"Alexander Ramsey - first Minnesota territorial governor, a recently elected U.S. senator and the man who negotiated the 1863 Old Crossing Treaty
- was a consummate negotiator. His methods included duplicity, innuendo, divide-and-conquer tactics, lies and bribery.
The treaty period was a land grab by the white man. Old Crossing was part of that. The Red Lake and Pembina bands of Ojibwe ceded 11 million acres of fertile land that would become known as the breadbasket of the nation.
American Indians viewed themselves as stewards, not owners, of the land. Therefore, it was not their prerogative to sell the land itself, but only the use of it.
Ramsey's goal was acquisition of the land, but he insisted that all he wanted was a “right-of-way” for the growing numbers of settlers and tradesmen to cross it. The Dakota Uprising had distracted the authorities, but with the suppression of that rebellion and the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato on the day after Christmas 1862, Ramsey was ready to pursue his goal.
He repeatedly told the Ojibwe that the land was “worthless to them” and “entirely valueless to a civilized people.” They “may not be making the best use of the lands which the Great Spirit has given them. They have broad lands here, occupied by about a thousand men, that the system of cultivation and settlement adopted by the white race would support a thousand times, and perhaps 10,000 times, that number. . . .
“It is probable that the Great Spirit had in view the mutual advantage of both races in bringing them together. They have lands here which many of them never see, and from which they derive nothing whatever, which, if occupied by white men, would yield them abundant food, blankets and whatever else they need.”"
Get the Story:
David Thorstad: Old Crossing' land grab: Ramsey vs. the Indians
(The Grand Forks Herald 2/10)