Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux Ceded Millions of Acres from Dakota to U.S

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux Ceded Millions of Acres from Dakota to U.S

Article excerpt

The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux of 1851 is an agreement between the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota and the U.S. government. It transferred ownership of much of southern and western Minnesota from the Dakota to the United States. The treaty is significant in Minnesota's history because, along with similar treaties signed that same year, it opened twenty-four million acres of land to immigration. For the Dakota, these treaties marked another step in the process that saw them increasingly marginalized in and dismissed from land that was their home.

During the early decades of the 1800s, white immigrants began moving west of the St. Croix River into land held by American Indians. Though their numbers were relatively small at first, they saw the value of the land and its resources. They wanted to move further west, deeper into Indian lands. Influential men, including Alexander Ramsey and Henry Sibley, convinced the U.S. government to negotiate the purchase of land from American Indian groups living in the region. Through this transaction, Ramsey and Sibley also hoped to recoup debts that fur traders claimed various Indian bands owed to them.

By 1850, both the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota were in a tough spot. Animals that they had hunted for food and trade were not abundant enough to support their people anymore. Some groups saw selling their land as a way to gain resources they needed to survive. A land cession treaty, with guaranteed annuity payments, could help them through these tough times and, for some Dakota, offered a way to rebuild their communities.

In July 1851, Sibley, Ramsey, and federal commissioner Luke Lea chose Traverse des Sioux as the site for treaty negotiations. It took several weeks for enough representatives of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands to arrive. Once they had arrived, however, it did not take long to come to an agreement. The Dakota were in a very weak bargaining position because they believed that if they did not sell their land, the United States would take it. Negotiations took several days, and some Dakota chiefs initially resisted the demands made by the commissioners because they asked for so much. …

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