Fort Robinson

The Cook Collection and its connection to Sioux Chief Red Cloud at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument mentioned in my previous post served as the perfect transition to and preparation for our next stop, Fort Robinson State Park. Located in the ruggedly beautiful Pine Ridge landscape of northern Nebraska, close to South Dakota, it was the site of momentous events that determined the fate of several Plains Indian tribes.

Fort Robinson was established in 1874 and served multiple functions until 1947. It played a major role in the era of the “Indian Wars” of the late 1870s, and the ensuing banishment of regional tribes onto totally inadequate reservations – the sad reality repeated time and again all across the country. As was typical, the fort was established near an Indian Agency, in this case, the Red Cloud Agency. Agencies were supposed to provide food and additional supplies to Native Americans who had “agreed” to cede their land to the US Government, or to exchange it for land considered less valuable, until something of value was discovered. This befell several Sioux (Lakota) groups, who had been guaranteed possession of the Black Hills in South Dakota, in a treaty. Like most other treaties, this one was broken after the discovery of gold, and the Lakota rose up in defense of their land and way of life, fighting bloody and bitter battles, until they were outnumbered and outweaponed.

When the combined forces of multiple native tribes defeated General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry in the Battle of the Greasy Grass, as it was called among Indigenous peoples, but more commonly referred to as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, on June 25, 1876, Crazy Horse, among the best-known leaders of the Oglala Sioux, became one of the most-hated and sought-after men. Custer was considered a national hero since the American Civil War and his death contributed to the resolve to deal with the “Indian question” once and for all. Following loss of land and bison, the center around which the Plains tribes’ life revolved, Crazy Horse eventually surrendered in 1877. Though he was guaranteed safe keeping, he was instead stabbed to death at Fort Robinson in a sequence of events that has sparked a heated debate to this day.

A few years later, in 1879, a group of Northern Cheyenne, attempting to return to their homeland in Montana Territory, were imprisoned at Fort Robinson, after fleeing from a reservation in “Indian Territory” (present-day Oklahoma), where they had been deported. When they were threatened with transport back, they attempted to flee, thinking it better to die near home than to live in a strange, inhospitable place. And die they did, as the text on a number of commemorative plaques reminded us.

Compared to the ugliness of humans’ actions against fellow humans, the area’s natural beauty stood in stark contrast. The rocky splendor of the Pine Ridge, the lush vegetation, the various animals in the vicinity, including a herd of 150 reintroduced bison, seemed somewhat surreal in the context of the region’s tumultuous history.

After several days of inclement weather the sun showed again, and we slept in the tent without the risk of getting soaked, having the primitive camping area adjacent to the developed campground basically to ourselves. Very near to where Crazy Horse was murdered, and where the Cheyenne Outbreak started, we breathed the same air and gazed at the same stars as the First Americans, whose spirits are said to linger in their native lands.

25 thoughts on “Fort Robinson

  1. Dear Tanja,

    I appreciate your sensitive and decent approach to the history of this wonderful place. As mentioned once I have never been to the US, but seeing this great nature I should consider to go hiking in the United States in the future. Thank you very much – I really enjoy your posts!

    Regards from Frankfurt/Germany

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I truly hope…that someday, we earn, and then, deserve,
    the right to live in this grand and beautiful land we call America.

    Great shots, Tanja! You make me long for more car trips.
    Nebraska holds a broad expanse of ever-changing landscapes.
    We are so fortunate. Thank you for sharing the trip! Kudos 🙂 UT

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A very sad era in America’s history.
    In some ways not dissimilar to our Australian indigenous people.

    Wonderful landscape all the same, especially that enormous rocky outcrop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Vicki.
      Same European “conquerors”, same attitudes toward the native people everywhere, I am afraid. We came, looked at the land, and decided it was ours. It was wrong, and still is, but somehow we have justified it all.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ich versuche mir immer vorzustellen, wie es war, in dieser unglaublichen Natur vor der Ankunft der Europäer gelebt zu haben, und wie ich mich gefühlt hätte, wenn mir plötzlich jemand gesagt hätte, ich müsste weg!
      Diese Geschichte lastet noch immer auf dem Land.
      Sei herzlich gegrüßt,


    • I like that notion, too, Christa. The same is said about the ancestral Puebloans in the Four Corners region, and there are some wonderful paintings and videos that show shadows of the ancients coexisting next to modern-day society.
      Thank you much,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tanja- As always, you have such beautiful photos. I enjoyed your telling of the story of the Northern Cheyenne. I have a friend who is Northern Cheyenne and I shared your post with him. He said you did a good job also. Take care my dear friend. -Jill

    Liked by 1 person

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