"I have a great deal to say to the Indians, but I want to talk with them all together. I want to say it at once." - Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, Fort Larned, 1867
As American society pushed west and disrupted the livelihoods of the American Indian nations on the Southern Plains, conflict was inevitable. Violence, however widespread, was typically small-scale in western Kansas prior to 1867. Much of the violence took the form of raiding along the Santa Fe Trail. In response, Fort Larned was established in 1859. Fort Larned, as part of a system of forts, allowed for a permanent military presence on the frontier aimed at converting the land from tribal to U.S. control.
Following the conclusion of the Civil War, the U.S. Army and its ambitious officers turned their attention westward, where tribes stood in the way of American expansion. From among the tribes' leaders, several stood out to officers at Fort Larned by March, 1867, including Satanta and Kicking Bird of the Kiowa; Tall Bull, White Horse, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, and Black Kettle of the Cheyenne; and Little Raven of the Arapaho. In March 1867, Captain Henry Asbury of the 3rd Infantry reported on his view of the situation from Fort Larned, noting, "The 'Cheyennes' talk but little but are among the most dangerous of the Indians on the Plains, on account of their superior qualities as soldiers."
General Winfield Scott Hancock, a Union hero of the Battle of Gettysburg, arrived in western Kansas in 1867. Hancock was inexperienced dealing with American Indians, though was confident in his ability to bring them under control. Hancock met with several Cheyenne chiefs at Fort Larned on April 12. Legally unable to forge treaties with the tribes, Hancock instead sought to intimidate them into alignment with U.S. interests. "You know very well, if you go to war with the white man you will lose….I have a great many chiefs with me that have commanded more men than you ever saw, and they have fought more great battles than you have fought fights," Hancock warned the chiefs.