Grand Coulee

Excerpt From Andreas' "1884 Historical Atlas of Dakota"

This is a long valley, extending from the west end of Devils Lake to the British line on the east side of the Turtle Mountains, a distance of about sixty miles. About twenty miles of this valley are in Ramsey County, the remainder in Towner County. The water-shed of this coulee is from ten to forty miles in width, and the entire region is very fertile. The stream in the center of this valley takes its rise near Cartwright, on the Turtle Mountain trail, about five miles north from the International boundary. In the rainy season a large amount of water discharges into Devils Lake, through this coulee, but in the dry season it diminishes to a small creek.

Lying in Towns 154 and 155 north, Ranges 63 and 64 west, is a large body of water known as Sweet Water Lake, or lakes covering over 8,000 acres. The water in this lake differs from all the water in the region in being perfectly pure and sweet, and as it is elevated about eighty feet above the city of Devils Lake, and only five miles distant, the city can be easily supplied with excellent water at a nominal expense. A pipe line will be laid to the lake, and the pressure will carry water into the tops of the highest buildings. The lake is said to be very deep and clear. A considerable stream, made up from perennial springs flows into it from the northeast, and it has a probable outlet in seasons of surplus water through Dry Lake and the Grand Coulee.

There are many smaller lakes in the southern part of the county, mostly lying within a few miles of Devils Lake. There are no streams of any importance flowing into the Sheyenne River which passes through the southwest corner of the county in the Indian Reservation.

The Cut Head Sioux Indian Reservation includes about the equivalent of six congressional townships in the south part of this county, and extends into Benson County on the west, and Foster County on the south. It includes within its borders the Fort Totten Military Reservation.

The first occupation of this region by the military forces of the United States dates from July, 1865, when General Sully arrived from Sioux City, Iowa with a force consisting of one battalion of the Thirtieth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, the Sixth and Seventh Iowa cavalry, the First Regiment of Dakota Cavalry, part of two regiments of Nebraska troops, one battalion Illinois troops, one battalion Eight Minnesota Infantry, and one battery of four guns under Captain Pope.

General Sully had left Sioux City in May, 1863, and moved up the Missouri river as far as old Fort Sully in Hughes County, and from thence attempted to reach Devils Lake overland, but the season was a very dry one, and he was compelled to return to Fort Sully. He succeeded in getting through in 1865, after a severe fight with the Indians a few miles northwest of where Jamestown now stands.

On his arrival at Devils Lake, General Sully formed a camp on the slopes of Sully's Hill. At this time the Sioux chief Sitting Bull had full sway in this region.

General Sully remained here during three seasons, but erected no permanent works or buildings. In 1867 General Terry, who had been appointed commander of the Dakota department, arrived and commenced the erection of government buildings. These were at first constructed of wood, but have since been replaced with more substantial ones of brick manufactured on the ground. The post is considered one of the very best in its construction in the northwest, and presents a splendid appearance.

The military reservation, covering about 150 square miles including wood reserves on Graham's and Rock Island, was laid out in the same year. The Cut Head Sioux Indian Reservation covering about 400 square miles was laid out in 1868. The old military reservation has since been reduced to about twenty square miles. The establishment of Fort Totten which was named in honor of a former chief engineer of the United States Army, dates from July 17, 1867. (See General Military Chapter).

Where fort Totten now stands the Northwest Fur Company had a trading post many years ago. One of the buildings of this old post now forms a part of the dwelling of W S Peck.

Major Whistler, of the Twenty-second United States infantry, and Brigadier General of Volunteers, was the first post commander. In the fall of 1883, Colonel J. S Conrad, of the Seventeenth United States Infantry, was in command with a post garrison, consisting of Company I, Seventh United States Cavalry, Captain T. H. Nolan, and Company C. Seventeenth United States Infantry, Captain M. Mc Arthur. The post has barracks and quarters for four companies. [For report of the Indian Agency, see general chapter.]

Gustave Korn, of Troop I, Seventh Cavalry, is the only man who escaped from Custer's command at the massacre on the Little Big Horn River in June, 1876, and his escape may be attributed to his horse taking fright at the beginning of the action and carrying him at break-neck pace into the camp of Major Reno. Korn is a Prussian by birth, about thirty-six years of age, and has been in the United States service about eleven years.

In August, 1867, Little Fish and 250 warriors came into the reservation, He is chief of the Wahpetons and fifty years of age. Iron Heart is a subordinate chief of the Sessetons, and about the same age.

Wanata is chief of the Cut Head Sioux and about sixty years of age. The Cut Heads form the principal portion of the Indians in this reservation. Big Track and Red Shield [Red Shield is a war chief of the Cut Head Sioux, and has been in many conflicts with the Indians and Whites. David Macdonald, Civil engineer of Chicago, has a splendid specimen of an Indian pipe manufactured from the famous red pipe stone of Minnesota, which the Chief presented him, with his compliments, in exchange for an American silver dollar in September, 1883. The Chief had carried it through all his campaigns, including the siege of Fort Abercrombie. It is a historic relic well worth preserving.] are sub-chiefs under Wanata. A cousin of Little Fish living on the reservation lost an eye at the siege of Fort Abercrombie in 1862.

The Indians, generally, on this reservation, have given up many of their old customs and habits and donned the apparel of the whites. A few of the older chiefs are loath to give up their Indian finery and the trappings of rank. Wanata, the hereditary chief, still dresses in the ancient garb of his race. The young men and maidens are gradually adopting the dress and the manners of the whites. The older squaws wear beads, tinsel jewelry and moccasins.

Among the Indians are about 300 farmers, each occupying with his family a home of his own, generally a log cabin, which the women keep in very neat order. Many of them are furnished with carpets, chairs and upholstered furniture, and there is as much outward appearance of prosperity as can be seen around the average pioneer home of the white settler.

The mission station located at the head of Mission Bay, is under the management of the Catholics. Sister Chaplin of the Grey Nuns has charge of the girls school, and the boys' department is conducted by Reverend Fathers Carew and Jerome. The efforts of the missionaries have not been without effect on the savages. Their habits, customs, modes of living and, to a certain extent, their religious ideas, have been materially changed, and from a nomadic life and uncertain mode of living they have settled down to fixed habits and pursuits and, outwardly, at least, exchanged their heathen belief for the religious doctrines and ceremonies of the Christian. The most valuable of these changes, as time will certainly determine, is their adoption of a civilized mode of living and the habit of cultivating the soil. Civilization will surely follow and the time is not far distant when our Indian population will form an important and wealthy portion of the nation.

In the place of the Indian marriage ceremonies they have adopted that of the white people, and the priest generally officiates at their weddings.

They have adopted the burial system of the whites and a huge wooden cross marks the cemetery devoted to the burial of their dead. For a more particular sketch of their religious belief, language, customs, ceremonies, etc., see general chapters.