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Osage Indian Treaty

treaty. An agreement, league, or contract, between two or more nations or sovereigns, formally signed by commissioners properly authorized, and solemnly ratified by the several sovereigns, or the supreme power of each. — Webster, 1882

“The treaty would have gone through as slick as a pin if it were not for those confounded schoolmen in Kansas.” Attributed to William Sturges in 1892 address by Dr. Peter McVicar, superintendent of public instruction in Kansas during the time of Little House on the Prairie.


1873 General Land Office map (Library of Congress), showing a portion of Kansas and Indian Territory. A star marks Charles Ingalls cabin location southwest of Independence. Osage Reservation in Indian Territory is to the southwest.

Only once in Little House on the Prairie does Laura Ingalls Wilder mention any treaty with the Osage Indians, and it’s Mrs. Scott, not Charles Ingalls, who expresses an opinion, that “treaties or no treaties, the land belongs to folks that’ll farm it.” (See Chapter 17, “Pa Goes to Town.”) No terms of any specific treaty with the Osage are described.

Several treaties were negotiated with the Osages in the years between Kansas statehood in 1861 and the arrival of the Charles Ingalls family in Montgomery County in 1869. These and later treaties directly impacted the way in which the school section land Charles Ingalls built his log cabin on was handled when the Osage Diminished Reserve was legally opened for settlement and purchase beginning in 1871:

TREATY OF AUGUST 29, 1863. In 1862, Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy and William P. Dole, United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., began negotiating with the Osage for them to divest a portion of their Reserve and allow two parcels to be opened to settlement. They were to sell to the United States the right of occupancy to 843,927 acres (the “Osage Ceded Tract”) on the eastern portion of the Osage Reservation for $300,000. The President of the United States would decide when—and under what terms—settlement was legalized. A second parcel twenty miles from North to South and running the entire length of the thus “diminished” reservation (the “Osage Trust Lands”) was to be ceded in trust, to be sold for the benefit of the Osage by the Secretary of the Interior under such rules and regulations as he prescribed. The Treaty was signed on August 29, 1863, but after both the Osages and the United States Senate refused to agree to all the terms of amendments and suggestion made by both parties the following year, the treaty died.

TREATY OF SEPTEMBER 29, 1865. A new treaty based on the abandoned one was almost immediately drafted. Under the terms of the Treaty of September 29, 1865 (also known as the Canville Treaty, having been signed at A.B. Canville’s trading post east of the Neosho River) the Ceded Tract, which included more than eighty square miles east of the Verdigris River in today’s Montgomery County, was to be surveyed and sold for cash “as public lands are surveyed and sold under existing laws… but no preemption claim or homestead settlement shall be recognized.” The 3.2 million acre Trust Lands were to be surveyed and sold “under the direction of the General Land Office, at a price not less than one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, as other lands are surveyed and sold, under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of the Interior shall from time to time prescribe.”

Within six months of the June 1866 ratification of the 1865 treaty, the Osages were to remove from the lands sold and ceded in trust, and settle upon their remaining 4.8 million acres of land (the “Osage Diminished Reservation”). The 1865 Treaty acknowledged the purchase rights of settlers currently living on the Trust Lands, but it failed to address school lands.

STURGES TREATY. In May 1868, the Osages signed the Sturges Treaty, called so after William Sturges, president of the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston Railroad, who sought to purchase not only the Trust Lands, but the Diminished Reserve as well. The ownership of about eight million acres would be transferred directly to the railroad at a price of about nineteen cents per acre in long-deferred payments. The Sturges Treaty made no provisions for existing settlers on the Diminished Reserve, but would allow settlers on the Trust Lands who were found to occupy a “square quarter section” once the land was surveyed to purchase the same at $1.25 per acre. How the remainder of the land would be disposed of was anybody’s guess.

While the loss of squatter’s rights, preemptions, homesteads, and school lands seemed “not to have raised a ripple on the Kansas sea” as part of the Canville Treaty, the governor was not about to lose one-sixth of his state’s area to private ownership without a fight. Unable to attend himself, he sent the Territorial Superintendent of Public Instruction to negotiations held at the council grounds at Drum Creek in Montgomery County, with instructions to advocate for school lands in particular. In the end, the Sturges Treaty made no provision for either settlers or school lands, and the treaty was fiercely debated in regard to public land policy for over two years without ratification.

ACT OF APRIL 10, 1869. The Ceded Tract and Trust Lands were legally opened to settlement by the Act of Congress approved April 10, 1869, which amended the 1865 treaty to provide for the preservation of school sections. During the late 1860s, settlers by the thousands had poured in to live among the Osage, both onto the ceded and trust lands they were to move from, and into the Diminished Reserve they were to occupy.

During this period of debate and unrest between government officials, settlers, and the Osage Indians over terms of the Sturges Treaty, Charles Ingalls may have moved onto the Osage Diminished Reserve, although the earliest he can be proven to have been in Montgomery County is on February 25, 1870, when sold his Chariton County land back to Adamantine Johnson. Like many squatters, Ingalls may have believed that the Diminished Reserve would be opened to legal settlement under similar terms as the Ceded Tract and Trust Lands.

ACT OF JULY 15, 1870. The Indian Appropriation Bill was introduced by Senator Clarke of Kansas and he stressed the rights of agrarian settlers. Under terms of the treaty, the Osage Diminished Reserve would be open to settlement at $1.25 per acre, and the Osages would be moved to a new home in Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma; see terms of the treaty below. In October 1869, there were listed 4,481 Osages on the tribal roll. When the Montgomery County census was taken in August 1870, it recorded 7,613 non-Indian squatters.

Late in the summer of 1870, government officials and Osage bands began to gather at the Drum Creek council grounds in Montgomery County near Independence. They negotiated for about three weeks, and on September 10th, the treaty was signed. A survey of the Diminished Reserve was ordered, and those who had made settlement prior to the act (as Charles Ingalls did) were required to make payment of $1.25 per acre for their land on or before July 15, 1871. Those who settled after the passage of the act were given one year from date of settlement to purchase their land. As the survey of Montgomery County wasn’t completed until February and March 1871, this gave precious little time for early settlers to comply with the law. Furthermore, sections 16 and 36 were reserved for school purposes, and the sale of these was handled at the state level, with the sale price set at a minimum of $3.00 per acre.



Act of July 15, 1870: 16 Stat. 335, Chapter 296, Section 12: And be it further enacted, That whenever the Great and Little Osage Indians shall agree thereto, in such manner as the President shall prescribe, it shall be the duty of the President to remove said Indians from the State of Kansas to lands provided or to be provided for them for a permanent home in the Indian Territory, to consist of a tract of land in compact form equal in quantity to one hundred and sixty acres for each member of said tribe, or such part thereof as said Indians may desire, to be paid for out of the proceeds of the sales of their lands in the State of Kansas, the price per acre for such lands to be procured in the Indian Territory not to exceed the price paid or to be paid by the United States for the same. And to defray the expenses of said removal, and to aid in the subsistence of the said Indians during the first year, there is hereby appropriated out of the treasury, out of any money not otherwise appropriated, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, the sum of fifty thousand dollars, to be reimbursed to the United States from the proceeds of the sale of their present diminished reservation, which lands shall be open to settlement after survey, excepting the sixteenth and thirty-sixth sections, which shall be reserved to the State of Kansas for school purposes, and shall be sold to actual settlers only, said settlers being heads of families or over twenty-one years of age, in quantities not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres, in square form, to each settler, at the price of one dollar and twenty- five cents per acre; payment to be made in cash within one year from date of settlement or of the passage of this act; and the United States, in consideration of the relinquishment by said Indians of their lands in Kansas, shall pay annually interest on the amount of money received as proceeds of sale of said lands, at the rate of five per centum, to be expended by the President for the benefit of said Indians, in such manner as he may deem proper. And for this purpose, an accurate account shall be kept by the Secretary of the Interior of the money received as proceeds of sale, and the aggregate amount received prior to the first day of November of each year shall be the amount upon which the payment of interest shall be based. The proceeds of sale of said land shall be carried to the credit of said Indians on the books of the treasury, and shall bear interest at the rate of five per cent. per annum: Provided, That the diminished reserve of said Indians in Kansas shall be surveyed under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior as other public lands are surveyed, as soon as the consent of said Indians is obtained as above provided, the expense of said survey to be paid from the proceeds of sale of said land.

SECTION 13. And be it further enacted, That there be, and is hereby, appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, as compensation to Osages for the stock and farming utensils which the United States agreed to furnish them by the second article of the treaty of January eleven, eighteen hundred and thirty-nine, and which were only in part furnished, twenty thousand dollars; and as compensation for the saw and grist mill(s) which the United States agreed by said treaty to maintain for them fifteen years, and which were only maintained five years, ten thousand dollars; which sums shall be expended, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, in the following manner: Twelve thousand dollars in erecting agency buildings, a warehouse, and blacksmith’s dwellings, and a blacksmith shop, and the remaining eighteen thousand dollars in the erection of a schoolhouse and church, and a saw and grist mill at their new home in the Indian Territory.

Approved July 15, 1870.



Click HERE to learn about the steps Charles Ingalls might have taken had he remained in Kansas and purchased 40 to 160 acres of school land from the State of Kansas and/or some combination of school section land and Diminished Reserve acreage sold by the federal government.


treaty (LHOP 17)