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Executive Order


In 1864, the Northern Pacific railroad was first chartered, and granted land extending out 40 miles each way from the proposed route. But this encroached upon the territory of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes. Rather rerouting the railroad, Northern Pacific drew up a resolution requesting a reduction in reservation lands. Dan Huston, the commanding officer at Fort Stevenson wrote a letter defending the tribes, saying the land was their territorial hunting grounds. However, Colonel Nelson, a soldier stationed at the fort, responded that those lands were designated for white fur traders and the tribes didn’t need the land and, “never had.”

Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry heard what he wanted, ignoring Huston’s letter and granting the railroad’s resolution. On July 13,1880, an Executive Order took the land requested by the railroad. As is custom for these types of decisions, neither the Mandan, Hidatsa, nor Arikara were consulted. They were given a small piece of land north of the Missouri river, but found this in poor taste. The government thought the tribes could not use the old land as they previously had, but did not consider that the tribes held a sacred connection to that land and its history.

Justice came slowly. The tribes tried submitting petitions to the White House in 1898 and 1911 to no response. In 1920, the Court of Claims was granted jurisdiction to determine the three tribes’ dispute. After wasting a year with a lackluster lawyer, the tribes hired new attorneys who filed a formal petition on July 31st, 1924. With a combination of traditional and documentary evidence, the tribes finally, on this date in 1930, secured a settlement. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara were awared $2,169,168.58 or $1,191.50 per capita.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas