Potawatomi Books, Gary E.  Mitchell]


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Once the 1861 Treaty was concluded, Mianko, chief of the Citizen Band whooped loudly into the air, while the chief of Prairie Band, Wab Sai cried.

After the treaty was finished, these "citizen" Potawatomi had the first choice at the allotment land, and they chose the fertile valleys near the town of Topeka and all along the Kansas River.

Some held onto it and prospered, but many sold it for liquor, money and other material benefits. In the end, they lost all of this land and had to beg the government for more... this time in Oklahoma. The "citizen" Potawatomi received 575,000 acres in Oklahoma in the Indian territory between the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers.

In essence, they benefited twice in the land deals of this time. They accepted citizenship, but this did not assure their rights among Americans. They abandoned their ancient customs, but it did not improve their survival in a new society.

The Prairie Band of Potawatomi chose to hold their land in common. This age old tribal notion of holding land in common was a point that the Prairie Band would fight and defend for a good number of years. It said no one person owned the land but that it was held jointly by all the members of the tribe.

This reservation was initially 11 miles square and is located in the northeast corner of the original reservation.

Despite Prairie Band objections, the government agents joined along with the railroad builders, settlers, unscrupulous traders, and future "Citizen Band" and forced a new treaty.

By virtue of earlier conquests, Congress had so many powers over Indian tribes, that taking of the land was easy.

One was called "plenary power," meaning Congress could reduce land holdings, unilaterally intervene and legislate over a wide range of Indian affairs. In practice, Congress used this power to do virtually whatever it wanted with tribes.

The railroad and the local politicians exploited this congressional power by conducting a massive lobbying effort with Congress to open up the reservation lands for settlement and the building of the railroad.

The railroads sought not only passage through the reservation but also acquisition of tribal lands which could be resold to settlers at inflated prices.

The federal government saw increased settlement as a continuation of continental "manifest destiny," further inspired by substantial bribes to a wide range of congressmen and federal bureaucrats.

At stake was 338,000 acres of unalloted Potawatomi lands from the 1861 treaty which was initially awarded to the Leavenworth, Pawnee, and Western Railroad for $1.25 an acre to be paid in gold or silver coin to the Secretary of the Interior. The major players in this treaty gained tremendously, and the transaction turned into a litany of corruption.

First published in the Topeka Capital Journal, Thursday, April 27, 1995 and later reprinted in the Potawatomi Traveling Times in Crandon, Wisconsin, 1996.
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