Publisher’s note: This was written several years ago to challenge the publication of a photo and caption at Imgur. However, it expresses some of Nathan’s views regarding liberty and government. The media is doing exactly the same thing concerning current events that they do to historical events like the Black Hills Gold Rush and Deadwood.
Deadwood, 1876 Image by Imgur
Everyday Koala is a typical “infotainment” website, from which more and more people get their “news” and “education”:
The original caption for the photo in Everydaykoala.com
The settlement of Deadwood began illegally in the 1870s on land which had been granted to Native Americans. In 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills and announced the discovery of gold on French Creek near present-day Custer, South Dakota. This announcement triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush and gave
rise to the new and lawless town of Deadwood.
I don’t really know the source, but what is written here is absolute garbage. The photo is genuine and fairly well-known. But what is written about it is quite wrong.
First off, there was no “land which had been granted to Native Americans.”
The Lakota (not generic “Native Americans,” but that is another pet peeve) OWNED the Black Hills, including the land where Deadwood is. Nobody “granted it” to them – the Lakota (“Teton Sioux”) took it by force from the Cheyenne and Kiowa, which had owned the Hills since the Comanche abandoned what later became South Dakota and Wyoming.
For anyone interested, please visit the Black Hills History page on The Price of Liberty.
About 1760, the Lakota launched a war of aggression against the Cheyenne themselves, ending with two major victories in 1775 and 1776, pushing the Cheyenne west into Wyoming (the Powder River Basin) and south into Colorado (Eastern Plains), and took over the Black Hills.
The 1851 and 1868 treaties between the US and most of the AmerInd nations in Dakota, western Nebraska, and Wyoming, recognized the Lakota as owners of the Hills, and made them part of the Great Sioux Reservation. So the US in effect ratified the conquest of the Hills and its theft by the Lakota from the Cheyenne. There was no “granting” of anything.
That was the situation in 1874 when Custer led the 7th Cavalry and explored the Black Hills. (Oh, by the way, Custer was a Lieutenant Colonel, not a Colonel – he’d been a brevet Major General during the War between the States.)
Custer didn’t really “discover” gold. People had known about gold in the Black Hills for decades. But until 1874, the existence of gold was pretty much kept out of the newspapers and public eye.
The discovery on French Creek (now Custer City, South Dakota) did trigger the Black Hills Gold Rush, but it took time. It was not until 1876, after more gold was found (or found again) in the Northern Hills, that the really big rush to the Black Hills started, and Deadwood was established.
But Deadwood was NOT a “lawless town” any more than Custer City was. Before mining seriously got underway, a Mining District was established in accordance with the Mining Act of 1872, and town and county governments were organized voluntarily – not chartered by the territorial government (which was in Bismarck at the time). Officials were elected, including sheriffs, and appointed by town or district boards (marshals and the like). Volunteer firefighting companies and other organizations were established. Schools and churches were organized and buildings built. They may have been breaking the law (such as the 1868 treaty), but they were NOT lawless. Justice was, whenever possible, swift. Stage and freight companies (including Wells Fargo) handled much of the law and order stuff themselves, but worked hand in hand with elected and appointed officials. Compared to California from 1848 on, or Colorado or Montana from 1859 on, the Black Hills were peaceful and orderly – the only vigilante activity that is recorded was in Rapid City, against horse thieves. And it was condemned (and cursed) by most people in the area.
The most lawless act regarding the Black Hills was done by Congress. That was the unilateral modification of the 1868 Treaty by Congress in 1877, seizing the western 50 miles of Dakota Territory and removing it from the Great Sioux Reservation – this included much of the Black Hills. Further lawlessness in the next decades saw more and more of the Lakota land taken by Congress and opened for settlement, including the break-up of the reservation into the five modern Lakota reservations. And effectively stealing of hunting rights in most of Nebraska and Wyoming and big chunks of Montana and North Dakota, from the Lakota.
(The Lakota are not totally blameless, either. They used the period between the 1868 Treaty and 1876 to expand their own empire, aggressively attacking other tribes including the Eastern Shoshone, the Crow, and the Tree Affiliated Tribes (in modern North Dakota). That is one reason the Shoshone and Crow fought on the American side in the Black Hills War. And their alliance with the Cheyenne and Arapaho, especially the Northern branches of those two nations, continues to this day. )
The image of Deadwood as portrayed in the recent television series is as bogus as the caption on the above picture.
For people to claim that (a) the Lakota were “granted” the land of the Black Hills, and (b) that Deadwood was “lawless” is just what I expect of people who also claim that the Constitution “gives” us the rights in the Bill of Rights, and think that human government is either essential or good.
The media is doing exactly the same thing concerning current events that they do to historical events like the Black Hills Gold Rush and Deadwood.