Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux
Why a Treaty?
Created by the federal government in 1849, Minnesota Territory was more than twice the size of the present-day state of Minnesota, extending into the Dakotas as far as the Missouri River. But white emigrants could not legally settle in this vast area or use its resources until the land was bought from the people to whom it belonged, the Dakota Indians. At the same time, the Dakota were suffering from a lethal combination of disappearing game, encroachment by Americans onto native lands, and the disruption of traditional subsistence patterns that created widespread hunger and even starvation. The Dakota hoped to use this treaty as a means of surviving in a changing environment.
Who Was Here?
During the last week of June 1851, 35 Dakota leaders assembled at Traverse des Sioux. Among them were the Sisseton chief Ish-Tak-Ha-Ba (Sleepy Eye), leader of the Swan Lake band, and Mazasha (Red Iron), a Sisseton chief and leader of the Traverse des Sioux band. In all, an estimated 1,000 Dakota convened here. On June 30, the steamboat Excelsior arrived. On board were territorial governor
Frank B. Mayer, an artist from Baltimore, came to Minnesota to record the treaty-related events. His drawings are the only visual depictions of what happened here. The three weeks that it took to negotiate the treaty were filled with speeches, feasting, singing, ball playing, dancing, and even a wedding. According to Mayer's journal, the weather did not cooperate: "We are almost daily visited by storms of wind and rain, the severest came at midnight and broke our dreams by its terrific howl."
Signing the Treaty
On July 23, leaders of the Wahpeton and Sisseton Dakota bands came forward to sign the treaty. After the business at Traverse des Sioux was finished, Ramsey, Lea, Sibley, and others crowded into keelboats bound for Mendota, near St. Paul, where members of the Wahpekute and Mdewakanton bands were gathering to negotiate a treaty of their own.
The Traders' Papers
Among the scandalous features of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was a side agreement known as the Traders' Paper. This document authorized a payment of $210,000 in treating money to for traders in order to settle Dakota debts. Such side agreements, although common in treaty negotiations, we’re
“Give us something for the children.”
Facing a mounting wave of white settlement and intense pressure from the US government, the Dakota were forced to sell all their land in Minnesota in a desperate bid to ensure their own survival and that a future generations.
“ give us something for the children. I can almost hear that. I can almost hear the discussion going on with the man as they talked about the treaty signing. What are we going to do now? How do we prepare for the future?”
Tim Ross, Dakota leader and member of the Upper Sioux community, 2000
"You can take your money back."
more than a year after the signing, the Dakota still had not received their annuity payments. Confronting territorial governor Alexander Ramsey, the Sisseton chief Mazasha (Red Iron) said, “when we signed the treaty, the traders through blankets over our faces and darkened our eyes, and got us to sign papers we did not understand, which were not read or explain to us.“ When Ramsey insisted that the Dakota pay the traders, Mazasha replied, “You can take your money back…If you don’t give us the money, I will be glad, and all our people will be glad, for we will have our land back.”
Before ratifying the treaty in 1852, the US Senate eliminated the clause that provided for a reservation. This left the the cooler with no place to live. President Fillmore arrange for them to occupy land along the Minnesota River that had been previously set aside for reservations-until it was needed for a white settlement. The Dakota were a lot of food and assigned a government agent who would teach them Euro-American style farming. “ they expect the Indian people to adapt to all the change overnight. In a very short time, they were to give up centuries of their cultural lifestyle and become farmers. It was so sudden.“
Dakota leader and educator Elden Lawrence, 2000.
Aftermath: The U.S.-Dakota Conflict
By the summer of 1862, the Dakota were furious. Their annuity payments were late, and even though there was food and other supplies in the warehouse is, traders refused to extend them credit to buy what they needed. On a hot summer morning at the lower sue agency, the trader Andrew Myrick was reported to I have said about the hundred Dakota, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.” Tensions burst on August 17, one for Dakota men killed five settlers in Meeker County. Six weeks of often vicious fighting followed that
“They tried to assimilate us”
In 1856 the missionary Stephen Riggs formed a farming community near the reservation and call it the Hazelwood Republic. Sixteen Dakota men joined, swearing allegiance to the United States and agreeing to abandon their tribal customs and dress. But in 1858, the new state of Minnesota refused to grant citizenship rights to the Hazelwood Indians.
“They tried to assimilate us… to kill off the Indian and save the man. It’s a fate worse than death to be alive and, yet, dead inside, do you have the Indian die inside you they wanted us to assimilate, but yet, on the other hand, the general population didn’t want Indians to a assimilate. You had pressure on one side and pressure on the other, resisting. It was a no-win situation.“
Elden Lawrence, 2000
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native Americans • Settlements & Settlers • Wars, US Indian. A significant historical year for this entry is 1849.
Location. 44° 21.107′ N, 93° 57.044′ W. Marker is in St. Peter, Minnesota, in Nicollet County. Marker can be reached from North Minnesota Avenue (U.S. 169) 0.6 miles Traverse des Sioux Road, on the right when traveling north. The marker is along an interpretive trail that is adjacent to the Nicollet County Historical Society Treaty Site History Center. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1851 North Minnesota Avenue, Saint Peter MN 56082, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Rush for Land (within shouting distance of this marker); Ministering to the Dakota (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Ecakensdonyapi (about 300 feet away); Fur Trader Louis Provencalle (about 400 feet away); Archaeology (about 400 feet away); Land-Seas (about 600 feet away); "Only a Memory Now" (about 700 feet away); Welcome to Traverse des Sioux (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Peter.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 8, 2021. It was originally submitted on March 7, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 197 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on March 7, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.