HOW THE WATSON COMMUNITY SOIL WAS BOUGHT FROM THE ORIGINAL OWNERS
After the passing of Joseph Renville we are rapidly nearing the era of our state’s stupendous land deals with the Sioux Indians. Minnesota territory was organized in 1849 and Alexander Ramsey became its first governor. Immigrants were already coming into the state and something had to be done to prepare the way for permanent settlements by the white people and a resultant natural growth in industry and commerce.
Then we arrived at the epochal year 1851 when we find it recorded that there were at the Lac qui Parle Indian mission the following teachers: Rev. S. R. Riggs, Rev. M. N. Adams, Jonas Petijohn, Mrs. Fanny Petijohn, Mrs. Mary Ann Riggs, Mrs. Mary A. M. Adams and Miss Sarah Rankin. These teachers at the Indian mission then in what is now Chippewa county Minnesota were all people of culture and refinement, many of them members of socially prominent and influential families in the east.
And it was during this year 1851 that Rev. S. R. Riggs left his home on the mission site five miles west of Watson and went down east along the Minnesota valley to Traverse De Sioux to attend a meeting between the Sioux Indians and Luke Lea, United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Govenor Alexander Ramsey of Minnesota. Traverse De Sioux was an Indian trail crossing the Minnesota river somewhere between Mankato and Fort Snelling and it was an Indian council and camping ground. At this meeting the important treaty with the Sioux Indians by which the west side of the Mississippi river including the Minnesota valley was opened to settlers was effected. The treaty was first read in English and then tnanslated into the Dacota language by Rev. S. R. Riggs on July 18th.
It was not a treaty for any honest man to feel proud over the way it turned out later. It was a binding agreement between Governor Alexander Ramsey and the Sioux Indians that was not carried out by Governor Ramsey according to his promise. According to the treaty $275,000 cash were to be paid to the chiefs of the tribes and an additional $30,000 were to be spent for improvements for the Indians as soon as they moved on to the tracts of land reserved for their occupancy, and this treaty was signed July 23, 1851. This was the treaty with the Wahpeton or Lac qui Parle Indians and also the Sisseton Indians.
And the Medawkantons and Wapakutas were by the treaty of Mendota to be paid $235,000, this also to be paid to the chiefs of the tribes on the same terms as the first mentioned treaty, and this second treaty was dated August 5th 1851. When the Indians in 1857 had waited six years for their money they started to complain about the delay. Then due to the complaints the Indian Department at Washington sent Major Kintzing Pritchette to investigate the fuss about this indebtedness to the Indians that amounted to $540,000. His report to the government at Washington was in principal parts as follows:
“The complaint which runs through all the Indian’s councils points to a non-fulfillment of treaty stipulations. -That such a belief prevails among them impairing their confidence and good faith in the government, can not be questioned.”
And Chief Mapista Wicasta said. “At the treaty of Traverse De Sioux, $275,000 were to be paid the Indians when they came upon their reservations. Every white man knows that they have now been five years upon their reservalions and they have not received their money yet.
Then the Federal government appointed Judge Young to investigate the charges against Governor Ramsey and his report is briefly as follows: “The Governor is charged with having paid over most of the money appropriated in the treaties of July 23 and August 5th, 1851 to one Hugh Tyler for payment to traders and half breeds, against the agreement with, and wishes of the Indians, in violation of his own solemn pledges.”
And the facts disclosed by Judge Young’s investigation were: Of the $275,000 to be paid $250,000 were delivered to Hugh Tyler by Governor Ramsey for distribution amongst traders and half breeds. Hugh Tyler gave two receipts to the Governor signing himself as attornney for the traders and half breeds; one receipt for $210,000 for the traders and one for $40.000 for the half breeds. The first dated at St. Paul December 8th 1852 and the second at Mendota December 11th 1852. And of the $110,000 to be paid the Med-wa-kantons Hugh Tyler received $70,000 on a power of attorney given him by traders and half breeds. Hugfh Tyler also deducted a percentage as a cash discount to himself amounting to $55,000 for handling these sums of money.
These were the sums of money that Governor Alexander Ramsey pledged the Indians in solemn council would be paid to the chiefs of the tribes in open council to be divided among Indians as soon as they moved on to their reservations, where they had been living then five years in fulfillment of their part of the treaty when these investigations were commenced.
During this period of acute abuse of contracts with the Indians and their resultant disatisfaction with the treatment accorded them, by the white people’s administration of their affairs, we learn that the old Indian Mission on the western border of Chippewa county was destroyed in the year 1854. One Indian who learned to read and write at that old mission was not, however, destroyed yet, worse luck as the state of Minnesota shortly learned! Chief Little Crow! According to the treaties at Traverse De Sioux and Mendota in 1851 the Indians had signed away all their territory except a ten mile wide strip on each side of the Minnesota river from near Fort Ridgely, located west of New Ulm and north of the Minnesota river, to Big Stone Lake. Then through the business management of Chief Little Crow this ten mile wide strip of land north of the river from Fort Ridgely to the mouth of the Yellow Medicine river was sold.
This land deal arriving on top of the former land deal trouble made Chief Little Crow, who was an ambitious man, mighty unpopular with his own people, and it caused all the Indians in that part of the Minnesota valley to move and live south of the river. It also shifted the stream of traveling Indian bands to come to Lac qui Parle village from the west side of the river instead of arriving as formerly from the east side of the river. It also caused the building under the Pre-Volstead Indian Agent Major Galbraith’s supervislon in the autumn of 1861, one substancial school house, one dwelling house, one store house and one blacksmith and carriage shop on the Lac qui Parle county side of the river. There is no doubt but that building foundation outlines still showing in the soll near Lac qui Parle village in Lac qui Parle county are some of the traces remaining of the building construction work done under the orders of Major Galbraith in the year 1861.
Amos W. Huggins was the government Indian school teacher at the Lac qui Parle Government Indians school in 1862 and he was one of the first persons killed in the massacre that year. Miss La Frambols was also one of the teachers but she escaped. This most recent Indian school built and maintained by the United States government was located in Lac qui Parle county exclusively and not in Chippewa county, while, the original head Indian village named Lac qui Parle and started hundreds of years ago, and the old Lac qui Parle Indian Mission established ninety-six years ago were all located along the western border of Chippewa County Minnesota and never in Lac qui Parle county Minnesota.
Since Chief Crow once attended school on Watson community soil and later became the leader in the horrible butchery known as the Indian Massacre of 1862 and as a result paid the supreme penalty for those crimes; it is only fair to mention in that connection; that Major Galbraith in command of the states Indian affairs was an incmnpetent; that Governor Alexander Ramsey was a confirmed blunderer; that the Indian instigators with Chief Little Crow were insanely drunk on whiskey when the massacre began. But who brought them that whiskey?
All these years the fur trading business had been conducted by corporations who were always competing with each other for the profits to be made out of valuable furs and other wares, including whiskey. Whiskey was everlastingly smuggled in and exchanged to the trappers and Indians for valuable furs in continual defiance of all government laws and protests of decent citizens against such trade methods. That this influenced all treaties and trade with the Indians is apparent for it is recorded on the annals of history as told by Earl Selkirk, who founded the Selkirk settlement in Manitoba Canada, that in the spring of the year 1815 Morrison and McKenzie of the Northwest Fur Company told chief Kawtawbety of the Chippewa Indian tribe that they would give him and his people all the rum and other goods that they had at Fort William, Leach Lake and Sandy Lake if they would go on the war path against the Selkirk settlers. But the Indian Chief who was more of a man than any of the two white men declined their offer with an expression of deep felt disgust.