Northern Plains Reservation Aid (formerly American Indian Relief Council)
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Tribes that now live on the Northern Plains originally spanned an area from the Great Lakes in the north, to western Montana, and as far south and east as the lower Mississippi. These tribes hunted, fished and farmed. Beginning in the 1700s, many of these tribes acquired horses. This new mobility allowed them to become nomadic, and several tribes began following the buffalo herds of the Northern Plains.

Increasing encounters with white explorers, miners and settlers in the early 1800s introduced alcohol and disease to the Native people. A series of smallpox epidemics during this time dealt a heavy blow to many tribes nearly wiping out entire tribes. With dramatically fewer numbers, these tribes were more susceptible to pressure from the white settlers heading west during the Gold Rush of 1849. Mounting friction between the Indian people and expansionist, white settlers pushed the Native Americans out of their traditional lands and led to the first Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851.

This agreement did not relieve the pressure the Indians felt from the steady influx of white settlers and another Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed in 1868. This second treaty, part of the United States government’s policy of removing the Indians from their traditional lands, forced the Indians to cede large tracts of their lands to the U.S. and assigned all Native Americans to reservations. Removed from their traditional extended family structure and nomadic hunting ways, the Indian people were made to rely on the government for their basic needs. Sadly, these needs -- shelter, food, healthcare, and employment -- have never been adequately met.

To learn more about the reservations AIRC serves, please refer to the individual states listed on the left side of this page or below. How can I help?

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