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United States v. Sioux Nation

United States Supreme Court
448 U.S. 371 (1980)


In 1868, the Sioux Nation (Sioux) (plaintiff) signed the Fort Laramie Treaty with the United States (defendant). The Sioux agreed to give up certain lands but retained the right to the Great Sioux Reservation, which included the Black Hills. In the late 1880s, many people began to believe that the Black Hills contained large quantities of gold and silver that could be mined, and white settlers began to attempt to settle in the Black Hills area. To avoid conflict, the United States sought to buy the Black Hills from the Sioux. After the Sioux refused an initial low offer for the land, the government engaged in a campaign against the Sioux, including taking away their weapons and horses. Eventually, the United States convinced the Sioux leaders to sign an 1876 treaty giving up the Black Hills in exchange for continued subsistence rations from the government. The Sioux had become dependent on the rations because the government had taken away their ability to hunt. Although the Sioux leaders signed the treaty, many of the Sioux considered the treaty, as well as the 1877 Act that enacted the treaty, to be illegitimate. The Sioux spent many years attempting to sue the United States for just compensation for the land that was taken. Eventually, the Indian Claims Commission heard the case and held that the 1877 Act was a taking of Sioux land. The court of claims affirmed, holding that the Sioux were entitled to an award of $17.1 million plus interest. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

Dissent (Rehnquist, J.)

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