Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1992


Published in Great Plains Research 2:2 (August 1992), pp. 263-280. Copyright © 1992 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


In 1883 the U.S. General Land Office conducted the sale of the eastern remnant of the Big Blue reservation in Nebraska and Kansas for the benefit of its owners, the Otoe-Missouria Indians. The property sold for an average of $12.22 an acre. It was the highest per-acre price ever offered for Indian lands on the Central and Northern Great Plains. Before the first year of white settlement had come to an end, however, many landholders began to petition federal authorities for payment-time extensions and, eventually, debt reductions. They argued that they had been "forced" to pay more for their lands than what they were actually worth. In the end, after nearly two decades of well-organized white agitation, the politically disadvantaged Otoe-Missourias were compelled to accept an "adjustment" on the outstanding debts due them. This amounted to a loss to the Indians of approximately $169,000.

Were the settlers justified in their demands for price reductions? More specifically, were the various contentions that they had based their collective argument on truly valid? This paper will discuss these and other secondarily related questions by means of an inspection of the written historical record, as well as by a quantitative and qualitative analysis of land valuation and ownership data contained in the county deed records.