This Date in Native History: On December 20, 1836, President Andrew Jackson presented Congress a treaty that removed six tribes from the Missouri territory to make room for white settlers.
The Ioway Treaty, also known as the Platte Purchase, was forged between the federal government and the Ioway, Sacs, Sioux, Fox, Otoe and Omaha tribes. It was one of more than 400 treaties formed between 1788 and 1883 that forced assimilation and scraped away at Native rights, land ownership and sovereignty.
The treaty was part of the “bigger picture” of Jackson’s widespread Indian removal policies, historian and author Greg Olson said. Missouri, a state since 1821, wanted to expand its boundaries by pushing tribes west of the Missouri River. Making the excuse that the Indian territory was “too narrow,” the state sought help from the federal government to move the tribes off the land.
“A lot of the things we see here happened 400 other places, but this is the only instance I’m aware of where a state annexed more land by pushing Native people off,” Olson said. “Another thing is that lots of states started larger then got smaller. Missouri got larger over time.”
The Platte Purchase added about 3,150 square miles to the northwest corner of Missouri. The government paid $7,500 for it.
“We lost all our lands between the rivers, the Missouri and Mississippi, and with loss of land, we lost our memories,” said Lance Foster, historic preservation officer for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. “Land is the repository of memory. People remember things by passing through the land. We are only now beginning to find our memories again, as we begin to reconnect with our ancestral lands.”
The treaty, forged in September of 1836 at Fort Leavenworth on the Missouri River, was signed by William Clark, superintendent of Indian Affairs and 27 “chiefs, warriors and counselors” who served as representatives of the Ioway tribe and the band of Sacs and Foxes of the Missouri. Twelve witnesses also signed the treaty, including additional Indian agents and interpreters.
It called for the land between the existing state of Missouri and the Missouri River to the west to be “attached to and become a part of said state and the Indian title thereto be entirely extinguished.” The treaty states that the tribes agreed to cede the Platte Purchase because “an attempt to place an Indian population on (the land) must inevitably lead to collisions with the citizens of the United States.”
The tribes further agreed that “the extension of the state line in the direction indicated would have a happy effect by presenting a natural boundary between the whites and Indians.” They also believed, according to the treaty, that ceding the land would give the government evidence of “attachment and friendship.”
Although most Indian treaties were “stacked to help one side more than another,” the language in the Ioway Treat is interesting, Olson said.
“To me, the treaty seems like a common mental framework,” he said, pointing out that art work still exists in the area portraying Chief White Cloud of the Ioway praying about the treaty. According to local folklore, White Cloud realized that Indian removal was inevitable, so he of his own volition decided to move the tribe off the land.
“It’s a story that makes it seem like it was the tribe’s idea to leave,” Olson said. “It softened the fact that they were again being moved west.”
Under the treaty, the federal government promised to provide for the tribes “as long as the president of the United States may deem proper.” That promise included land, homes, agricultural implements, livestock, rations for one year and services of a farmer, blacksmith, schoolmaster and interpreter.
The lands given to the Ioway in 1836 were reduced by half in 1854, Foster said. The smaller reservation was again cut in half in 1861. The Dawes Act of 1887 parceled the land into allotments, many of which were taken by white merchants. By 1941, about 82 percent of the reservation land was lost.
With the loss of land came loss of identity, Foster said.
“We are like ghosts now, as pale as ghosts most of us, due to intermarriage and isolation, and people often cannot identify some of us as Indian even,” he said. “So like the old saying goes, beware of Greeks bearing gifts. For us, we might say beware Americans bearing promises.”