August 15, 2019 — The U.S. Army abandoned Fort Pembina on this date in 1895. The only other military fort that remained operational after that year was Fort Yates, which was abandoned in 1903.

The great Sioux Uprising had largely ended when, in December 1890, reservation police killed Sitting Bull outside his cabin at dawn. Sitting Bull and many others had embraced a new religion called the Ghost Dance, during which exhausted dancers fell into trance-like states in which they might glimpse a wonderful world that would soon come to pass.

The religion promised an Indian Messiah who would restore them to their former glory. The earth would swallow up the whites, suffering would end, the buffalo would return, and dead ancestors would join the living in a world in which the Indians were free and surrounded by plentiful game.

After Sitting Bull was killed for perpetuating the ritual, some three hundred Ghost Dancers who escaped into the South Dakota Badlands were rounded up and massacred by the 7th Cavalry while encamped on Wounded Knee Creek.

The Indian Wars were over, and the military forts were no longer needed.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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