Excerpts from The History of Renville County Minnesota, Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, Chapter III, Vol. 1, page 31, rll
From prehistoric days up to the time of the treaties signed at Traverse des Sioux, July 23, 1851, and at Mendota, August 5, 1851, ratified and amended by the United States Senate, June 23, 1852, and proclaimed by President Millard Fillmore February 24, 1853, the land now embraced in Renville county remained in the nominal possession of the Indians. Before this treaty, however, several agreements were made between the Indians of this vicinity and the United States government, regarding mutual relations and the ceding of lands. The first of these as the treaty with Pike in 1805, by which land at the mouths of the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers was ceded to the government for military purposes.
Visit to Washington.
In 1816, the War of 1812 having been brought to a close, the Indians of this vicinity made peace with the United States and signed treaties placing the Sioux of this neighborhood “in all things and in every respect on the same footing upon which they stood before the late war.” Perpetual peace was promised, and it was agreed that “every injury or act of hostility committed by one or the other of the contracting parties against the other shall be mutually forgiven and forgotten.” The tribes recognized the absolute authority of the United States. After Ft. Snelling was established, the officers at various times engineered peace between various tribes, but these were usually quickly broken.
In the spring of 1824 the first delegation of Sioux Indians went to Washington to see their “Great Father,” the president. A delegation of Chippewas accompanied, and both were in charge of Major Lawrence Taliaferro. Wabasha, then properly called Wa-pa-ha-sha or Wah-pah-hah-sha, the head chief of the band at Winona; and Little Crow, head of the Kaposia band; and Wahnath, were the principal members of the Sioux delegation. Where the delegation had gone as far as Prairie du Chien, Wabasha and Wahnatah, who had been influenced by traders, desired to turn back, but Little Crow persuaded them to continue. The object of the visit was to secure a convocation of all of the upper Mississippi Indians at Prairie du Chien, to define the boundary line of the lands claimed by the separate tribes and to establish general and permanently friendly relations among them. The party made the trip in keel boats from Fort Snelling to Prairie du Chien, and from there to Pittsburgh by steamboat, thence to Washington and other eastern cities by land.
Prairie du Chien Treaty of 1825.
This treaty, signed August 19, was of importance to the Indians who ranged Renville county in that it fixed certain general boundaries, and confirmed the fact that the present county lay entirely in Sioux territory. The treaty was participated in by the Chippewa Sauk (Sac) and Fox: Menominee, Iowa, Sioux, Winnebago; and a portion of the Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi tribes living on the Illinois.
The line between the Sioux and the confederated Sauks and Foxes extended across a part of northern Iowa. It was declared in the treaty to run up the Upper Iowa (now the Oneota river to its left fork, and up that fork to the source; thence crossing the Cedar river to the second or upper fork of the Des Moines, and in a direct line to the lower fork of the Calumet (Big Sioux) river, and down that river to the Missouri river. On both sides of this line extended a tract which came to be known as the “Neutral Strip,” into which the Winnebagos were later moved as a buffer between the Sioux and their enemies to the South.
The eastern boundary of the Sioux territory was to commence on the east bank of the Mississippi river opposite the mouth of the “Ioway” river, running back to the buffs and along the bluffs to the Bad Axe river, thence to the mouth of the Black river, and thence to half a day’s march, below the falls of the Chippewa. East of this line, generally speaking, was the Winnebago country, though the Menominee country lay about Green Bay, Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee river, and the Menominees claimed as far west as the Black river. The Chippewa country was to be to the north of the Winnebagoes and Menominees, and east of the northern line of the Sioux country, the line between the Chippewa and the Sioux beginning at a point of half a day’s march below the falls of the Chippewa, thence to the Red Cedar river immediately below the falls, thence to the Red Cedar river immediately below the falls, thence to a point on the St. Croix river, a day’s paddle above the lake at the mouth of that river, and thence northwestward across the present state of Minnesota. The line crossed the Mississippi at the mouth of the Watan river just above St. Cloud. Thus both sides of the Mississippi during its course along Renville county were included in Sioux territory.
The boundary lines were certainly, in many respects, quite indefinite, and whether this was the trouble or not, in any event, it was but a few months after the treaty when it was evident that some of the signers were willing to be governed by the lines established, and hardly by any others. The first article of the treaty provided: “There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between the Sioux and the Chippewas; between the Sioux and the confederated tribes of Sacs and Foxes; and between the ‘Ioways’ and the Sioux.” But this provision was more honored in the breach that the observance, and in a little time the tribes named were flying at one another’s threats and engaged in their old-time hostilities.
Second Treaty of Prairie du Chien
In 1830 a second treaty with the Northwest Indian tribes was held at Prairie du Chien.
A few weeks previous to the convocation, which was begun July 15, a party of Wabasha’s band of Sioux and some Menominees ambushed a party of Fox Indians some twelve or fifteen miles below Prairie du Chien and killed eight of them, including a sub chief called the Kettle.
The Foxes had their village near Dubuque and were on their way to Prairie du Chien to visit the Indian agent, when they had apprised of their coming. They were in canoes on the Mississippi. As they reached the lower end of Prairie du Pierreaux they paddled up a narrow channel which ran near the eastern shore, where their concealed enemies opened fire. The Foxes returned to their village, bearing their dead, while the Sioux and Menominees went home and danced over their victory. A few weeks previously the Foxes had killed some of Wabasha’s band on the Red Cedar river, in Iowa, and the Sioux claimed that their part in the Prairie du Pierreaux affair was taken in retaliation for the Red Cedar affair. In June of the following year a large number of Menomineces were camped on an island in the Mississippi, less than a half a mile from Fort Crawford and Prairie du Chien. One night they were all drunk, “men, women, and children.” Two hours before daylight the Dubuque Foxes took dreadful reprisal for the killing of their brethren at Prairie du Pierreaux. Though but a small band, they crept into the Menominee encampment, fell upon inmates, and in a few minutes put a number of them to the gun, the tomahawk and the scalping knife. Thirty Menominees were killed. When the entire Menominee band had been aroused the Foxes, without having lost a man, retired, crying out in great exultation that the cowardly killing of their comrads at Prairie du Pierreaux had been avenged.
Because of the Prairie du Pierreux affair the Foxes at first refused to be present at the treaty of Prairie du Chien, but finally came. Delegates were present from four bands of the Sioux, the Medawakantous, the Wapakootas, the Wahpatons and the Sissetons, and also from the Sacs, Foxes and Iowas, and even from the Omahas, Otoes and Missouris, the homes of the last three tribes being on the Missouri river.
At this treaty the Indian tribes represented ceded all of their claims to the land in Western Iowa, Northwestern Missouri and especially the country of the Des Moines river valley.
The Medawakanton Sioux, Wabasha’s band, had a special article (numbered 9) inserted in the treaty for the benefit of their half-breed relatives.
The Sioux also ceded a tract of land twenty miles wide along the northern boundary of Iowa from the MIssissippi to the Des Moines; consideration $2,000 in cash and 1,200 in merchandise.
(Photos: William Wichmann’s Birthplace, Henry Timm’s Cabin, page 32
The Doty Treaty
The Doty Treaty, made at Traverse des Sioux (St. Peter), in July, 1841, failed to be ratified by the United States Senate. This treaty embodied a Ethiopian dream that a territory of Indians could be established, in which the redmen would reside on farms and in villages, living their lives after the style of the whites, having a constitutional form of government, with a legislature of their own people elected by themselves, the governor to be appointed by the president of the United States. They were to be taught the arts of peace, to be paid annuities, and to be protected by the armies of the United States from their Indian enemies on the west. In return fro these benefits to be conferred upon the Indians, the United States was to received all the lands in what is now Minnesota, the Dakotas and northwestern Iowa. This ceded land was not to be opened to the settlement of the whites, and the plan was to have some of it reserved for Indian tribes from other parts of the country who should sell their lands to the United States, and who, in being moved here, were to enjoy all the privileges which had been so beautifully planned for the native Indians. But no one can tell what would have been the result of this experiment, for the Senate, for political reasons, refused to ratify the treaty, and it failed of going into effect. This treaty was signed by the Sisseton, Wahpeton and Wahpakoota bands at Traverse des Sioux. July 31, 1841, and by the Medawakanton bands at Mendota, August 11 of the same year.
Preliminaries to Final Session
No other events or incidents in all time have been of more importance in their influence upon the character and destiny of Minnesota than the negotiations with the Sioux Indians in the summer of 1851, commonly known as the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota. As a result of these treaties a vast region of country large enough and naturally rich enough for a kingdom was released from the sway of its owners and opened to white settlement.
Prior to these events only the lands in Minnesota east of the Mississippi river were open to white occupation. The fine, fertile expanse to the westward was forbidden ground. The waves of immigration were steadily rolling in and beating against the legal barrier in increasing volume and growing forces; and as opposed to the demand of the whites for land and power the rights and necessities of the Indians were of little weight. A decent regard for the opinions of mankind and also a fear of the revenge that the Indians might take, demanded, however, that the government go through the form of a purchase, and that some sort of price, even if ridiculously small, be paid for the relinquished land.
In his message to the first Territorial Legislature Governor Ramsey recommended that a memorial to Congress be prepared and adopted praying for the purchase by treaty of a large extent of the Sioux country west of the Mississippi. Accordingly a lengthy petition, very earnest and eloquent in its terms, was, after considerable deliberation, drawn up, finally adopted by both houses and duly presented to Congress. This was in October, but already the national authorities had taken action.
In June, 1849, Orlando Brown, Commissioner of Indian affairs, addressed an official letter to Thomas Ewing, then Secretary of the Interior, recommending negotiations with the Sioux, “for the purpose of purchasing their title to a large tract of country west of the Mississippi river.” The commissioner said that the object of the purchase was, “in order to make room for the immigrants now going in large numbers to the new territory of Minnesota, as the Indian title has been extinguished to but a comparatively small extent of the country within its limits.” Secretary Ewing approved the report and selected Governor Ramsey and John Chambers, the latter a former territorial governor of Iowa, as commissioners to make the proposed treaty.
In his annual report for 1848 Commissioner Brown had recommended an appropriation to defray the expenses of a Sioux treaty, but Congress failed to make it. So desirous was he for the treaty in 1849 that he was willing to pay the attendant expense out of the “small current appropriations” for his office, and so he warned Ramsey and Chambers that “the strictest economy in all you expenditures will be necessary.” He said if they waited for a special appropriation form the next Congress the treaty in its complete form would be postponed for two years, and in the meanwhile there would be increasing trouble between the Indian owners of the land and trespassing settlers.
In August, 1849, Commissioner Brown addressed a lengthy letter to Governors Ramsey and Chambers informing them of their appointment as commissioners to make the treaty and instructing them particularly as to their duties in the premises. The instructions were not only clear, but very elaborate and comprehensive, and so far as they could be given the commissioners were told just what to do and just how to do it. The fact that some of the directions were unwise and unwarranted was due to the misinformation on the subject which the commissioner had received, and his consequent lack of knowledge as to the situation. For example, in describing the territory which the commissioners were to acquire, Commissioner Brown expressed the opinion that it contained “some 20,000,000 of acres,” and that “some of it,” no doubt, contained “lands of excellent quality.” With respect to the probable worth of the country to the United States the commissioner expressed the opinion that, “from its nature, a great part of it can never be more than very trifling, if of any, vale to the government.” The country was more valuable for the purpose of a location for homeseekers than for any other purpose, and Commissioner Brown realized that “only a small part of it is now actually necessary for that object.”
The contemplated and directed treaty with the Sioux in the fall of 1849 was not held as contemplated. On repairing to Traverse des Sioux in October, Commissioners Ramsey and Chambers found that a large majority of the Upper Indians were absent on their fall hunts. Coming down to Mendota, they found the greater part of the Lower bands were absent gathering wild rice, hunting in the Big Woods and elsewhere, and those still in the villages were, under the circumstances, unwilling to engage in any important negotiations.
At Mendota, however, a treaty was made with some of the chiefs of Medawakanton and Wapakooto bands providing for the purchase, on reasonable terms, of what was known as the “Half-Breed Tract,” lying west of Lake Pepin, and which had been set apart for the Sioux mixed bloods by the treaty of July 15, 1830. The tract comprised about 384,000 acres of now well known and valuable country. The purchase was to be completed as soon as possible, and the money given to the mixed blood beneficiaries in lien of the lands. The treaty was duly forwarded to Washington, but never ratified by the Senate. In 1850 the agitation for a more comprehensive treaty resulted in the important negotiations of the summer of 1851, and the subject of the Lake Pepin Half Breed Tract was put aside and soon forgotten.
At last, in the spring of 1851, President Fillmore directed that a treaty with the Sioux he made and appointed commissioners to that end. The pressure upon him could no longer be resisted. The Territorial Legislature had repeatedly memorialized Congress, Ramsey had written, Sibley and Rice and reasoned and pleaded, and Goodhue and the other Minnesota editors had well nigh heated their types in their fervid exhortations to the national authorities to tear down the barriers and allow the eager and restless whites to grasp the wealth of the great inland empire now furnishing home and sustenance to its rightful owners. Already many settles , as reckless of their own lives as they were regardless of the laws of their country, were squatting within the forbidden area.
The traders were especially desirous that a treaty be made. It was the practice in such negotiations to insert a provision in the treaty that the “just debts: of the Indians should be paid out of the amounts allowed them. The American Fur company-then Pierre Chonteau, Jr., & Company-represented by Sibley and the various sub-traders claimed that the Sioux of Minnestoa owed them in the aggregate nearly $500,000, for goods they had received in past times; the accounts, in some instances, were dated twenty years previously. If a treaty were made, all of the accounts, both real and fictitious, and fictitious, and augmented to suit the traders’ fancy, would probably be declared as “just debts” and traders, including the firm of Choteau, Jr., & Company, did all they cold to have a treaty made may readily he believed.
Under a paragraph in the Indian appropriation bill of 1851, approved February 27, all Indian treaties thereafter were to be negotiated by “officers and agents” connected with the Indian Department and selected by the president. The appointees were not to received for their service in such cases any compensation in addition to their regular salaries. Previously treaties had been negotiated on the part of the government by special agents, who were generally not connected with the public service and who were paid particularly and liberally for these services.
In consideration of the great extent of country to be possibly acquired, and the importance of the treaty generally, President Fillmore appointed to conduct it, on the part of the government, two prominent officials of the Indian Department. These were Governor Alexander Ramsey, ex-officio Indian Commissioner of Indian affairs. The instructions given them were in the main those of Commissioner Brown, two years before, to Ramsey and Chambers when it was designed that the treaty should then be made.
Treaty of Traverse des Sioux
Commissioner Lea arrived at St. Paul, on the steamboat Excelsior, June 27. On the twenty-ninth he and Governor Ramsey left Fort Snelling on the boat for Traverse des Sioux, the site of the council ground selected for the treaty with the two upper bands of Sioux, the Wahpetons and Sissetons, who occupied the country of the Upper Minnesota valley. On board of the Excelsior were some beef cattle and other supplies, to be furnished the Indians during the negotiations. There were also on board about twenty-five white persons who went up as excursionists and as sightseers and witnesses of the proceedings.
The Excelsior landed at Traverse des Sioux early on the morning of Monday, June 30. This was a well known locality. Here the Sioux, in early days, were wont to cross the Minnesota, on their way between the Cannon river country and Swan lake, and the ford bore the French equivalent for the “crossing of the Sioux.” From the earliest days there had been a trading post here and in 1843 Reverend Riggs and his associates had established a mission at the site. In the summer of 1849 this station was in charge of Reverend Messrs. Robert Hopkins and Alexander G. Huggins. The missionaries had comfortable residences, and there was a frame mission house neatly painted and well furnished.
There was also at “The Traverse,” as it was often called, the trading houses of Alexander Graham and Oliver Faribault, with residence cabins and other log outbuildings; there was also the old log warehouse in which the Doty treaty of 1841 had been made and signed, while scattered along the ridge to the rear were thirty or more buffalo skins tepees, occupied by Indian families belonging to Chief Red Iron’s band of Sissetons. Ten miles to the northwest was the village of Chief Sleepy Eye’s Little Rock hand of Sissetons numbering two hundred and fifty. The site of the Traverse, where the town was afterwards laid out, is two miles east of St. Peter, or seventy miles southwest of St. Paul.
Word had been sent to all of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands-the Upper bands, as they were often called-that a treaty was to be held at the Traverse early in July. They were notified to be present; not only the chiefs, but the head men-the war leaders and principal orators of the band-were to participate in the deliberations. A large brush arbor was erected, under the supervision of Alexis Bailly, and beneath this comfortable shade the treaty negotiations were to be held. A number of beeves were slaughtered and boxes of hard-tack opened to feed the expected visitors, while baskets of champagne and other refreshments were offered for the entertainment of the white visitors. But the arrival of the reluctant Indians was long delayed, and it was not until July 18 that the representatives of the last bands came in, very tired, very hungry and not favorable to the purpose for which the council was called. They were heartily welcomed by the designing whites and bountifully fed on fresh beef, pork and hard-tack, but were refused whisky or other spirits, the whites desiring all that for themselves.
There were present on the part of the Indians the two head chiefs and the principal sub-chiefs of the banks, as well as their head soldiers, chief speakers and prominent men of all classes. On the part of the whites were Commissioners Lea and Ramsey; Dr. Thomas Foster, the secretary; and Alexander Faribault and Reverend S. R. Riggs, interpreters. Other prominent white spectators, some of whom acted as witnesses to the treaty were: James M. Goodhue, editor of the Minnesota Pioneer, who made and published a daily report of the proceedings; Frank B. Mayer, a noted artist from Baltimore; Major Nathaniel McLean, Sioux Indian agent at Fort Snelling: Doctor Thomas S. Williamson, the missionary at Kaposia; Judge James H. Lockwood, of Prairie du Chien, who had ascended the Minnesota far above Patterson’s Rapids in 1816; Richard Chute and wife, then a newly married couple from Indiana; H. H. Sibley, colonel C. Henderson, Jospeh R. Brown, W. H. Forbes, Hugh Tyler, Reverend Alexander G. Huggins, Martin McLeod, Henry Jackson, A. S. H. White, Wallace B. White, Alexis Bailly, Kenneth McKenzie, Hercules L. Dousman, Franklin Steele, F. Brown, William Hartshorn, William G. Le Due, Joseph La Frambois, Sr., James McC. Boal, and sundry French voyageurs, traders’ employed and retainers, all of whom were entertained sumptuously with delicious viands, and many with fiery spirits and rare wines at the government’s expense.
While waiting for the Indians the whites diverted themselves in various ways, but chiefly in observing the Indian dances and their other customs. It was intended to formally observe the Fourth of July. Reverend Robert Hopkins, one of the local missionaries, was drowned while bathing in the Minnesota, and the intention was abandoned.
July 11 occurred the marriage of two mixed blood people, David Faribault and Nancy Winona McClure. They were a fine looking couple, attracted general admiration, and the whites gave them a pretentious wedding reception. The groom was a son of John B. Faribault, the pioneer trader, and the bride was the natural daughter of Lieutenant James McClure of the regular army, who was at one time stationed at Fort Snelling and died in Florida during the Seminole War of 1837; she had been reared by her Indian grandmother and educated and Christianized by Reverend Messrs. Riggs and Williamson.
The ceremony was performed by Alexis Bailly, the trader, who had been commissioned a justice of the peace. The wedding reception was followed by an elaborate banquet prepared by the whites, and at which there were a number of toasts presented and responses made. Referring to her marriage reception years afterwards Mrs. Faribault wrote: “I have often wondered how so much champagne got so far out on the frontier.” After the wedding festivities the Sioux girls, to the number of twenty or more, had a “virgin feast,” in which none but vestals of undoubted purity were allowed to participate.
The Indians, a noted, came in from time to time in no haste and evidently much opposed to parting with their lands. Nearly all of the women and children were brought along. Chief Shakopee, of the Lower bands of the Sioux, was in attendance a great part of the time. On the tenth a band of twenty Chippewas attacked a party of six Sisseton Sioux forty miles above Lac Qui Parle and killed and scalped five of them; the sixth , a boy, escaped by running. The Sioux went out and found their tribesmen blackening in the sun; the bodies of two of the murdered children came into the Traverse July 15, bringing the tragic news. He took part in the treaty, but sat with his face blackened because of his bereavement.
July 18 the council opened under the brush arbor. Governor Ramsey opened the proceedings with a short speech and was followed by Commissioner Lea, who in explanation of the desires of the white authorities made a lengthy address, with much in it about the ineffable goodness and gigantic greatness of the “Great Father” of the Indians (the President) and his unselfish desire that they sell to him all of their lands as far west at least as Lake Traverse and the Big Sioux river down to the western border of Iowa, retaining only enough land for their actual residence. The Sissetons and Wahpatons claimed the country from Traverse des Sioux westward to the line indicated and the commissioners wanted all of it. After the speeches of the commissioners, in order that their words might “sink deep into the hearts” of the Indians, the council adjourned.
The following day, Saturday, the nineteenth, the council was opened with a speech from Star Face (or “The Orphan,” as the whites called him) after a long silence and apparently much reluctance to speak, and when he spoke he said simply that all his young men had not arrived, and he was very sorry that the council had opened without their presence, or that, as he expressed himself, the commissioners were “not willing to shake hands with those that are behind.” He said he understood that some one had been sent to meet them on the road and turn them back, and this made him feel very bad.
Then Sleepy Eye, the old Sisseton Chief, who had been one of the signers of the Prairie du Chien treaty of 1825, had visited Washington, and had his portrait painted, in 1824, rose and said:
“Fathers: Your coming and asking me for my country makes me sad; your saying that I an not able do do anything with my country makes me still more sad. The young men who are coming (of whom Star Face had spoken) are my near relatives, and I expect certainly to see them here. That is all I have to say. I am going to leave and that is the reason I spoke.
Then, turning to the other Sissetons he said: “Come; let us go away form here.” Instantly there was great confusion. The Indians left the arbor and were greeted with shouts by other brethren. There were indications that the council was at an end, and there was much excitement.
Governor Ramsey, however, knew the circumstances and necessities of the Indians who had assembled. Calmly he said to the interpreter: “Tell them that our stock of provisions is short, and then seem indisposed to talk, there will be no further issue of provisions to them.” Commissioner Lea added: “Tell them they must let us know by this evening if they really wish to treat. If we do not hear from them by that time we will go below early tomorrow morning.” The council then adjourned and orders were given to get boats ready and to prepare to move in the morning.
The word that they were to be given nothing more to eat produced great consternation among the Indians. Coming, as they had, far from their homes, and solely for the benefit of the whites, they had supposed that at least they were to be furnished provisions while attending the conference, especially in view of the riotons good times that the whites were enjoying out of the expense fund. Hunger faced the Indians and their families on their journey back to their villages. The white men were clearly saying: “Give us your land at our own terms or we will get it anyhow without a pretense of terms. We are in a hurry, do not delay us, do not wait until all your men get here; enter into this treaty as we have arranged for you to do, or take your wives and children and go hungry until you can get back home and get something to eat. It matters not to us that at our request you have come here and given up gathering food for weeks, do as we want you to or starve. “Foreseeing the inevitable the Indians agreed to again go into council on the following Monday, and the officials knowing that the cause of the white man was already won ordered that food should be distributed.
On Monday, the twenty-first, the council opened at noon. The first speaker was Sleepy Eye, who sought to explain his viewpoint of the events which had transpired. He said: “On the day before yesterday, when we convened together, you were offended, I hear, at what was said. No offense or disrespect was intended. We only wanted more time to consider. The young men who made a noise were waiting to have a ball play, and not understanding English thought the council was over, and as they did so made the disturbance, for which we are very sorry.”
Chief Extends-His-Head-Dress-or Big Curly Head, as the whites called him-a Sisseton sub-chief, said: “I am not speaking for myself, but for all that are here. We wish to understand what we are about before we act-to know exactly the proposition made to us by the commissioners. The other chiefs and all our people desire that you will make out for us in writing the particulars of your offer for our lands, and when we have this paper fully made out we will sit down on the hill back there (indicating) consult among ourselves, come to a conclusion, and let you know what it is.”
Commissioner Lea then quickly prepared on paper the terms desired by the United States, which had been declared verbally at a previous meeting, and which were as follows:
“The Indians will cede to the United States all their lands in the State of Iowa, as well as their lands east of a line from the Red river to Lake Traverse, and thence to the northwestern corner of Iowa. The United States will (1) set apart a suitable country for the Indians on the upper waters of the Minnesota river for their future support: will (2) pay, say $125,000 or $130,000 to them to enable them to arrange their affairs preparatory to removal, to pay the expense of removal, and to subsist themselves for a year after removal-part of the above sum to be paid in money and the other part to be paid in goods and provisions; will (3) pay the Indians an annuity of $25,000 or $30,000 for many years say thirty or forty years-part in money, part in goods and provisions, and past to be applied to such other beneficial objects as may be agreed upon.”
The Indians deliberated over the words of these provisions and let them “sink into their hearts” for two days and nights. There was great divergence of opinion among them, the interpreters said. The majority seemed to realize that their lands were of great value to the United States. But they had no proper conception of the actual value in dollars and cents of the great domain which they were about to sell. Their idea of numbers was limited, and they seemed to think that one hundred and forty-five thousand dollars and seventy-five cents was far more money than a million dollars, because the latter was the shorter phrase and died not sound so imposing and formidable. When, therefore, the commissioners made an offer, the poor unlettered Indians did not know whether it was a fair one or not. Of course they appealed to their traders and missionaries, who understood the Dakota language, but the explanations offered hardly explained. Missionaries, traders and officials alike were determined that the land should be opened to white settlement. The work of these traders and missionaries in finally effecting the treaty was constant and very valuable to the whites. The services rendered by Reverend Riggs, one of the official interpreters, were most important. While the Indians were considering the white men’s proposition, Riggs, Sibley, McLeod, Brown and Faribault were sent for at all hours of he day and night to explain to the various bands the provisions of the treaty and their application. The Indians, justly suspicious, would not be satisfied with the meaning of any provision until at least three white men, acting singly, had read it and interpreted if fully.
July 22, the Indians, after much deliberation, proposed certain amendments, which they said they would insist upon as a part of their treaty. These amendments were practically unimportant and the commissioners readily accepted. The treaty was then prepared and on the following day was signed by the contracting parties by Commissioners Lea nd Ramsey and the chiefs and the head men of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Sioux. The ceremony of signing was somewhat impressive. After the white commissioners had affixed their names the Indians selected the one of their number who should sign first. This was Chief Eeen-yang Man-nie, or Running Walker (sometimes called “Big Gun”), chief of the Lake Traverse band of Sissetons. Boldly he stepped upon the platform and touched the goose quill pen in the hands of Dr. Foster. Next came Chief Star Face, or “The Orphan.” The commissioners tried to hasten matters and to conclude the signing as soon as possible, but a one time there was a hitch in the proceedings.
Old Sleepy Eye, who had said at the outset that he was sad at heart because he had to sell his country, now arouse, to the great apprehension of the whites, and begged to say a few words. He said that many of the Indians, young men and soldiers, had without consulting their chiefs, concluded that the country which they were asked to sell was worth $3,500,000, but that the commissioners were trying to get it for a less sum. The young men had a right to be made satisfied. He also demanded other conditions:
“You will take this treaty paper home and show it to the Great Father,” said Sleepy Eye,” but we want to keep a copy here so that we may look at it and see whether you tell us the truth or not-see whether you have changed it. As to paying our debts to our traders I want to pay them what is right, but I would like to know how much I owe them. If they have charged me ten dollars for a gun I want them to tell me, and if they have charged me ten dollars for a shirt I want them to tell me that. I am a poor man and have difficulty in maintaining myself, but these traders have good coats on. The prairie country in which I live has not much wood; I live along with the traders, and they are also poor, but I do not wasn’t to have to provide for them. I think it will be very hard upon us when the year becomes white, and I would like to have some provisions given me for the winter. I would like to have what is mine laid on one side; then when we have finished this business I will know how many of my relatives I can have mercy upon.”
Colonel Lea assured Sleepy Eye that the money which the United States would pay for the Indian land would amount to more than the young men desired-to more than $3,500,000. He sharply reproved Sleepy Eye and said: “We think it fortunate for our red brothers that they have not entrusted the entire treaty to Sleepy Eye, because they would not have made so good a bargain for themselves as they have.” As a matter of fact the amount named in the treaty of Traverse des Sioux was less than half of the amount of Sleepy Eye requested. Out of the sum named in the treaty the traders and cost of removal were to be paid. Of what remained the Indians were not to receive one cent-merely the interest for a certain number of years. Even some of this interest was to be used to pay white teachers and white farmers. And as a climax the payment of that part of the interest which remained was, just before the massacre, withheld and delayed under various pretenses. Even were the amount named in the Treaty of Mendota added to the amount named in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux the total still falls far short of $3,500,000.
Then Thunder Face, or “Limping Devil,” a sub-chief of the Sissetons, whose village was on the present site of the late Gilfillan farm, in Redwood county, came forward and signed, was followed by Sleepy Eye, who came gravely forward touched the pen. “Big Curly” was next, but after reaching the platform he said: “Before I sign I want to say that you think the sum you will five for our land is a great deal of money, but you must understand that the money will all go back to the whites again, and the country will remain theirs.” The Blunt-Headed Arrow, or “The Walnut,” the Handsome Man, the Gray Thunder, the Good Boy and other noted warriors and head men signed in order. Face-in-the-Middle was introduction by his father. “Big Curly,” who said: “This is my son; I would like you to invest him with the medal which you have given to me by my right as chief. He is to succeed me and will keep the medal for you.” Red Day next signed and was followed by Young Sleepy Eye, nephew of and successor to the old chief upon the latter’s death in 1859. They were followed by old Rattling Moccasin, chief of a small band which generally lived in the neighborhood of the great bend of the Minnesota. Old Red Iron was the first Wahpaton chief to sign.
The treaty was signed by the following Sisseton and Wahpaton chiefs, head men and chief soldiers:
Chief-Running Walker, or “The Gun;” Star Face, or “The Orphan;” Thunder Face, or the “Lame Devil;” Sleepy Eve, Extends the Train of His Head Dress, Walking Spirit, Red Iron and Rattling (or Sounding) Moccasin.
Head Man-Blunt-Headed-Arrow, or “The Walnut;” Sounding Iron, the Flute, Flies Twice, Mildly Good, Gray Thunder, Iron Frenchman, Good Boy, FAce in the Middle, Iron Horn, Red Day, Young Sleepy Eye, Goes Galloping On, Cloud Man, the Upper End, the Standard or Flag, Red Face (2) (there wee two Red Faces), Makes Elks, Big Fire, Moving Cloud, the Pursuer, the Shaking Walker, Iron Lightning, Reappearing Cloud, the Walking Harp that Sounds, the Iron that Shoots Walking and Standing Soldier.
Of the Indian signers Red Iron and Sleepy Eye were the most prominent of the Chief’s. The head-man, “Goes Galloping On” (or Anah-wang Manne in Sioux), was a Christian Indian and a member of Reverend Riggs’ Hazelwood Republic. He had been baptized under the name of Simon Anahwangmanne, and was commonly called Simon by the whites. He distinguished himself by his fidelity to and services for the whites during the outbreak in 1862. The Iron-That-Shoots-Walking was a Christian comrade of Simon and called by his white brethren Paul Mazah-koo-te-manne, but commonly Paul or Little Paul. He well nigh immortalized himself during the outbreak by his efforts in behalf of the white prisoners.
As soon as the signing was completed a considerable quantity of provisions and other presents, including silver medals, were presented to the Indians. These presents, which had been furnished by the government, had been piled up and displayed somewhat ostentatiously, under guard, while the treaty was under discussion. The commissioners announced that the presents would be distributed “just as soon as the treaty is signed.” and the announcement was sufficient to hasten the signing, and even to remove many objections to the terms of the treaty. The members of the rank and file of the great Indians host present kept constantly calling out: Sign! sign! and let the presents be given out.”
July 23, the next morning after the treaty had been signed, Chief Star Face, or “The Orphan,” and his band in their fullest and richest dress and decoration, with all the animation they could create, gave the buffalo dance and other dances and diversions for the entertainment of the white visitors. A delegation accompanied the commissioners to the river when they embarked to Fort Snelling that evening and gave them a hearty goodbye.
A similar treaty was signed at Mendota, August 5, by the lower bands of the Sioux, the Medawakantons and the Wahpakootas.
When the ceremony of signing the treaty was completed, both at Traverse des Sioux, and Mendota, each Indian signer stepped to another table, where lay another paper, which he signed. This was called the traders’ paper and was an agreement to pay the “just debts” of the Indians, including those present and absent, alive and dead, owing to the traders and the trading company. Some of the accounts were nearly thirty years’ standing and the Indians who contracted them were dead. It was afterward claimed that the Indians in signing the “traders’ paper” thought they were merely signing a third duplicate of the treaty. The matter of payment had been discussed, but Sleepy Eye had justly demanded an itemized account, and the Indians had supposed that this request was to be complied with before they agreed to pay.
The entire territory ceded by the Sioux Indians was declared to be: “All their lands in the State of Iowa and also all their lands in the Territory of Minnesota lying east of the following to-wit: Beginning at the junction of the Buffalo river with the Red river of the North (about twelve miles north of Moorhead, at Georgetown station, in Clay county); thence along the western bank of said Red river of the North, to the mouth of the Sioux Wood river; thence along the western bank of said Sioux Wood river to Lake Traverse; thence along the western shore of said lake to the southern extremity thereof; thence, in a direct line, to the juncture of Kampeska lake with the Teha-Ka-sna-duta, or Sioux river; thence along the western bank of said river to its point of intersection with the northern line of the State Iowa, including all islands in said rivers and lakes.”
The consideration to the upper bands was the reservation twenty miles wide-ten miles on each side on the Minnesota-and extending from the western boundary to the mouth of they Yellow Medicine and Hawk creek, and $1,665,000, payable as follows: To enable them to settle their affairs and comply with their present just engagements, and to enable them to remove to their new reservation and subsist themselves for the first year, $275,000. To be expended under the direction of the President, in the erection and establishment of manual labor schools, mills and blacksmith shops, opening farms, etc., $30,000. The balance ($1,360,000) to remain in trust with the United States and five per cent interest thereon, or $68,000 to be paid annually for fifty years from July 1, 1852. This annuity was to be paid as follows: In cash, $40,000; for general agricultural improvement and civilization fund, $12,000; for goods and provisions, $10,000, and for education, $6,000.
The written copies of the Traverse des Sioux and the Mendota treaties, duly signed and attested, were forwarded to Washington to be acted upon by the Senate at the ensuing session of Congress. An unreasonably long delay resulted. Final action was not had until the following summer, when, on June 23, the Senate ratified both treaties with important amendments. The provisions for reservations for both the upper and lower bands were stricken out, and substitutes adopted, agreeing to pay 10 cents an acre for both reservations, and authorizing the President, with the assent of the Indians, to cause to be set apart other reservations, which were to be within the limits of the original great cession. The provision to pay $150,000 to the half-bloods of the lower bands was also stricken out. The treaties with the changes, came back to the Indians for final ratification and agreement to the alterations. The chiefs of the lower bands at first objected very strenuously, but finally, on Saturday, September 4, 1852, at Governor Ramsey’s residence in St. Paul, they signed the amended articles, and the following Monday the chiefs head men of the upper bands affixed their marks. As amended, the treaties were proclaimed by President Fillmore, February 23, 1853. The Indians were allowed to remain in their old villages, or, if they preferred, to occupy their reservations as originally designated, until the President selected their new homes. That selection was never made, and the original reservations were finally allowed them, Congress on July 31, 1854, having passed an act by which the original provisions remained in force.
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