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Message to Congress Reporting on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation

February 18, 1890

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith a communication of the 8th instant from the Secretary of the Interior, submitting a report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and accompanying agreement, made with the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota or Sioux Indians, for the purchase and release of the surplus lands in the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, in the States of North and South Dakota, the negotiations for said purchase and release having been conducted under the authority contained in the fifth section of the general allotment act of February 8, 1887 (24 U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 388), which provides, among other things, that the "purchase shall not be complete until ratified by Congress, and the form and manner of executing such release shall also be prescribed by Congress."

This agreement involves a departure from the terms of the general allotment act in at least one important particular. It gives to each member of the tribe, 160 acres of land without regard to age or sex, while the general law gives this allotment only to heads of families. There are, I think, serious objections to the basis adopted in the general law, especially in its application to married women; but if the basis of the agreement herewith submitted is accepted, it would, I think, result in some cases, where there are large families of minor children, in excessive allotments to a single family. Whatever is done in this case will of course become in some sense a precedent in the cases yet to be dealt with.

Perhaps the question of the payment by the United States of the annuities which were forfeited by the act of February 16, 1863 (12 U.S. Statutes at Large, p. 652), should not have been considered in connection with this negotiation for the cession of these lands. But it appears that a refusal to consider this claim would have terminated the negotiation, and if the claim is just its allowance has already been too long delayed. The forfeiture declared by the act of 1863 unjustly included the annuities of certain Indians of these bands who were not only guilty of no fault, but who rendered meritorious services in the armies of the United States in the suppression of the Sioux outbreak and in the War of the Rebellion.

The agreement submitted, as I understand, provides for the payment of the annuities justly due to these friendly Indians to all the members of the two bands per capita. This is said to be the unanimous wish of the Indians, and a distribution to the friendly Indians and their descendants only would now be very difficult, if not impossible.

The agreement is respectfully submitted for the consideration of Congress.


Benjamin Harrison, Message to Congress Reporting on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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