More than 70 years ago, our dad, J. Lyle Van Osdel, shifted the 1949 Ford into first and proceeded westward up the hill on Riverside Drive to a point where it intersects Maple Street. Our mom, Frannie, “riding shotgun,” that is, right front passenger seat, explained that this area was referred to by dating couples as “Inspiration Point.” Mom met dad while she was a nursing student at Sacred Heart Hospital and he was a patient. She was familiar with the area around the hospital.
Ten years later, I heard another tale about that storied location as a vantage point for viewing “submarine races on the Missouri,” a yarn spun by boys to their allegedly unwitting dates.
In June 2020, Facebook friends enjoyed reading my post about a large boulder with an informational plaque situated at Second and Locust and Riverside Drive. This monument points out a historical fact about the burial of Lewis and Clark interpreter Pierre Dorion. The plaque reads, “West of this stone near the crest of the hill is the burial site of Pierre Dorion Sr., an early trader in what is now South Dakota. Born in Canada in 1740, Pierre came to this area around 1774-75.
“He married Holy Rainbow, the daughter of a Yankton Sioux chief. While delivering a load of hides and tallow to St. Louis, he met the Corps of Discovery on their trek upriver and was hired as their interpreter.
“On August 29 and 30, Pierre translated the Sioux language for Captains Lewis and Clark while in grand council below Calumet Bluff near Gavins Point Dam. Pierre was then hired by Lewis and Clark to take a delegation of Yankton Sioux to Washington DC to meet President Thomas Jefferson in 1805. Pierre died in 1810.”
Much early Yankton history may be found in “The Monthly Historian, devoted to history, art, science, current events and high-grade literature, price 10 cents, $1.00 the Year,” published at Mission Hill by our great-grandfather, A.L. Van Osdel. His March 1913 edition has much information about Dorion and his burial site.
I have in my collection the March 1913 issue sent to Major Joseph Mills Hanson, son of one of Yankton’s very first Caucasian residents, Joseph R. Hanson. His issue has corrections, written in pencil, in the margins of stories with which he took issue.
“The Historian” of March 1913 explains the Indians leaving Yankton after ceding all lands to the whites but 400,000 acres saved for their reservation. The Indian residents of Yankton made a second pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., led by Charles Picotte (for whom the street is named) and that is when they ceded the land to the whites and made their way west to the reservation lands.
“The Historian” reads, “Major Wm. P. Lyman, an Indian trader, who had taken the daughter of “Smutty Bear” for his wife, informed the writer (A.L. Van Osdel) in 1865, that when the Yankton Indians prepared to move to their reservation, they congregated at Strike the Ree’s village where the city of Yankton now stands.”
Readers may recall an earlier column when it was pointed out that Lewis and Clark camped at the mouth of the James River while coming upstream in 1803. They met then with Indians of the area and were made acquaintance with a newborn Indian baby whom the Corps of Discovery explorers ceremoniously wrapped in an American flag. That Indian child came to be called Strike the Ree. That area is now known as Section 20 of Gayville Township.
It has also been reported in this column that “Old Strike” lived at the northwest corner of Third and Broadway, across from Fort Yankton which was constructed in the summer of 1862 by our great-great-grandparents and other early settlers afraid of Indian attacks. Joseph R. Hanson had reported losing a pencil case near the residence of Old Strike.
Reports indicated it was a gold pencil case but when the story was retold in “The Historian,” Maj. Hanson made a note in the margin of his copy that it was, in fact, a silver pencil case his father had lost. It was found when construction footings were being dug at Third and Broadway when the pencil case was found, securing the fact that was the site of Old Strike’s residence before the tribes moved west from Yankton to the reservation.
“The Historian” continues, “Old Strike the Ree led the procession, circling around his deserted village, singing their song of departure which was changed to a mournful dirge as they rode past Durion’s [sic.] grave — the French interpreter and guide to Lewis and Clark, in 1804, as far as the Yankton Sioux country — who lived and died among the Yankton Indians; and was buried on a high headland overlooking the Missouri.”
“Durion’s half breed son was guide and interpreter in Hunt’s Astoria expedition to the Columbia river in 1811 and was killed by the Snake Indians. Both him and his French father are immortalized by Washington Irving in his “Astoria.”
“The elder Durion’s grave was within the city limits of Yankton, and for many years during the fur trade, was a conspicuous landmark; but when the country was settled up it was obliterated and its exact location was lost sight of.”
“In the meantime, on the 15th of March, 1858, W. P. Holman, C. J. Holman, Ben Stafford, Gilbert Bowe, Stephen Saunders, Harry Narvis, John Burrette, Curtis Lamb, and another man by the name of Subex, started out from Sioux City, Iowa, and traveled up the Nebraska side of the Missouri River to a point opposite Yankton where they built a cabin and waited for the Sioux Indians to cede their lands.”
To summarize, “The Historian” indicates the new settlers came across the Missouri and laid claim to the townsite of Yankton. “The treaty stipulations, which had not yet been ratified by Congress, allowed Charles Picotte to select 640 acres, to which he laid claim to all that part selected by the Holman party who had built a cabin on that portion of the Yankton town site.
The Indians still held possession of the townsite which was then known as Strike the Ree’s village and they ordered the Holman party to abandon their claims to the Yankton lands and recross the Missouri to their cabin in Nebraska as the land they laid claim to belonged to Charles Picotte, their half-breed chief.
“This the white men refused to do and the Indians burned their cabin, which stood on the bank of the Missouri near the foot of the present Douglas Street and drove Holman and his men across the river.”
In the margin near this narrative, Major Joseph Mills Hanson wrote in pencil his correction indicating the party was removed from their early Yankton townsite by “troops from Fort Randall.”
And so it goes. Readers are always editing one’s copy.