Educator Resources

Sioux Treaty of 1868

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 4 -Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • Standard 1B -Demonstrate understanding of federal and state Indian policy and the strategies for survival forged by Native Americans.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard III.A.1. -Explain how the U.S. Constitution grants and distributes power to national and state government and how it seeks to prevent the abuse of power.

Constitutional Connection

  • This lesson relates to the power granted to the president and the Senate in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, of the U.S. Constitution, the power to make treaties with foreign nations.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history, language arts, and government colleagues.



  1. Before beginning document analysis, display the picture of Spotted Tail (photo citation number 111-SC-82538) and ask students to comment. Students may use the Photograph Analysis Worksheet developed by the National Archives education staff. Ask them what they can infer from the photograph. Responses may include comments about his posture and the way he is dressed. They may infer that he must be a person of some importance or that he looks serious, almost regal in his posture. Explain to students that this is a picture of a Brulé Sioux chief named Spotted Tail. Ask students to speculate what his duties as chief might include. Responses should include ensuring the care and safety of his people, finding good hunting grounds, and signing treaties with the white man.


  1. Provide students with background information about the Sioux and their lives in the Black Hills before 1868; or, as a homework assignment prior to this lesson, ask students to research the life and history of the Sioux and report their findings to the class.

Document Analysis

  1. Divide students into small groups. Photocopy the Treaty with the Sioux at Fort Laramie in 1868, and provide one set to each group, with a copy of the Written Document Analysis Worksheet developed by the National Archives education staff. Ask students to complete the analysis and share their findings with the class. This activity can also be conducted in a computer lab where groups would locate the document and worksheet on line.
  2. Ask students to read through the document again and then to identify the terms agreed to by the chiefs and headmen and the terms agreed to by the agents of the United States. Lead a class discussion using the following questions: What does each side gain or lose in this treaty? Ask them to compare the signatures of the U.S. government agents and the chiefs. What is the significance of the two names of each chief or headman? What might this suggest about cultural differences between the two parties? What types of problems could these differences create? Finally, ask students to speculate on what each party hoped to accomplish through this treaty.

Role Playing

  1. Students may want to speculate how such treaty negotiations would be different today. Divide the class into small groups representing either the U.S. government agents or the Indian chiefs and headmen. Ask each group to decide five key points they would emphasize in their treaty negotiations, and then instruct groups to negotiate their treaties. Once the treaties are negotiated, written, and signed, display them around the classroom for students to view. Conclude with a class discussion on the process of treaty negotiations and the difficulties encountered.

Creative Writing

  1. As a creative writing activity ask students to write the speech they think Spotted Tail would give to his people explaining the treaty signing and terms of agreement. Ask for volunteers to present their speeches to the rest of the class.
  2. Write the following quote from Spotted Tail and the date on the board: "This war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land from us without price." December 26, 1876. Ask a student to read the quote and the date of the quote to the class. Ask students to write a paragraph explaining what this quote might suggest as to what the future held for Spotted Tail, his people, and the other chiefs who signed the treaty in 1868.

Research and Analysis

  1. Ask students to write an editorial for a newspaper following the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 taking the perspective of either the U.S. government or the Sioux.
  2. Divide students into two groups. Assign one group to review Alfred Terry's telegram reporting on the Battle of Little Bighorn. Ask the other group to review the accounts of seven Sioux on the Battle of Little Bighorn. Each group should share their findings and then answer these questions: How are the accounts similar? How are they different? What do these reports say about General Custer's orders and his actions? Ask students to suggest reasons for the differences in the reports, determine which is more reliable, and consider what decisions they would have to make as historians when reviewing these documents.
  3. In 1990 House bill H.R. 4660 proposed Custer Battlefield be renamed the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and a memorial to the Indians be erected at the site. There was a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado testified, as did representatives of the National Park Service and several people speaking on behalf of the Indian tribes and the Morning Star Foundation. The bill was approved on December 10, 1991, and became Public Law 102-201. Most of the major newspapers printed articles or editorials about this in 1991. They are a good source of the pro and con arguments on this change. You may want students to research this event and then create a readers' theater or a reenactment of the hearings. Students may also want to locate the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument web page, which is part of the National Park Service's home page.

The documents included in this project are from Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers; Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, and Record Group 393, Records of United States Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920.

They are available online through the National Archives Catalog, National Archives Identifiers:


Selected photographs of Custer's 1874 Expedition are also available in the National Archives Catalog. The National Archives Identifiers in the National Archives Catalog are:


The National Archives Catalog replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.

The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the National Archives Catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.

Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the National Archives Catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the National Archives Catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the National Archives Catalog will grow continually.

The 1868 treaty is also featured in the online American Originals Exhibit.

This article was written by Linda Darus Clark, a teacher at Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio.


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