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Broken Treaties

United States and Canadian Relations with the Lakotas and the Plains Cree, 1868-1885

Jill St. Germain

Publication Year: 2009

Broken Treaties is a comparative assessment of Indian treaty negotiation and implementation focusing on the first decade following the United States–Lakota Treaty of 1868 and Treaty Six between Canada and the Plains Cree (1876). Jill St. Germain argues that the “broken treaties” label imposed by nineteenth-century observers and perpetuated in the historical literature has obscured the implementation experience of both Native and non-Native participants and distorted our understanding of the relationships between them. As a result, historians have ignored the role of the Treaty of 1868 as the instrument through which the United States and the Lakotas mediated the cultural divide separating them in the period between 1868 and 1875. In discounting the treaty historians have also failed to appreciate the broader context of U.S. politics, which undermined a treaty solution to the Black Hills crisis in 1876. In Canada, on the other hand, the “broken treaties” tradition has obscured the distinctly different understanding of Treaty Six held by Canada and the Plains Cree. The inability of either party to appreciate the other’s position fostered the damaging misunderstanding that culminated in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. In the first critical assessment of the implementation of these treaties, Broken Treaties restores Indian treaties to a central position in the investigation of Native–non-Native relations in the United States and Canada.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii


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pp. viii

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pp. ix-xii

No author really writes alone. The interpretations offered here, the evidence as presented, and any shortcomings or oversights apparent in either are, of course, of my own making. But the fact that...

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pp. xiii-xxxii

The day before he signed the Treaty of 1868 as a Brule representative, Chief Iron Shell addressed the U.S. Indian Peace Commission members present at Fort Laramie. “I will always sign any treaty you ask me to do,” he said,

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1. Separate Pasts

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pp. 1-26

The peoples who came together on the Northern Plains and Prairies to negotiate terms in 1867–1868 and 1876 brought with them to the bargaining table assumptions and attitudes shaped by different historical experiences and distinct...

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2. Expectations and Promises

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pp. 27-72

The grand councils on the western Plains and Prairies that produced the Treaty of 1868 and Treaty Six brought together peoples of very different cultural patterns. For representatives of the United States and Canada it was only...

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3. Early Efforts in the United States, 1868–1871

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pp. 73-100

The Treaty of 1868 demanded much of the United States in terms of financial, logistical, and administrative action, taxing the energies of officials at the national and local levels. In Washington, President Ulysses S. Grant organized...

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4. Early Efforts in Canada, 1876–1878

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pp. 101-132

Treaty Six was a far less ambitious document than was the U.S.- Lakota Treaty of 1868, and as a result the obligations incumbent upon Canada under its terms, though weighty, were not so numerous. Fundamental among them were the...

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5. Negotiating the Relationship: The Treaty of 1868, 1871–1875

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pp. 133-176

The first few years of treaty relations in the United States and Canada unfolded unevenly, but significant developments in both countries provided the opportunity to begin again and in a spirit of renewed optimism. With the appropriations...

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6. Misunderstanding in Practice: Treaty Six, 1879–1884

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pp. 177-250

Without the commitment of the national government and the support of Parliament, Treaty Six could have little hope for fulfillment. In the House of Commons, Indian affairs were the focus of several serious debates, often, as in...

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7. The Treaty of 1868 and the Peace Policy, 1875–1876

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pp. 251-310

In 1868 the Lakotas and the U.S. Indian Peace Commissioners had come to terms, though their motivations for doing so differed. Each party had its own interests and priorities in the Treaty of 1868, and had reconciled themselves...

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8. Treaty Six and the Northwest Rebellion, 1885

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pp. 311-344

In 1875 the failure of the Allison Commission to negotiate away the Black Hills introduced a chill into subsequent U.S.-Lakota relations. Under its influence advocates of a military solution began to edge out the Peace Policy supporters,...

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pp. 345-352

The theme of “broken treaties” has long haunted the history of treaty implementation in the United States and Canada, nowhere more so than with regard to the Treaty of 1868 between the United States and the Lakotas and Treaty...

Appendix A: 1868 Treaty with the Sioux

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pp. 353-364

Appendix B: 1876 Treaties at Forts Carlton and Pitt

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pp. 365-372

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 373-374


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pp. 374-411


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pp. 412-431


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pp. 432-451

E-ISBN-13: 9780803224452
E-ISBN-10: 0803224451

Illustrations: 1 photo, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2009