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First Attractions in Unorganized Territory

Canvas, wood, liquid crystal projector, video projection of media from Cuyahoga Mine, South Dakota, and 1874 map. 

7’ x 7’ x 9’


The Black Hills of South Dakota is unceded territory of the Sioux Nation, Oceti Sakowin, under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and affirmed in Supreme Court Case: United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371 (1980).  In the summer of 1874 General George Armstrong Custer, 900 fighting men, two guides, four scientists, two engineers, a photographer, and two miners entered the Black Hills, under the auspices of establishing a location for a new fort. The expedition would also examine the Black Hills from a scientific perspective, particularly the geology.  The US was in an economic depression and looking for more sources of gold.  Overblown news of gold found on the mission at French Creek resulted in illegal occupancy of the treaty territory by settlers as soon as December 1874.  The travel logs of white female settlers helped to soften and facilitate this imperial move into the Black Hills, including those of Annie Tallent, “the first white woman in the black hills” and Elizabeth “Libbie” Custer, who dedicated her life after her husband’s death to affirming him as a “boy’s hero” and martyr of the US project of Manifest Destiny.

Map of a reconnaissance of the Black Hills, July and August, 1874, with troops under command of Lt. Col. G.A. Custer, 7th Cavalry

I think more lands have been lost [by] native peoples probably through mapping than through physical conflict.


--Jim Enote

Traditional Zuni farmer and director of A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Cultural Center

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