I started this little research endeavor when I asked myself the following: “What the heck is Sioux half-breed scrip?” Well, this isn’t a bad moment to take up that question more directly.
The Mississippi River defines the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin from the little town of Prescott, Wisconsin, at the north end of this border-defining stretch, to Minnesota’s southern boundary with Iowa, at the south end. That stretch runs about 135 miles from end to end.
Roughly 25 miles southeast of Prescott commences a natural widening in the River called Lake Pepin. This ersatz lake is roughly 20 miles long and averages 1.7 miles wide.
On the Minnesota side of Lake Pepin, in 1830, the 4th Treaty of Prairie du Chien assigned a roughly rectangular area of land to the mixed-blood relatives of a number of Sioux tribes.
The treaty provided that full-blooded Sioux and full-blooded members of other tribes involved would receive, as tribal units, certain “considerations” for ceding their traditional lands to the United States government. These considerations came in the form of money or goods and technical assistance, not land. Article 4 of the treaty specified that tribes would be paid either two thousand or three thousand dollars per annum for ten years (the amount depended on the specific tribe named) “…in money, merchandise, or domestic animals, at their option.” The Sioux tribes would also receive “one Blacksmith at the expense of the United States, and the necessary tools; also instruments for agricultural purposes, and iron and steel” to the amount of either seven hundred or four hundred dollars (once again, depending on the tribe). (The treaty’s full text is available here.) (These sums, it may be noted, represented much larger amounts in the 1830s than they would in today’s dollars.) Continue reading