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Educational materials, resources and insights

Resources & Insights

Historical Overviews

The motivations behind U.S. Indian policy changed over the course of the treaty-making era from 1778 to 1870. These historical overviews offer information on six distinct eras of treaty-making: Before the War of 1812; After the War of 1812 to 1818; 1819 to the Indian Removal Act; the Removal Era (1830s); Further U.S. Expansion (1840-1859); and Civil War to the End of Treaty Making.

Treaty Property Rights

An enduring but rarely discussed legacy of the U.S.-Indian treaties is the crucial role they played in creating the U.S. property system as we know it today. Through the signing of treaties, land essentially became property. Using its own legal framework, the U.S. perfected its title to land and that title could then be transferred to others.

Signers Networks

The American Myth would have us believe that European settlers were the heroic pioneers and primary beneficiaries as the United States rapidly expanded its territory across the North American continent. In fact, it was a more narrow group of special interests behind the scenes who manipulated the process, shaped American policy, and secured Indigenous resources for themselves and their cronies.

Family Links

The U.S. treaty signers were often related by blood or marriage. Among the signers were siblings, fathers and sons, cousins and in-laws. In some cases, kinship groups included nearly 50 closely related signers who were land speculators, fur traders, mine owners, and the politicians who created U.S. policy and handed out trading and mining licenses. This paved the way for generations of corporate profits and family wealth.

Indigenous Signers

The U.S.-Indian treaties bear more than 10,000 signatures of representatives from Indigenous nations. While the U.S. treaty signers all represented a single economic and political system with a consistent goal (to acquire Indigenous resources), the story of Indigenous treaty signers is much more complex as every nation had its distinct history, language, social structure, and political system.

The Courts

The businessmen, politicians, and landowners who signed treaties on behalf of the United States were involved in hundreds of local and federal court cases. They were defense attorneys and prosecutors for the state, judges and justices of the peace, and often litigants themselves. Among the signers were slaveholders named in “freedom suits” brought by enslaved people seeking to gain their emancipation.

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.