Fosston Map

  • Understanding this Map

    The Fosston Map is a record of some of the first Native American land cessions after the Nelson Act of 1889, which began the process of allotment in Minnesota. Under allotment, communal reservation land would be parceled out to individual Native Americans, who could then potentially resell it. Forcing the model of private property ownership upon Native American tribes utimately chipped away at the size of the reservations as parcels were sold off to settlers and companies one by one. In 1934, the policy of allotment was reversed. Since that time, some of this land has been returned to the tribes, but the ownership of many parcels continues to be challenged.

    This map shows land on the Red Lake and White Earth Indian Reservations that was scheduled to be opened to general settlement in 1896. The official date for availability, initally May 1, was pushed back several times, and a hand annotation changing the date to May 15 is visible on the map. Red Lake Band did not agree to the allotment policy and, as a result, the government greatly reduced the size of their reservation and opened the areas for general sale.

    The White Earth Band did begin allotting land in 1901, but four townships on the east side of their reservation were still "diminished" in advance and offered for sale to the public. Although the map states that this land was covered with poor quality pine and better suited to agriculture, this area has usually been described as having a rich and productive white pine forest. Most of the parcels in these townships were sold to timber companies. This page from the 1912 Clearwater County atlas shows that nearly all of the land in the southeastern township was bought by Hovey C. Clarke, a Twin Cities businessman in the lumber industry.