Traverse des Sioux Museum

Location: St Peter, Minnesota

Webpage: Museum

General Description: For thousands of years, Native Americans used the ford near this spot to cross the Minnesota River.  Thus, a trading post likely existed at this spot by the end of the 18th century for primarily the trading of furs.  In 1843, an Indian Mission was established.  In the 1840s it was a transshipment point in the fur trade from collection points as far away as Canada traveling down along the West Plains Trail.  Here the furs were loaded onto flatbed boats for shipment down river.  By 1851, a small settlement grew in support of this trade.  In 1851, the Dakota (Sioux) Indians were forced to coerced into signing the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux that sold over 4 million acres of land in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa.  Under the terms of the treaty they were to receive annual annuities, food, and medical supplies in compensation.  However, Congress refused to allocate any reservation for them to live on, most of the payment never arrived, was lost, and stolen due to corruption in the BIA.  What annuity payments they did received were paid directly to traders to pay off their debts.  Due to settlement pressures, game became scarce and the Dakota Indians were literally starving.  After multiple attempts by the Dakota tribes to get the state and national government to live up to terms of the treaty, tensions began rising and by 1862 war broke out.  The US Dakota War was short lived lasting only 6 weeks from August to September.  Hundreds of Dakota warriors were tried for murder and rape and 303 were convicted and to be hung.  However, President Lincoln commuted most of these sentences, still leading to the execution of 38 men on December 26, 1862, the largest mass execution in American history.

Impressions:

1) The Traverse des Sioux Museum is suppose to have multiple exhibits about the 1851 Treaty and other history of the area, however, it was closed the day we visited for some kine of special events.  However, there is a nice trail through their small prairie restoration project with a few interpretive signs about the remains of the town.  The trail extends down to the Minnesota River close to where they believe the ford was located, although they don’t know its exact location.  However, due to a month of heavy rains the Minnesota River was still flooding and this part of the trail was closed.