In advance of the military pullouts, the government invited the Sioux to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of negotiating a new treaty. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie was a document beset with troubles from its inception. The treaty represented the governments attempt to centralize the Sioux into one area where they could be observed and fed. Reservations were created in northwestern Nebraska and Dakota Territory, west of the Missouri River. Agencies were established to properly feed and monitor the Indians. Red Cloud, the taciturn Oglala chief, and Brulé chief Spotted Tail agreed to live on their designated reservations as did approximately 15,000 Lakota Sioux.3
Not all Indians embraced the reservation concept, nor had the tribes relinquished title to the Powder River Country. This unceded territory, as it was labeled, was to be free of whites. Its boundaries, while rather ambiguous, stretched from the South Dakota boundary westward to the peaks of the Bighorn Range of Wyoming and Montana; north to the Yellowstone River, and southward to southern Wyoming. Within this region the non-reservation Sioux, championed by the likes of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, resided along with some 3,000 Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyennes. They would pursue the time-honored practices of hunting buffalo and raiding against their traditional enemies the Crow and Shoshone. Sitting Bull belittled his reservation friends declaring, You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard-tack and a little sugar and coffee.
The unceded territory issue festered into an open wound that would not heal. There Sitting Bull could offer sanctuary to discontented reservation Indians. Still worse, reservation Indians could shuttle between the two domains, living in the relative security of the reservations and gathering rations at the agencies in the winter, then slipping away in the summer to visit friends in the unceded lands. These summer roamers, as they were called, created a source of great agitation. Many of them were deemed troublemakers by Indian agents and reservation Indians, who viewed the roamers as disruptive influences. Off the reservations they ignored the unceded territory boundaries. Settlements in Montana were raided, and friendly tribes in step with government policies, such as the Crow in Montana and the Arikara in North Dakota, fell victims of brutal attacks by Sioux war parties. Governmental authorities did little, envisioning that Sioux control of the Powder