An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians

An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians

An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians

An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians

Excerpt

In 1800 there were at least 14,000 American Indians living in what is now the eastern half of Nebraska. These included, at a minimum, 10,000 Pawnee, 2,000 Omaha, 900 Ponca, and 1,000 Otoe-Missouria. These nations, or tribes, held sway over more than thirty million acres of land. One hundred years later, of these original Nebraska Indians, only 1,203 Omaha and 229 Ponca remained in their homelands, and their combined estate was little more than two hundred thousand acres. The others, including most of the Ponca, had been excised from their reservations and moved to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). They had received an average of ten cents an acre for the land that became Nebraska. American and European immigrants-- almost one million of them by 1900--filled the vacated lands, fenced the open prairie, plowed over the topsoil, laid down railroads and towns, and in countless other ways metamorphized the landscape to such an extent that it was barely recognizable to the old Indians who had lived through it all.

This book tells the story of this century of dispossession. The study begins around 1800, with the Nebraska Indians living in traditional ways and still relatively unscathed by the external colonizing forces that would rapidly push them to the brink of destruction. It ends in the final two decades of the nineteenth century with the Indians living poorly on allotments--individual parcels of land--in Indian Territory and Nebraska. This was not the end of the dispossession, because most of those allot-

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