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Ioway Cultural Institute : Genealogy :
Ioway Genealogical Sources


The Nemaha Half-Breed Reservation, 1830-1860

(By Lance M. Foster; Based on information from Chapman's The Otoes and Missourias (1965))


The Otoe and Missouria ceded a portion of their lands in Nebraska through the Treaty of 1830 for which they received $3000. Article 10 of that treaty provided for the establishment of the Nemaha Half-Breed Reservation.

"The treaty states that the Omahas, Iowas, and Otoes for themselves, and in behalf of the Yankton and Santee bands of Sioux earnestly requested that they might be permitted to nake some provision for their half-breeds, and particularly that they might bestow upon them this tract of country. The tract 'having belonged to the Ottoes, and having been exclusively ceded by them,' it was agreed that the Omahas, Iowas, and Yankton and Santee bands of Sioux should pay the Otoes the sum of $3000, which was accordingly paid" (Chapman 1965, p. 15).

At first the land was to be held in common in the same way other Indian land titles were held, but it was left open for the President of the U.S. to assign individual tracts to individual owners. This subsequently happened in 1860, 30 years later. This land was the first in the long list of subsequent acts and treaties to allot in severalty (land to individuals rather than held tribally in common) in the U.S.!

This was a strip of land along the Missouri River, extending inland for a distance of 10 miles, between the Little Nemaha River to the north and the Great Nemaha River (by Falls City) to the south, about 138,000 acres.

The half-breeds were the sons and daughters of marriages or liasons between the early French adventurers, soldiers, trappers, traders, voyageurs, etc. and the Indian women of the tribes they associated with. As generations passed, there were also intermarriages with Americans, British, and even some blacks.

The half-breeds were in some sense social orphans. At that time, white society, even the French, would not give full rights to the half-Indian. And even though the Indian tribes tended to be more accepting of their half-white children, even their they were not totally accepted, especially in tribes like the Iowa and Otoe who traced clans and rights through the father, who in this case would be nonIndian. This was a way for the Indian tribes in agreement with the whites to provide a place for those who did not exactly fit in either fullblood Indian or white society, but who had family relationships to both.

In 1833, there were about 150 to 200 half-breeds on the Nemaha. the white government began to make serious investigations into allotment by 1837. The chiefs of the tribes concerned were to make a list of those they considered to be half-breed at the time of the 1830 treaty. It was surveyed in 1838.

In May of 1838, another treaty was made between the Iowa, Otoe, and Omaha which agreed to sell the Nemaha reservation to the U.S. both their interests and the interests of the half-breeds. The reservationwas to be surveyed, and the land valued at $1 an acre, the total sum of which would be invested and distributed over their lifetime to those half-breeds born previous to 1830. The treaty was signed by chiefs of the Otoe, Omaha, Iowa, Yankton, and Santee. To make a long story short, things got complicated and the half-breeds would not consent to sign the treaty. At the same time, there was increasing white interst in the lands.

In 1841, there were 121 half-breeds who had an interest in the Nemaha Reservation, including 50 Iowa, 47 Omaha, 21 Otoe, and 3 Sioux. In 1845, some of the half-breeds requested 640 acres each. In 1853 there were 60 half-breeds on the Nemaha lands. By this time, a large number of white settlers had been illegally settling on those lands, usually the best parcels, and the half-breeds were becoming alarmed, and wanted individual title. Many of the half-breeds were still living with their relatives in the respective tribes.

In 1854 allotment was approved, and in 1856 a commissioner, JosephSharp, was appointed to take the number and names of half-breeds and mixed-bloods among the Iowa, Otoe, Omaha, and Yankton and Santee. Sharp travelled among the different tribes and in 1857 listed 185 yankton, 105 otoe, 62 Omaha, 58 Iowa, and 17 Santee for a total of 427. From these he rejected 42 that were also on a Sioux list for their Lake Pepin half-breed reservation in Minnesota, and he also rejected an additional 12 because they were "mixed with the African." White society placed anyone with black blood as not being Indian or white, and so many mixed-Indian-blacks, even if accepted by Indian relatives, were rejected by the white people and kicked off the reservations, to live in Missouri or other areas. The Iowa interpreter Jeffrey Dorion (or Deroin) was one of these mixed-Indian-blacks kicked out. The whites had an added reason to kick him out because he was an activist for Iowa rights during the later corruption of the white agents.

The allotments were to be 320 acres, regardless of age or sex. There were already bad feelings among many families, made more difficult by the white whisky runners and woodcutters who were ravaging the reserve lands. The 1858 list had 445 names of eligible half-breeds. The cutoff date for birth was changed to 1856. The longer it all dragged on, the stronger the position of white settlers became. As soon as titles came into their hands, many of the half-breeds were selling to white farmers. After legal actions, white squatters were allowed to remain on the western half of the reservation. The half-breeds tried to fight it and submitted a petition, which was sent but buried by someone in the government in the files. The result was a decrease from the original 138,000 to about 120,600 acres.

In 1860, special commissioners arrived in White Cloud to finalize allotments. On September 10, 1860, a total of 389 patents were issued, totalling 122, 240.69 acres, including islands in the Missouri. Each allotment was about 314 acres. The first allotment was in the southwestern corner of Nemaha County, and was asigned to Louis Neals (Lewis Neals, Louis Neal), who was half American, half Omaha.

More issues eventually developed including the fact that certain mix-bloods who were entitled did not received an allotment, notably several Otoes.

--Lance M. Foster, 1999
1999 Lance M. Foster/All Rights Reserved

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