Wednesday, January 11, 2017

First Treaty With Great Sioux Nation

Edward Hicks painted this scene depicting William Penn's great treaty. The only native depicted without a woodlands headdress, the one holding the pipe, resembles the Dakota headman known as Strong Hand as pictographed by Sitting Bull.
Treaty With Great Sioux Nation
1682 Penn Treaty With Indians

By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, ND – The Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 & 1868 are generally held to be treaties between the United States and “The Great Sioux Nation.” Some might look further back to the 1825 Treaty of Prairie du Chien when the boundaries of the Dakȟóta were recognized by the United States.

Treaties are agreements between two or more nations, usually around trade, commerce, travel, aid, and taxes. The first treaty between the United States and First Nations took place at Fort Pitt, September, 1778. The treaty recognized the Delaware as a sovereign nation and allowed for U.S. military passage through Delaware lands, and even for the Delaware to provide able-bodied warriors to assist the United States. In exchange, the US was to construct a fort to protect the Delaware women, children, and elders from hostile retaliation, textiles, clothing, and the means to defend themselves.

Not surprisingly, the US broke the Treaty of Fort Pitt before the year was out.

There are treaties between First Nations and the Old World countries which pre-date the United States. An example of a pre-US treaty is the Two Row Wampun Treaty between the Dutch and the Iroquois Confederacy in 1618. The treaty was founded on mutual respect, to live in peace on the land, and to respect one another’s laws and customs. 

Benjamin West depicted his version of Penn's Treaty with the Indians. Hicks based his interpretation on West's. The individual seated with his left hand gripping his pipe resembles the pictograph Sitting Bull drew of Strong Hand. The Delaware are clearly depicted in this scene. A point of interest is the native man behind William Penn who appears to be wearing something similar to the Plains Indian shaved horn headdress. This painting is on permanent display at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts. 

Between 1682 and 1685, William Penn entered into amity, or formal agreement, with nineteen First Nations, to acquire land for what would become known as Pennsylvania. The 1682 formal agreement between two nations was memorialized in the oil painting The Treaty of Penn with The Indians around 1771-1772. The painting depicts a meeting between William Penn, representing the United Kingdom, and Tamanend, representing the Delaware, near the share of an elm tree by the community of Shackamaxon (present-day Kensington, PA). 

A belt of wampum delivered by the Indians to William Penn at the Great Treaty under the elm tree at Shackamaxon in 1682. The Leni Lenapi "history belt" recalls their meeting in good faith with William Penn. A second belt was handed down to Leni Lenapi chief Killbuck, who lost it on a run for safety to Fort Pitt in 1782. 

Penn is attributed to have said, “We meet on the broad pathway of good faith and good-will; no advantage shall be taken on either side, but all shall be openness and love. We are the same as if one man’s body was to be divided into two parts; we are of one flesh and one blood.”

Nicholas Gevelot created this sculpture of Tamanend's meeting with William Penn. The difference between the paintings and this sculpture is that it is Tamanend who is holding the pipe. The sculpture can be seen in the capital rotunda at Harrisburg, PA.

Tamanend is said to have responded, “We will live in love with William Penn and his children as long as the creeks and rivers run, and while the sun, moon, and stars endure.”

Pennsylvanian historians would argue that there exists no record of William Penn’s great treaty. Those historians probably focus their research on the written word as artifact. A record did in fact exist, just not in conventional writing, and not in any place historically associated with the Delaware Indians.

In 1879, at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, the Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta were refugees, waiting on Canadian authorities to accept them there (they weren’t accepted, but treated as an “Indian Problem”), and debating amongst themselves to return to their traditional homelands in the US. 

Fort Walsh (pictured above) with a Sibley Tent encampment outside the wall. 

Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, reknowned as Sitting Bull, met with the Indian Fighter and US military scout, Fred. M. Hans, known amongst the Lakȟóta as Wičháȟpi Waŋžíla (Only-One Star), for his travels through their country by himself, and for his habit of entering their camps after sunset with the “suddenness of a descending star.” Hans observed that if he entered camps after sunset, the likelihood of his death upon entering a camp unannounced decreased.

Hans met with the Lakȟóta at Fort Walsh in July, 1879. Somehow, Hans ingratiated himself into the company of Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake and in their discussions about the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, the Seven Council Fires (“Great Sioux Nation”) and their dealings with white men. 

Sitting Bull wears a military issued blanket over one shoulder in a tradition that means he has something particular to say, an address. 

Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake recalled for Hans, a treaty between Onáse (Big Game Hunt), the name given to William Penn by a head chief, at that time, of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. That head chief was remembered among the Lakȟóta as Napé Waš’ákA (Strong Hand). Hans mistranslated Strong Hand as “Strong Arm” instead.

An illustration of a likeness of Napé Waš’ákA (Strong Hand) appears in Hans' The Great Sioux Nation, page 413. Hans seems to have based this illustration on the likeness of Chief Pontiac. 

Hans, neither a scholar or linguist, tied the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ to the Delaware Indian tribe. The Delaware speak an Algonquian related language, not Siouan. There are two tribal nations, however, who are Siouan, the Catawba and the Woccon, who lived in the vicinity of the Delaware. Hans wrote that Napé Waš’ákA was a Delaware chief, which is possible as tribes across North America frequently adopted enemies or married into “enemy” tribes. 

The meeting of Strong Hand and William Penn as rendered by Sitting Bull. The Delaware are not represented in Sitting Bull's tale. 

The treaty as Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake laid out in pictograph for Hans detailed a leafless tree, designating the time of year (fall) when the treaty took place. The number of black dots thereon represent the number of winters (years) since the treaty between Onáse and Napé Waš’ákA. According to Lakȟóta testimony, a black dot was added each year that passed following the treaty with Penn. 

The John K. Bear Winter Count, a pictographic mnemonic device, begins in 1682. The first entry of this record is: Wičhókičize tȟáŋka (They-fought great [battle]), they fought in a great battle. James H. Howard's interpretation of the entry points to conflict the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ had with the Cree and Assiniboin "up north." Other winter counts reaching back to the turn of 1700 do not elude to an agreement with the English, but that doesn't mean that none didn't take place.

Hans' writings isn't a critical work. It's full of embellishment and bias, but it is historical and embraces its own tone like a badge of honor. It is a writing of its time, reflecting a man of its time. One thing is certain, Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake was known for his steadfast character and was not prone to embellish any history he recounted. In the oral tradition, Mr. Ernie LaPointe (Oglála) the direct lineal great-grandson of Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, the Lakȟóta kept their promise not to fight the white man until their survival was at stake, and then, it was soldiers who were the first aggressors.

The treaty between the English and the First Nations and the terms of peace Penn agreed to lasted until the 1755 Penn’s Creek conflict when some Indians, allegedly Delaware, killed all but one settler. The lone survivor’s testimony recalled the Indians identifying themselves as “Allegheny” or Seneca Indians.

According to Hans, “our government [the US federal government] record shows that the tribal rules of the Sioux have kept the record without error.”

A monument to Penn’s treaty stands today at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, PA. It reads, “Treaty Ground of William Penn and the Indian Natives 1682 Unbroken Faith.”


Penn Treaty Museum

Hans, Fred M., The Great Sioux Nation. Chicago, IL: MA Donahue, 1907.
Chapter 26: The Only Unbroken Treaty. 

Howard, James H. "Yanktonai Ethnohistory and The John K. Bear Winter Count." Plains Anthropologist: Journal of The Plains Conference 21, no. 73, Part 2, Memoir 11 (1976): 20.

LaPointe, Ernie, Sitting Bull: His Life and Legacy. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2009. 

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