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Minnesota Historical Society Meeting
Meeting of the Dakota descendents held at the Minnesota Historical Society at St. Peter, Minnesota, to discuss the anniversary of the 1862 Dakota Uprising
Marker at the Traverse des Sioux
On September 17, 2010, representatives of various Dakota Native American Communities met in St. Peter, Minnesota to discuss the 150th anniversary of the Dakota uprising. The building where they met is located only a short distance away from Traverse Des Sioux (meaning the “crossing of the Sioux”) an area of the Minnesota River where people crossed.
The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was signed here on July 23, 1851, between the United States government and Dakota (Sioux) Indian bands in Minnesota Territory. The treaty was instigated by Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of Minnesota Territory, and Luke Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. The desire for a treaty was fueled by the promise of rich agricultural lands.
Map showing the land ceded by the Dakota with the signing of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux
The Wahpeton and Sisseton bands of the Upper Sioux were hesitant to sign away so much land, but older members of the tribes realized that the results of the 1825 Treaty of Prairie du Chien and the outcome of the Black Hawk War did not bode well for a refusal to negotiate. Realizing their situation, the Wahpeton and Sisseton bands ceded their lands in southern and western Minnesota Territory, along with some lands in Iowa and Dakota Territory. In exchange, the United States promised payment of $1,665,000 in cash and annuities. Between the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and the Treaty of Mendota, where the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands of the Lower Sioux ceded their territory, nearly 24 million acres of land was opened for white settlement. The Dakota were given two reservations, each about wide and long, along the Minnesota River. The Upper Sioux Agency was established near Granite Falls, Minnesota, while the Lower Sioux Agency was established about thirty miles downstream near Redwood Falls, Minnesota.
Those living north of the Minnesota River were satisfied with their reservation, since it included several of their old villages. Those living on the south, on the other hand, were displaced from the woodlands where they used to live, and were dissatisfied with this choice. Moreover, the treaty contained a separate "trader's paper" that paid $400,000 of the promised treaty amount to fur traders and mixed-bloods who had claims against the Indians. The crush of settlers moving into the area and the promise of increased annuity payments brought the Sioux back to Washington, D.C. in 1858 to sign another pair of treaties ceding the reservation north of the Minnesota River.
The intent of the treaties was to encourage the Sioux to convert from their nomadic hunting lifestyle into a more sedentary farming lifestyle. Between the forced change in lifestyle and the much lower than expected payments from the federal government, tensions within the tribes increased. This tension was one of the causes that fueled the Dakota War of 1862.