Two hundred and ten years ago today, Sept. 23, 1805, Army Lt. Zebulon Pike negotiated a treaty with Dakota leaders that ceded Dakota land at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers so the government could build a fort. This is the first treaty for land in what would become Minnesota, and it involved roughly 100,000 acres. It was a hugely problematic treaty that was never honored or valid, but still provided the government with control of the land.
First, according to the Minnesota Humanities Center website Why Treaties Matter, Pike was dealing with seven Dakota leaders and only two of them agreed to sell the site. The deal involved an unspecified amount of money, but in his journal Pike valued the land at $200,000. Pike left $200 in gifts, and the U.S. Senate later unilaterally paid $2,000.
Second, the government would never recognize the treaty or the debt. According to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), Pike was sent north up the Mississippi River by his commanding officer, Gen. James Wilkinson, without informing the federal government.
The “treaty” was ratified by Congress in 1808, but since Pike didn’t have the authority of the U.S. Senate or the President, it was not an official government act. According to an 1856 Senate committee report, “There is no evidence that this agreement, to which there was not even a witness . . . was ever considered binding upon the Indians, or that they ever yielded up the possession of their lands under it.”
That said, at the time, “the agreement becomes the basis for U.S. claims on the land at the confluence,” MHS said.
The 1805 treaty was signed on the island at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota, an island of “great cultural significance to Dakota people,” the website says. It is called “Pike Island.” The original Dakota name is Wita Tanka, or Big Island.
As a P.S., according to Wikipedia, an 1821 treaty gave Pike island to Elizabeth Pelagie Ferribault, a Dakota woman. She was the wife of Jean-Baptiste Faribault, the namesake of Faribault County.
Mascot Protest This Sunday at the Vikings Game
There will be a “No Honor in Racism” rally Sunday, Oct. 18, prior to the Vikings-Kansas City Chiefs game at the University of Minnesota’s TCF stadium. The protest starts at 10 a.m. at Northrup Auditorium. Here is the No Honor in Racism poster being circulated with more information.
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