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The Treaty with the Potawatomi, 1809, also known as the second treaty of Fort Wayne, will be the seventh original treaty to go on display at the National Museum of the American Indian in the exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.” This treaty between the United States and the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi and Eel River tribes spurred Shawnee chief Tecumseh’s movement to halt U.S. expansion in Indian Country and join the British against the U.S. in the War of 1812. The original document, on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration (National Archives), will be installed Sept. 19 and will remain on display through January 2018.
Nearly 1,400 Delawares, Miamis and Potawatomis attended the treaty council in late September 1809. The principal U.S. representative was Governor of Indiana Territory (and future U.S. President) William Henry Harrison who, from 1803 to 1808, had negotiated 11 Indian treaties that transferred approximately 30 million acres of tribal land to the U.S.
Approximately 23 tribal leaders agreed to sign the treaty, including the renowned Miami Chief Little Turtle, The Beaver (Delaware), the Potawatomi leader Winamek and The Owl and Silver Heels (Miami).
Harrison believed that the treaty would defuse tribal discontent that pervaded the territory. He felt that the terms of the treaty were fundamentally fair. However, his confidence in the justice of the treaties was misplaced. The Fort Wayne Treaty of 1809 was the last major Indian treaty ratified by the Senate before the War of 1812, and it became a catalyst for Tecumseh’s pan-tribal movement to halt U.S. expansion in Indian Country.
Displaying original treaties in rotation in “Nation to Nation” is made possible by the National Archives, which is a partner in the exhibition. Several of the treaties required major conservation treatment by the National Archives’ conservator prior to loan. There are a total of over 370 ratified Indian treaties in the National Archives. For more information about these treaties, see https://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/treaties.
The treaty currently on display is the Treaty of Medicine Creek, 1854, which secured the fishing rights of nine Native tribes and bands along Puget Sound in Washington State, including the Nisqually, Puyallup and Squaxin Island tribes, in exchange for 2.5 million acres ceded to the United States.
The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. Located on the National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W., the museum is open each day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). It is accessible from L’Enfant Plaza Metrorail station via the Maryland Avenue/Smithsonian Museums exit. Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about the museum’s mission, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu.
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