November 10

This Day in History

Old West

Nov 10, 1808:

Osage Indians cede Missouri and Arkansas lands

In a decision that would eventually make them one of the wealthiest surviving Indian nations, the Osage Indians agree to abandon their lands in Missouri and Arkansas in exchange for a reservation in Oklahoma.

The Osage were the largest tribe of the Southern Sioux Indians occupying what would later become the states of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. When the first Anglo explorers and settlers moved into this region, they encountered a sophisticated society of Native Americans who lived in more or less permanent villages made of sturdy earthen and log lodges. The Osage-like the related Quapaw, Ponca, Omaha, and Kansa peoples-hunted buffalo and wild game like the Plains Indians, but they also raised crops to supplement their diets.

Although the Southern Sioux warred among themselves almost constantly, Americans found it much easier to understand and negotiate with these more sedentary tribes than with the nomadic Northern Sioux. American negotiators convinced the Osage to abandon their traditional lands and peacefully move to a reservation in southern Kansas in 1810. When American settlers began to covet the Osage reservation in Kansas, the tribe agreed to yet another move, relocating to what is now Osage County, Oklahoma, in 1872.

Such constant pressure from American settlers to push Native Americans off valuable lands and onto marginal reservations was all too common throughout the history of western settlement. Most Indian tribes were devastated by these relocations, including some of the Southern Sioux tribes like the Kansa, whose population of 1,700 was reduced to only 194 following their disastrous relocation to a 250,000-acre reservation in Kansas. The Osage, though, proved unusually successful in adapting to the demands of living in a world dominated by Anglo-Americans, thanks in part to the fortunate presence of large reserves of oil and gas on their Oklahoma reservation. In concert with their effective management of grazing contracts to Anglos, the Osage amassed enormous wealth during the twentieth century from their oil and gas deposits, eventually becoming the wealthiest tribe in North America.

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