In 1798, Regis Loisel (1773-1804), another French Canadian turned Spaniard, landed in St. Louis, determined to extend the fur trade to the headquarters of the Missouri. He partnered with Pierre Chouteau and the West Indian Jacques Clamorgan (1730-1814), who arrived in upper Louisiana in 1784 and worked for trader Francois Marmillon. The Spanish authorities granted Loisel, known as Santiago Clamorgan, the exclusive rights to trade with the Native Americans of the upper Missouri River. He formed the Spanish Commercial Company and made three unsuccessful attempts to reach the Pacific by overland travel. In the year 1800, Loisel built Fort aux Cedres, 35 miles below South Dakota’s present capital, accompanied by Pierre-Antoine Tabeau (1755-1820). Upon his return to St. Louis in 1802, Loisel was commissioned by Charles Delassus (1767-1843), the last Spanish lieutenant governor of upper Louisiana, to survey the upper Missouri.
In 1800, however, Spain had transferred the Louisiana Territory to the French through the Treaty of San Ildefonso. The treaty was kept secret, and Louisiana remained under Spanish control until the transfer of power to France on November 30, 1803 a mere three weeks before the cession to the United States. The territory was purchased indirectly from Napoleon via the Baring brothers and Hope and Co. As a result of the Louisiana Purchase, the South Dakota region now belonged to the United States. The stage was set for Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition, made possible by the Mackay-Evans map. While traveling upriver in May 1804, they came across Pierre-Antoine Tabeau, a Spanish citizen who was dispatched to explore and trade in South Dakota in 1803, as well as Regis Loisel. Tabeau accompanied Loisel up the Missouri in 1802 to make improvements to Forte aux Cedres, then returned to the Dakotas and lived among the Arikara near the Grand River from 1803 to 1805. The two traders were unaware that Spain had given South Dakota back to the French in 1800 and that it was now U.S. territory.
The transfer of South Dakota from Spain to France to the United States did not equate the end of the Latino presence in South Dakota. Manuel Lisa (1772-1820), who spoke nothing but Spanish, left St. Louis in 1807 with 45 trappers to trade in South Dakota. He traveled all the way up the Missouri to the mouth of the Yellowstone, reading his favorite book, Don Quijote, at every occasion along the way. In the spring of 1808, he established Fort Manuel. A master of dealing with the Native Americans, he was known among these natives as Chief Red Head. He organized the Santee Sioux and the Yanktonais to harass the
English, and he persuaded 40 chiefs of the Missouri River tribes to make peace treaties with the United States.
As a result of Manuel Lisa’s efforts, U.S. companies became the dominant force in the fur trade. In turn, he became known as the King of the Missouri. Accused of taking advantage of both the Native Americans and the government, he was forced to resign his commission in 1817. He staunchly defended his innocence to General William Clark (1770-1838) in a letter written entirely in Spanish. To this day, some Latino families in Belle Fourche, an old beaver trappers’ town, trace their roots back to members of the Manuel Lisa expeditions. Today, Latinos represent 3.7 percent of the town’s population, some of whom are descendants of the earliest Latino explorers and settlers.2
In 1861 the Dakota Territory was recognized by the U.S. government. Initially this included North and South Dakota and parts of Montana and Wyoming. In 1862 the U.S. Congress passed the Homestead Act.3 On November 2, 1889, the Dakota Territory was incorporated into the United States as the modern states of North and South Dakota.
While most of the settlers who came to South Dakota were northern Europeans, smaller numbers came from Mexico and Spain. In 1925, for example, there were two Spanish-born South Dakotans in the state, and 74 who claimed
Sketch of Fort Manuel, South Dakota (1812) from John C. Luttig’s journal. Courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society.
Spanish ancestry. Spanish-speaking people came to South Dakota partly because it did not have any racial restrictions.
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