Timeline-MNI Wakan Oyate



Mni Wakan Oyate



Dakotas live in the north woods area of Minnesota.


First contact of white men with Dakotas at their home near the Minnesota River.


Probable date for acquisition of the horse among the Dakotas.


Yankton (Middle Sioux) settle along the eastern side of the Missouri River. They pursue buffalo and acquire horses and tepees. Eventually some bands begin to farm and live in earthlodges.

The Chippewa expel the Dakotas from their traditional homelands around Mille Lacs Lakes in Minnesota.


Jonathan Carver, early explorer, identifies the organization and bands of the Dakota.


July 13—The Continental Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, stating that “the utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property rights and liberty, they never shall be invaded or disturbed.”

September 17—The U.S. Constitution is adopted. Article I, Section 8, grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indians tribes.” This establishes a government-to-government relationship with tribes. Consequently the federal government, rather than states, is involved in Indian affairs.


Congress gives the War Department authority over Indian affairs.


The U.S. Congress appropriates $10,000 to $15,000 annually to “promote civilization among the Indians.” This money goes to missionary organizations working to convert Indians to Christianity.


The Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Northwest makes first American contact with many northern tribes.


September 25—Dakotas sign their first treaty with the U.S. government at the urging of Zebulon Pike. Dakotas cede 100,000 acres of land worth $200,000 in return for which they receive $2,000 and some gifts.


Many Dakota ally with the English in the War of 1812.


Congress appropriates money for the “Civilization Fund,” the first federal Indian education program. Christian missionary societies receive this money to establish schools among Indian people.


The first Prairie du Chien Treaty. The Dakota, Chippewa, Menominee, Winnebago, Sac and Fox, Iowa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa are brought together to sign a peace treaty.


The secretary of war creates the Bureau of Indians Affairs within the War Department.


Largely unsuccessful, a second Prairie du Chien Treaty is entered into among all the tribes to cease intertribal warfare and establish boundaries of each tribe.


Smallpox epidemic kills more than 15,000 Indians in the Upper Missouri River area, including over 400 Yankton.


First Traverse des Sioux Treaty is negotiated, but not ratified.


Bureau of Indian Affairs is transferred from the War Department to the newly created Department of the Interior.


Dakotas negotiate Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and Treaty of Mendota with U.S. They cede over 21 million acres of their Minnesota homeland to the U.S. in return for annual cash annuities totaling $40,000 payable over 50 years. Four Dakota tribes are left with a reservation 150 miles long and 20 miles wide across the Minnesota River.

September 25—United States holds Fort Laramie (Wyoming Territory) Treat Council with plains and mountain tribes, the results of which open the central plains for transportation routes through Kansas and Nebraska. Yankton are omitted from the treaty because their traditional areas were far removed from the overland route to the Pacific Coast, which the treaty aimed to safeguard.


Winter—Smallpox epidemic among the Dakota bands.


Dakotas negotiate treaty with the U.S. and their reservation as established in 1851. The reservation land base is cut in half.


Dakota Territory is established. Yanktonai occupy areas on the east bank of the Missouri River. Gold is discovered on the headwaters of the Missouri River.


August 25—Unresolved grievances and dissatisfaction with the 1851 Treaty lead to the Dakota Conflict in Minnesota. Traders and agents defraud Indians of annuity monies, government annuities are late and are not distributed once they arrive.

October 12—General Alfred Sully’s army captures and put in chains 400 Dakota men. Settlers demand protection.

November 7—1,700 Dakota women, children, and men are marched to an internment camp at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.

December 26—38 Dakota are hanged at Mankato, Minnesota for their part in the Dakota Conflict. The hanging is the largest mass execution in American history.


January 1st—Dakota Territory opens for homesteading.

April/May—1,318 Dakota are exiled by boat to St. Louis and removed to the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota.

September 3rd—Soldiers under General Alfred Sully attack the Yanktonai hunting camp at Whitestone Hill, Dakota Territory (near present-day Kulm, North Dakota). At least 300 Indians killed.


Surviving 1,000 Dakota are moved from the largely uninhabitable Crow Creek Reservation to the present day Santee Reservation in Nebraska.


A military fort is established at Devils Lake and named Fort Totten in honor of Brevet Major General Joseph Gilbert Totten, chief engineer of the U.S. Army.

February 19—Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation is established by treaty. Provisions include agricultural and mechanical labor, and support for local and manual-labor schools.

February 19—Dakotas negotiate a treaty between the United States and the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands of Dakota. The treaty recognizes the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and establishes the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation.


The United States signs the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with Lakotas, Dakotas, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. This treaty confirms a permanent reservation for the Dakota in all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The Indians in turn release all lands east of the Missouri River except the Crow Creek, Sisseton, and Yankton Reservations.

March 15—The Sisseton-Wahpeton Treaty is ratified by the U.S. Senate. The original treaty is amended to read as it reads today.



Federal Indian policy, backed by military support, forces Indians onto reservations. Since Indians are confined to the reservation area, the government begins to distribute food rations and clothing to the Indian people. The government withholds food rations from any Indian who opposes government policy, criticizes the agent, or practices Native American ceremonies or customs.


Congress passes a law prohibiting army officers from being appointed Indian agents, prompting President Grant to turn control of Indian agencies over to various Christian denominations.


March 3—Congress passes legislation formally ending treaty making with Indian tribes. From now on the federal government will negotiate acts or agreements ratified by both the House and Senate. Acts and agreements carry the force of law. All treaties remain legal.

June 25—Lt. Col. Custer’s force of 267 men is annihilated by Lakota and Cheyenne at the Little Bighorn River in Montana.


May 2—Treaty is proclaimed by the President. This document constitutes the official agreement between the government of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and the government of the United States.

September 20—Agreement with the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands of Dakota and Indian Commissioners is ratified. Negotiations are completed and they award the tribe payments for land redeeded in Article Two of the treaty, and for unoccupied lands of the band.


May 2—Agreement with the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands of Dakota with Indian Commissioners. Agreement completes sales of unoccupied lands.


Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, a non-sectarian Christian Vocational School for educating ex-slaves, admits Indian students. Its motto is “Education for the Head, the Hand, and the Heart.” Young people from the area are sent to Hampton.


Carlisle Indian School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, opens. Its motto is “To Kill the Indian and Save the Man.” This is the first federally-sponsored Indian School and it serves as a prototype where Indian children are removed from the home environment in order to hasten their “civilization into the white man’s world.” Young people from the area are sent to Carlisle.


The Indian Offenses Act is passed making practice of many Indian customs and all religious ceremonies illegal. The federal government outlaws these aspects of Indian life to hasten assimilation of Indians into mainstream society.


Hot winds and drought cause crop failure.


September 1—U.S. government-sponsored Haskell Institute training school opens in Lawrence, Kansas.


The Commissioner of Indian Affairs requires English to be used in all Indian schools because “it is believed that teaching an Indian youth in his own barbarous dialect is a positive detriment to him.”

February 8—Dawes Allotment Act is passed by Congress providing for allotment of Indian lands in severalty. The purpose of this law was to break up the Indian land base, the reservation. After individual allotments are made, the government opens the remaining reservation lands to homesteading.


Pressure form citizens in Dakota Territory results in a federal commission to break up the Great Sioux Reservation.


North Dakota and South Dakota are admitted to the Union.

Pressure from citizens results in a federal commission which seeks to break up the Great Sioux Reservation into six smaller reservations, and open up nine million acres of land to homesteading. Despite opposition from the various bands, just over the requisite three quarters of adult Sioux males agree. Most good farmland is lost.


Severe drought strikes the Dakotas.


December 29—Over 300 Lakotas are massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry.

The military abandons Fort Totten.


Spirit Lake Reservation is allotted.


Indians who serve in World War I are recognized as citizens of the United States and entitled to vote in federal elections.


The Snyder Act confers United States citizenship on all Indians.


Little Flower mission is built at St. Michael, North Dakota.


Indian Civilian Conservation Corps is active on reservations.


June 18—Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) passes. This legislation ends allotment, provides funds for tribal self-governance, and launches the Indian credit program.


Repeal of the act prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to Indians.


February 3—Dakotas at Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation adopt their first Tribal Constitution.

August 1—Indian Claims Commission is established to end Indian land claims by making monetary compensations.


February 14–Bureau of Indian Affairs approves revisions to the original constitution and bylaws of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe.


Indian relocation program is established for all Indians. This program was part of the termination program initiated by the federal government. The government sought to end the reservation system and in preparation, relocates Indian families to urban areas.


June 9—U.S. Representative William Henry Harrison of Wyoming introduces House Concurrent Resolution 108, which states that Congress intends to “terminate” at the “earliest possible time” all Indians, meaning that Congress will not recognize them as Indians and will remove all Indian rights and benefits.


January 10—Tribe submits its first revision to their constitution and bylaws.


May 5—Constitutional revision number two.


July 14—Tribal constitutional revision number three.


April 11—American Indian Civil Rights Act is passed, and guarantees to reservation residents many of the same civil rights and liberties as other citizens.


Tribe enters into agreement with Brunswick Corporation and incorporates the Sioux Manufacturing Corporation, Inc.


Little Hoop Community College is established.

May 3—The Dakota pass a constitutional revision containing three provisions. The Code permits 18 year olds to vote, authorizes purchases and other acquisition of lands, and establishes staggered terms of office and two-year terms for the tribal council.


January 12—Congress passes the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. This law expands tribal control over reservation programs and authorizes federal funds to build needed public school facilities on, or near, Indian reservations.


April 16—By referendum vote, the Dakotas revise the Tribal constitution and specify that: (1) They recognize the 1972 Judgement Roll as a document for determining tribal membership. This (sixth) revision, Article II, deletes the Superintendent of Turtle Mountain Agency and designates the Superintendent of Fort Totten Agency as the official responsible for approval, or disapproval, of tribal enactments.

August 1—Congress passes the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), in which Congress recognizes obligations to “protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise [their] tradition religions.” This reverses official government policy prohibiting the practice of Native American spirituality passed in 1883.

October 8—Congress passes a bill to terminate the Indian Claims Commission at the end of 1978. The U.S. Court of Claims is to take over cases that the commission does not complete by December 31, 1978.

November 1—Congress passes the Education Amendment Act of 1978, giving substantial control of education programs to local Indian communities.

November 8—Congress passes the Indian Child Welfare Act, establishing U.S. policy to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. This Act gives tribal courts jurisdiction over Indian children living on or off the reservation.


Congress passes the Tribally Controlled Community Colleges Act.


May 4—By referendum vote, the Dakotas revise the tribal constitution and bylaws for a seventh time. Article V of the tribal constitution empowers the Tribal Council to prepare and present an annual budget to tribal members; establishes a primary election and provides that no person with a felony may hold office. The tribal court will also have enforcement authority to invoke this article.


Congress passes the Indian Land Consolidation Act, which applies specifically to the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe. The act permits the tribe to receive ownership of small shares of land from a deceased member if that person’s share of land is less than 2 percent interest and has earned less than $100 for that person in the previous year. The Act permits tribes to consolidate lands which have been so divided as to be usable by any one heir.


Legislation enacted to repeal the termination policy established by the House Concurrent Resolution 108 of 1953.

October—Tribal Constitution is revised. Under this revision, a civil code is established, and makes provisions for governing gaming and private sector development.


November 1—Congress passes the monumental Native American Languages Act. The Act affords a special status to Native American in the United States recognizing them as distinct cultural and political entities. The Act establishes federal policy to ensure, preserve, and maintain the unique cultures and languages of Native Americans.


November 21—Dakotas pass a tribal constitutional revision which changes the terms of office of tribal chairperson from two to four years.

Tribe adopts the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe Law and Order Code. This revision creates the tribes criminal law and order code for tribal members.


Spirit Lake Sioux Tribal Nation opens it first Tribal Casino at St. Michael, North Dakota.


May—By general referendum, the tribe places before the people a constitutional revision to change their name from Devils Lake Sioux Tribe to Spirit Lake Tribe.


Tribe completes the construction of a new casino and names the facility the Spirit Lake Casino, and closes its existing two casinos.

November—The United States government officially ratifies the tribe’s constitutional revision and the name of the Tribe is changed from “Devils Lake” to “Spirit Lake.”

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