On July 23, 1851, a treaty was signed here that transferred millions of acres of Dakota land to the U.S. government. The treaty also resulted in the Sisseton and Wahpeton Dakota bands' movement to reservation lands along the Minnesota River.Oiyuwege
This place, Traverse des Sioux, is part of the vast Minnesota River valley that was formed by glacial meltwaters more than 10,000 years ago.
Early French and English explorers named this waterway the St. Pierre (St. Peter) River. In 1852 the territorial legislature petitioned the U.S. government to change the river's name to Minnesota — a Dakota word meaning cloudy water.
Near this site at one time was a shallow, hard-bottomed river crossing. The Dakota Indians called it Oiyuwege, meaning "the place of crossing." French explorers renamed it Traverse des Sioux, or "crossing place of the Sioux." The exact location of the crossing is now not known.
The Eastern Dakota of Minnesota
The Dakota Indians, known to outsiders as the Sioux, have lived in this place for centuries. The Eastern branch of the Dakota Nation, also known as the Santee, includes the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Sisseton bands.
The Story of This Land
For centuries Traverse des Sioux has been a crossroad.
First, native people gathered here to hunt game and exchange goods and information. By 1700 they were joined by Europeans who came to this area to trade guns, cloth, and other products the Dakota wanted for furs. Over the next 150 years, traders and Indians did business with each other at Traverse des Sioux, swapping news, ideas, and customs as well as trade items.
By 1851 settlers in the newly established Minnesota Territory were pressing hard to open Indian lands for settlement. In a treaty signed here that year, the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota sold most of southwestern Minnesota — some 21 million acres — to the government for about 7.5 cents per acre. The sale triggered a land rush. By 1853 this historic meeting place had become the town of Traverse des Sioux. But, like hundreds of other towns in the Territory, it soon failed. The site was farmed until 1969, when it was turned into a state park. In 1973, in recognition of its unique significance, Traverse des Sioux was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a state historic site.
Minnesota Historical Society
Traverse des Sioux