The town of Plaza, North Dakota was founded in 1906. The town grew quickly, and businessmen in the town wanted to purchase nearby land on the Berthold Indian Reservation. They reasoned that with the bison gone, the Indians did not need large expanses of land for hunting. There were many thousands of acres on the reservation that had not been allotted to individuals, and they felt the land was going to waste. Congressman Louis B. Hanna began the process of making the land available. He introduced a bill to Congress that would open the Berthold Reservation. The money paid for the land would not go directly to the tribes, but would be deposited in the United States Treasury. It would be used for education and other support on the reservation. Hanna’s bill passed and was signed into law in 1910.
On this date in 1911, officials in Minot announced that an overwhelming number of people registered for a lottery to distribute the land. Over 12,000 people had registered, and there was another week yet to go. People traveled long distances to register. Joseph Craven was the publisher of the Kansas City Times. At the age of 80 years he traveled to Minot, saying that if he drew “a lucky number” he would happily move to North Dakota to live. Loren Carr came from Esterville, Illinois. Other people had traveled from Missouri and Tennessee.
The big surprise, however, was the number of women who wanted to get their own land –
nearly 50 percent of those registering. Frances Houghkirk traveled several hundred miles to take a chance. Emma C. Berry was married to a soldier, and she registered on his behalf. Many of the women were not yet 21. Judge Witten decided that they could still register if they would be 21 by the time they had to file on the land, which would be May of the following year. Mary Hubbard was the proprietor of the Hubbard Hotel in Fairmount, North Dakota. She registered since she would turn 21 by May, 1912.
The original Fort Berthold Reservation consisted of 8 million acres. It had already been reduced to 1 million, and the 1911 sale reduced it further, and even more land was lost in the 1950s when the Garrison Dam created Lake Sakakawea.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
American Indian Relief Council. "http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=airc_res_nd_fortberthold" http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=airc_res_nd_fortberthold Accessed 29 June, 2016.
North Dakota Studies. “Opening the Reservation.” "http://ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iii-waves-development-1861-1920/lesson-1-changing-landscapes/topic-4-reservation-boundaries/section-5-opening-reservation" http://ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iii-waves-development-1861-1920/lesson-1-changing-landscapes/topic-4-reservation-boundaries/section-5-opening-reservation Accessed 29 June, 2016.
Grand Forks Daily. “Women Taking Land Chances.” 25 August, 1911.