Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Half-Breed Tract, also known as the Nemaha Half-Breed Reservation or Reserve, was established on July 15, 1830, with the signing of the Treaty of Prairie du Chien in Michigan Territory. The Half-Breed Tract was established to provide a homeland for tribal members of mixed ancestry, at the request of the signatory Native American nations, the Otoe- Missourias, Omahas, and Iowas, and on behalf of the Santees and Yanktons. Article 10 of the treaty ceded approximately 138,000 acres of Otoe-Missouria land that extended from the Missouri River westward between the Great (Big) Nemaha and Little Nemaha Rivers to form a triangular tract located in what is now southeastern Nebraska. This was the first treaty in which Congress authorized the allotment of land in severalty to Native Americans.

On September 10, 1860, following thirty years of controversy regarding the western boundary of the tract, Lewis Neal became the first of 389 individuals to receive a patent of land allotted in severalty. Because there were too many eligible mixed-blood claimants, each allottee received only 320 acres instead of 640 acres originally suggested in the Treaty of Prairie du Chien. By the 1870s most of the land allotted in the Half-Breed Tract had been taken over by white settlers, who sometimes used alcohol to entice mixed-bloods to sell, or who married mixed-bloods and so gained entitlement to allotments. The first test of Native American land severalty in the United States ended in complete failure in terms of the original intention of the Treaty of Prairie du Chien signatories.

William T. Waters University of Nebraska at Kearney

Chapman, Berlin B. The Otoes and Missourias: A Study of Indian Removal and the Legal Aftermath. Oklahoma City: Time Journal Publishing Co., 1965.

Johansen, Gregory J. "To Make Some Provision for Their Half-Breeds, The Nemaha Half-Breed Reserve, 1830–66." Nebraska History 67 (1986): 8–29.

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