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Platte Purchase, Missouri

The Treaty of Chicago was signed on Sept. 26 and 27, 1833, and proved to be a watershed agreement in the dealings between the Potawatomi and the U.S. government. Prior to this treaty, land cessions were relatively small and included land set aside as private reserves for certain signatories. The Treaty of Chicago, however, ensured a substantial land cession of roughly five million acres around the Great Lakes, and the removal of a majority of Potawatomi to lands west of the Mississippi River.

The Treaty of Chicago stipulated that the Potawatomi would relocate to a reserve near Council Bluffs, Iowa “as soon as conveniently can be done.” At the wishes of the Potawatomi, and as a result of the ambivalence of government agents, a majority of the Potawatomi initially removed settled on the Platte Purchase instead, a piece of land in present-day Missouri that was physically nearer to their ancestral homes. Over the next three years, small groups of Potawatomi, led by headmen like Wabaunsee and influential men such as Billy Caldwell and Alexander Robinson, trickled into Missouri as they were rounded up and told of their fate. They resided on the Platte Purchase from 1833 to 1837.

The stop in Missouri turned out to be temporary. Indian agents and non-Indian settlers in the region pressured the Potawatomi to remove from the fertile lands along the Missouri River. As a result, by presidential proclamation on Mar. 28, 1837, the tribe was evicted from the Platte Purchase territory and annexed to the state of Missouri.

Some Potawatomi, including Wabaunsee’s villagers, went to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and others, like Topinabee [He Who Sits Quietly] and his St. Joseph River Potawatomi, to a sub-agency on the Osage River in Kansas. In some cases, extended families ended up residing on different reservations.

Two small groups of Potawatomi arrived at Council Bluffs by Missouri River steamboats in 1837. The main body of the group arrived soon after and the last parties came in 1838. From their earliest days on the reservation in Council Bluffs, the Potawatomi faced pressure to move farther west and settle with their kinsmen on the Osage River in Kansas.

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