In late 1875, the U.S. government sent an ultimatum to the Sioux stating they must return to designated reservations by January 31, 1876. Under the ultimatum, those that defied the decree would be deemed hostile and military force would be used to return them to reservations. Numerous Sioux ignored the ultimatum, and in early spring of 1876, Lt. Col. George Custer and the 7th Cavalry left Fort Abraham Lincoln for eastern Montana to force those that did not comply back to reservations.
On June 25, 1876, Custer’s Crow and Arikara scouts discovered a large gathering of Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho camped along the Little Bighorn River. Custer, fearing the tribes would scatter, ordered an attack on the village. Severely underestimating the number of Native warriors, the 7th Cavalry was dealt a swift defeat and all of the 210 men under Custer’s command were killed.
Despite the victory by the Indians, the Battle of the Little Bighorn is seen by some historians as the beginning of the end of the Indian Wars and the end of the nomadic way of life for the Plains Indians.