The Doty Treaty of 1841

Ten years prior to the Treaty of the Traverse des Sioux, there was the Doty Treaty of 1841.  The treaty was orchestrated by Wisconsin’s territorial governor James Doty and Secretary of War John Bell and negotiations were held at the Traverse des Sioux in the summer of 1841.  The purpose of the treaty was to create a permanent all-Indian territory that, once it had achieved the desired level of “civilization,” might eventually be granted statehood.  It was for the Indians of the northwest the same as Oklahoma had been for the Indians of the southwest.  The land for such an Indian nation included about 30 million acres west of the Mississippi River in present day western and southwestern Minnesota.

Proponents supported the treaty because they believed that in this northern region winters were too long and the growing season too short to profitably sustain agriculture.  Furthermore, they were eager to consolidate the Indian tribes and remove them from the new territories of Iowa and Wisconsin.  Finally, traders sought the benefits of a treaty in order that the debts owed to them could be paid off.

The treaty was signed and accepted by all of the Indian nations in attendance, but it failed ratification in the Senate.  On August 29, 1842, the treaty was rejected by a vote of 2 to 26.  The reasons that the treaty failed ratification are arguable, but it was likely driven by the fervor of expansionism which was defined by the notion that it was the destiny of white settlers to march unopposed across the continent.

Interestingly, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs Joshua Pilcher had this to say about the failed treaty:  “The effect upon the Indians is obvious.  Instead of being civilized, they would be degraded and extirpated, and the benefits of the perpetual investments would go to a few cunning half-breeds, or their white assignees.”  Major Pilcher foretold the truth.

Source:  Mary Lethert Wingerd, North Country:  The Making of Minnesota, Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

P. Davidson Peters, Doty’s Treaty of 1841,