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South Dakota State Archives Resources< back
Indian Archives Project
Between 1996 and 2011 the State Archives received a special appropriation from the Governor’s Office to locate and copy Bureau of Indian Affairs records related to South Dakota reservations. Records held by the National Archives are voluminous, difficult to use, and largely inaccessible to people who cannot travel to Washington, D.C. to do research.
Over 100,000 pages of documents were microfilmed, and over 700 rolls of previously-microfilmed records were purchased for project. Together with previously-held material, the State Archives now has 1042 rolls of microfilm, 13 collections of unpublished records, and 85 government publications dating from 1824 to 1989. Another 263 rolls of microfilm are held by state university libraries in South Dakota.
Records include correspondence and reports of the field agencies in Dakota Territory and South Dakota from 1861 to the early 1900s; Indian censuses from 1880 to 1940; and Army records related to Indian affairs in the region from 1861 to 1891.Government Agencies
The Bureau of Indian Affairs, commonly called the Office of Indian Affairs until 1947, was created within the War Department in 1824 where it operated until 1849. In 1849 the Office of Indian Affairs was transferred to the Department of Interior, where it remains today. General correspondence and records of the BIA are filed under Record Group 75 and include reports, vital statistics, tribal census rolls, probate records, annuity and allotment records, accounting records, individual case files, and school records.
Supervision of Indian affairs was achieved through two types of field jurisdiction--superintendencies and agencies. Responsibility for Indian affairs in geographic areas fell to superintendents whose main duty was to supervise relations among Indian peoples and to supervise conduct of Indian agents.
Initially agents were viewed as diplomatic representatives of the United States, preserving and restoring peace among Indian peoples and non-Indians, while inducing Indian nations to cede their lands to the federal government. During the reservation era, their roles shifted toward the education and civilization of Indian peoples. The Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to operate offices at all of the South Dakota Agencies listed below.
The Department of State supervised affairs in the territories of the United States from 1789 to 1873. The department attended to such matters as correspondence between the President and territorial officials, the printing of territorial laws, and the provision of seals for the official use of the territories. In 1873, Congress transferred the supervision of the territories to the Office of the Secretary of the Interior.
The Continental Congress appointed an Adjutant General of the Continental Army in 1775. After 1783, no provision was made for such an officer until 1792 when an act provided for an adjutant who was also an inspector. In 1821, the departments of the Adjutant and Inspector General were placed under separate heads. The Adjutant General's Office has been in continuous existence since 1821 except for the brief period 1904-1907. The duties of Adjutant General included matters relating to command; discipline; recruitment; administration of the Military Establishment; recording, authenticating, and communicating the orders and instructions of the Secretary of War; issuing commissions; and compiling various army registers and directors.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs was created within the War Department in 1824 and operated there until 1849 when it was transferred to the Department of Interior.
The information listed here consists of general information relating to a specific area not listed in the other sections of this guide or general information that relates to more than one agency or reservation listed separately in the guide. Topics are listed alphabetically.
This section contains information related to various aspects of military involvement with American Indians from South Dakota—including forts, individual units, and specific investigations of institutions and individuals.
Established in 1851 to succeed the St. Louis Superintendency, early agencies relative to the Dakotas included the Upper Platte, Upper Missouri, Ponca, and Yankton agencies. The creation of the Dakota Superintendency in 1861 ended the Central Superintendency’s jurisdiction over the area covering the Dakotas.
Created in 1861 after Dakota Territory was organized, its original boundaries reached from the 43rd parallel to Canada and from Minnesota and Iowa to the Continental Divide. Indians in this geographic region were previously under the jurisdiction of the Central Superintendency. By 1868, the Dakota Superintendency was reduced to include only present-day North and South Dakota. It was discontinued in 1870, reactivated in 1877 and terminated in 1878.
The superintendency was created in 1849 when Minnesota Territory was organized. It included the eastern part of present day North and South Dakota. The St. Peters Agency oversaw the Mdewakanton, Wahpetkute, Sisseton, and Wahpeton people in Minnesota. The Minnesota Superintendency was discontinued in 1856 and the St. Peters Agency was transferred to the Northern Superintendency.
Created in 1851, the Northern Superintendency did not oversee Indians related to South Dakota until 1856 when the Minnesota Superintendency was discontinued and the St. Peters Agency was transferred. In 1863 many Sioux and Winnebago Indians were moved to Dakota Territory but they remained under the jurisdiction of the Northern Superintendency until 1865 when the superintendency was reorganized. The St. Peters Agency was transferred to the Dakota Superintendency and the Winnebago and Upper Platte Agencies fell under the Northern Superintendency. The Santee Sioux, Whetstone, and Flandreau Agencies were also affiliated with this superintendency prior to its discontinuance in 1876.
Established in 1822 and discontinued in 1851, this large superintendency was responsible for the agencies covering what today is call the Midwest, including the St. Peters and Upper Missouri agencies.
Agencies and Reservations
In 1898, with strong support by SD Representative O. S. Gifford and Senator R. F. Pettigrew, Congress passed a bill to create the only insane asylum for Indians in the United States. The Hiawatha Indian Insane Asylum opened its doors to patients in 1902. In 1933, amid accusations of mismanagement and mistreatment of patients, the institution was closed.
(see also Upper Platte Agency below)
Established in 1869, this agency is sometimes called Cheyenne Agency. The agency was located on the west bank of the Missouri River below the mouth of the Big Cheyenne River, about six miles from Fort Sully. The following Lakota bands settled at Cheyenne Agency: Miniconjou, Sihasapa, Oohenunpa, and Itazipco.
Headmen at this agency included: Lone Horn, Red Shirt, White Swan, Duck, and Big Foot of the Miniconju; Tall Mandan, Four Bears and Rattling Ribs of the Oohenunpa; and Burnt Face, Charger, Spotted Eagle and Bull Eagle of the Itazipco.
Today the reservation is located in north-central South Dakota in Dewey and Ziebach counties. The tribal land base is 1.4 million acres with the eastern boundary being the Missouri River. Major communities include Cherry Creek, Dupree, Eagle Butte, Green Grass, Iron Lightning, Lantry, LaPlant, Red Scaffold, Ridgeview, Thunder Butte, and White Horse. Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Great Sioux Nation, lives at Green Grass.
(See also Lower Brule Agency and Upper Missouri Agency below)
Operating under the name Upper Missouri Agency in 1861, the agency was renamed Crow Creek Agency in 1874. By 1871 the agency was located at Soldier Creek on the east bank of the Missouri River, about eight miles from present day Crow Creek.
The Lower Yanktonai were settled at Crow Creek Agency after the treaty of 1859 ceded all lands of the Yankton and Yanktonais to the federal government, a result of the Spirit Lake massacre.
After the 1862 uprising in Minnesota, members of the Lower Agency Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands of Santee and Winnebago Indians were moved to Crow Creek. The Winnebagos were removed to the Omaha reservation in Nebraska in 1865. In 1866, after the arrival of several hundred Lower Yanktonai, Sicangu, and Oohenunpa, the Santee were removed to a separate reservation in Nebraska. The following year, the Sicangu and Oohenunpa settled on the west bank of the Missouri River across from the Crow Creek Agency at Lower Brule Agency.
Drifting Goose, leader of the Hunkpati band of Yanktonai, is remembered for refusing to sign the 1859 treaty. He was proud of the fact that he "signed nothing" and gave up "nothing." His scare tactics against non-Indians forced President Rutherford Hayes to set aside a 65,000-acre reservation along the James River for his Hunkpati band. A year later, in 1880, Drifting Goose and his people gave up their reservation and settled at Crow Creek Agency.
Today the reservation is located along the east bank of the Missouri River in central South Dakota in Hughes, Hyde, and Buffalo counties. The land base is 125,591 acres. Contemporary artist Oscar Howe (1915-1983) and writer Elizabeth Cook-Lynn are from Crow Creek Agency.
(See also Sisseton Agency below)
Sometimes called Fort Totten Agency, this agency was created in 1871 to serve the Indians living on the Devil’s Lake Reservation. Before 1871 the Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Cut Head Dakota people in that area were assigned to the Sisseton Agency.
(See also Santee Agency below)
Founded in 1873, the agency became home for a group of Santee who left the Santee Agency in Nebraska. Following the 1862 uprising in Minnesota (an attack on white settlers caused by forced reservation life and broken treaty promises) the Santee were moved first to Crow Creek Agency in Dakota, then to Santee Agency in northern Nebraska. In 1879 Flandreau Agency was consolidated with the Santee Sioux Agency in Nebraska even though the people remained in Dakota.
Those Santee who established the colony at Flandreau were Christian Indians who homesteaded their lands pursuant to article VI of the Fort Laramie treaty of 1868. Article VI provided that Indians could take homesteads and become citizens and still retain the benefits provided to them by the treaty. Among the early settlers were Jacob Eastman (father of Charles Eastman) and Thomas Wakeman (the son of Little Crow, a leader of the Minnesota Uprising).
Today the open land base of the Flandreau Agency is 2,356 acres in Moody County in southeastern South Dakota near the Minnesota border. Flandreau Indian boarding school is still maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
(See also Upper Missouri Agency below)
Fort Berthold Agency was established in 1864 when the Upper Missouri Agency was divided. It served the Mandan, Grosventre, Arikara, Assiniboin and Crow Indians near Fort Berthold and Fort Union in present day North Dakota and Montana.
(See also Devil's Lake Agency above)
(See also Standing Rock Agency and Upper Platte Agency below)
While this agency was created in 1869, the correspondence relating to it was filed with the records of the Upper Platte Agency until 1871. In 1873 the Agency was moved 50 miles upstream on the Missouri River in present day North Dakota. The name of the agency was changed to Standing Rock in 1875.
The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 set forth the original boundaries of the Great Sioux Reservation for the Lakota people-- including all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The Black Hills region was lost in 1877 as a result of Custer’s defeat at the Little Big Horn. In 1889 it was divided into five smaller reservations (Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, and Standing Rock) when South Dakota became a state.
(See also Crow Creek Agency below and Upper Missouri Agencyabove)
First called White River Agency, this agency was established in 1876 for the Sicangu and Oohenunpa bands of Lakota living under the control of Crow Creek agency. It was first located on the western side of the Missouri River ten miles below Crow Creek. In 1876, it was moved to the mouth of American Crow Creek, twelve miles below the old site. Lower Brule and Crow Creek Agencies were consolidated in 1882, then divided again in 1896.
Early records document nine bands located at Lower Brule. The following headmen, who signed the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty, were leaders of those early bands: Iron Nation, Medicine Bull, One Who Kills the White Buffalo Cow, Little Pheasant, White Buffalo Cow That Walks, Brave Heart, Wounded Man, Gourd Ear Rings, and Iron White.
Today the agency is located on the west bank of the Missouri river in south central South Dakota in Stanley and Lyman counties with a land base of 132,601 acres. Lake Sharpe and Big Bend Dam are popular tourist attractions.
Pierre Indian School opened in 1891 and continues to operate, making it one of the few off-reservation Indian boarding schools in the United States today.
(See also Red Cloud Agency and Upper Platte Agency below)
Originally established as Red Cloud Agency in 1871, it was located on the North Platte River near Fort Laramie in eastern Wyoming and was primarily responsible for the Oglala band of the Lakota. In 1873 the agency moved to the White River near Camp Robinson in Nebraska; in 1877, to the Missouri River at the mouth of Medicine Creek in present day South Dakota; and in 1878, to White Clay Creek where it became know as Pine Ridge Agency.
Prominent among Oglala leaders were Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, American Horse, Young Man Afraid of His Horses, Little Wound, and Conquering Bear. These men defended their homelands against the encroachment of non-Indians in the latter part of the 19th Century and became famous for their efforts. In 1890 the Wounded Knee Massacre ended widespread, armed conflict between the United States government and the Lakota.
Today Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the 2nd largest American Indian population in the United States. Located in southwestern South Dakota, it has a land base of 1.7 million acres and stretches across Shannon and Jackson counties. Billy Mills, 1964 Olympic gold medal winner in the 10,000-meter race, was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Even though this agency was located in Nebraska it was considered to be in Dakota Territory from 1861 through 1877.
One of 28 off-reservation boarding schools built and operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the school existed from 1898-1933 to serve Indian children of the Northern plains—including Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow, and Flathead. The buildings were later used to house the Sioux Sanatorium, an institution established to treat Indians with tuberculosis.
(See also Pine Ridge Agency above and Upper Platte Agency below)
Red Cloud Agency was established in 1871 on the North Platte River near Fort Laramie in Wyoming. It was mainly responsible for the Oglala Lakota in addition to some Cheyenne and Arapaho people. Prior to 1871 correspondence relating to these people was filed with the Upper Platte Agency. In 1878, after moving several times, the agency settled at White Clay Creek in Dakota and was renamed Pine Ridge Agency.
(See also Whetstone, Spotted Tail, and Upper Platte Agencies below)
Originally known as the Upper Platte Agency, it was renamed Whetstone Agency in 1869, then Spotted Tail Agency in 1874, before finally acquiring the name Rosebud in 1878. The Agency served the Sicangu Lakota people led by Spotted Tail as well as members of the Sans Arcs, Oglala, Hunkpapa and Miniconjou bands.
Whetstone Agency was located on the Missouri River where the free flowing whiskey trade caused Spotted Tail to insist upon relocating the Agency away from accessible river traffic. The Agency first located on the White River near the Nebraska-Dakota border, then moved to Beaver Creek in northwestern Nebraska. A year later, it was moved to the site of the old Ponca Agency on the Missouri River above Yankton. It finally located on Rosebud Creek, in 1878, near its junction with the south fork of the White River.
Chief Milk (an Oglala) and his band were the first to settle on the Rosebud, making their home north of Bonesteel. Swift Bear followed and eventually settled south of Burke on Ponca Creek. Later Medicine Bull settled south of the White River; Good Voice established his band at Oak Creek; Quick Bear, Red Fish, and Red Leaf located in the Norris area, with Red Leaf later moving north of Burke. Other prominent headmen at Rosebud were He Dog, Two Strike, Hollow Horn Bear, Ring Thunder, Stranger Horse, and Yellow Hair.
Today the Rosebud Reservation is situated north of the Nebraska border in central South Dakota in Todd County. It has a land base of 882,416 acres. U. S. Congressman Ben Reifel and nationally renowned opera singer, White Eagle, were Rosebud tribal members.
(See also Flandreau Agency above and Yankton Agency below)
(See also Santee Agency and Devil’s Lake Agency above)
Established in 1867 for the Upper Agency Santee bands of the Sissetons and Wahpetons, this agency was located on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota in present-day Roberts County. The agency was first assigned to an agent in Minnesota until, in 1869, it was assigned to the Dakota Superintendency.
Chiefs of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands prior to the 1862 Minnesota uprising included: Sisseton--Waanatan, Sweet Corn, Standing Buffalo, Scarlet Plume, White Lodge, and Lean Bear; Wapheton--Inkpa, Extended Tail Feathers, Spirit Walker, Sleepy Eyes, Iron Walker, Red Iron, Cloudman, Simon, Running Walker, Inihan, John Other Day, and Akipa. In 1874, after being located on Lake Traverse Reservation, the federal government recognized Gabriel Renville as the head chief of the people residing there.
Today the Sisseton Reservation is considered an "open reservation" because its’ 106,153 acres are not located on a consolidated land base. For this reason the reservation is not displayed on state maps. Paul War Cloud is a noted contemporary artist from the Sisseton Reservation.
(See also Rosebud Agency above and Whetstone Agency below)
Spotted Tail Agency, established in 1874, succeeded Whetstone Agency, which had replaced the Upper Platte Agency in supervising the Sicangu Lakota under Chief Spotted Tail as well as some Sans Arcs, Oglala, Hunkpapa, and Miniconjou people. In 1878 the agency moved to Rosebud Creek and was renamed Rosebud Agency.
(See also Grand River Agency above)
Located on the west bank of the Missouri River near Fort Yates, Dakota Territory, this agency succeeded the Grand River Agency established in 1869. In 1874 the Agency was renamed Standing Rock and served bands of both Upper and Lower Yanktonai, Cutheads, Hunkpapa, and Blackfeet.
Influential headmen for these groups included: Yanktonai--Two Bears and Black Eyes; Cut Heads--All Over Black; Blackfeet--The Grass; Hunkpapa--Sitting Bull, Four Horn, Iron Dog, Slave, Little Knife, Gall, Rain-in-the-Face, and Red Horn.
Today the Standing Rock Reservation is located in both North and South Dakota. Its’ 562,366 acre land base is mainly found in Corson County in South Dakota. A monument to Sitting Bull is located at his grave in the southeast corner of the reservation. Contemporary scholars Patricia Locke (educator) and Beatrice Medicine (anthropologist) are from the Standing Rock Reservation.
(See also Crow Creek Agency above)
Established in 1819 this agency was first responsible for any tribes along the Missouri River. In 1836 the agency became responsible for the Sioux, Ponca and Cheyenne people on the upper Missouri. In 1866 the agency was permanently located near Crow Creek on the Missouri in Dakota. Jurisdiction was restricted to the Lower Yanktonai and Sicangu living close by and the name was changed to Crow Creek Agency in 1874.
In 1846 this agency was established to oversee the area of the upper Arkansas River and the upper Platte. In 1855 the agency became responsible for Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho and the Oglala and Sicangu Lakotas. The agency headquarters were located near Fort Laramie in eastern Wyoming and North Platte, Nebraska before they settled at the mouth of Whetstone Creek on the Missouri River. In 1869 the agency was renamed Whetstone and was primarily responsible for the people of Spotted Tail’s band as well as other Sicangu, Oglala, and Miniconjou Lakotas. Oglalas under Red Cloud and others living near Fort Laramie not attached to another agency remained under this agency until 1871, when it was discontinued.
(See also Spotted Tail, Rosebud and Upper Platte Agencies above)
Succeeding the Upper Platte Agency in 1868, this agency was primarily responsible for the Sicangu people in Spotted Tail’s band. From 1871-1875 the agency was located on the White River near the Dakota-Nebraska border. In 1874 the agency was renamed Spotted Tail Agency.
(See also Santee Agency above)
This Agency, often spelled "Yancton," was created in 1859 for the Yankton people. Agency headquarters were located on the Missouri River near Greenwood in present day Charles Mix County in South Dakota. The Yankton agent was in charge of the Santee Agency from April, 1877 through June, 1878.
Headmen included Struck-by-the-Ree, Mad Bull, White Swan, War Eagle, Black Eagle, Pretty Rock, and Feather-in-his-ear (Feather Necklace), Smutty Bear, Iron Bear, Medicine Cow, Jumping Thunder, The Left Hand or Crazy Walker, and Walking Elk.
Like the Sisseton Reservation, the Yankton Reservation land base was lost as a direct result of the Dawes Allotment Act. Seventy-five percent of the Indians who received fee patents sold their land and spent the proceeds. It too is now considered an "open reservation" because the land base is not consolidated.
Today the 40,000 acres of tribal land are located on the east bank of the Missouri River in southeastern South Dakota in Charles Mix County. Fort Randall Dam and Fort Randall Chapel are popular tourist attractions.