A short history of the UNA
Part One: the war for the Native land
The United Nations of America, as they are known in the English North American writings, are presently one of the richest and most developed countries in the world; and they enjoy what is probably the best environmental quality in the present world.
Their present day population is usually estimated over 30 millions, a spectacular growth given that, at the moment of the Laramie Peace, the seventy three Nations altogether hardly reached half a three hundred thousand people and the Whites in the territory were probably less or equal than that number. Of course, immigration has given an important boost to the growth, as the native Americans subjugated by the Whites had been allowed to settle freely in the UNA; the Delaware, Seminoles, Tuscarora and Iroquois were the most important of them. In West Kansas and in some major cities, a relevant number of educated Blacks escaping white discrimination in Southern USA also settled in the UNA, and a small number of Whites was allowed within the Unions borders even after the Laramie Peace. More recently, Asians have settled some urban areas along the West Coast.
The Sioux nation, especially the Lakota/Teton group, has been the animating force leading to the constitution of the UNA, under the enlightened and wise leadership of its prominent chief, Red Cloud of the Oglala tribe. In 1867, after the Powder War he wisely acknowledged that the native American nations would have been destroyed and dispossessed by the overwhelming power of the whites unless they overcame internal divisions and united against them. There was an operating coalition yet coordinating the Teton Dakotas, Cheyenne, Comanche and some smaller nations, and which would be soon joined by the Kiowa.
These were fighting against the whites and, at the same time, against other Native nations, the Pawnee, Siksika and Ute being the foremost of them. But when, soon after that Red Cloud visited the White capital of Washington and signed a treaty with the Whites there, a large Piegan Blackfeet village was destroyed by the Whites not far from the Teton area that Red Cloud had kept in the Powder war. Red Cloud, advised by his young and brave warrior Crazy Horse, decided to send legates to the Piegan and even the hated Pawnee, offering a defensive alliance. Note that the Pawnee had often supported the Whites in their wars against the much more powerful Lakota.
Red Cloud did know that, further South, the allied Cheyenne had been almost exterminated at Sand Creek in 1864, and started to think that the White strategy was outright genocidal. In 1869, while the Whites completed their ephemeral Continental railway, the leaders of the Nez Percés, Siksika, Aravaipa Apache, Osage, Omaha, Pawnee, Dakota, Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Arikara, Paiute, and several others minor nations joined the allied Natives north of the Laramie trading post, and all together took a tremendous oath to defend Native lands against the Whites at all cost. The news of the massacres at Washita and Summit Springs, actually, forced this outcome, but the alliance took place too late to save most of the Black Kettle’s group of Cheyenne.
It was Crazy Horse that had envisaged the fate of the Natives if they wouldn’t unite and fight. The council of Laramie posed the basis of the Independence War, which broke out in 1870, when the Whites reopened the most deprecated Bozeman trail through the Ogallala territory. All the allied nations of Laramie were informed of that as soon as possible. Warriors from far away lands such as Nez Percés and Paiute were deployed along the Yellowstone, Powder and Bighorn rivers, in four concentration of military villages of 7,000/10.000 fighters each. Teton and Cheyenne allowed the women to fight, as they lacked manpower and were heading towards a total war. Some nations, mostly agricultural ones, did supply Lakota, Cheyenne, Comanche and Pawnee fighting forces with food and facilities, lacking men to form their own. The Apache, isolated in the south with the less confident ally, the Navajo, pursued a guerilla in the hope of draining White troops from the main fighting theatre, with no more than a loose coordination with northerly groups. The years 1870-1872 saw little more than scattered engagements between both sides advances groups, assaults at Whites farms deep into Native controlled areas, and destruction of Native villages. Meanwhile, the White Americans were becoming aware of the hugeness and solidity of the Native alliance, and by 1872 the had realized that this war wasn’t simply a Native nation revolt or resistance, but an outright, coordinated revolt in all-out defense of the land. Native scouts among the USA army were often deserting and joining the Allied camps with precious information.
On the other side, the Alliance was taking a more advanced and structured form. By 1873, Natives had a joint operational command and somewhat a hierarchical command line, an information service operating behind the enemy lines (something their enemies mostly lacked) and embryonic specialized corps in the army for cavalry, gunned infantry, archery, scouts and sabotage patrols, especially charged with damaging the railways. The wise Hunkpapa Lakota warrior Sitting Bull had correctly understood that killing buffaloes was part of the White strategy the lead natives to hunger, and formed a specialized corps to kill White buffalo hunters. A kind of political joint structure was also existing in 1873, with a permanent council of prominent warrior leaders or chief, under the principle that each nation should have from one to seven representatives accordingly with its military and supply capability, a rotating president, and two elected commanders in chief (one for the Army, and another for "civilian" matters). In 1873, the Native military was ready for a planned campaign of two or three years, and warriors from many nations started to support the advanced Comanche and Apache forces. However, that was the White side to take the initiative. General Sherman, famous for its performance in the USCW and in the previous wars against Comanche and Cheyenne, was sent with a force of 1700 whites in the area among Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming territories and Dakota reservations, to intercept what seemed to be a huge concentration of Pawnee and Omaha warlike men. The Whites were actually still unaware or disbelieving about the operating alliance between Pawnee and Lakotas, which had been kept in secrecy by the leaders of both nations, partly because of a lack of confidence. General Custer was sent further north along the Yellowstone river to get rid of Lakota renewed military activity. None of the two expected enemy forces as large and well organized as they actually met. The battle fought near Denver saw the intervention of the large infantry force of the Ute under Chief Ouray, coming in relief of the Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho military settlement targeted by Sherman. The result was, after a six day fighting, the almost total annihilation of Sherman’s army, which was also, for the first time, pursued by the winners. Only 127 US soldiers out of 1700, exhausted, reached Topeka to tell the story.
This defeat created both consternation in Washington and enthusiasm in the Native council. Custer wasn’t able to contact the enemy and faced only minor engagements, after reaching Fort Laramie to pass the winter. The council reunited for a winter session at Pine Ridge in South Dakota, while Ouray and his large army put siege on Denver itself. The situation seemed to be dim for the Whites, so that they assembled a much larger army under General Sheridan to relieve Denver and support Custer. It was too late. Denver fell to Ouray at honorable conditions on February 23, 1874. Its population was transferred westwards to Kansas and Texas, and any supply or weapon there captured by the natives. The same fate met a dozen lesser settlements nearby on the of Ouray army, plus three which refused surrender and were burnt to the ground. This was the situation when Ouray, half-heartedly following the instruction of the Council, entered Kansas. In the same time Custer left north, heading to Pine Ridge, unaware of the two Allied armies, one in his way, the other behind him. Finally, in June, he met the Pawnee and Crows; a great village of more than 5,000 warriors against his 1200. He underestimated the size of the enemy; but his error would have been of little importance, since Red Cloud with 2000 warriors more was on his trace. The battle, fought in the Bighorn Hills, saw no surviving men from Custer’s regiment. The tens who escaped the battle, were taken prisoners. A huge raid lead by Crazy Horse deep east of Missouri, with the destruction of three colonial towns and a US battalion, completed the difficult situation for the Whites.
At this point, with no information of entire regiment, another one yet destroyed for sure, the capital city of a territory in enemy hands, and union state being invaded, the US government started actually panicking. President Grant believed the brute force would all was need to bring those troublesome Indians to reason. Sheridan’s army was so enforced and its departure from Saint Louis delayed from May to August. It was quite a bad choice, because this meant another year of campaigning before retaking Denver, not to speak of Wyoming. But Washington couldn’t afford another defeat. Sheridan was put in chief of a 16.000 men strong army in Kansas to stop Ouray and his ally Roman Nose. Meanwhile, Fort Laramie had fallen to Red Cloud’s Tetons.
Still, most of Native leaders had not fully understood the historical position they had. None of them felt like the Founding Father of a newborn nation. Only a new wave of military leaders, especially Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, were somewhat foreseeing a future outside the USA. No Native leader, starting from Ouray and Roman Nose, saw the point in fighting to the last such an army as Sheridan’s, believing it was the time to seek a compromise with the Whites, and that furthering the struggle would just lead to suicide. It was the loose command structure of the Alliance that, for once, saved it.
Crazy Horse was the most determined Native leader and, alongside with Joseph of the Nez Percés, the most willing to fight. He had returned twice to Pine Ridge for talks in the council, but he did actually prefer leave talks to Red Cloud and Black Kettle; the latter, once the most pro-White Native Chief in the West, was now a bitter diehard. As the see of the Council was transferred to the captured Fort Laramie, in a much more secure position westwards, Crazy Horse moved further east instead, with a small force of 300 scattered between the Black Hills and the Missouri. Behind him, Red Cloud, Black Kettle, Joseph and other leader of tribes such as Arapaho, Pawnee, Piegan, Siksika, Crow, Yakima, Shoshone, Piute and Bannock, had more than 15.000 men gathered in their villages, from which they departed to raid and pillage White settlements and forts. Red Cloud’s strategy aimed at banishing settlements within a area ranging from the Plateau to Missouri and the Canadian Border, and the Platte river southwards, by concentrating superior forces in each engagement spite overall numerical inferiority . Crazy Horse had instead conceived a more aggressive and audacious way, aimed both at sparing troops (Red Cloud was having growing losses, and manpower was the only thing he couldn’t replace) and terrorizing the enemy. Crazy Horse’s raiding party did not control territory, but just attacked a position, shot at will and retired at the quickest pace; he often crossed the Missouri and the Platte, and was able to hold off a whole US brigade who tried, vainly, to catch him.
Captain Jack, leader of the Modoc nation in California, was similarly engaging an American army twenty times his own; spite his nation was not a member of the Alliance, a group of Shoshone and Bannock warriors had come in relief to him, unleashing the war deep into Oregon and raiding California. Klamath and Chinook nation so joined the Alliance and sent representatives to Fort Laramie; and even if the Northwestern front was a sideshow all the war long, it considerably drained US forces, especially after the events of 1876.
When Crazy succeeded in his most audacious and bloody endeavour: the take of Yankton, the capital city of Dakota territory, in the hearth of the winter. White refugees left most of Dakota at that new, fleeing east in terror. Those refugees enflamed White public opinion, and greatly embarrassed Grant administration.
It was while Sheridan marched through Kansas in the hope to destroy Ouray; but the Indian army was disbanded as he approached: part of it, under Roman Nose, had crossed the Platte and was scattered across Nebraska; the Ute contingent returned to its homeland in Colorado; but the Comanche of White Eagle and the Kiowa under Sitting Bear and White Bear stayed in Kansas, often seeking refuge into the Indian territory after a raid. Their demonstration of bravery, the obvious notice that the Whites were in trouble, and the hardships of the winter 1874-75 pressed even the long time peaceful nations of the Indian territory to revolt. They attacked their agencies and asked the Allies for help; a Chickasaw called Tall Tree would be sent to Laramie to represent the southerly nation in the Allied council. Sheridan, unable to make contact with significant enemy and to protect settlers without dividing and exposing his expedition, reached Denver just as Napoleon had reached Moscow. There, he planned to pass the winter and take Laramie and Pine Ridge in the spring, when he got orders to quell the rebels Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Shawnee and Choctaw in the Indian and Oklahoma territories. The Sheridan’s column was harassed by Kiowa and Arapaho attacks all the way south. Ouray re-entered Denver destroying the small garrison left there. Winter made simply to feed that White army difficult, while the scattered and less numerous Natives had lesser trouble with it. Supply lines from Saint Louis had to dribble Roman Nose’s cavalry. When Sheridan entered No Man’s Land in Oklahoma territory, he felt confident enough to divide his army to encircle the Cherokee outlet and destroy everything living within. He intended to do so in the Indian territory immediately after. Messengers were frantically running the snowy Plains seeking help for the besieged Cherokee. The other nations in the Territories attacked white patrols. Cheyenne, Comanche, Arapaho and even Apache arrived in small groups to make Sheridan’s difficult at their best.
The Indians of the Territories died at a tremendous toll however. The outlet was totally destroyed, and its fate was the most persuading proof of the validity of Red Cloud’s policy of native unity. Losses were at the point they were erasing the Allied forces in the South. So, after the fall of Yankton, as Roman nose an the Omaha were holding well the centre of the Native frontline in Nebraska, and with Joseph and Ouray covering the back, the Lakota decided to head south: their military village in Wyoming, 6,000 men strong, left the camp under Tall Bull, Sitting Bull and the old Black Kettle, leaving some bands back under Crazy Horse. Red Cloud stayed at Laramie as Commander in Chief. Sitting Bear had meanwhile reported many small half-victories over Sheridan in Oklahoma, but lacked resource to reverse the balance of military power. Summer allowed Sheridan to get supply from Texas with no more than little nuisance from the Comanche along the line, and the Five tribes seemed doomed. The last Modoc warriors have had to leave their positions between California and Oregon finally, and the future of Alliance, no matter how internally strong it could be, seemed dim. It was a reason for Sitting Bull to dare much more. He conceived a trap.
He unleashed an attack against the well garrisoned Topeka, and called Roman Nose to join him. Those were not orders; it was the lesson Crazy Horse had taught. The capital city of a state… Much more than Yankton or Denver. Topeka did not fall at the first assault; but Sheridan was compelled to do the only he couldn’t afford: finally he had to divide his powerful army. 5,000 men were left back in Oklahoma to pursue the genocide; 7,000 went north in Kansas. The rest was yet scattered around or engaged against White Bear and Crazy Horse, north or west. Sitting Bull intercepted the first US column in Southern Kansas, while approaching his camp; a this exactly what he wanted.
The US avant-garde was destroyed. Losses were tremendously high on both sides, but the incautious American commander fell straight into a deadly trap. Sitting Bull moved again, westwards this time, and avoided Sheridan’s main army. Topeka, still besieged by Roman Nose, was relieved, but the movement war was still on the Allied initiative, and the Cheyenne bands fled without great losses. Roman Nose, Sitting Bull and Tall Bull fell upon Oklahoma like a divine castigation in the autumn, with Black Kettle left behind to keep Sheridan in Kansas. Ouray moved from Denver and entered Kansas again. Joseph ravaged white settlements in Oregon and Idaho. The terrible army of Kansas was no longer such a menace; the winter of 1875-1876 saw the balance between the fighters re-established. It was during this winter that Red Cloud and Crazy Horse expressed their newborn ideas at the Council. Red Cloud’s idea was to seek alliance with White settlers in native controlled areas such as Dakota, Wyoming and the Plateau, at least where they did not suffer that much in consequence of the war (as they did in Colorado and Nebraska). He was supported in it by Standing Bear of the Ponca nation and a half-White Cheyenne warrior named George Bent, which had left behind himself ties with the White society after the Sand Creek massacre to join the Native cause. Notwithstanding, he wanted peace in the plains and thought some settlers could join the Natives and reach a compromise provided that no more immigration would affect the West.
This idea was actually in line with Crazy Horse’s revolutionary proposal: a Declaration of Independence. He was really impressed by the strength of the national American state and fancied that only a similar organization could have ensured safety, land and freedom for Natives. It was necessary and useful, however, that Whites already settled in the area stayed there helping the overall development of the country. Bent served much in drawing out the draft declaration during the winter in Laramie. The area the natives asked for encompassed at least the territories of Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Oklahoma and Washington, the Indian Territory, most of the state of Oregon, and parts of Kansas, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona. After the draft was ready, and before it was debated by the Council, Bent left Laramie for Cheyenne, capital city of Wyoming, where he asked for a meeting with local White representatives. He proposed them to join the Alliance as a "White nation" and secede from the United states. The majority of the settlers rejected the idea, but the argument fascinated a consistent minority. In particular, the judge Esther Hobart Morris of South Pass, the first female judge of ever, and her husband were attracted by that idea, mainly in revenge of the sexist attitude of the Congress, which refused statehood to Wyoming partly because of female suffrage in the territory. The Mormon minority in Wyoming, at odds with federal government over the issue of polygamy, sought to continue the talks with Red Cloud via Bent, and, from Slat Lake City, the President of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, showed interest. While talks went on, no more than some tens of Whites fought ever alongside the Natives in this phase War of Independence, and most of them were half-blooded.
1875 passed through without any other major events. Skirmishes usually end with a White retreat, and the main front in Oklahoma was forcibly quiet, because Sheridan’s forces, divided, didn’t dare to cast attacks on a basis of numerical parity. Tall Bull, Black Kettle, and Sitting Bull, on their side, preferred to go on bleeding out the enemy with guerrilla, hitting isolated patrols and buffualo hunters, or supply convoys. At occasion, they attacked and evacuated White settlements, which were far too scattered to allow a proper defense without overstretching the US army. The cost of the war seemed high to the federal balance. 1876 should have been the year of the final victory… or defeat.