Right to Left: Tiffany, Amy, Amanda.


Below are some examples of specific inquiries CAIRNS is currently pursuing in its research. Research questions are sometimes broad enough to support an independent product or seminar topic, and are sometimes focused inquiries that provide context or evidence for a single point in a particular presentation.

Who Murdered the Amidons?

Local lore tells of the murder of a judge and his son near Sioux Falls in 1862, at the onset of the Dakota War. A common belief is that Dakotas killed these two men; what primary evidence supports this belief? Does any refute it?

Free Homes in South Dakota?

An 1890 advertisement, displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, seems to offer free homes to entice immigrants to move to South Dakota. What law authorized free homes to be given out? How many free homes were given? Who received these free homes?

Where is Sitting Bull’s Cabin?

Three years after Sitting Bull was killed outside its front door, his cabin was on display at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. How did it get from Standing Rock Reservation to the Promenade at the 1893 World’s Fair? Who owned it? Where did it go after the Fair ended? Where is it now?


Detail of advertisement from the Commissioner of Immigration, 1890 (from http://brbl-zoom.library.yale.edu/viewer/1033998)


Historic marker at the site of the murder

Below top:

Photograph of Sitting Bull’s Cabin, ca. 1890 (retrieved 4 June 2015 from Cowan’s Auctions)

Below bottom:

Photograph of Sitting Bull’s Cabin, ca. 1893 (image excerpt retrieved 27 April 2017 from Heritage Auctions)  


Photograph of the Inestimable Gift Cemetary entrance, near Allen, SD, 2007

The Story of Inestimable Gift

CAIRNS is part of an ongoing community effort to maintain and restore this cemetery near Allen, South Dakota in Pine Ridge Reservation. In addition, CAIRNS is photographically documenting the names and dates of those interred there. Many individuals and groups from the surrounding community and beyond have invested a lot in the maintenance of this historical place. To complement the continuing and long-term effort of physical upkeep, CAIRNS will also develop a history of the cemetery that includes the names of the interred, the story of the cemetery’s establishment, and a map for visitors. CAIRNS was first involved in the physical component of this work in 2007, when Jared Hicks, a descendent of Rev. Amos Ross, the Santee missionary who established the original Episcopal church, chose the restoration of the Inestimable Gift Cemetery for his Eagle Scout community service project. The cemetery is active, with new burials each year. CAIRNS is honored to contribute to this community effort that exemplifies the 4 Rs of CAIRNS methodology.

Where is the Black Hills Money?

In 1980, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Court of Claims ruling that the Sioux Nation be compensated for the U.S. taking of Lakota lands in 1877. The lands that were taken, including the Black Hills, were set aside explicitly for the Lakotas in the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. Today, it is well reported that no tribe has accepted the awarded money for the lands, and that allegedly the amount awarded continues to accrue interest. But where is the money? What happens to a money judgment after a claim by a group of tribes is won? Is it in an actual bank account, accruing interest? If so, where and at what rate? If not, is it just a hypothetical sum? It is said there are eight tribes that constitute the “Sioux Nation” party to this case, but which tribes are they? What process would they undergo to access the money?

Above: Lakota lands defined in the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty (light grey); Lakota lands defined in the 1877 Act (white); The Black Hills (topographical outline).