Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18, (Spring 2008):67-80 © 2008 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Once Spirit Lake Dakota Reservation was opened to white homesteading in 1904, the turnover of land from Dakota to Euro-American hands was rapid. Scandinavians, the largest foreign-born group in the state, took advantage of this land-taking opportunity and moved onto the reservation in great numbers, acquiring approximately 25% of the land within six years. In effect, while the Scandinavians lived as neighbors with the Dakota, they also became the harbinger of the dispossession of Dakota land.

Using quantitative analysis oflandownership specified in plat maps of the reservation in 1910, this article analyzes the gender and ethnicity of the landowners. Oral histories contextualize the processes of land taking and land dispossession. The article then takes stock of landownership in 1929, finding that Dakota landownership declined 50% in less than two decades.