Treaty Signer Logo
Treaty Signer Logo
Search
Close this search box.
Treaty Signer Logo
Search
Close this search box.

Research Guide

Using the US Treaty Signers Database

Downloadable Files

Most of the information on this website can be downloaded by any visitor for free. Information available for download includes the US Signer database, the US signature database, Sources database, Treaty database. These are described below and are accessable from main pages in the US signer portal and from the Indigenous Signers page. This information can also be downloaded as a spreadsheet containing information on every signature made by an Indigenous representative. This is available from the Indigenous Signers page.

Issues

Names v. Signatures

The 2,300 US treaty signers account for a total of 4,500 signatures on all of the official US-Indian treaties. Unfortunately, their names do not always correspond to the signatures. Many of the handwritten signatures are hard to read on the original documents and have been incorrectly rendered in print versions of the treaties. Misspellings abound, especially in the most widely used source of the treaties, Charles Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II. Signer J. B. Sarpy, for instance, is listed on one treaty as J. B. Saipy, and on another as J. B. Farpy; the notorious J. M. Chivington is listed on a treaty as J. W. Croughton. This website includes a database that links every U.S. signature with both the treaty on which it appears, and the actual name of the signer (where known).

 

Indigenous vs U.S. Representation

On many treaties, the names of U.S. signers are not distinguished from those of representatives of Indigenous nations. In some cases, determining the national identity of a signer can be difficult. These questions arise most often in the case of 1) Interpreters who have one parent identified with an Indigenous nation and another parent identified with a colonialist nation; 2) Signers who may have been installed by the U.S. as Indigenous representatives. These individuals may or may not have been recognized as citizens of Indigenous nations.

 

Kappler’s selection of texts

The main source for Treaties in this project is Charles Kappler’s 1904 compilation Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II. This is a somewhat arbitrary collection of U.S.-Indian treaties and other diplomatic documents called agreements. Kappler is used as a source for this project not because of its consistency or comprehensiveness but because it is more widely used than any other source and offers clear (though arbitrary) parameters for this project. One state-forged treaty, though not from Kappler, is included in this project because the Supreme Court elevated New York State and Oneida Indians to an official treaty status.

An official U.S.-Indian treaty was signed by multiple parties including the federal government, ratified by the Senate (after the Senate was created) and proclaimed by the President. U.S.-Indian relations were affected by many “unofficial” treaties as well. These include federal treaties that were not proclaimed or ratified, and treaties forged by state governments, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederacy. Kappler inconsistently includes a number of unratified federal treaties.

Agreements were and remain a different category of diplomatic documents. Presidential proclamation, for instance, is not required for agreements. Kappler includes 12 agreements up to the year 1873, near the end of the treaty-making era.

Agreements from Kappler beyond this date are not included in this project. In creating his compilation, Kappler often selected from alternative versions of a single treaty. For a critique of the impact of this selection on a single treaty, click the link to the essay, “The Treaty of Fort Laramie with Sioux, etc., 1851: Revising the document found in Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties.” by Bernholz, C. D. and Pytlik Zillig, B. L.

Assets: U.S. Treaty Signers

Individual Signer Record
For every U.S. signer of every treaty, an individual record sheet is available. Each record presents biographical data on one signer (where available), with links to:

 

  • Treaties signed by that subject
  • Narratives about any special-interest networks to which the signer belonged 
  • Sources of information in the record

 

There is biographical information on more than 70% of all U.S. signers (1,650 out of 2,300). These signers account for 85% (3,800 out of 4,475) of all U.S. signatures on all treaties.

 

Signer Database
Much of the information in the Signer Records is drawn from an onsite Signer Database. Each signer has a line in this database. The information stored here may include a signers’ names; dates and places of birth and death; life events; the number of treaties they signed; any networks to which they belong; and sources for biographical information.

 

Signature Database
The Signature Database holds a unique record for each of the 4,400 US treaty signatures. William Clark, for instance, signed 38 treaties. Therefore 38 signature records related to William Clark. Each of these simple records contains, 1) the name of the signer from the signer database; 2) the signature, usually as it appears in Kappler’s Laws and Treaties, Vol. 2 (which may be different than the actual name); and the treaty on which the signature is found. From this database, every signer is linked to every treaty he signed.

 

Sources Database
The sources of biographical information in the Signer Database are cited in the Sources Database. Each source is represented only once in the database, regardless of how many signers are mentioned in the source. (For instance, the Biographical Directory of the US Congress – a single entry in this database — is a source of information for more than 150 signers.) A web address is provided for each source.​

 

Network Narratives
U.S. treaty signers represented business, family and social networks at treaty signings – the very interests that most profoundly shaped the politics of treaty making. Short narratives written by Martin Case introduce some of the more significant networks that connected treaty signers to one another. The individual records of treaty signers are linked to narratives that explain how treaty making was shaped by:

 

  • Land speculation
  • Trade
  • Extraction
  • Transportation
  • Families
  • Social Connections

 

From each of these narratives, users can follow links to records of prominent members of that network group.   

Assets: U.S. Indian Treaties

Individual Treaty Record

For every treaty, an individual record sheet is available. Each record presents dates of signing, ratification, and proclamation, where available; a summary of the treaty’s clauses and the Indigenous nations that signed it, with links to:

 

  • Treaty text
  • Signer record for each U.S. signature on the treaty
  • Narratives about the era in which the treaty was signed 
  • Maps of land cessions

Treaty Database
Much of the information in the Treaty Records is drawn from an onsite Treaty Database. Each treaty has a line in this Database.

 

Signature Database
The Signature database holds a unique record for each of the 4,400 US treaty signatures. From this database, every treaty is linked to every U.S. signer of that treaty.

 

Era Narratives
The economic interests that shaped U.S. Treaty making changed over time. Short narratives written by Martin Case view the treaties through the lens of the men who signed them for the government to illustrate this evolution. The individual Treaty Records are linked to narratives that explain how signers shaped treaty making in the following eras:

 

  • Before the War of 1812
  • War of 1812 Aftermath (1814-1818)
  • 1819 to Indian Removal Act (1830)
  • Removal Era (1830s)
  • Further U.S. Expansion (1840-1859)
  • Civil War to the end of Treaty Making

 

From each of these narratives, users can follow links to the treaties in that era. 

Assets: Indigenous Signers

Indigenous Signers Database
Each of the 10,000+ signatures of Indigenous representatives is included in a database available from the Indigenous Signer page. The 15 fields in this spreadsheet contain information that will help researchers identify individuals who made the signatures. The fields include Treaty identifiers that indicate on which treaty a signature can be found, Individual identifiers that present information from the treaties on signer names, relationships and titles, National identifiers that attempt to place the signer as a representative of a particular nation, as specifically as possible. More details about the spreadsheet contents can be found on the Indigenous Signer Page. 

 

Questions about National Identity
This spreadsheet lists individuals from among the US treaty signers and Indigenous treaty signers whose national identity is ambiguous. See “Issues” above, for more details.

Search the database

The dashboard offers an interactive view of the Treaty Signers database which is a compilation of the Treaties signed between the U.S. and Indigenous nations with information about the people who signed them and why. This tool makes it easy to visualize the impact of treaty signing at the national and global level and filter the database by treaty, individual signers, land cession numbers, states and data range. Click the ‘Get Started’ button to begin exploring.