The Importance of Treaties for Teaching American Indian History

Spotted Tail, Chief of the Brule Sioux 1880.

Sinte Galeska, ca. 1880, also known as Spotted Tail, a chief of the Bruleton, band of the Oglala Sioux, was one of the signers of the Fort Laramie Treaty.

American Indian Treaties can be an extremely important starting point for teaching the history of a Native American tribe or tribes from a particular area of the United States.

These historic documents mark the beginning of a tribe’s transition from Sovereign Nation, with it’s own independent government and land base, to a “domestic, dependent, Nation” (Supreme Court 1831).   Over time, these “dependent” Nations were sometimes further reduced to “confederations” where from just a few to twenty or more separate tribes, bands, and communities were moved into one reservation area together and treated as one governmental entity.

As the result of a request for the National Archives to loan eight original treaties to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. for their newly opened Nation to Nation Exhibit, we began digitizing Native American treaties to bring more to the public through the National Archives Online Catalog and DocsTeach.  On both DocsTeach and the Nation to Nation exhibit webpage, type-written transcriptions are included to make it easy for students to study the contents of these handwritten documents while still being able to see the original documents in color.

In addition, we’ve prepared the first of a series of DocsTeach teaching activities related to these treaties, entitled Treaties and Treaty Making. It can help teachers explain, in a simple way, the concept of treaty making between governments and the original sovereignty and independent nature of Native American tribes.  More DocsTeach activities will be added in the near future to further illustrate these concepts and to provide easy materials for classroom use.

American Indian Treaties currently available on DocsTeach include:

* 1790 – Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Creek Nation of Indians Signed at New York, 8/7/1790.

* 1794 – Treaty between the United States of America and the Tribes of Indians Called the Six Nations, 11/11/1794.

* 1795 – Treaty of Greenville, August 3, 1795 (Ratified Indian Treaty #23, 7 STAT 49), between the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomie, Miami, Eel River, Wea, Kickapoo, Piankashaw, and Kaskaskia Tribes and signed by “Mad” Anthony Wayne, that ended the Indian War on the Northwestern Frontier, commonly called “Wayne’s War, 8/3/1795.

1804 Sac and Fox Treaty

1804 Sac and Fox Treaty

* 1804 – Treaty between the United States Government and the Sauk and Fox Indians on November 11, 1804. (Ratified Indian Treaty #43, 7 STAT 84)

* 1807 – Treaty between the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi Indians, 11/17/1807.

* 1809 – Treaty between the United States and the Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami and Eel River Tribes of Indians at Fort Wayne, Indiana, 9/30/1809.

* 1835 – Cherokee Treaty at New Echota, Georgia, December 29, 1835 (Ratified Indian Treaty)

* 1836 – Treaty between the United States and the Potawatomi Indians at Yellow River, Indiana, 8/5/1836.

* 1851 – Treaty between the United States and the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboin, Gros Ventre, Madan and Arikara Indians at Fort Laramie, Indian Territory, 9/17/1851.

* 1854 – Treaty between the United States and the Nisqualli, Puyallup and Other Indians at Medicine Creek, Washington Territory 12/26/1854.

* 1865 – Treaty of Little Arkansas River, October 14, 1865 (Ratified Indian Treaties #341, 14 STAT 703) between the U.S. and Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians (Black Kettle Band) granting lands in reparation for the Sand Creek Massacre, 11/29/1964.

* 1868 – Fort Laramie Treaty, 4/29/1868.

* 1868 – Treaty between the United States Government and the Navajo Indians signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory on June 1, 1868. (Ratified Indian Treaty #372, 15 STAT 667)

About Carol Buswell

Education Specialist.
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One Response to The Importance of Treaties for Teaching American Indian History

  1. Barbara Handy-Marchello says:

    The online 8th grade curriculum in North Dakota Studies (ndstudies.gov/gr8) was recently published by the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The lessons cover history, culture, geography, and natural science from the Paleozoic to the present.
    The curriculum includes several treaties of importance to tribes located in North Dakota. Among these are the treaties of Fort Laramie (1851 and 1868). We hope that teachers will recognize the value of having their students learn to read these complex documents. Students will learn much about the roles and responsibilities of the signators to the treaties, tribal culture and leadership traditions, and should be able to relate the treaties to geographical changes in our state.

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