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Indian & Tribal Law

Resources for researching federal Indian law and Native American tribal law.

Treaties, General

photo of Sioux & Sherman

The federal government entered into treaties with Indian tribes between 1778 and 1871.

Most treaties between the United States and Indian tribes were compiled in volume 7 of United States Statutes at Large; some treaties are in volumes 1-16. (HeinOnline has all of United States Statutes at Large, so if you have a citation to one of the other volumes, you can go there. See the Finding  Aids, below.)

 

Photo: Treaty signing by William T. Sherman and the Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, photographed by Alexander Gardner, 1868. From National Archives American Indian Select List number 30. For information about the Fort Laramie treaty, see this page by National Museum of the American Indian.

Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations (National Archives). (1:22:59)

Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, and Suzan Shown Harjo, guest curator of the “Nation to Nation” exhibit, explore the promises, diplomacy, and betrayals involved in treaties and treaty making between the United States government and Native Nations. One side sought to own the riches of North America and the other struggled to hold on to traditional homelands and ways of life. The book reveals how the ideas of honor, fair dealings, good faith, rule of law, and peaceful relations between nations have been tested and challenged in historical and modern times.

Kappler

Charles Kappler, the clerk of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, began compiling laws concerning and treaties with Indians in 1903. His compilation is commonly known simply as "Kappler."

For more on Charles Kappler, see 61 Law Libr. J. 314-316, available on Hein Online.

Other Treaty Compilations

Treaty Proceedings

U.S. National Archives, Documents Relating to the Negotiation of Ratified and Unratified Treaties with Various Tribes of Indians 1801-69. Available on HeinOnline (UW Restricted) and at the UW's Suzzallo Library's Microform Collection (Microfilm A8207). Included in this collection are handwritten transcripts of the treaty negotiations/proceedings.

Consists of 10 microfilm reels, containing the following:

  1. Introduction and ratified treaties, 1801-26
  2. Ratified treaties, 1827-32
  3. Ratified treaties, 1833-37
  4. Ratified treaties, 1838-53
  5. Ratified treaties, 1854-55
  6. Ratified treaties, 1856-63
  7. Ratified treaties, 1864-68
  8. Unratified treaties, 1821-65
  9. Unratified treaties, 1866-67
  10. Unratified treaties, 1868-69

Hint: The best way to find the underlying treaty proceeding documents for a particular tribe's treaty is to focus on the date it was signed and whether it was ratified. For instance, Treaty of Neah Bay (the Makah Treaty) was signed on January 31, 1855, and it was ratified, so the underyling treaty proceedings can be found on Reel 5.

Treaties with Tribes in Washington State

Original of Treaty of Point ElliottThe federal government entered into seven treaties with tribes in Washington Territory.

The Governor's Office of Indian Affairs provides the texts of:

  • Treaty of Medicine Creek, 1854
  • Treaty of Point Elliott, 1855
  • Treaty of Point No Point, 1855
  • Treaty of Neah Bay, 1855
  • Treaty with the Yakama, 1855
  • Quinault Treaty, 1856
  • Treaty with Walla Walla 1855

The same treaties, with citations to Stat. and links to Kappler:

  • Treaty of Medicine Creek, 10 Stat. 1132 (1854), 2 Kappler 661. Also called "Treaty with the Nisquallys, &c."
  • Treaty of Point Elliott, 12 Stat. 927 (1855), 2 Kappler 669. Also called "Treaty with the Dwamish &c. Indians" or "Treaty with the Dwamish, Suquamish, etc." It was signed by (or signed with the "mark" of) representatives of fifteen tribes or bands, including the Lummi and the Skagit tribes.
  • Treaty of Point No Point, 12 Stat. 933 (1855), 2 Kappler 674. Also called "Treaty with S'Klallam."
  • Treaty of Neah Bay, 12 Stat. 939 (1855), 2 Kappler 682. This is the treaty with the Makah Tribe. Sometimes known as the Stevens Treaty, because it was signed by Gov. Isaac Stevens.
  • Treaty with the Yakama Nation, 12 Stat. 951 (1855), 2 Kappler 698.
  • Treaty of Olympia, 12 Stat. 971 (1855), 2 Kappler 719. "Treaty between the United States and the Qui-nai-elt and Quil-leh-ute Indians."
  • Treaty with the Walla Walla, 12 Stat. 945 (1855), 2 Kappler 694.

Image: first page of Treaty of Point Elliott. Washington Secretary of State.

Washington Treaty Proceedings & History

Lexis Treaty Collection

Documents Collection