Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Homeland of the Lakota
All My Relations
Camp Life & Seasonal Round
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Arts and Artists
Tribal Government
Tribal Colleges
Self-Determination and Sovereignty
Recommended Web Sites and Bibliography

  Relationship with the U.S.
  Fur Trade
Making Treaties
The Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

Site of Fort Pierre near Pierre, South Dakota. Alice M. Cornell. 1997

Mouth of the Bad River, South Dakota.
Alice M. Cornell. 1997.
Map Series
1806- Clark, William and Lewis, Meriwether Map of Part of the Continent of North America from Moulton, Gary E., Editor Atlas of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press,198
1843- Abert, Col. J.J., w/ observations by J.N. Nicollet and J.C. Fremont
Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Division of Maps
1876- Raynolds, Capt. William F. (1859-60 survey) with additions by Maj. Gillespie, Walter M. Camp, and Brig. General William C. Brown, Ret.
Map of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers and their Tributaries
Courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society - State Archives
1884- Cram, Geo. F. Dakota
Courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society- State Archives

Lieut. G. K. Warren describes the different bands of the Sioux in 1857. Preliminary report of Explorations in Nebraska and Dakota,in the years 1855-'56-'57 Washington gov't Printing Office, reprint 1875


Pierre > Culture > Fur Trade
Fort Pierre. Plate 85. George Catlin. The Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indian. London, 1892. Archives & Rare Books Department, University of Cincinnati; Copyright, University of Cincinnati Digital Press.

The bands of the Sioux were moving westward through the 1700's, under pressure from their Cree and Chippewa enemies who had acquired firearms. The Brule Sioux had their first horses by 1710. Early European contact and trade with the eastern bands brought new trade goods to the spring and summer trading camps between the bands.

The movement to the Missouri and acquisition of horses proceeded over the next 50 years, pushing the Omaha's south from the James River valley, trading and fighting with the Arikara along the Missouri, and the Teton Lakota bands crossing the Missouri during the 2nd half of the 18th century. American Horse's winter count of 1775-76 includes the first known mention of the Black Hills" (Cash: 1971).

.The various bands of the Sioux gathered for spring trade fairs along the James River, where goods traded and produced throughout the year were exchanged. Firearms, kettles, cloth and other goods from the French and British traders acquired by the eastern bands were traded to the western bands in exchange for horses, buffalo hides for lodges, and other goods from the west. Lewis and Clark's map of 1806 has this notation along the James River: "On this river the Sioux meet every Spring to exchange with each other, and the white traders who visit them" (Moulton: 1983).

The Teton Lakota were excellent horsemen, traders, and warriors, and dominated the Northern Plains by the 19th century.

St. Louis, established in 1764 at the mouth of the Missouri, grew rapidly to a population of 500, and was just under a thousand by 1799. Established as a trading post, it served as a launch and supply depot for traders. The French and Spanish traded up the Missouri River from there, making their way north to the Mandan villages in 1794.

Regis Loisel built Fort aux Cedres at Cedar Island in 1802, and traded with the Brule there during the winter of 1804. Hugh Heney traded with Oglala and northern Tetons near the mouth of the Cheyenne that same winter(DeMallie: 2001).

Fort Pierre

Fort Pierre was established at the mouth of the Bad River by the American Fur Company in 1831. It was a trading post and remained so until 1855.

Maximilian gives a lively description of Fort Pierre and its surroundings in 1832:

"Fort Pierre is one of the most considerable settlements of the Fur Company upen the Missouri, and forms a large quadrangle, surrounded by high pickets...At the north-east and south-west corners there are block-houses, with embrasures, the fire of which commands the curtain; the upper story is adapted for small arms, and the lower for some cannon; each side of the quadrangle is 108 paces in length; the front and back, each 114 paces, the inner space eighty-seven paces in diameter. From the roof of the block-houses, which is surrounded with a gallery, there is a fine prospect over the prairie; and there is a flag-staff on the roof, on which the colors are hoisted. The timber for this fort was felled from forty to sixty miles up the river, and floated down, because none fit for the purpose was to be had in the neighborhood... The fort has two large doors, opposite each other, which are shut in the evening... Indians, on foot and on horseback, were scattered all over the plain, and their singular stages for the dead were in great numbers near the fort; immediately behind which, the leather tents of the Sioux Indians, of the branches of the Tetons and the Yanktons, stood, like a little village; among them the most distinguished was the tent of the old interpreter, Dorion a half Sioux, who is mentioned by many travelers, and resides here with his Indian family. This tent was large, and painted red; at the top of the poles composing it some scalps fluttered in the wind " (Wheeler: 1904).

Jesuit Nicolas Point drew these images of Fort Pierre and the farm below, on his steamboat journey down the Missouri in 1847.


Fort Pierre,
by Nicolas Point in 1847,
courtesy of Loyola Press (Point: 1967)


Inside Fort Piere,
by Nicolas Point in 1847,
courtesy of Loyola Press (Point: 1967)
Farm near Fort Pierre,
by Nicolas Point in 1847,
courtesy of Loyola Press (Point: 1967)

Nathaniel Wyeth, who made a trip down the Missouri in 1833, gave a good description of the garden at Fort Pierre:
"[Sept.] 9th. Remained at the fort until about 1 ock. when we made by pulling 2 hours an island 9 miles below the fort on which the Co. have about 15 acres of ground under cultivation here I remained all this day eating and drinking of the good things afforded by the earth and the cellars of the Co. Found cucumbers water & musk mellons beets carrots potatoes onions corn and a good cabin and the Company of Mr. Laidlow and Doct" (Mattison:1961).

Ogallallah in 1835
Early trip through Ogallallah country
Portion of 1838 Map of Oregon Territory
by Samuel Parker
In 1834, the first immigrants started west up the Platte River route, heading for the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia. The following year Rev. Samuel Parker traveled this route which would become known as the Oregon Trail. A portion of his map accompanies this excerpt from his journal.
July 24th, 1835, while camped along the Platte River, en route toward the Black Hills, Samuel Parker's party was alarmed by:

"Some thirty or forty Indians coming on horseback at full speed. We had not more than half secured our animals and prepared for defence, when the Indians were close upon us; whether friends or foes we could not tell, until they were nearly within rifle shot, when, according to the customary expression of friendship, they fired their guns into the air, and then rushed into our camp, and exchanged salutations of peace. They were Ogallallahs, headed by eight of their chiefs, clad in their war habiliments, and presenting somewhat of a terrific appearance. The chiefs dined with us, and were very talkative among themselves; for, not having any good interpreter, we could not join in conversation with them. Every thing, however, went on pleasantly, and to mutual satisfaction. They told us their whole village was only a few hours travel ahead of us, going to the Black Hills for the purpose of trading...

"..25th Thermometer 92. Towards evening, we came to the main village of the Ogallallahs, consisting of more Than two thousand persons. These villages are not stationary, but move from place to place, as inclination or convenience may dictate. Their lodges are comfortable, and easily transported...These are the finest looking Indians I have ever seen...they came around us in multitudes, and manifested great curiosity to see whatever we had. I did not know why, but my boots were particularly examined; probably they had never seen any before, as moccasons are worn, not only by Indians, but also by traders and hunters.

"Sabbath, 26th. The caravan moved on a little way to the crossing place of the Platte, near Larama's fork in the Black Hills, and encamped for the day. This gave us an opportunity for reading and devotion. Some of the Ogallallahs came to my tent while I was reading the bible,.....I sung a hymn, which greatly interested them. They took me by the hand, and the expression of their countenance seemed to say, we want to know what all this means.
"On the 29th, the Ogallallah Indians who accompanied us, had a buffalo and a dog dance, the real object of which I could not satisfactorily ascertain...In the buffalo dance, a large number of young men, dressed with the skins of the neck and head of buffalos with their horns on, moved round in a dancing march. /they shook their heads, imitated the low bellowing of the buffalo, wheeled, and jumped. At the same time men and women sung a song, accompanied with the beating of a sort of drum.

"These Indians appear not only friendly to white men, but kind in their intercourse with each other, and in no instance did I witness any quarrels among them. Their minds are uncommonly gifted and noble, their persons are finely formed, and many of them are truly 'nature's grenadiers.' The women are graceful, and their voices are soft and expressive. I was agreeably surprised to see tall young chiefs, well dressed in their own mode, walking arm in arm with their ladies. This is what I had not expected to see among those whom we term 'savages'. It is true that they are heathen in all the guilt of sin and destitute of the knowledge of God, and the hopes of the gospel, but in politeness and decency, as well as in many other respects, they are very unlike the frontier Indians, who have been corrupted and degraded by their acquaintance with ardent spirits, and wicked white men" (Parker: 1842).

Background: Ft. Pierre, lithograph from watercolor by Frederick Behman.
Courtesy of S. Dakota State Historical Society - State Archives