Canadian artist Paul Kane’s painting titled “Half-Breeds Running Buffalo” (1846) (1)
I want to spend a few words, now, on the subject of the extensive and varied cheating that surrounded Sioux half-breed scrip. Securing a better appreciation of the great scope and depth of this cheating will, I believe, add much needed context and understanding to the evaluation of Col. Wallace’s anguished plea that he’d been cheated out of his just land claim.
The ultimate demonstration of that cheating’s prevalence — the proof in the pudding, as it were — was the fact, as alluded to in MNOPEDIA‘s article on half-breed scrip, that very little of the great wealth generated by the scrip over the course of the second half of the 19th century ultimately ended up in the hands of persons of Indian heritage. Continue reading
Hudson’s Bay Company store, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Col. William R. Wallace noted his (apparently) recent contact or contacts with the “American consul” in Winnipeg in both of his two letters published on March 1st, 1889, in the Spokane Falls Chronicle and the Murray Sun. “Now, in justification of myself in this matter,” he wrote in the Chronicle‘s letter (1),
I will say that I investigated the validity of the Sioux scrip and found that the piece I held and located was the original and that it was genuine. I also found that Walter Bourke and his wife had never given any one the right to locate the duplicate; that the entry of the duplicate was fraudulent, and that the American consul at Winnipeg, in B.N.A., who witnessed the transfer and took the acknowledgement of Walter Bourke, is still where I can use him as a witness and knows the residence of the half breed and wife.
Wallace wrote much the same in his Murray Sun letter, adding, a little less ambigously in this letter, that Bourke himself still lived. (2) Col. Wallace may have learned of Bourke’s whereabouts at Winnipeg from the two power-of-attorney documents that would have accompanied Bourke’s Sioux half-breed scrip certificates — which scrip, Wallace asserted, had been purchased from the First National Bank of Spokane in 1886. The first power-of-attorney document allowed the bearer ostensibly to locate land on the scripee’s behalf; the second allowed the bearer to act as the scripee’s ostensible agent in selling the located land once the General Land Office had issued a patent for it. The name and signature fields for the party assuming this power-of-attorney authority would be left blank so that the scrip’s purchaser might reap its benefits. Continue reading
Gustav O. Brohough’s map of the Half Breed Tract, showing Washaba and Goodhue counties’ portions
As already noted, the scrip handed out to mixed-blood Sioux was exchangeable for land claims both inside the Sioux Half Breed Tract – which land reverted to the public domain with the July 17, 1854 act – or elsewhere in Minnesota and the United States.
As it happened, during the two dozen years between 1830, when the 4th Treaty of Prairie du Chien was inked, and 1854, when the scrip act passed into law, more than a few white settlers had taken lands and made their residence in the Half Breed Tract’s rich farmlands. (This influx occurred especially from 1851 onward.) Then, from 1857 forward, Sioux half-breed scrip filtered into the hands of land speculators who in turn sold it to prospective settlers wishing to secure lands for themselves. Some of these prospective settlers sought land claims within the Half Breed Tract. Some original scripees also sought to locate land in the Tract. Thus did conflicts arise between prospective settlers and the actual settlers already there. Continue reading
Minnesota historian William Watt Folwell
The federal act exchanging the Half Breed Tract for grants of scrip to eligible mixed-blood Sioux passed into law on July 17, 1854. Yet, many months would pass before actual scrip certificates were distributed to eligible recipients. A survey had to be undertaken of both the Half Breed Tract’s land area and the list of potential mixed-blood eligibles. “A year passed while the survey was in progress,” wrote Folwell (1922, p. 483), “and nearly another while the commissioners appointed for the purpose were making up a roll of the half-breeds entitled to participate in the distribution of the scrip.”
According to Folwell’s account, these surveys determined that the Tract covered 32,819.48 acres and 640 mixed-bloods made up the pool of eligibles. Based on these figures, it was decided to allot each eligible 480 acres, this sum divided into five separate scrip certificates, A through E. A was exchangeable for 40 acres; B, for 40 acres; C, for 80 acres; D, for 160 acres; and E, for 160 acres. Each scrip certificate entitled the bearer – and, it may be noted, only the bearer – to “locate” to an equivalent-area land grant on unclaimed federal land, whether surveyed or not surveyed. (As we will see in due course, this division of each eligible’s grant into five pieces of scrip would play a not insignificant part in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion regarding the proper uses of such scrip down the road, in 1902.)
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
Secretary of the Interior, John Willock Noble
Col. William R. Wallace pushed forward with appeals to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of the land-jumping outbreak of February 19th, 1889. His first GLO appeal was dated March 13th, 1889 — or three weeks after the upheaval. He’d offered a preview of his appeal’s basis in his March 1st letter to the Murray Sun. “I can prove by the American Consul at Winnipeg, B. N. A.,” Wallace wrote, “that the scrip was located by the original owner, Walter Bourke and wife; that he made oath, and still lives to verify the same; that he had never parted with the original and never gave any one power to use his name in any other location…” Wallace’s assertion “that the scrip was located by the original owner, Walter Bourke and his wife” meant, in effect, that his (Wallace’s) claim to his North Idaho townsite had been genuinely lodged on behalf of the original scripee or scripees, Walter Bourke and his wife. Wallace’s chief contention was that Bourke’s putative requests, through attorney Henry T. Welles, for replacement scrip and use of that replacement to locate land in Dakota had been fraudulent. Therefore, his (Wallace’s) scrip and his land claim were the rightful ones, in North Idaho.
Col. Wallace, in the same Murray Sun letter, buttressed his case with a lengthy quotation of consultant Luther Harrison’s commentary on the case. One notable aspect of Harrison’s commentary was its date — November 28th, 1888. This date implies, of course, that Col. Wallace was seeking to overturn the GLO’s decision and regularize his ownership of the Wallace townsite even before the land rush of February 19th of the following year. Perhaps he’d come to the conclusion that his awkward and shady arrangement with Robert McFarland, at the GLO facility in Coeur d’Alene City, probably wasn’t going to last forever. Or perhaps his simmering frustration over what he regarded as the injustice of the GLO’s rejection motivated him to enlist Harrison. Or maybe Wallace was just exploring his options. Whatever the reasons, Harrison’s commentary on the case surely helped frame Col. Wallace’s post-land-rush appeal to the GLO. Continue reading