Scarce map promoting lands for sale in Gregory County, South Dakota, including portions of the Rosebud Reservation following their sale to the U.S. Government in 1901.
Gregory County is shown bounded in the east by the Missouri River, in the south by Nebraska, in the north by Lyman County and in the west by the western half of the Rosebud Reservation. Watercourses are shown with in great detail, the topography is indicated by hachuring, and the whole is overlaid by the familiar grid of townships, sections and quarter-sections imposed by surveyors of the General Land Office.
A note below the title reads “The land to be opened for settlement consists of that part of Gregory County lying west of Whetstone, Bonesteel, and Fairfax Precincts, or the west half of Range 69 and all of Ranges 70, 71, 72, and 73, except tracts allotted to the Indians…” Many parcels of land are identified by landowner or occupant. Most notably, lands allotted to individual Sioux after the Dawes Act of 1889 (more on which below) are cross-hatched in red and identified by such allottee names as Maud Stinking Eye, Chauncy Yellow Robe, Good Hearted Bear in the Woods, Henry Fool Hawk, Shorty Thigh’s Wife, Charles Crow Dog, Shoots at the Head, Carrie Cherry Bud, and so on. The nature of the land is indicated by such phrases as “Rough and Broken,” “Rough and Mountainous,” and “Table Land.” An inset map of South Dakota and northern Nebraska shows the relative position of the lands to be offered for sale.
The map was compiled and published by self-described “cartographer” E. Frank Peterson of Vermillion, South Dakota (fl. 1892-1906). It was first advertised in the Sioux City Journal (Iowa) for May 15, 1902, price 50 cents. Peterson published quite a few maps and atlases of South Dakota counties, some of which are listed on the rear wrap of this map of Gregory County. The Library of Congress holds many of these, which may be viewed here.
Following the Black Hills War of 1876 the Great Sioux Reservation was first reduced in size, then eventually sliced up by a series of treaties into five smaller reservations. One of these was the Rosebud Reservation, home to the Sicangu Oyote branch of the Sioux, established in 1889 in the counties of Gregory, Mellette, Todd and Tripp, South Dakota. Whatever the original intent of the signatories, within two decades the Sioux’s communally-owned lands on the Reservation had been surveyed and subdivided by the General Land Office; its Sioux inhabitants confined to small, privately-held “allotments”; and the remaining lands opened to white settlement.
The main legal mechanism for this process was the 1887 General Allotment Act, also known as the Dawes Act after Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts. The Act provided for the subdivision of millions of acres of communally-owned tribal land across the country into 160-acre farmland parcels and 320-acre grazing parcels. These were then to be “allotted” to individual tribe members who enrolled with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with the unallotted lands sold to the Federal Government (invariably at below-market rates).
The Act’s goals were to encourage Native American assimilation to the Euro-American model of homesteading while making un-allotted reservation land available for white settlement. In reality the Act helped create conditions that impoverished many of those affected: Native American families were often unaccustomed to lives of farming or ranching, and the lands allotted to them were often substandard. The Meriam Report of 1928, one of the first independent investigations into Native American living standards, concluded that “In justice to the Indians it should be said that many of them are living on lands from which a trained and experienced white man could scarcely wrest a reasonable living.”
A rare and fascinating map reflecting the systematic dispossession of Native American lands in the American West under the terms of the Dawes Act.
OCLC 57629404 (State Historical Society of Missouri, Yale) and 84238803 (Augustana University), as of June 2022. The Augustana copy is dated “1904” on the cover, but it is not clear whether or not this is a new edition. Not in Rumsey or Phillips, Maps of America. RareBookHub lists either only one or two examples having appeared in trade, offered by Ohio dealer Ernest Wessen in 1963.