Great Nemaha Half Breed Tract (138,000 acres)

By the treaty of Prairie du Chien, July 15, 1830, land was set aside for a Half Breed
reservation, in Richardson and Nemaha counties in Nebraska. This land, which became
known as the Great Nemaha Half Breed Tract, was set-aside for the Omaha, loway,
Ottoe, Yankton, and Santee Sioux Half-Breeds.

In 1830, treaty provision was made for the Sioux, Otoe and Missouri Metis by
setting aside lands in Nebraska: When the Otoe and Missouri Indians ceded a portion of
their lands in Nebraska they negotiated Article 10 to provide for the establishment of the
Nemaha Half Breed Reservation. During treaty negotiations the Omaha’s, Iowa’s, and
Otoe's, on their own behalf and on behalf of the Yankton and Santee Sioux bands
requested that some provision be made for their Half-Breed relations. Thus when the
1830 Treaty with the Otoes was drawn up the other groups agreed to pay the Otoes the
sum of $3,000 to put aside a Half Breed reservation out of the Otoe land allotment. The
Nemaha Half Breed Tract was a strip of land in southeastern Nebraska bounded on the
east by the Missouri River. This land extended along the river inland for a distance of 10
miles between the Little Nemaha River on the north and the Great Nemaha River to the
south (near Falls City), in total about 138,000 acres.

Although there were about 200 Half Breeds living on this land by 1833, a Half Breed
eligibility list had not been established nor had the land been surveyed. As with Metis
lands in Manitoba the allotment of Scrip was a long and convoluted process, one that
would not be finalized for another 27 years.

In 1854, the allotment was finally approved, and in 1856 commissioner Joseph
Sharp, was appointed to take the number and names of Half Breeds and mixed-bloods
among the Iowa, Otoe, Omaha, and Yankton and Santee. Sharp traveled 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.” At the time, American law 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. 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 allegations against the white
agents. The allotments originally 320 acres (now 314 acres) were not finalized and
patents issued until September 10, 1860. The decrease in allotment was due to the fact
that the time delay had resulted in many white settlers squatting on Metis land. This
process would later be repeated in Manitoba. In Nebraska, as in Manitoba, the settlers
would win out. The result was a decrease from the original 138,000 to about 120,600

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell
Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research
Louis Riel Institute

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