Administrative History
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Following the treaty of 1858, in which the Yankton Sioux relinquished their land but retained "free and unrestricted use" of the quarry, federal officials began a long and complicated process in which they tried to clear title to the quarries and their surroundings. To federal officials of the time, this was a logical progression of events that would vest the government with title to this land until its disposition could be decided. Efforts to establish federal control faced the range of problems of settlement during late nineteenth-century America: the often flimsy nature of the treaties made with native peoples, the aggressive pro-settlement views of Congress and the American public, and the growing development of a federal system of protection for Indians. As a result, establishing an exclusive federal right to the area, a precursor to the establishment of any permanent federal institution, did not occur until the last Native American claim was extinguished in 1928.

The spread of Euro-American culture to the Upper Midwest had followed the time-honored practices of the eastern half of the nation. The first inkling American Indians in what is now Minnesota had of impending change in their world occurred in the late seventeenth century as Indian refugees from the Algonquin-Iroquois Wars began to spread west. By the end of the seventeenth century, fundamental changes in the distribution and location of Native American peoples were well under way. Trappers and traders entered this disrupted world with material goods to offer, initiating a complicated pattern of misunderstood agreements that served to establish a loose framework governing cross-cultural contact. Neither Europeans nor Native Americans were strong enough to do without the other in this liminal world. [1]

By 1815, a new order had been reconstructed on the northern plains. The Lakota or Sioux people established themselves as the dominant power in the area around the pipestone quarries, and they resisted encroachment by other Indians and incoming Euro-Americans with equal zeal. Yet a process of transformation had begun, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, a long era of Native American dominance was coming to an end. [2]

By the end of the 1850s, compelled and voluntary treaties had removed Native Americans from most of Minnesota. Between the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the middle of the century, a number of agreements between the eastern Sioux, by then firmly ensconced in Minnesota Territory, and the U.S. government affected the autonomy of Native Americans. In most of these treaties, native peoples agreed to peace, friendship, and the supremacy of the federal government. In the summer of 1851, Native Americans were persuaded to relinquish their lands in southwestern Minnesota. In treaties signed at Mendota and Traverse des Sioux, the Mdewakantons, Wahpekutes, Sisseton, and Wahpeton bands of the Sioux surrendered their claims to all of Minnesota except a twenty-mile-wide reserve along the Upper Minnesota River for about three million dollars in money and benefits. These bands of Sioux failed to claim the pipestone quarries in either treaty. [3]

The Yankton Sioux took a different view of the sale, and conflict resulted. Yankton people, who had almost complete control of the pipestone quarries, regarded the land that the other Sioux sold as their own. Each year, as the other bands received their annuities, the Yankton came to collect what they considered their due for land wrongfully sold. On some occasions, the Yankton used force to get what they felt they deserved. By the middle of the 1850s, Charles E. Flandreau, the agent for the Sisseton, complained about the actions of the Yankton. Federal officials took notice, and the process of negotiating with the Yankton began. [4]

As it did with many other Native American people, the settlement entailed a trip to Washington, D. C., for Yankton leaders. Federal officials envisioned a cession of Yankton lands and the creation of a reservation for them farther to the west. The negotiations were long and complicated, and the Yankton resisted any settlement that did not include the right to use the quarries. Even the offer of a 400,000-acre reservation in south central South Dakota did not interest them until Chief Struck-by-the-Ree secured federal acknowledgement of the right of the tribe to the pipestone quarries. In the spring of 1858, with their rights secured by provisions in the treaty, the Yankton accepted its terms and went to their new home near Fort Randall in the Dakota Territory, about 150 miles from the quarries. [5]

One of the terms of the treaty of 1858 required that the federal government perform a survey to determine the boundaries of the Pipestone reserved area. In 1859, General Land Office surveyors used the rock on which Joseph Nicollet had written his name as the center and marked out the one-square-mile reserve. [6] With that formal designation, the area passed from Native American hands to an entirely new kind of administration.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the newly established state of Minnesota was far from the consciousness of the divided nation. To the south, "Bleeding Kansas," itself a territory until January 1861, had captured the imagination of the nation. In an era when the question of preservation of the union and the efficacy of slavery as an institution dominated the national scene, federal efforts in the newly secured parts of Minnesota were at best haphazard. Despite the promises made in 1858 to the Yankton about the sanctity of their quarries, the federal government failed to uphold its part of the agreement. Encroachment on the newly designated reserved area became common.

The spread of Euro-Americans into what is now southwestern Minnesota served as the catalyst for wholesale change. During the 1850s, a trickle of adventurers came to the area, but only after the treaty of 1858 did any kind of permanent settlement begin. Before 1858, most Anglo visitors were traders or explorer/scientists, and the pattern continued for the next decade. After the treaty, the American government sent official representatives. A military detail of 150 men in search of a band of Indians camped within a mile of the quarries in 1862. Commercial interests were not far behind. The celebrated Moscow Expedition, headed by nascent entrepreneur James Boyd Hubbell, held a rendezvous there. Within a year, Hubbell started his own company, Hubbell and Hawley, quarried large quantities of pipestone, and had it fashioned into pipes that he planned to sell to the military for use in trade. Although the military contract fell through, Hubbell recouped his investment by trading the pipes for buffalo robes with Native Americans along the Missouri River. [7]

Hubbell's activity typified the actions of the first Anglo-Americans to come to the area surrounding the pipestone quarries. Characteristic of this time, such actions revealed a mindset as common on the peripheries as in the center of American society. The natural world was a bounty to be harvested by the aggressive, in most cases as quickly as possible so as not to share it with anyone else. Such an attitude was far from what George Catlin and others like him envisioned when they began to popularize the quarries, and even farther from the expectation of the Yankton Sioux when they agreed to cede their land. Administration of the quarry became a point of contention almost from the moment of the Yankton cession.

The completion of a public lands survey of the Pipestone area in 1870 inaugurated a new era in settlement. By September of that year, the public domain in the area could be claimed by homesteaders. The final plat maps failed to show the boundaries of the reserved area, leading to the filing of homestead claims within the one-square mile tract. The earliest of these occurred in June and July of 1871, and more followed. Some of these claims were later canceled, but one within the reserved area, held by August Clausen, was perfected. Despite a resurvey in 1872 that clearly outlined the border, two currents in American society had become proximate. [8] Settlers who envisioned the West as an open area devoid of other humans came into contact with a federal government that at least acknowledged its obligations to the native peoples of the area. Some sort of conflict between these contrasting and mutually exclusive world views became likely.

The increase of the pace of settlement in the middle of the 1870s made it even more likely. By that time, railroads and the other accouterments of industrial society reached past the Mississippi River, and smaller western communities could hook into this lifeline and envision an economic future. Near the quarries, the town of "Pipestone City" was founded in 1876, and within two years it had become a small but growing trading center. [9]

The influx of newcomers brandishing a new value system set the stage for conflict with Yanktons who sought to use the quarry. Since 1858, the Yankton had been left alone to quarry their sacred stone. The lack of Euro-Americans nearby assured that the Yanktons could proceed unhindered. But the creation of the town and its subsequent growth altered conditions for the Indians. As early as 1876, tension over Yankton use of the quarry surfaced. White settlers and some of the Yankton argued the all-important question in the history of the American West: whose land was whose? [10]

There were a number of related points of contention that had to be addressed. White settlers attempted to persuade the Yankton that their reserved area was much smaller than the Indians expected, and leaders of the tribe contacted John G. Gasmann, their agent, to assess their situation. Gasmann took the Yanktons' side, pressing the commissioner of Indian affairs for some action on their behalf. [11]

This complaint triggered federal involvement. Although the process began slowly, the Bureau of Indian Affairs took notice of activities in its domain. Gasmann's successor, John W. Douglas, kept the issue alive, and by the end of the 1870s the question of the patent issued to August Clausen and later sold to H. M. Carpenter had become the focus of the inquiry. The commissioner of the General Land Office made serious efforts to revoke the patent granted for land within reserved boundaries. Although the case went to court and the patent was upheld, legal and practical resolutions were distinctly different kinds of reality. [12]

In 1880, the issue took on a new tone. A group of Yankton who returned from the quarry reported that whites were quarrying building stone, presumably quartzite, within the boundaries of the reservation. Demand for the stone was great, for a mini-building boom was under way in the Pipestone area. Although the activity was just inside the southern boundary line of the reserved area, it offered a serious challenge to the integrity of the quarries that had potential ramifications. Others in the community planned to reactivate their extinguished claims if Carpenter's challenge succeeded. [13]

The situation worsened during the following three years. Carpenter won his court case, which was then appealed and sat on the U. S. Supreme Court docket until 1884. A newcomer, C. C. Goodnow, an agent for Carpenter, threatened Indians who came to the quarries and compelled them to leave. By 1883, Goodnow had become mayor of the town of Pipestone. He also built a substantial, two-story house within the boundaries of the reserved area. Nor was he alone. Other homes, including one Goodnow built for his mother, were also constructed. Although the Yankton made repeated inquiries and complaints, federal officials were far away. It seemed that local initiative would erode the Native American claim until the quarries and their environs would be inhabited and the Indian claim ignored or forgotten. [14]

An unusual triumvirate came together to try to stop the gradual disenfranchisement. Struck-by-the-Ree, who referred to himself as Head Chief of the Yanktons, the new Yankton agent, Maj. William M. Ridpath, and D. E. Sweet, a resident of Pipestone who was appalled by the conduct of his peers, all set out to stop the land grab. Ridpath visited the reserved area in November 1883 and found obstinate, intractable settlers, some of whom did not care that they had been denied the right to file on the land because it was reserved. Ridpath was outraged, for he recognized that the settlers were not ignorant. Instead they chose to defy the law. Their conduct was "contemptible," Ridpath remarked. "I will take pleasure in removing [the settlers] and tearing down their improvements if you so direct," he wrote the commissioner of the General Land Office. [15]

The settlers' disregard for the rights of Indians was a common occurrence at this time. Across the West, the process of removing Native Americans from lands granted them by treaty continued unabated. From Kansas to the west coast, native peoples were moved farther and farther from their home areas onto smaller and smaller tracts of less productive land. Even the meager lands left them were not inviolable. By the middle of the 1880s, legislation to allot tribal lands to individual Indians to create more land for settlers was considered. This movement culminated in the Dawes Act of 1887, which-allowed individual Indians fixed amounts of land and offered the leftover parts of reservations for sale. [16] In the context of their time, the Yankton seemed to have no chance of recovering their expropriated property.

The legacy of the previous secretary of the interior, Colorado Senator Henry Teller, further limited the chances that the Yankton could resist encroachment. The policies of Teller's department reflected his personal beliefs: development and growth were the greatest of examples of human achievement, and clearing the land of native peoples was essential to progress. His successor, L. Q. C. Lamar, shared a less virulent vision of a West dominated by yeoman farmers and ranchers. Western lands, he asserted in 1886, "will thrive and grow under the management of a hardy and industrious population." [17] In the view of the time, Indians were neither hardy nor industrious. Little support for the Yankton position existed at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior, and Ridpath's desire to throw the settlers out was denied. [18]

Not surprisingly, local sentiment generally favored the settlers. Most westerners saw the world they had entered as barren of prior claim, and the simple matter of a mistaken federal promise could be easily overlooked. "Use it or lose it" was the dominant ethos, and the intermittent character of Indian use and the fact that there was no agricultural work on the reserved area offered the settlers support for their preconceived ideas. As long as Teller remained influential, there was little chance of anything impeding the acquisitive.

The election of Grover Cleveland in 1884 changed the tone of federal administration, although it did not eliminate the obstacles that the Yankton faced. Department of the Interior policy became more sympathetic to Native Americans and the Yankton received support for their position from the Supreme Court decision in the Carpenter case, which voided the Claussen patent, but enforcing the law depended on state and local officials. The mayor of Pipestone was a squatter on the land in question, and the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, D. B. Searle, did his best to avoid addressing the situation. Yet as the complaints mounted and more settlers moved onto the reserved area, something had to be done. [19]

Maj. J. F. Kinney, Ridpath's successor as Yankton agent, became the catalyst for resolution. During a trip to Washington, D. C., he convinced the secretary of the interior and the commissioner of Indian affairs that the rights of the Yankton had to be protected. Kinney wanted a squad of soldiers to evict the squatters. In March 1887, the order was issued, and a conflict between settlers and the American military seemed imminent. [20]

The concept of the use of military force against settlers in support of Indian claims was quite unusual. By the late 1880s, religious reformers had gained the upper hand in influencing policy directed at Native Americans, and their approach was far more sympathetic to Indians than that of earlier times. The prime thrust of their effort was to assimilate Indians into American society, for there was significant worry about the future of Native Americans. Assimilation required that Native Americans have land and tools to make them farmers, for the thinking of the time suggested that by imitating the ways of white America, Indians would learn to be "civilized." With the Indian wars almost completed and little military resistance left, the War Department concentrated its efforts on the enforcement of treaty requirements. [21]

A confrontation was imminent. On October 11, 1887, a detachment of ten soldiers led by Capt. J. W. Bean and accompanied by Agent Kinney arrived in Pipestone. The settlers were surprised to see the soldiers, and despite some grumbling, agreed to remove their property from the reserved area. Even Goodnow, the most intransigent of the squatters, agreed to leave when faced with federal troops. [22]

The situation at Pipestone was ironic. Soldiers there removed settlers from land, while elsewhere in the West, the opposite was far more characteristic. The appearance of the U.S. Cavalry melted local resistance and reminded settlers that they too were bound by the laws and treaties of the United States. As it did at many other places beyond the control of the institutions of American society, that reality came as something of a surprise to Pipestone residents.

The resolution of this conflict left no doubt about control of the reserved area at Pipestone. The actions of the military established federal control of the quarries and clearly revealed the limits of local power. Future decisions about the quarries and their disposition would be made through the auspices of the U.S. government and its agencies. The quarries, and by inference all of southwestern Minnesota, had ceased to be open country, available to all comers. The rules set up by the government would hold there as well as they did in Philadelphia or New York City.

Other obstacles to federal title existed. In 1884, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, & Northern Railroad completed construction of a stretch of track that crossed the Pipestone reservation. The railroad claimed the right-of-way areas that western railroads had come to expect as federal subsidy for their development efforts. It was a routine matter. But because of the terms of the treaty from 1858, the right-of-way could not simply be granted to the railroad. Four years later, railway officials were informed that they needed an act of Congress to secure title. While this too seemed a perfunctory step, it became a source of controversy. [23]

If there was to be a typical, late-nineteenth century land grab, the people of the town of Pipestone wanted a chance to secure the lands from which they had been evicted. After the first bill that the railroad supported failed, a Minnesota congressman introduced another measure that created a board of appraisers to evaluate the lands on the reservation, establish priority for the evicted settlers to acquire the land if the Indians chose to sell, and allow the sale of any portion of the reservation if the majority of adult male Yanktons agreed to it.

The passage of this bill in March 1889 inaugurated a new era at Pipestone. It demonstrated the change in authority and responsibility for the lands, while simultaneously showing that Indian land was not inviolable. The board of appraisers met and determined that $1,740 was appropriate compensation for the right-of-way. After negotiations, the Yanktons agreed to accept that sum as compensation for the use of their land but they refused to sell any of the reserved area. A measure of order entered Indian-white relations at Pipestone, furthering accentuating the level of federal control. [24]

The eviction of the homesteaders served notice that the people of Pipestone would have to look elsewhere for more land. But the reserved area presented other potential advantages. As the community grew, it sought a broader economic base. Agriculture and small commercial entities made up the largest part of the local and regional economy, and enterprising citizens sought to attract new businesses. As elsewhere in the West, local boosterism played an important role in promoting economic growth. But the real future of the town of Pipestone lay in transforming the federal presence into an economic advantage.

There were evident limits to the prospects of growth associated with the Pipestone reservation. Townspeople recognized that any federal project there would have to benefit Native Americans. Locals wanted the opportunity to bid for contracts and jobs at whatever kind of facility emerged. In this, the people of Pipestone were prescient. They recognized what much of the West spent the following century denying: the western environment was not sufficient to supply the demands of an industrial society with an exploding population. Federal programs and employment, soon to become the backbone of the western economy, made an early appearance at Pipestone.

A typical local effort to acquire a federal institution culminated in the creation of the Pipestone Indian School. In January 1890, the first inkling of the idea appeared in an editorial in the Pipestone County Star. This probably followed widespread discussion in the community. By March, the idea acquired a wide local following. The town began lobbying efforts as well. Locals sent pieces of pipestone from the quarry to congressmen as a means of currying favor, followed by memorials supporting the idea in March and April of 1890. The people of the town moved into action in an attempt to assure rapid success. [25]

The people of Pipestone developed new strategies as a result of the eviction of their peers a few years earlier. They sought to use the system to support their objectives, rather than defy it and risk further sanction. They also learned that the Native American perspective was useful. A number of petitions supporting the school circulated among area Indians. Many signed the petitions, perceiving some kind of advantage in the school. Conspicuously absent were the Yankton, who lived more than 150 miles away and apparently were not consulted. [26] But the presence of Native American signatures enhanced the credibility of the proposal, suggesting that the people of Pipestone and their neighbors had found a common ground acceptable to most.

With the groundwork completed, the legislative process proceeded smoothly. The idea seemed to reflect a consensus of the people of Pipestone and its environs, both Native American and Anglo. A bill to establish the Pipestone Indian School passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 1890 and the U.S. Senate followed early in February 1892. On February 16, 1892, much to the pleasure of the people of Pipestone, President Benjamin Harrison signed the measure into law. Plans to select a site and construct a building followed. [27]

But when they found out about the proposal for the school, the Yankton sought to stop its construction. The tribe entered a protest with its agent, E. W. Foster. They claimed the right to take allotments at the Pipestone reservation under the terms of the Dawes Act. The reserved area was theirs, Yankton leaders insisted, and to demonstrate that the signatures of other Indians signatures were irrelevant, Yankton leaders collected 167 names on a petition of their own that opposed the bill.

The situation had become a legal dispute, and the secretary of the interior turned to the Justice Department for a ruling. Following the precedent established while Henry Teller was secretary of the interior in the early 1880s, the U.S. attorney general opined that Yanktons had only the right to quarry at Pipestone and that the establishment of the school would not interfere with that right. Nonetheless, negotiations to purchase "surplus" lands began with the Yankton. Despite the attorney general's opinion, federal officials sought to maintain some semblance of peaceful coexistence by acceding to the Yankton perspective. [28]

This response also played into the hands of those who sought to acquire Native American land. Allotment rarely worked in the Indians' favor, and "negotiation" was often a code word for "swindle." Some federal legislation encouraged speculators and others who sought to grab land. The Indian Appropriation Act of July 13, 1892, allowed the government to seek to purchase land deemed surplus to Native Americans. But the concept of surplus land required two steps unfamiliar to northern plains peoples: individual ownership of land and agriculture as a basis for economy. Nomadic pastoral people rarely had surplus land; instead they had land they claimed that they planned to use at another time. [29] This cross-cultural misunderstanding placed Native Americans at a severe disadvantage.

By the 1890s, most Native American peoples were experienced negotiators. Many government officials evinced far greater sympathy for the Native American position as well, for Indians had ceased to be any threat to the nation and were increasingly portrayed as a romanticized anachronism in American society. Yet federal policy dictated that assimilation was the objective of interaction with native peoples, and while government officials and negotiators might be sympathetic, their objectives were generally different from those of tribes and their leaders. The Yankton negotiations were typical of this trend, except that the Indians were extremely sophisticated. [30]

When the talks concluded in 1893, the agreement reached was unusual. The U.S. government was allowed to contest the Yankton claim by taking the case to the Supreme Court within one year of ratification of the agreement by Congress. If the government failed to do so, title to the tract reverted to the Yankton. It was a gamble for the Indians, an all-or-nothing attempt to resolve the status of what they considered their land. The U.S. attorney general found the agreement specious, and in 1894 advised the Department of the Interior that this scenario was "impractical."

The attorney general correctly assessed the situation, but that did not help the government and its case. Department of the Interior officials thought the Supreme Court an inappropriate venue and sought a legislative solution from Congress, but achieved little success. The issue did not reach the U.S. Supreme Court. In August 1895, a year and one day after ratification of the agreement, Yankton leaders requested proof of their ownership of the land under the terms of the agreement. Federal officials did not reply. [31]

The matter seemed unresolvable. The Yankton asserted their claim, and the federal government refused to recognize it. In 1896, at a tribal meeting, Yankton leaders again requested that their claim be given consideration, but were ignored. In January 1897, they petitioned for legal title to the tract as well as for compensation for damages that resulted from unauthorized use. [32] With the support of Sen. Richard Pettigrew of South Dakota, a bill that included a measure authorizing negotiations with the Yankton about Pipestone passed Congress in 1897. [33]

A subtle shift in the Yankton position help create a context for negotiations. Until the tribal meeting of January 1897, the Yankton wanted the land back with clear title. In that meeting, their perspective changed to include seeking damages for alienated land. The new view was much more in line with the practices toward Native Americans in this era. It allowed payment for taking the land. Whether the Yankton recognized that they would never really regain the land and sought to make the most of the situation or their perspective changed to make such a solution more acceptable remained unclear. Nonetheless, the flexibility in the Yankton position propelled a move toward settlement.

Negotiations for the sale of the tract by the Yankton Sioux to the government began in 1899. The talks became a complex and protracted process that took considerable time. An impasse over dollar value delayed agreement until October of 1899. The Yanktons wanted $1,000,000 for the reservation, a sum federal inspector James McLaughlin, who represented the U.S. government, found extravagant. McLaughlin had more than twenty years experience in the Indian Service and spoke Sioux, and he was an able negotiator. The Yanktons dropped their offer to $100,000, but McLaughlin still regarded it as too much. His top offer was $75,000. After an aggravating sequence of events that returned the price to the $1,000,000 figure, McLaughlin changed his tactics and began to negotiate with individuals. The Yankton were both allottees and U.S. citizens. McLaughlin and the tribal council drew up a committee, made up mostly of younger, mixed-bloods, to negotiate. In October 1899, the committee presented its proposal to the tribe. A small majority of the Yankton agreed to accept a total of $100,000—$75,000 in cash and the rest in cattle—for the property. [34]

These tactics were common at the time. Assimilation remained the focus of Native American policy, and mixed-bloods and others with ties to the Anglo world were often tools of disenfranchisement. Farther to the south in Kansas, mixed-blood Charles Curtis participated in a similar allotment of Indian lands in Topeka. Curtis was rewarded with a personal fortune, a U.S. Senate seat, and later, the vice presidency of the nation. [35]

But despite the advantages of the agreement, Congress refused to ratify it. The Senate Indian Affairs committee reported unfavorably on the bill. Some senators regarded the 1858 treaty as an easement for the property, not as title. In addition, they averred, the 1893 agreement contained impossible conditions and so could not be binding. Despite the efforts of U.S. Sen. Robert J. Gamble of South Dakota, the bill died on the floor. Similar scenarios followed in 1906 and 1910. Again Gamble promoted measures, but they failed or expired for lack of action at the end of the sessions. An unsatisfactory and seemingly permanent impasse had been reached. [36]

But the Pipestone case would not go away. The Yankton persisted, and some kind of resolution was imperative. In 1910, an amendment to the Indian Appropriations Act offered new opportunities for solution. It transferred the jurisdiction of the case to the U.S. Indian Court of Claims, and after delays that resulted from a lack of money appropriated for an attorney and an intratribal squabble, a petition was filed in November 1911. In 1917, the Indian Court of Claims determined that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter. In 1920, after the Yankton pressed the issue, Congress passed a bill giving the ICC jurisdiction over the dispute at Pipestone. [37]

This dilatory process had a complicated impact on the Yankton view of its sovereignty. In the 1890s, the Yankton allowed that they would accept damages in addition to title to the tract, but the subsequent two decades of often spurious and specious maneuvering obscured the question of ownership and transformed the issue into a contest about sums of money. Mixed-blood and younger leaders were less worried about quarry rights than their elders, but the sense of the importance of the quarries remained strong. Cultural perceptions of Native Americans changed for the worse between 1900 and 1920 as true assimilation was replaced by an attitude that relegated Native Americans to the bottom echelon of American society. This change reflected larger changes in American society, but nonetheless compromised the position of the Yankton and eroded their appreciation for their spirituality. By the 1920s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs had been reasonably successful in limiting the transmission of Native American culture and language to young people. Most talented young Indians were educated at boarding schools such as the Pipestone Indian School, where Christianity and the values of Anglo-American society figured prominently. The Yankton were further limited by the distance between their reservation and Pipestone. As late as 1890, annual treks to the quarries were common, but as the older generation died off, fewer younger Yankton continued traditional practices. By the middle of the decade, Yanktons were infrequent visitors. The last known group of Yankton quarriers arrived at Pipestone came in 1899, and the final visit by any at all followed in 1911. [38] By the 1920s, the people who led the Yankton had few ties to older ways of living. A monetary settlement that might have seemed preposterous in 1899 had real viability by 1920.

Throughout the 1920s, the case unfolded in front of the Indian Claims Commission. Again the emphasis on monetary compensation remained stronger than the importance of spirituality, but whether this resulted from the feeling that tangible claims were the only thing an American court respected remained unclear. When the court reached its decision in 1925, the Yankton were displeased. Yankton rights were only an easement, the decision averred, and the claim to ownership lacked merit. [39]

Unwilling to accept the decision, the Yankton devised a new strategy. Their attorneys petitioned for a writ of a certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court. The court heard the case in November 1926 and reversed the decision of the claims court, deciding that the Indians held the land in fee and were entitled to compensation. It ordered the Indian Claims Court to determine the value of the tract. A series of hearings in 1927 determined that the land had a value of $200,000 in 1891 and the Indians were entitled to an additional $36,000 for use between 1891 and 1899. Despite the finding, the Indian Claims Commission set the value of the Pipestone reservation at $100,000 plus interest accrued from 1891. The total sum delivered to the Yankton was $338,558.90. After legal fees, the Yankton allotted almost $300,000 among themselves, leaving each with the sum of $151.99. A fifteen-dollar surplus was placed in the tribal treasury. [40]

The settlement itself was an anticlimax. After nearly thirty years of legal maneuvering, the Yankton received a pittance for an important part of their cultural heritage. Even more telling was the demoralizing reality that in the 1928 agreement, the Yankton ceded their right to quarry at Pipestone. After 1928, those who wanted to dig the sacred stone had to request the permission of the superintendent of the Pipestone Indian School. Nor could the Yankton prevent other Indians from quarrying. A 225-year hegemony over the quarry had come to an end. After 1928, the quarries at Pipestone belonged to the federal government and its agencies, who would ever after determine the most appropriate use for the tract. One of the options available was the creation of a national park area.

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Last Updated: 21-Aug-2004