The Omaha and other tribes asked the government to set aside territory for their mixed-race descendants. The map above shows Indian villages in 1814 when Lewis and Clark explored in the Nemaha River.
Under the patrilineal systems of the Omaha and Osage, children of white fathers had no place in the tribes. Seeking to help mixed-blood Indian descendants get settled in society, the United States government designated allotments of land in western territory for their use. These were known as the Half-Breed Tracts. Because of American Indian tribes’ rules of descent and membership, European-American society’s discrimination, and the distance that such mixed-race families lived from most European Americans, the children of unions between European fathers and Indian mothers were often left outside the social networks of both societies. Generally Indian women and their French-Canadian trader husbands and children lived under the protection of the women’s tribes, but their descendants were not considered members of the tribes unless they were officially adopted, as they had white fathers, so were considered “white”.
The Nemaha Half-Breed Reservation was established by the Treaty of Prairie du Chien of 1830, which set aside a tract of land for the mixed-race, or Métis descendants of French-Canadian trappers and women of the Oto, Iowa, and Omaha, as well as the Yankton and Santee Sioux tribes.
Located in part of the Indian Territory, which was later in the Nebraska Territory and then the state of Nebraska, the tract’s eastern border was the Missouri River. The reservation extended west for 10 miles. The north/south borders were between the Little Nemaha River to the north and the Great Nemaha River, near Falls City to the south.
Since the land belonged exclusively to the Otoe prior to the exchange, the government worked to secure agreement by the Omaha, Iowa, and Yankton and Santee bands of Sioux to pay the Otoe $3000 for the rights of their “half-breeds” to live on the reservation. Original plans were for land ownership to be held in common, as other American Indian land titles were held. However, legislation included a provision allowing the US President to assign individual tracts to individual owners. In 1860, thirty years after the creation of the Reservation, the government moved to allot tracts to individual households, in an effort to force assimilation to European-American practices. This was the first time in the history of American acts and treaties that American Indians were allotted land in severalty.
The reservation didn’t last long. In 1861 the Reservation was disbanded as a legal entity. The owners of plots were never required to live on the properties they had been allotted, and many eventually sold their lands to white settlers. Some white men married native women to obtain control of their property.
In order to assign allotments to individuals, a list was taken of the half-breeds. This list, “Allottees on the Nemaha Half-Breed Reservation, 1860”, adapted for the web by Lance Foster from “the Otoes and the Missouiras” by Berline Basil Chapman, pages 381-384, Appendix A, Times Journal Publishing Company, OK, 1965 can be found at http://scribd.com/doc/104293516/nemeha-half-breed-tract-allottees-1860
No tribes were listed, but we know the Iowa, Otoe-Missouria, Omaha, Yankton and Santee Sioux were represented. Most people are half-breeds, offspring of a full white father and an Indian mother. A few many be full-bloods. Some may be mixed bloods, offspring of half-bloods and half-bloods with various admixtures of Indian, white and perhaps some black.
These half-breed lists are important, because those are the very people whose Native heritage was in jeopardy, in future generations, of becoming lost. It would be the descendants of these people who are the most likely to be looking for their Native ancestors.
Today, much of this land is encompassed in the Indian Cave State Park. Indian Cave, located north of the reservation, was a final stop on the Underground Railroad.