For centuries, Traverse des Sioux has been a crossroads and meeting place for people of many cultures. American Indians gathered here to hunt and traverse the river using the shallow crossing. During the 1800s, they were joined by Europeans and European-Americans who came to trade furs and farm the fertile prairie.
In 1851, U.S. government representatives Luke Lea, commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Territorial Gov. Alexander Ramsey negotiated the first of two treaties with the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota here. Approximately 24 million acres of Dakota land were transferred to the government and opened to white settlement. The thriving town of Traverse des Sioux soon grew up around the site. With more than 70 buildings – including five taverns, two hotels and several churches – its population soon reached approximately 300. In 1856, however, nearby St. Peter was chosen as the county seat and by the late 1860s, nothing was left of the once-booming town of Traverse des Sioux.
Today, trail signs along a self-guided tour introduce visitors to a portion of the 10,000-year-old Minnesota River Valley where they can learn more about the Dakota and the 1851 treaty and its effects on people, transportation, the fur trade and the town of Traverse des Sioux. At the adjacent Nicollet County Treaty Site History Center, visitors can learn more about the region, the treaty and Dakota and settler life.
Originally a state park, the site was acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1980. Managed by the Nicollet County Historical Society, it is located one mile north of St. Peter, on U.S. Hwy. 169.