The Otoe Indians, whose land this was at the time of the Oregon Trail, inhabited a very hospitable land which afforded them a good living. But the Otoe Indians lived in many other parts of the middle United States before finally settling in Gage County. Originally part of the Winnebago tribe, the Indians who eventually became known as the Otoe were forced into migration from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. In 1673 they could be found on the upper Des Moines River, and in 1761 they lived on the Platte and Nemaha Rivers. All these moves, as had much earlier ones, been precipitated by the continual flow of white settlers and the fact that the Otoes became the target of raids by eastern Indian tribes in order to supplement the European slave market.
“Nebraska Indian Commission pamphlet: Otoe-Missouri” and “History of gage County Nebraska”, Hugh J. Dobbs
The Reservation that was located in Gage County comprised a fine body of land ten miles north and south and twenty-five miles east and west. It extended two miles south of the state line its full length, into Washington and Marshall Counties, Kansas. North of the state line it extended two and three-fourth miles into Jefferson county (earlier called Jones county). That portion of it which lay in Gage County was a strip eight miles in width and twenty-two and one-half miles in length, east and west. Altogether it comprised 250 sections,160,000 acres, 126,720 acres lay in Gage County.
White Settlers find Indian land appealing
The Otoes inhabited this area of land for some twenty years, living in peace with the white settlers. Visitors to this area were beginning to realize the potential for farming here without having to make a strenuous journey two thousand miles further west. In January of 1875, Algernon S. Paddock, who then lived in Gage County, was elected to the United States Senate and soon afterward introduced a bill which proposed the sale of a portion of the Otoe Reservation.
Medicine Horse considers a move
The Otoes looked around at the plight of the white man who had better homes and more land than they did. The Indians felt pushed out as game became scare and hunting areas got smaller. They were not allowed to roam the land as pieces of it were taken up by settlers around the reservation. Medicine Horse, one of the leading Otoe chiefs on the Gage County Reservation, was an Otoe spokesmen at a meeting in Washington D. C. in 1873. He told the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that he and other chiefs had visited Oklahoma Territory and saw land they liked there. Therefore, seeing a better future for his people he was open to the sale of reservation land. It was decided to put half of the land, 80,000 acres, up for sale.
Reservation land is sold
Senator Paddock’s bill became law and the land of the Otoes sold for cash in parcels no larger than one hundred sixty acres. The land sold at an average price of three dollars and fifty cents per acre. The sale gave the Indians over two hundred thousand dollars. Upon receiving the tangible wealth, the Indians were not reluctant to sell the remainder of their land and on March 3, 1881, a bill was passed by Congress for that purpose. The remainder of the Otoe Reservation located in Gage County, Nebraska, was put up for sale in 1883.
The Otoes leave Gage County
On September 22, 1882, the Otoe Indian Agent moved two hundred twenty-four head of cattle toward the Oklahoma Territory. On the 5th of October he pulled out of the Agency with a train of seventy wagons and about two hundred ponies. They arrived at Red Rock on October 23. They traveled 300 miles in nineteen days without a mishap. The herd arrived on the 16th of the month in good condition and without a loss.
(Dobbs, p. 88)
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