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1873 Crow Delegation, Washington DC

This year, 2018, is the sesquicentennial of treaties signed by the Crow and other Indian tribes in 1868.  For most of the American public, and even many historians, there is little knowledge of the wider U.S. government policy and the context of the many 1868 treaties signed with tribes in the region of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.  The Treaty signed with the Lakota at Fort Laramie (Wyoming) is the most famous, and much has been written about it.


Less well-known are the two significant treaties signed by members of the Crow tribe in 1868.  Some people are familiar with the Laramie Treaty with the Mountain Crow.  Almost forgotten to history is the Fort Hawley Treaty with the River Crow.


The main purposes of those treaties were to negotiate and create "agricultural reservations" with distinct boundaries, where the people would convert from nomadic buffalo hunters and gatherers to settled farmers.  The tribes would select head chiefs. They would send their children to schools, make peace with traditional enemies, and generally adapt to American "civilization."  The treaties also allowed roads, military and trading posts, and travel through their territories.  In exchange, the government would provide annuities (food, clothing, farm equipment, seed, and other supplies), as well as schools and medical attention.


Crow signers include leaders who became prominent in the affairs of their people.  River Crow leaders included Horse Guard and Two Belly.  Most important was the Mountain Crow leader Black Foot, who became known as Sits in the Middle of the Land because he is credited with uniting the Mountain Crow and the River Crow.  He was a mentor to two leaders then in their twenties, Pretty Eagle and Plenty Coups, who subsequently became known as the last traditional Crow chiefs.


The planned symposium, including lectures, interactive panel discussions, an exhibit of documents, and films, will provide multidisciplinary accounts of the people and issues that were important at the time of the 1868 Fort Laramie and Fort Hawley treaties 150 years ago and ramifications of the treaties historically and today, and as a bulwark of tribal nationhood and sovereignty, and vital for Crow culture and politics to the present.

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