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Spotted Tail and Squaw
(1877)

 
 
Two Strikes, Brulé Sioux, 1878.png

Two Strikes,—Brulé Sioux
(1878)

 

UNCLE SAM, TRUSTEE.

By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation: Whereas, by an agreement between the Sioux tribe of Indians on the Rosebud reservation, in the State of South Dakota, on the one part, and James McLaughlin, a United States Indian inspector, on the other part, amended and ratified by act of Congress approved April 23, 1904 (Public No. 148), the said Indian tribe ceded, conveyed, transferred, relinquished, and surrendered, forever and absolutely, without any reservation whatsoever, expressed or implied, unto the United States of America all their claim, title, and interest of every kind and character in and to the unallotted lands embraced in the following-described tract of country now in the State of South Dakota, to wit. . . ."

THE public is thus informed of the manner in which a portion of the Rosebud Indian reservation was added to the public domain. The proclamation then proceeds to explain in detail the method of opening these lands to public entry under the general provisions of the homestead law.

It is proposed to show—

That the above statement intentionally conceals the truth, and misleads the public into the belief that the act of Congress taking these Indian lands was in accordance with an agreement with the Indians.

That no agreement with the Indians existed bearing the faintest resemblance to the provisions of this act.

That by this act Congress took over the Indian lands on terms of its own, which were never submitted to the Indians for their approval.

That Congress alleged an agreement with the Indians as a basis for the act when no such agreement existed, for the studied purpose of covering up the confiscation of nearly one million dollars of Indian land value.

To prove the truth of these accusations one need not go beyond the range of facts easily accessible, but their serious nature compels a discussion of this one event in the affairs of the Rosebud Indians, to the exclusion of a more general history of the tribe.

As a premise it will be sufficient to say that the Rosebud Sioux, numbering about five thousand, occupy a large reservation in the southeast corner of the original great Sioux reservation. For a considerable distance its eastern boundary is—or was, until the act of 1904 moved it westward—the Missouri River; Nebraska lies on the south, the Pine Ridge reservation joins it on the west, and to the northward is the great cattle range country of South Dakota.

It was to the Rosebud country that the great Sioux Chief Spotted Tail led his dissatisfied people, when, in 1878, he evacuated the Ponca homes so kindly placed at his disposal by the Government. For the accommodation of Spotted Tail the Rosebud agency was established, and a large portion of these Indians to-day are the old followers of Spotted Tail, or their descendants.

By far the greater part of the Rosebud reserve lies within the area of insufficient rainfall, and is good only for grazing. The increase in altitude is rapid as one goes westward from the Missouri River, up the great slope that leads to the Black Hills, and then to the Rocky Mountains beyond. But in the vicinity of the Missouri River are large sections of exceedingly fertile agricultural lands; in fact, the only strictly agricultural lands on the whole reserve lie at its eastern end. Naturally, then, the eastern end became of especial interest to the land speculators.

In respect to cessions of land the Sioux nation has sustained a relation to the Government differing greatly from that of other Indian tribes, by virtue of an iron-clad article in their fundamental treaty of 1868, known as the treaty of Fort Laramie:

"Article XII. No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described which may be held in common shall be of any validity or force as against the said Indians unless executed and signed by at least three-fourths of all the adult male Indians occupying and interested in the same. . . ."

There is a directness of intent in this article not often found in Indian treaties. No treaties are made with Indians which are not for cessions of land; consequently, instead of representing the consent of a few favored chiefs, every treaty or agreement since 1868 with any of the numerous Sioux tribes has been compelled to exhibit the signatures of three-fourths of the adult males concerned. If one wonders how an Indian treaty happened to contain a provision so sweeping, so certain in its meaning, and wholly without the usual convenient loophole, "at the discretion of the President," or some other authority vested in the party of the first part,—a trick that has let the force out of nearly every Indian treaty,—he should remember that in 1868 the Sioux nation could muster as many warriors as the whole United States army was able to send against them; the settlements of the great Northwest, the Union Pacific railroad,—then building,—and at times even the army itself, were at the mercy of such powerful chiefs as Spotted Tail, and Red Cloud, made desperate by what they regarded as the invasion of their country, and the extinction of their game. The treaty of Fort Laramie was no one-party affair; but even under the stern necessity of securing protection for the frontier and the cessation of hostilities, it is to be doubted whether this covenant would have found a place in the treaty without some undermining provision attached, had its lasting import been fully realized.

Coming at once to the events directly concerned in this discussion, in the summer of 1901 United States Indian Inspector James McLaughlin negotiated an agreement with the Rosebud Indians for the purchase of 416,000 acres at the eastern end of their reservation. This tract included the entire frontage on the Missouri River, and practically all of the agricultural land on the reservation. Nearly one-half of the tract, however, consisted of strictly grazing land, worth but little more for stock-raising purposes than the western portion of the reserve left to the Indians, except that it was nearer to the river and to transportation facilities.

The price was fixed at two dollars and a half per acre, or one million and forty thousand dollars; nearly half of the sum was to be paid to the Indians, in money and live-stock, upon ratification of the agreement, the remainder to follow in four annual cash installments.

The agreement was signed according to the treaty of 1868 by 1031 Indians, that number, as the agent certifies, "being twelve more than three-fourths of the male adult Indians of the Rosebud reservation."

Although, according to a subsequent report of no less an authority than the Honorable Commissioner himself, "when the agreement of September 14, 1901, was being concluded, the Indians argued with great persistency that their lands were worth more than two dollars and a half per acre, and they were almost unanimous in declaring that they were well worth five dollars per acre," it is not the intention to question here the methods used to obtain the agreement, but to accept it as bonâ fide. The farming land was, of course, worth several times two dollars and a half per acre, but the grazing land would, in 1901, have scarcely sold for one dollar and a half.

This agreement was to be binding upon the Indians "when accepted and ratified by the Congress of the United States." A bill embodying its provisions was presented at the next session of Congress, but it was not passed; in the vernacular of Washington the bill was "killed" somewhere among the committees. The agreement, consequently, was not accepted nor ratified. The explanation current at that time for the failure of the scheme was that it was then inexpedient to ask Congress for the large appropriation required to pay for the land.

Beginning with 1901 a most remarkable wave of land speculation swept over the West like a tremendous thunder-shower, leaving a rain of gold in its path. The storm seemed to centre first in South Dakota, and like most storms in the Northwest it moved northward. After delighting the hearts and filling the pocket-books of the North Dakotans, it finally spent itself in the Canadian Northwest. Land values in South Dakota were doubled, then trebled; in many instances they were quadrupled within two years. At no time, curiously enough, even in the height of the buying, was there any considerable immigration of permanent settlers; the buyers were mainly wealthy farmers and country bankers from Iowa and adjacent States, augmented by a considerable force of chronic speculators from everywhere. Not in a dozen years had so much land been sold as in the two years of this speculative boom. It was a natural reaction from the long period of land depression which followed the disastrous western mortgage business of the eighties, and as a net result of the general shaking-up, South Dakota found herself in 1903 with normal, steady land values averaging throughout the State somewhat more than double those which prevailed prior to the welcome raid of the speculator.

This kaleidoscopic change in the land situation served to intensify, as may be imagined, the sincere sorrow of the South Dakota delegation in Congress over the loss of a good bargain with the Indians. But it is in the philosophy of the professional land-grabber that "while there's an Indian there's hope"; pressure was again brought to bear upon the Department of the Interior, and in the summer of 1903 Inspector McLaughlin was again on the Rosebud reservation, endeavoring to obtain a renewal of the old agreement, modified, however, in one important particular, so as to avoid the necessity of asking Congress for any considerable appropriation. Instead of the Government buying the entire tract outright at two dollars and a half per acre, as previously proposed, the Indians were asked to let the Government, as trustee, open the lands for white settlement at the same flat price of two dollars and a half, pay the Indians the money only as collected from the settlers, and guarantee neither the sale of all of the tract, nor the payments.

Here was a tract of land representing extremes of value; rich agricultural land, worth five dollars, ten, and some even twenty-five dollars per acre, on the one hand; on the other, grazing land hardly salable at two dollars. The Indians failed to see why they should let the choice of their land go at the average price for the whole, and be left with the poorest on their hands. The reasonableness of their position is apparent; a merchant having a stock of cloths, part silks, the rest cottons, might fairly name a flat price per yard for the entire stock of both silks and cottons; but were he, in a fit of mental aberration, to open his store to the retail trade at that same flat price per yard, first come first served, the public would end the day with rare bargains in silks, and the merchant—with a stock of cottons.

Moreover, the Indians refused to renew the former agreement to sell the entire tract at the two dollars and a half rate; a syndicate of capitalists had recently offered the Commissioner of Indian Affairs five dollars per acre for the same tract, and to this figure they persistently clung.

Thus the scheme failed. The Indians had the temerity to demand from the Government the same price offered by a speculating syndicate, and the device intended to capture the good land for a song, without taking the poor, failed to entrap the Indians.

Viewed from the professional boomer's standpoint, there is nothing to be gained by opening lands to public settlement at somewhere near its value; it is not the land, but the value above its selling price, that is depended upon to bring a rush of prize-seekers into a new country. The greater the value to be given away, the more deluded fools with money will struggle with each other for the few prizes, and the greater the resulting boom.

The South Dakota statesmen were sad. Inspired by the good old saw, "if at first you don't succeed," they had tried again—and failed again. But there is in the philosophy of the sanguine land-grabber another bit of cheer, equally inspiring—"if again you don't succeed, try Congress."

In Washington, "far from the madding Indians," the schemers then gathered together and drafted a bill after their own liking for taking over the Indian lands. Here is their beneficent proposition:

The Indians were to "cede, surrender, grant, and convey to the United States all their claim, right, title, and interest" to the 416,000 acres, excepting the allotments to individual Indians.

Next, "The United States stipulates and agrees to pay for sections sixteen and thirty-six, or an equivalent of two sections in each township, two dollars and fifty cents per acre," and to deliver it to the State of South Dakota for school purposes. These sections—two in every thirty-six—were all that the Government was to pay for.

All the remaining land—some 382,000 acres—"shall be opened to settlement and entry by proclamation of the President," the price to be, "upon all land entered or filed upon within three months after the same shall be opened for settlement and entry, four dollars per acre,[1] to be paid as follows: one dollar per acre when entry is made; seventy-five cents per acre within two years after entry;" and seventy-five cents each year thereafter until paid for. This delivered to the land-grabbers the entire body of agricultural land, worth four, ten, fifteen, and in some instances twenty-five dollars, at the bargain-store price of four dollars, and on terms so easy as to suit the most vociferous.

Then, as to the lands below the four-dollar mark—comprising about one-half of the entire tract—"Upon all land entered or filed upon after the expiration of three months and within six months after the same shall be opened for settlement and entry, three dollars per acre," with the same dollar paid down, and fifty cents annually after two years. Of course, very little land not taken at four dollars would go for three dollars: this provision was a mere pretentious showing of a sliding scale of prices, designed to cover the main attack on the left-over lands.

This final steal was a clever piece of work. The value of these grazing lands was not much below two dollars and a half per acre, even under the handicap of the homestead law, which required a nominal residence of at least fourteen months upon the land; another wave of speculation, or a couple of good cattle years, would double, perhaps treble, their value—and such a turn in the market might come at any time.

So, in anticipation of the happy day, the plotters decreed that all land left over from the first two sales was to remain open to homestead entry at two dollars and a half per acre for a period of three and one-half years more; and finally, any land "remaining undisposed of at the expiration of four years from the taking effect of this act, shall be sold and disposed of for cash, under rules and regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior."

Thus, if the grazing lands should advance to five dollars, the Indians would get two dollars and a half; if prices should remain stationary, or decline, the lands were to be sold for whatever they would bring. The land-grabbers were to take the gain in values, and the Indians the loss.

And the last words of this precious act carefully explain that Uncle Sam does not "guarantee to find purchasers for said lands, or any portion thereof, it being the intention of this act that the United States shall act as trustee for said Indians to dispose of said lands and to expend and pay over the proceeds received from the sale thereof only as received, as herein provided."

Three separate peculations were developed in this scheme:

First, the Big Steal—the confiscation of every dollar of Indian value above the four-dollar-per-acre mark.

Second, the Long Steal—the four-year open game of "heads I win, tails you lose," for the grazing lands.

Third, the Little Steal—the taking by the Government of some twenty-three thousand acres at two dollars and a half—exactly half the price offered by the syndicate.

Thus the Rosebud bill was drafted. To give it any measure of reputable standing, the endorsement of three-fourths of the male Indians was absolutely essential; but their endorsement was out of the question.

One other way was open to the conspirators,—that was to take advantage of a recent decision of the Supreme Court, abrogate the time-honored Sioux treaty, and take the land without the Indian consent.

On January 5, 1903, the Supreme Court of the United States, in deciding the Lone Wolf case, declared that "The power exists [in Congress] to abrogate the provisions of an Indian treaty." This sweeping declaration was attended by many suggestions of limitation, of caution, and of the grave responsibility laid upon Congress to exercise this trust with due regard for the national honor:

"Presumably such power will be exercised only when circumstances arise which will not only justify the Government in disregarding the stipulations of the treaty, but may demand, in the interest of the Government and the Indians themselves, that it should do so." And again, "In a contingency such power might be availed of from considerations of governmental policy, particularly if consistent with perfect good faith toward the Indians."

Still again the decision bears upon Congress its moral responsibility:

"We must presume that Congress acted in perfect good faith in the dealings with the Indians, . . . and that the legislative branch of the Government exercised its best judgment in the premises."

In this decision the Supreme Court virtually pronounced the death sentence upon the Indian's treaty rights, with the supplication—"And may Congress have mercy on his soul!" as though it feared the worst.

Indian treaties since the beginning have never been deserving of the name of "treaties"; nearly every stipulation in the Indians' favor has been provisional, ambiguous, or directly subject to the discretion of the Government. "Articles of Guardianship" would have been a better name for the fairer ones, and "Sharp Bargains" for the majority. Though professing to be treaties, at no time have they had the standing of treaties made with the most insignificant of outside nations—and in the very nature of things such recognition was impossible. Yet for one hundred years the United States hypocritically bargained with the aborigines under the guise of treating with competent nations. The name "treaty" was abandoned in 1871, although the business has since been continued under the name of "agreements."

The appalling feature of this radical decision of the Supreme Court lies, not in proclaiming the hollowness of these treaty farces, but in the naming of the Indian's guardian—Congress, the amiable Pontius Pilate of the Indian race, always ready to yield to the clamor of the Faithful! It is impossible to estimate the disasters that may come to the Indian as a result of this decision. The Indians' friends have welcomed with one accord the breaking up of the reservation system, the allotment of lands in severalty, and the curtailment of rations—but with these steps in advance comes the necessity for the sale of the surplus Indian lands. At this critical time, when the proper establishment of the Indian in his new relation as an individual demands that his small remaining patrimony be most conscientiously realized upon, he is deprived of all voice in his own affairs and the disposal of his land goes into the general stock-in-trade of that great political trading-post, Congress.

But over this doubtful course through the congressional clearing-house the South Dakota statesmen hesitated to send the Rosebud bill. There was nothing in it to "justify the Government in disregarding the stipulations of the treaty"; the interest of the Indians was not considered; it was wholly "inconsistent with perfect good faith toward the Indians."

Nothing but an unadorned display of its arbitrary power to "abrogate the provisions of an Indian treaty" would enable Congress to pass this bill. It might as well be labelled, "An act to confiscate all value in the Rosebud lands above four dollars per acre, and deliver it to the Faithful." That would have been an honest title, and the power exists in Congress to pass just that kind of a bill.

The land schemers discarded the open course as too dangerous. Nothing remained but to railroad the bill through under color of the Fort Laramie treaty. In the absence of an agreement with the Indians, it became necessary to allege an agreement, so the discarded agreement of 1901 was resurrected and attached to the bill.

It was a plain agreement to sell the entire tract outright to the Government at two dollars and a half per acre; it bore not even a family resemblance to the provisions of the proposed bill; it had been once presented and refused in Congress, and later repudiated by the Indians; land values had more than doubled in the two years which had elapsed; but what of it?

"An agreement with the Indians"—that so disarmed general suspicion, both in and outside of Congress, that the Indians' friends protested almost in vain when the bill appeared in January, 1904. Reuben Quick Bear, President of the Rosebud Indian Council, appealed to the Indian Rights Association:

"If ever we needed help we need it now, and badly. . . . A real estate man recently went over it and told a friend of mine that he would gladly give $10 an acre for the whole tract, and could raise the money in three weeks. Over a year ago a syndicate offered the Commissioner $5 per acre for the whole tract, and land around here has since doubled in value. We only ask $5 per acre. . . .

"Ask that three men be appointed to value the land—one to be appointed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, one by the Indians, and these two to select a third, as was done when the Omaha reservation was valued years ago. If this proposal is entertained the South Dakota delegation will at once consent to $5 per acre, as they well know that any half-way fair valuation would be far more than that. . . ."

But the South Dakota delegation did not propose to have daylight let into their scheme by three impartial appraisers.

Newspaper articles appeared, scoring the bill in language picturesque. A periodical of the highest authority on current affairs came out with a broadside against the bill, denounced both the scheme itself and its "agreement" disguise, and strongly urged a competitive sale of the lands under homestead restrictions as the only sane, honorable method of realizing for the Indians the full value of their surplus lands. But land everywhere is offered at competitive sale; boomers do not rush in to spend money for land offered at its value.

Congress was not without official information and advice during its deliberations. The Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in reporting the bill to Congress, had this to say:

"When the agreement of September 14, 1901, was being concluded, the Indians argued with great persistency that their lands were worth more than $2.50 per acre, and they were almost unanimous in declaring that they were well worth $5 per acre. . . . In fact one offer was made by parties to take all the lands covered by the cession at the rate of $5 per acre. . . .

"The Indians cannot see . . . why they should not procure such price for the lands as settlers are willing to pay for them. The Indians in their talks have shown themselves to be not unreasonable in their demands, but simply persisted in demanding what they believed to be just and proper. . . ."

Whatever may have been the shortcomings of Indian Commissioners in years past, the Indian office during the last few years has been administered by sincere friends of the Indian. There is nothing in the Indian situation more gratifying than this, at a time when the last of the Indian's patrimony is absolutely at the disposal of Congress.

But the efforts of the Indian Rights Association and the plain statement of the Commissioner served only to raise the maximum price, originally three dollars, to four dollars per acre. Nothing but a thoroughly aroused public opinion can move Congress, and public opinion could not be aroused in the face of "an agreement with the Indians."

Then, with the declaration, "That the said agreement be, and the same hereby is, accepted, ratified, and confirmed as herein amended and modified, as follows:"—the Rosebud bill became a law in April, 1904, as though an agreement between two parties, changed out of all resemblance to its original self by one of the parties without the consent of the other, were entitled to the name "agreement"!

Thus ends the first act in the Rosebud land scandal. The second has to do with the division of the spoils.

The Rosebud bill provides, "That the lands ceded to the United States under said agreement . . . shall be opened to settlement and entry by proclamation of the President, which proclamation shall prescribe the manner in which these lands may be settled upon," etc., but at the prices and terms set down in the act.

Never before had such acute conditions been confronted at a distribution of public land. The Rosebud tract bordered upon well-settled, prosperous farming country; adjacent railroads and cities furnished the necessary elements for a most prodigious boom; immense value above the four-dollar price was to be given away; and, with it all, the West was land-crazy. The usual "rush at the crack of a gun" was out of the question. The stakes were too high. Frenzied boomers would tear each other to pieces.

A very different scheme was adopted for the distribution of the Rosebud lands. Instead of the fierce rush at a given signal, the choice of lands was to be determined by a lottery drawing. This system was first devised in 1901 for the opening of a somewhat remote tract of Indian land in the Indian Territory, but it lent itself well to the purposes of the Rosebud opening. The President's proclamation fully sets forth the plan:

"Each applicant who shows himself duly qualified will be registered and given a nontransferable certificate to that effect, which will entitle him to go upon and examine the lands to be opened hereunder. . . .

"The order in which, during the first sixty days following the opening, the registered applicants will be permitted to make homestead entry of the lands opened hereunder, will be determined by a drawing. . . . Preparatory to this drawing the registration officers will, at the time of registering each applicant who shows himself duly qualified, make out a card, which must be signed by the applicant, and giving such a description of the applicant as will enable the local land officers to thereafter identify him. This card will be subsequently sealed in a separate envelope which will bear no other distinguishing label or mark than such as may be necessary to show that it is to go into the drawing. These envelopes will be carefully preserved and remain sealed until opened in the course of the drawing herein provided. When the registration is completed, all of these sealed envelopes will be brought together at the place of drawing and turned over to the committee in charge of the drawing, who, in such manner as in their judgment will be attended with entire fairness and equality of opportunity, shall proceed to draw out and open the separate envelopes and to give to each inclosed card a number in the order in which the envelope containing the same is drawn."

Then the lucky thousand or so first out of the box were to choose their prizes in the order of their numbers.

And the rest? Merely blanks.

The distribution of public lands under the time-honored homestead law was thus resolved into a game of chance, from which every element of reward for personal achievement had been eliminated,—a simon pure lottery, with the price of admission a trip to the land office. As a lottery, its absolute fairness was vouched for by the Government; but the Government is on record as unequivocally opposed to lotteries of all kinds. The spectacle of Uncle Sam treading upon his own toes is, of course, paradoxical, but these parallel quotations are significant in view of the wide circulation of the President's proclamation through the mails:

From the President's Proclamation:

From the U. S. Postal Laws:

"Each applicant will be notified of his number, and of the day upon which he must make his entry, by a postal card mailed to him at the address given by him at the time of registration."

"No letter, postal card, or circular concerning any lottery, so-called gift concert, or other similar enterprise offering prizes dependent upon lot or chance, and no list of the drawings at any lottery or similar scheme . . . shall be carried in the mail."

"The result of each day's drawing will also be given to the press to be published as a matter of news."

"Nor shall any newspaper, circular, pamphlet, or publication of any kind . . . containing any list of prizes awarded at the drawings of any such lottery or gift enterprise, whether said list is of any part or of all of the drawing, be carried in the mail."

Possibly there is some technical evasion of liability under the law; but who will say that the spirit of the law was not violated? The United States postal laws, and the several State laws directed against games of chance, do not presume fraud; they aim to protect the people from the demoralization that comes from tempting offers of opportunity to get something at less than its value,—something for nothing.

The effect on the people of this "circular . . . offering prizes dependent upon lot or chance" can be readily guessed. Relieved of apprehension as to life and limb, guaranteed "fairness and equality of opportunity" in a simple game of chance where the turn of a card meant hundreds, or thousands—or nothing—the gambling spirit was aroused as the Louisiana lottery never aroused it. By hundreds from the Eastern States, by thousands from the Central West, men flocked into South Dakota to "play the game" with Uncle Sam. Nearly three weeks were consumed in registering the multitude of applicants. Hamlets of a few hundred became temporary cities of ten thousand. Gambling breeds gambling, and professional gamblers from all parts of the country catered to the absorbing passion of the day. "Never in the palmy days of Deadwood was gambling more rife," writes one correspondent; "just about every game ever invented, with the single exception of policy, can be found in one or more of the public resorts." The carnival of crookedness led to open defiance of the authorities, but the better element among the boomers, after a pitched battle with the crooks, finally succeeded in checking the lawlessness. The casualties of both sides covering the whole summer campaign in the Rosebud country were between twenty and forty, including both killed and wounded. Twice during the excitement formal demand was made on the Governor for State troops, but the Governor seems to have wisely concluded to let the motley crowd "fight it out."

After the registration came the drawing.

There were twenty-four hundred homesteads in the entire Rosebud tract. Of these, a thousand were prizes well above the four-dollar mark.

For a chance to draw these one thousand prizes, 106,296 individuals had registered their applications. The game stood one hundred to one against the players.

Remote as was the chance of drawing a lucky number, never was a gambling game conducted more fairly and squarely than this one. Every move in the grand final event was religiously referred to Mistress Chance. First, boxes containing one thousand each of the 106,296 envelopes were numbered, and the order in which they should be emptied into the one big drawing-box was determined by lot. On the theory of "first in, last out," this preliminary event narrowed the probable winners down to the last few thousand cards deposited in the big receptacle. Then, from among eight boys named by the drawing committee, four were chosen by lot to draw the numbers in turn from the box. Again the boys' names went into the hat, and a third drawing determined the order in which the four lads were to draw the envelopes.

Finally, Boy Number One, all ready to draw Prize Number One, was photographed beside the precious box while the expectant throng held its breath.

Prize number one—the best one hundred and sixty acres on the Rosebud—perhaps next to a townsite—or a vantage point on the Missouri—wherever the winner might choose to locate his little fortune—fell to a clerk in the United States Treasury Department at Washington. And the first one hundred winners fared nearly as well. About twelve hundred entries were made at the four-dollar-per-acre rate.

But the losers? One hundred and five thousand of them. This tells of only one:

"One old man stood near the edge of the platform, looking with anxious interest at the drawing. Clerk John McPhaul, who was in charge of the Bonesteel office, whose heart is as kind as a woman's, saw the old man and beckoned him to come to the stage and offered him a chair. But the old man was too interested to take a chair. All during the three days' drawing he hovered just over the chairs of the clerks who were taking the names of the lucky drawers. On the second day he was at his post when the drawing commenced, his old, weather-beaten face tense with anxiety. The third day found him still at his post, anxious, but still hopeful. That he was expecting to draw a claim became noised around, and every one was hopeful that the old man would be lucky. When the last number was drawn and his name had not appeared the old man looked about in a dazed sort of way and shuffled off the platform. His shoulders were bent and it was easy to see that he had suffered a deep disappointment. That old man was probably a type of thousands who were scattered throughout the country."

And the rake-off? One hundred thousand pilgrimages to the promised land, at an average of twenty dollars each—two million dollars of expense money left with the South Dakotans; this is more than twice the sum that will be paid to the Indians for the lands taken; more visitors, and more visitors' money, than South Dakota had seen in ten years. Did it pay? Of course it paid. What would a sane, competitive sale at fair value have been, compared to this?

Who furnished the prizes? The Rosebud Indians,—the erstwhile followers of the powerful Spotted Tail. In 1877 we saw the Poncas driven by Congress into worse than Siberian exile that it might reward Spotted Tail for his valiant services in securing peace with the Black Hills Sioux. Now we see the dwindling remnant of Spotted Tail's people robbed by Congress that it may pay its political debt to the stalwart South Dakota delegation.

And the Steal? The entries made at both the four-dollar and the three-dollar rates will yield, if all entrymen pay in full, about $850,000; but after the first excitement, many will never make the second payment. What the Indians will eventually get for the remaining lands is problematical,—the four-year game of "heads I win, tails you lose" is now on for the grazing land. Taken as a whole, a guaranteed return of one million dollars for the tract would have been a better sale for the Indians; they could have sold for two million dollars. The steal? Approximately one million dollars.


  1. In the original draft of the bill the maximum price was three dollars; these quotations are from the act as passed by Congress.