Treaty Lands

Signing a treaty with the United States government established an American Indian tribe as a unique group: a sovereign political entity. Because of this, American Indians are not a racial, ethnic, cultural, or minority group in the United States. Treaties are the supreme law of the land, as defined in the U.S. constitution, and were among the most important formative factors in the history of the state of South Dakota and today’s reservations. Lands described in treaty language accounted for all of the land in what is today South Dakota, which is illustrated in our Reservations in South Dakota poster you can see here. Understanding the context for when and how lands were reserved for tribal use or ceded to the federal government is a crucial step in studying and working with American Indian topics.


“Treaty Lands in South Dakota, 1851-1868,” from Reservations in South Dakota, 2013.

Left: Detail of Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868. From