rosebud Creek and the Little Bighorn River.

        1. Distribute the Sitting Bull and the Great Sioux War handout to students. Instruct students to take notes that will help them answer questions found on the video handout.

        1. Play the video, Sitting Bull | Military Leader and Spiritual Leader. [3:49]

        1. Remind students that the battles mentioned in the video took place in Montana Territory. Have students complete the handout and discuss their answers as a class.

        1. Explain that the US government ignored the Sioux Treaty of 1868 (officially called The Treaty of Fort Laramie) when gold was discovered in the Black Hills of Dakota. Project the images of the treaty to the class.

        2. Explain that although Sitting Bull and his men defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the United States eventually obtained all the land they desired. The Black Hills were flooded by troops, and Sitting Bull was forced to lead his people to Canada.

        3. Project the Diminishing Sioux Lands map. Explain that the map shows the shrinking borders since the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed. Ask students what they notice about the Sioux lands in Montana [the United States claimed all the land in Montana]. Keep the map up for the rest of the lesson.

        4. Hand out the class set of the Treaty of Fort Laramie Transcript and read the truncated Articles as a class. Instruct students to circle or underline words or phrases that apply to promises the United States made, and to what terms the American Indians agreed.

        5. Conduct a class discussion about the treaty, the United States’ following actions, and the American Indians’ response by asking some of these questions:

          1. What promises did the US government make to the Lakota and Sioux people?

          2. Who was excluded from honoring the reservation boundaries?

          3. What limits or requirements did the treaty ask of the Lakota and Sioux?

          4. How were the American Indians paid for the land the United States took?

          5. What “rights” were laid out in Article XI?

          6. What “rewards” were given to those who went into farming?

        Answer Key

        Video handout questions

        1. Battle of the Rosebud [2:34] and Battle of Little Bighorn [2:40].

        2. Gold was found in the Black Hills, and miners flooded the area, disrupting the American Indians’ lives [0:43, 1:50]. The United States started a war to take over valuable land from the American Indians [2:05].

        3. Sitting Bull said the United States had broken every promise they had made to the Indians thus far [2:18].

        4. The American Indians overwhelmed Custer in number and determination [2:36].

        Treaty discussion questions

        1. Land boundaries, buildings on the reservations, staff for those buildings, seeds for the first year of farming

        2. Provided staff, officers, agents, and employees of the government

        3. Farms limited to 120 acres, education for those between six and sixteen

        4. Clothes, or materials to make clothes

        5. Indians could still hunt buffalo in US lands

        6. $500 was given to the top ten producers


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