Introduction: A Caught-Between People and an Undefined Land

  • David Ress


In peace treaties with several Native peoples of the upper Midwest negotiated in 1824 and 1830, the United States and Native chiefs agreed to set aside three reservations for the children of Native women and American, Canadian and European traders and trappers. But the question of how the land within the Half Breed Tracts of Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska was to be held was left open for three decades, reflecting a broader uncertainty about the nature of property rights in land, particularly land on the borderland between peoples and land on a frontier that seemed to many to be free for the taking. The delay in finally determining how the Half Breed Tracts were to be held—a determination that ended up dispossessing the people for whom the Tracts were intended—was the result of a conflict between notions that rights to land derived from labor on the land, from “discovery” of apparently available land, from legal decisions and from financial transactions.


Half Breed Tracts Land tenure Borderland Property rights Native Americans 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • David Ress
    • 1
  1. 1.Newport NewsUSA

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