Monday, May 22, 2017

Coeur d’Alene and Other Indian Reservations Opened to Homesteading [otd 05/22]

President Taft. Library of Congress.
On May 22, 1909, President William Howard Taft issued a proclamation that opened "unreserved" agricultural, grazing, and timber lands on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation to white settlement under the homestead laws. The order also opened lands on the Flathead Reservation in Montana and the Spokane in Washington.

The Coeur d'Alene Indians (variously, “pointed hearts” or “hearts of awls”) were so named by early French-Canadian fur trappers. Purportedly this referred to their hard-hearted trading practices, but other interpretations have been offered. The tribe had few other contacts with whites until 1842, when Roman Catholic priests established a mission in their homeland.

By missionary accounts, their work among the tribe was very successful. However, gold discoveries in northern Idaho, northeast Washington, and across the border in Canada brought a heavy influx of whites into and across tribal lands. The resulting friction touched off the Yakima War in 1856, with another flare-up two years alter.

The Coeur d'Alene tribe joined in the 1858 attacks against white incursions, ignoring the advice and warnings from Jesuit missionaries. What is sometimes called the Coeur d'Alene War ended with their defeat at the Battle of Four Lakes. Afterwards, the tribe avoided trouble with whites as much as it could. Continuing provocations often made that difficult.

They resisted an attempt in 1867 to force them onto a small reservation in North Idaho. With more pressing concerns elsewhere, the matter was dropped. Then, in 1873, an Indian Office commission "negotiated" a reserve that spread across the lower reaches of Lake Coeur d'Alene and formed a wedge ending 20-25 miles north of Moscow.

The various negotiations left the tribe with about 400 thousand acres, less than a tenth of what they consider their original ancestral holdings. For a time, these borders worked, generally. In 1871, when German emigrant Frederick Post wanted to build a sawmill on the Spokane River, he agreed to purchase the necessary tribal land for what became the town of Post Falls [blog, Dec 30].
Coeur d’Alene Tribal Territory.

However, when a railroad wanted to run tracks through the reservation in 1888, Congress granted the required right of way without bothering to negotiate with the tribe. (The Act said the company had to pay for the right of way, but left it to the Secretary of the Interior to decide how much.) The discovery of vast silver lodes in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains brought new white pressure into the area. Towns grew at Kellogg, Wallace, Wardner, and other locations.

The tribe lost more land in 1892 and 1894, leaving less than 350 thousand acres. Then Taft's proclamation of 1909 allowed whites to settle on lands not specifically allotted to individual tribal members.

The Idaho Statesman in Boise reported (June 15, 1909), “At this time there is a great deal of interest all over the country in the opening of … the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation in the state of Idaho … The Coeur d’Alene contains some valuable timber. There are some quarter sections which are reputed to be worth as much as $20,000. There is also some agricultural land upon this reservation which is very valuable, being located in the rich wheat belt of the north.”

When the first drawing was held on August 9, around 105,000 applications had been submitted for the three thousand homesteads available on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe does still retain sovereign rights within the reservation boundaries – police power, tribal courts, business regulatory oversight, and so on.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
Charles J. Kappler, Indians Affairs: Law and Treaties, Vol. 1, Government Printing Office, Washington (1903).
"Sovereignty," Coeur d’Alene Tribe, official web site.
William Howard Taft, "Proclamation 874 – Opening Lands in the Flathead, Coeur d'Alene, and Spokane Indian Reservations," National Archives (May 22, 1909).

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