[South Dakota] The Black Hills Gold Rush – by John Matuszak (Kelly Collectors – August 31, 2020)

Deadwood, South Dakota (Wiki Image)

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Fans of the television series Deadwood will be somewhat familiar with the Black Hills Gold Rush. It is this gold rush that forms the background of the television series. Indeed, it is one of the more transformative events in American history, despite being somewhat lesser-known.

There were rumors of gold in the Black Hills region in the early years of the 19th Century. Sioux Indians were rumored to have been mining gold in the region as early as 1860. However, there was one small thing preventing Americans from mining gold in the region: the Treaty of Fort Laramie, which recognized the land as belonging to the Sioux.

There is another point of law that is relevant to the Black Hills Gold Rush: The General Mining Act of 1872. This allows Americans to mine for minerals anywhere on federal land. The problem, for American prospectors, is that none of the land in the Black Hills was federal land — it belonged to the Sioux.

Americans Find Gold on Indian LandGold Rush

In 1874, a deposit was found near present-day Custer, South Dakota. However, these were small deposits. Larger ones were found in November 1875. It was in 1876 that prospectors began to flood the region in violation of the treaty with the Sioux. To make matters worse, this wasn’t just any land to the Sioux — the Black Hills were considered sacred.

The first significant arrivals to the region were a force of 1,000 men led by George Armstrong Custer. They were investigating claims of gold in the region which, again, was in violation of the treaty. Small amounts were found, but the troop kept scouting, looking for larger deposits.

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