Sisseton Indian Reservation



History of the Minnesota Valley Including the Explorers and Pioneers of Minnesota
By. Rev. Edward D. Neill, North Star Publishing Company, 1882
Contributed by Jim Dezotell




On the present reservation about 1500 Sisseton and Wahpeton Indians live. They are tribes of the great Sioux or Dakota nation. The eastern line of their reservation divides Lake Traverse centrally north and south, the iron monument demarking it initially; thence a straight line to Lake Kampeska, at Watertown, is the converging point. The western line runs thence northerly, along the western border of the coteaux; at their northern line the east and west line crosses — making a triangular strip of land, richly diversified, containing 918,780 acres. It is a reserve out of ten millions of acres sold by treaty of Sioux to the government, for $800,000, to be paid in ten annual installments, to be divided equally between these Indians and those at Devil's Lake. At the time of the treaty the Indians did not know the vast amount of land they were selling in Dakota for that small sum — eight cents an acre. When Major Brown penned the treaty of 1867, therein crediting the Sisseton and Wahpeton tribes with being our efficient allies during and after the outbreak, securing to them the Lake Traverse (Sisseton) reservation, he was careful to abolish he pauper clause, common to nearly all other treaties, making work, equal in value to the annuity, the best right to such support; and the results are what he anticipated, and in fact helped lay the basis of, during his agency at Yellow Medicine. Fort Wadsworth (now called Sisseton) north-west of the reservation, has been kept fortified all these years to enforce order when necessary.

Lake Traverse reserve was created by treaty signed February 19, 1867; a further agreement was made September 20, 1872 which was confirmed by act of congress June 22, 1874. The annuities cease June 30 1883. The Indians, however, are fast learning self-support. Last year they raised over 30,000 bushels of wheat, and, including all other crops, 70,000 bushels of produce. Tribal relations are at an end, and much progress has been made towards civilization. 

By article five of the last treaty each Indian is entitled to 160 acres of land, when he has fifty acres plowed and in crop, to hold for himself and heirs, subject to the prohibition of disposing of it, except to the United States government. Under this stimulus many of the Indians have made attempts towards carrying out their part of the terms of the agreement, and in January, 1881, the papers were made out for three Indians, who had earned the right to lands, and applications for patents made out. Much progress is shown also from the fact that at least thirty reaping machines  have be6n bought by Indians, who gave their notes and paid them like any other farmer. All these notes were paid, except two, and these two were given by halt-breeds from below. Four-fifths  of the population on the reservation are full-blood Indians, and about the same proportion are engaged in the cultivation of the land, to a greater or less extent; and almost all of them are engaged in some sort of civilized pursuits. There are almost 5,000 acres in all under cultivation. Nearly all have substantial houses of some kind, but few living in tepees; there are fifteen frame houses. The lumber is issued to them as other supplies, and the houses are constructed by the Indians with the assistance of the employes at the agency. About one-fifth of these Indians speak enough English to make themselves understood, some of them speaking quite fluently. The process of development, though necessarily slow, is, nevertheless, owing to the present influences being brought to bear, having a permanent force.

The mechanism by which the barbarian is being transferred into the civilized man, schools, churches industries, is being operated on the reservation with signal force. A great factor in this progress is the government manual labor boarding school under the charge of Professor T. M. Young. He is assisted by Mrs. Young as matron and Messrs. L. E. Dittes and C. L. Hadamek as teachers, and Misses A. A. Grant and M. Howell the housekeeper and her assistant. 

There are in the school about sixty Indian children of both sexes, many of them showing great proficiency in their studies. Besides this, there are two other schools. Good Will mission school under charge of W. B. Morris and Miss Carrie Thompson, and Ascension school, under the charge of Miss Ella Renville, grand-daughter of Joseph Renville. There are six churches on the reservation, five of them being under the auspices of the Presbyterians, with a membership of nearly four hundred. These are presided over by native preachers, as follows : Ascension, by Rev. J. B. Renville, a son of old Joseph Renville; Good Will, by Rev. C.R. Crawford; Buffalo Lake, by Lewis Mazawakianna, the translation of which would be iron lightning; Myason, by David Grey Cloud; Long Hollow, by Joseph Tispamaza, or Iron Door. During 1881, the A. B. C. F. M. contributed towards the support of the five churches, $1,200, and the native members contributed $850. Other contributions amounted to $500. These churches are under the superintendency of Rev. S. E. Riggs, who so long has done mission work among the Dakotas; he pays an annual visit to these people. Under his ministrations eleven native pastors have been ordained to the ministry. After years of persistent work he translated the Bible into the Dakota language. There is something peculiarly fascinating in this language. It is quite phonetic — every syllable is the ennunciation of an idea. School books are also in use, printed in both the Dakota and English languages together. In July, 1881, Rev. Edward Ashley came to the reservation, and has since erected a frame church of good dimensions. Here he holds regular services, according to the rites of the  Episcopal church, preaching in the morning in Dakota, and in the evening in English. The church is known as St. Mary's. The work of Christianity is still further assisted by the labors of a white lady missionary.

The agency is situated about twelve miles from Brown's Valley. It is under the charge of Major Charles Cressey, who took the superintendency in 1879. He has proved himself an efficient agent, and is well liked by his people. He has labored early and late since he assumed control, and has produced many improvements. He is practically teaching the Indians to be self-supporting.



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