2 Replies Latest reply on Feb 25, 2020 5:06 PM by r schliesman

    Seeking information about the Dawes Act & Lake Traverse Reservation


      I would like to learn more about the circumstances surrounded the Dawes Act as it relates to the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation (Lake Traverse) in South Dakota.  Specifically, how and when did white settlers get land that was not allotted to Indians.

        • Re: Seeking information about the Dawes Act & Lake Traverse Reservation
          Lisha Penn Pioneer

          Dear S. Sandvig,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          The Dawes Act, also known as the General Allotment Act, broadly created the allotment process nationwide, then it was applied on a case by case basis and not to all reservations. Some academic literature has the Lake Traverse Reservation formally allotted by a March 3, 1891 law, though it appears allotments may have been granted prior to then; and that was also when white settlers began obtaining what was formally treaty granted land after the set acreage allotments were made to tribal members. Records regarding the enactment of the law can be researched in several avenues, such as with NARA’s Center for Legislative Archives (LL) for Congressional records relating to the passage of the laws and within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters records at the National Archives at Washington DC, though there is no specific series that one can find a quick answer.


          The reservation was administered by the Sisseton Agency of the BIA, the records of which dating back to 1875 are found at the National Archives at Kansas City (RM-KC). If you are researching a particular person or tract, you may wish to start with the series Land Allotment Registers, 1875-1891. For access to and/or copies, please contact  RM-KC via email at kansascity.archives@nara.gov.


          We recommend that you search Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate; Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate; South Dakota: Sisseton Reservation (Lake Traverse): PWNA Resources; and The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in North and South Dakota websites for additional information.


          We hope this is hopeful. Best of luck with your research!


          [Information provided by Cody White, Subject Matter Expert]


          • Re: Seeking information about the Dawes Act & Lake Traverse Reservation


            Here are the dates of congressional actions and some excepts that might be helpful.




            1889 Dec. 12

            Agreement of December 12, 1889, Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux. 

            1. L. Vol. XXVI. p. 1037.

            Cede No. 496. Article 14. Authorization for Allotments in Severalty. 

            Washington, DC


            1891 March 3

            Act of Congress, Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux.

            1. L. Vol XXVI. p. 1035.

            Cede No. 496. Confirms agreement to cede unallotted land on Lake Traverse Reservation.

            Washington, DC



            The agreement was ratified on March 3, 1891, as part of the Indian Appropriation Bill.


            Under this agreement the land was reallotted giving each man or woman 160 acres. Each child under twenty-one was to get 40 acres. Those who had already received allotments would get additional land to make all holdings equivalent to 160 acres. In this way, all allotments were equalized. Section 26 listed the stipulations of the land relinquishments in regards to the Indians. Section 27 provided ways the money was to be spent. The $2,203,000 set aside for the Indians, was to be immediately available. Another $376,578.37 was to be distributed per capita. The scouts and soldiers or their descendants were to be given $126,620 if they served for the U.S. Army either in the Uprising of 1862 or during the Civil War. These payments were considered full payment of all unpaid annuities up to June 30, 1890. The remaining $1,699,800 was to be held in trust at 3 percent interest [that went unpaid.] Section 28 gave the religious organizations the right to purchase reservation lands up to 160 acres for a period of two years, at $2.50 an acre. Sections 16 and 36 of each township would be reserved as school lands.[1]


            [1] Elijah Blackthunder, Ehanna Woyakapi, 69-70.



            “At 11 o’clock fully 3,000 persons had collected along the reservation. … Many of the crowd were spectators from the village and surrounding country. The cavalry patrols galloped back and forth along the line, keeping impatient crowed in check. … At noon, five hundred teams plunged forward. Far up the lake [Traverse] a large party was crossing in boats. … The cavalry had scoured the country yesterday and many were driven off the reservation, but during the night they had returned and others with them. … It is estimated that about one thousand made the rush from Browns Valley. About five hundred stated from the little town called Travare, four miles from the lake. At Wheaton [MN], six hundred crossed the bridge. … Lidgerwood and Hankinson, N.D. also reported a wild rush. … At Waubay, S.D. close to the line to the southwest, between 500 and 600 people, joined. … At Fargo [ND land office] about 100 filings were made in the course of the afternoon.”[1] Roberts County historian Norma Johnson added these details, “Each quarter section had been marked off by pieces of lathes with numbers marked on each one. … The land office in Watertown filed 1,500 claims, 360 on the first day. This was said to be the largest day’s work ever performed in a U.S. land office.” 


            [1] Jubilee Committee. Sisseton 75th Anniversary Celebration. “The Signal Gun: A Wild Dash into South Dakota, Thousands of Settlers and Speculators Race for Sites on the Sisseton Lands – Twenty-five Hundred Deputy Sheriffs To Enforce Order.” St. Paul, April 15, 1892. (Sisseton, SD: Courier Print, 1967) n.p.