The Sioux and Cheyenne fought the Battle of Little Big Horn to defend their ancestral homes, protect sacred ground and to resist attempts to confine them to reservations. The U.S. government fought the battle to return the Indians to their reservation and assert authority in the area.
Sioux warriors, including Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, had been resisting government efforts to confine them to reservations and frequently crossed paths with federal agents before retreating to their sacred ancestral lands in the Black Hills region. When gold was discovered on this land that had been promised to the them, members of the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne began leaving the reservations to defend the area against encroaching white prospectors. When the Indians refused to return to the reservations, the federal government dispatched federal troops to forcibly remove them.