Q & A: What was the Ramsey Investigation Report?

Q & A: What was the Ramsey Investigation Report?

In 1853, an investigation was held in St. Paul based on the official conduct of the Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey for his role during the signing of the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota.  The investigation was linked directly to the Traders’ Paper and the manner in which the traders were allowed to collect their debts directly out of the Dakota Indian’s annuity funds.

Alexander Ramsey, MNHS Collections

In December of 1851, the Upper Bands of Dakota Indians filed a protest refuting the Traders’ Paper and refusing to pay claims because of the way they were deceived into signing said document.  Although the protest was ignored during the ratification process, it led to the later investigation in which former Governor Ramsey was charged with the following:  (1) with having refused to pay the Indians their monies directly, (2) with confederating with Henry Sibley and others to absorb the whole fund named “the hand money”, (3) with having used improper means and cruel measures to compel the Indians to sign receipts and assignments, (4) with holding councils and making payments in a private trading house rather than at the agency, (5) with not reserving sufficient funds for removal and subsistence, (6) with depositing the gold received from the treasury in banks and paying by means of drafts and bank notes.

Throughout the investigation which took place July 6, 1853, to October 7, 1853, the government called forty-seven witnesses, among them were sixteen Dakota Indians.  The investigation also included depositions from several key witnesses such as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs Luke Lea.  The results of the investigation were sent to Washington and submitted to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.  The committee determined “that the conduct of Governor Ramsey was not only free from blame, but highly commendable and meritorious.”  None of the charges had been sustained and the Senate evidently determined that Governor Ramsey acted his part as a statesman and had no motives to extort any part of the Indian funds.  This ended any opposition to the Traders’ Paper.

Read the entire Investigation Report – Dakota Protest found on page 31-33

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William Watts Folwell, A History of Minnesota, Vol. 1, (St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society, 1922), 462-470.



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