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Bitter Root Lands - Indian's Premises to be Sold on Monday Next

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Indian’s Premises to Be Sold on Monday Next.

How the Purchases Are to Be Made and Under What Terms – Sellers to Go on the Reserve.

Stevensville, Aug. 30 – [Special Correspondence to the Gazette] – The sale of the “Indian lands” in the Bitter Root valley will take place at the U. S. land office in Missoula, Monday, October 5. The sale will be by public auction under the Register of Lands Robert Fisher, and John B. Catlin, collector, assisted by Gen. H. B. Carrington, special agent of the government. The terms of sale give the buyer the option of paying cash, or one-third cash, one-third in one year and one-third in two years, the deferred payments to bear five per cent interest. The conditions of the sale are that the lands must bring at least their appraised value, and when time is taken and failure made to meet the second payment within thirty days after it becomes due, then the purchaser forfeits his first cash payment and the land is to be resold by the government.

The lands to be sold comprise between eight and nine thousand acres, the greater portion of it being in the vicinity of Stevensville, one forty acre tract adjoining the town. A tract of 320 acres is within one-fourth of a mile of Corvallis, and 420 acres north of that town. There are 1200 acres in township 10, north of Stevensville; 1200 acres in township 8, in which the Curlew mine is located, and about 6000 acres in township 9, in which Stevensville is situated.

These lands were allotted to certain Flathead Indians in 1872, who had declined to go on the Flathead reservation. At their request they were allowed to remain in the Bitter Root valley upon lands of their own selection. Chief Charlos, who is still living, was and is still regarded as the chief of those who declined to leave the valley. There were but few white settlers in the valley at the time the allotment was made and the land was without much value. The selections made by the Indians were generally without regard to their fitness for agricultural purposes but mainly as to natural water privileges and convenience to the Catholic missionary church at Stevensville, of which the Indians were nearly all devout members.

As the valley became more settled the land increased in value and the white settlers grew anxious for the removal of the Indians. Various efforts have been made by the settlers and the government to induce the Indians to give up their homes here and go upon the reservation. In 1889 Gen. Carrington was appointed as a special agent to visit the Indians and negotiate a treaty with them for the appointment and sale of their lands and their removal. This treaty was made under an act of congress and was duly entered into by all the Indians in the valley. It was expected to carry it into effect in the spring of 1890, but delays occurred and the Indians are still on the lands, or at least have control of them.

In the latter part of July Gen. Carrington returned to Stevensville and has since been busy perfecting details for carrying the treaty of 1889 into effect. The lands have been appraised, and the value placed on some of the tracts show them to be quite valuable. The total appraisement amounts to nearly $68,000. Some of the Indians have made good improvements, but the most valuable ranches are occupied by white settlers under lease or otherwise, from the Indians.

The proceeds of the sale will be turned over to the Indians by the government, less the appraised value of the improvements made by white occupants. The Indians to receive this money, men, women and children, number one hundred and sixty.

The Indians are making preparations to leave the valley and go on the Flathead reservation. Their removal will begin as soon as the sale is over. Some of them say they will not go until they receive the money for their lands, but as the government assumes all responsibility as to defered payments, it is not likely that they will deem it wise to be obstinate.

Readers of Fennimore Cooper’s works may be ready to shed a few tears over this removal of the noble red man from the home of his childhood, but such tears are superfluous. These Indians are “civilized” and have learned to love the Almighty dollar with the same passion as their white brethren. They are pleased with the appraisement placed on their lands, and the expectancy of receiving so much “filthy lucre” serves as a balm for rights trampled upon. They are ready and anxious to go and join their relatives on the reservation.

The above article appeared in the MISSOULA GAZETTE, October 1, 1891.

Another small article regarding the Flathead removal occurred in the GAZETTE the same day under the Local Mention column:

Major Peter Ronan, agent of the Flathead Indians, has received orders from the department to construct twenty dwelling houses on the Flathead reservation for use of the Indians to be shortly removed there from the Bitter Root valley. The work will be commenced as soon as the natives sell out and leave the valley and apply to the agent for quarters on the reserve.