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2017-03-08 / Top News

Original Treaty of Medicine Creek to go on display


An informative plaque along a boardwalk near the site where the Treaty of Medicine Creek, 1854, was signed. An informative plaque along a boardwalk near the site where the Treaty of Medicine Creek, 1854, was signed. WASHINGTON –– The Treaty of Medicine Creek, 1854, will be the sixth original treaty 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.” The Treaty of Medicine Creek 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 original document, on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration (National Archives), will be installed March 23 and will remain on display through August 2017.

The key provision affirming the tribes’ right to fish “at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations,” found in Article 3 of the treaty, is echoed in four other treaties with Washington tribes: Neah Bay, Olympia, Point Elliot and Point No Point. Similar language is also found in treaties between the United States and tribes in the Columbia River and Great Lakes regions.

As more settlers migrated west, tribal access to fish became more restricted. The tension eventually led to the Fish Wars of the 1960s, protests in which tribes sought to have their treaty fishing rights recognized. In the case U.S. v. Washington (1974), Judge George H. Boldt ruled that the treaties guaranteed the Washington tribes’ right to harvest 50 percent of the fish passing through their usual and accustomed fishing places. After their treaty rights had been ignored or denied for decades, the tribes could exercise their sovereign right to fish where their ancestors had, long before the existence of Washington State or the American republic.

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. Past treaties on display include:

• Treaty of Canandaigua between the Haudenosaunee and the United States, 1794

• Treaty of New York between the Muscogee Nations and the United States, 1790

• Horse Creek Treaty (The Great Smoke; Fort Laramie Treaty; Treaty of Long Meadows) among the Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan and Sioux Nations and with the United States, 1851

• Treaty between the Potawatomi Nations and the United States, 1836

The treaty currently on display is Treaty K, between the Native Nations in California and the United States, 1852 (Treaty at Temecula between the Luiseño, Cahuilla and Other Nations and the United States, ratified Jan. 5, Treaty Commissioner O.M. Wozencraft, unratified [Senate vote not to advise and consent], June 28). 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.

Treaties lie at the heart of the relationship between Indian Nations and the United States. “Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations” is the story of that relationship, including the history and legacy of U.S.–American Indian diplomacy from the colonial period through the present.

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