Dakota Indians History: Treaties

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AmIn 3711 Dakota Culture and History Treaty Summary Paper It is of up most importance that we- being American- learn of the life (and death) this soil we call home has seen. Who lived here prior to myself, and how it was it obtained? Through the scrutiny of the treaties between the Sioux and the United States- beginning with the Pike Treaty of 1805 through the spring of 1863, America's cornerstone and the answer to the previous question is gruesomely reveled.

At a conference the first treaty was produced held nine miles up the Minnesota River from Fort Snelling between the United States and the Sioux Indians known as the Pike Treaty of 1805. Pike's ultimate mission was to "establish United States sovereignty..." over land ceded by the Indians (24). More specifically, this treaty vaguely demanded two pieces of land found at the mouth of the St. Croix, and at the intersection of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.

Not understanding the white man's ways of business and ownership, the seven Mdewakanton "chiefs" present were left in the dark at the stipulations of the treaty and only two reluctantly signed (Little Crow and Way Ago Enagee). Essentially, the seven "chiefs" spoke for the future of 21,675 Sioux in the cession 100,000 acres appreciated by Pike at $200,000- but no "specific sum was named in the treaty as compensation"(25). The questionable sum was later reduced to a mere $2,000. This first treaty was an eerie premonition as to how the Sioux nation was to be treated in the future by the United States Government- used, abused, and simply discarded as a hindrance to progress.

With the advances of the white man more prominent than ever previously experienced, the Sioux found themselves experiencing much hardships and "in search of food of any kind"(49). During the years of 1828-1829 some started to explore the option of agriculture as means for survival. With the goal of "civilization" of the Sioux in mind a treaty was called during the summer of 1830 including the Sioux and several of tribes gathered at Prairie du Chien. "Although the primary purpose of this treaty was to stop raids by the Sioux and the Sacs and Foxes", land was ceded. The Sioux and Sacs both yielded a twenty-mile strip of land- creating a forty-mile wide "neutral strip". Contrary to it's purpose- this neutral strip of land merely escalated tensions between the groups. Those signing included twenty-six Mdewakantons, nine Wahpekutes, two Sissetons, and no Wahpetons. Of those signatures recognizable was found Wabasha, Little Crow, and Big Eagle. The land was compensated for by the government with $2,000 annuity to be paid for during the next ten years in the form of money, merchandises, or animals. They were also to be given $700 worth of agricultural implements, iron and steel, and a blacksmith along with $500 toward and education fund. The annuities actually received by the parties involved were "too small to have much effect, good or bad"(51).

In the summer of 1837, a delegation of Sioux and Sacs and Foxes was arranged to meet in Washington to smooth out their tensions with each other. "Under the impression that this was the sole purpose of the trip" twenty-six Sioux appeared. When the Sacs and Foxes failed to appear, a treaty was created that requested the cession of the lands east of the Mississippi, including the island found on the river. Subjected to "various pressures" the Indians signed. In return for the lands ceded, the United States promised $300,000 "...to be paid to the chiefs and braves annually forever an income at not less than five percent" interest (58). Of the $300,000, $110,000 was to be given to those no less than one quarter Indian blood, and $90,000 to be received by the traders for the tribes' debt. In addition to the initial amount, an annuity of $10,000 in goods for the next twenty years, and $8,250 spent during the same time for medicine, agricultural tools, and livestock. "Finally, they were to be paid $6,000 in goods upon their arrival at St. Louis on their way home"(58). Of those signing included twenty-one Mdewakantons- most of the chiefs and headmen who appeared on the earlier treaty of 1830. After the signing a "mood of reckless desperation" spread among the Indians due to the long delayed (absent) provisions initially promised by the government.

To help solve the "Indian problem" concerning the upper Mississippi valley was hired Governor Doty of Wisconsin Territory. About mid-summer 1841, Doty met with the chiefs and braves of the Sissetons, Wahpteons, and Wahtekutes to construct a treaty involving about 30 million acres for the price of $1,3000,000 located west of Mdewakanton territory and east of the crest of the Coteau des Prairies- leaving the Indians with "specific tracts of land on the left bank of the Minnesota River (74)". Part of Doty's plan was to provide the government with direct control of Indian trade- capable of fixing prices and regulating it. Provisions of the treaty allowed $150,000 to be charged to the Indians by the white settlers for claims made. Doty continued- in August of 1841 a supplementary treaty was made with five of the seven Mdewakanton bands, "agreeing to cede all their land (estimated at 2 million acres) and to move to the left bank of the Minnesota"(74). Given no choice, even those refusing to sell (Red Wing and Wabasha) signed. Because of much opposition especially from Senator Benton- the first treaty was presented in September of 1841 and resubmitted the following spring, but finally rejected in August of 1842. It was said that the treaty would have "locked up a valuable tract of country for the Indians instead of opening it to white settlement"(75). These treaties were evidence of the fear of any absolute decision on the part of the United States- resulting in the constant moving of the Indians to smaller and more confined lands. More negotiations concerning the annuities to the Sioux occurred along with the question of their residence. Upon the insistence of the government, the Indians would not sell their land (for a decided 2.5 cents per acre) until they "had the assurance that they would be permanently located on some portion of the proposed cession"(76). The Doty treaties essentially made the Indians aware of a sense of value placed on their lands. The negotiated price of their lands were ever changing, leaving the Indians to without any sense of stability.

The Traverse de Sioux and Mendota treaty negotiated in the summer of 1851, could be seen as one of the most obvious displays of the cruelty and injustice imposed upon the Indians by the United States Government. Ramsey and Lea effectively influenced the Indians with talk of the honesty of the "Great Father", and the denial of "any desire to take advantage of [the Indians] in any way"(79). On July 23, the "commissioners ordered blankets, knives, tobacco, ribbons, paint, and other articles piled up in tempting array" to persuade the Indians incase of their refusal or doubts (79). Twenty-one million acres were ceded as result of the treaty of Traverse de Sioux (all of present day Minnesota and part of South Dakota). They were to receive $1,665,000 in return. $275,000 was to go to the chiefs to pay the debts to traders, $30,000 was for schools, blacksmiths, mills, and farms. The rest of it ($1,360,000) was to "bear the interest at a rate of five percent for a period of fifty years"(80). Then Indians were then sent to a substantionally smaller area- a reservation consisting of "ten miles on either side of the river and from the western end of the cession down to the Yellow Medicine river"(80). After the signing of this treaty, the Indians were individually pulled aside and told to sign yet another treaty made by the traders acknowledging their debts, although no "sums owed was attached to the document"(80). The treaty between the Mdewakantons and Wahpekutes made at Mendota was similar to the treaty of Traverse de Sioux made a couple days prior. Following the footsteps of the upper Sioux, the Mdewakantons and Wahpekutes felt they had no choice but also agree to give up their lands. On July 29, 1851 Ramsey opened the negotiations. Realizing that over and over the "Indians found out very different from what they had been told," Little Crow and Wabasha questioned the treaty, but later were convinced through more deceptive words by Ramsey to sign (82). A smaller payment was to be given, that of $1,410,000 than the previous treaty. This agreement also provided a principle sum "on which interest was to be paid for fifty years"(84). Directly upon the news of the treaties "whites began pouring onto the ceded land" and the Indians' patience was decreasing as the tension was increasing (84). The tension finally burst at its' seams during the Inkpaduta affair in which the Indians learned that they could effectively take action against the injustice the whites suppressed them with. As a result to this and the many empty promises made by the Unites States, the Indians' attitudes toward the whites shifted, along with increased hostility toward the Indians by the whites.

According to Special Agent Prichette, the only solution was "total isolation within limits 'preserved and maintained...' "(101). The objectives of the Indian Bureau then shifted toward the "total annihilation of the Indian race within their borders"(102). In response to this attitude, the treaty of 1858 was established. It included a four-month visit to Washing by a pre-determined group of chiefs from both upper and lower Sioux. Two treaties were signed for within the same day. Although extremely small, the southern half of the reservation was to be taken away. The "excess land [was] to be held in common for the future use of the tribe, the allotments to be exempt from taxation, sale or alienation...even after patents had been issued"(103). Also taken away from the Indians was their right to a sound title to the reservation. This power was given to the Senate. After being referred to as a child for questioning the validity of the treaty, Little Crow was convinced to sign. The government now had complete control to do as it pleases with the Sioux and their property- therefore taking full advantage of this power. It took two years after the signing for the ratification of the treaty. The senate finally confirmed the Indians' title and gave them $.30 an acre for the area given up. $266,880 was given for the Sioux's land, of which most of it went toward the payment of "debts" of the traders. Despite all the Indians had given- they saw little of the money. As a result, an intense feeling a betrayal grew toward the government. Because of the groups formed among the Indians in retaliation to their current treatment by the whites, in the spring of 1836 a campaign led by Sibly and Sully was formed to kill and capture the remaining "hostiles"(133). Although the Indians were badly beaten in the battles at Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, Stony Lake and Dickey County- dissatisfaction was still felt by many Minnesotans. Bounties were placed over Sioux's heads with a substantial reward of $200 a scalp. These raid resulted in Little Crow's death. With the attention placed on the captured Sioux, many were placed in camps or prisons and subjected to a religion forced upon them. Even with their compliance to the unfamiliar ways of Christianity and "civilization"- the white people still cried "contemptible fools" and "cold-hearted scoundrels" at the Sioux. These feelings of hatred escalated to the formation of the motto "Extermination or Removal!"(139). This created political pressure felt by Minnesota legislature and the congressional delegation. As a result, on September 9, 1862 "the idea was broached (by Governor Ramsey) of abrogating all the treaties with the Sioux and reimbursing victims of the uprising from the annuities still due under the treaties"(140) After several negotiations, a solution was created in the form of two acts. Approved in February was "An Act for the Relief of Persons for Damages sustained by Reason of Depredations and Injuries by certain Bands of Sioux Indians". Within this act contained the denial of any further benefits under the previous treaties- includes all rights to the occupancy of land in Minnesota. The second act was titled "An Act for the Removal of the Sisseton, Wahpaton, Medwakanton, and Wahpakoota Bands of Sioux or Dakota Indians, and for the disposition of the Lands in Minnesota and Dakota", which effectively left the Sioux without home (140). No money was to be given directly to the Indians- instead was to be used purely for agricultural purposes in hope that they would become self-sustaining. Congress therefore put forth $50,016.66 for the removal of the Sioux and establishment of their new homes (141). Through the actions of the Congress it was clear that they were not even remotely concerned with gaining the Indians' consent. Stripped of all they had known, the Sioux no longer had any control of their future. Through these treaties it is shown that the United States was indeed built on empty promises, greed, and unjustifiable deaths.