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Smithsonian Revisits History of Treaties

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As a way to shine a light on the treaties that have governed U.S.-Indian relationships, Smithsonian Magazine featured an article by ICTMN’s Rob Caprccioso, and the National Museum of the American Indian will feature an exhibit beginning September 21.

The article discusses the Canandaigua Treaty, which was entered into in 1794 when President George Washington renewed peace with the Haudenosaunee’s and affirmed the nations’ right to their lands.

The treaty included a one-time payment of $10,000, annual payments of $4,500 in goods, including calico cloth, and Washington commissioned a six-foot-long wampum belt, which the Six Nations still have.

Capriccioso reports that each July the Bureau of Indian Affairs sends a yard of cloth per tribal citizen to the tribes.

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“With so many broken treaty promises by the U.S. government, the fact that we still get the cloth is significant,” Robert Odawi Porter, former president of the Seneca Nation, told the Smithsonian. “The catch is that the treaty cloth is purchased with monies the sum of which is fixed in the treaty.” So the cloth, Porter says, is now thin muslin. “We half-jokingly threaten to bring a breach-of-trust claim against the government for higher-quality fabric,” he says. “Our ancestors forgot to ask for a [cost-of-living] adjustment, I guess.”

The exhibit, “Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations,” opens September 21 and will run through the summer of 2018. It will feature a treaty for six months, which will be accompanied by more than 100 photographs and artifacts that display the history between the United States and its Indigenous Peoples.

Read the full article at SmithsonianMag.com.