Treaties are agreements between nations, tribes, political groups or sovereign entities to determine rules for their communities or set rules for care, membership or other agreements with entities. European settlers had made alliances with native Indian tribes and nations. The treaties even formed out of spoken word were sacred to American Indians, which were to be honored generations after generations as the details were passed down through mnemonic devices (TreatiesMatter). The US government entered into several treaties with American Indians after and during the War of Independence. They were used for acquiring land and tools for diplomacy. The people of Ojibwa and Dakota were key players in US treaties with natives (Minnesota Humanities Center).
For US Citizens, treaties in the 1800’s have little relevance in their lives today. The US government nearly broke or violated every treaty out of the 500 it entered into with native tribes. (Egan). The reasons why treaties are not respected today is because there is now no power balance between the native people and the US government. Since to enforce an agreement, tribes require some form of power; there is none to enforce them today. The consequences of not honoring treaties are not perceived to be of any threat.
The Natives viewed the treaties to be about friendship, peace and preserving their tribal homelands. One famous treaty in this regard was between the Sioux Nation of Indians and the US that came to be known as ‘For Laramie Treaty 1868’ (Geoffrey C. Ward). Today, violating terms of treaties still leads to disagreements and protests, such as the prominent one in Wisconsin between resort owners and fishers during spawning season, when a court ruled in favor of the Ojibwa tribal government’s right to fish and hunt in their former territories (Commission). The ‘Dakota Access Pipeline’ route protests also broke out as protestors claimed Lands under the ‘Fort Laramie Treaty’ (KFYR). Similarly out of these disagreements and oppositions, the native Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin have been struggling to revive their spearfishing tradition in the land (Osawa).
The treaties, however, are still intact and continue to affirm the sovereignty of tribal governments and their relationship with the US on a nation to nation basis. For them, it is vital to protect their people and manage their resources, lands, and economies to secure the future of their generations.
After the Storm. Dir. GLIFWC Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Prod. Patricia Ann Loew. 2009. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAiCUYJT-t0>.
Egan, Timothy. The Nation; Mending a Trail of Broken Treaties. 25 June 2000. 4 April 2018. <https://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/25/weekinreview/the-nation-mending-a-trail-of-broken-treaties.html>.
Geoffrey C. Ward. Archives of the West: Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868. 2001. The West Film Project. 4 April 2018. <https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/four/ftlaram.htm>.
KFYR. DAPL protesters reference 1851 Treaty as justification for Front Line Camp. 28 October 2016. 4 April 2018. <http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/DAPL-protesters-reference-1851-Treaty-as-justification-for-Front-Line-camp-399099721.html>.
Lighting the 7th Fire: How the Chippewa Indians of Northern Wisconsin have struggled to restore spearfishing. Dir. Sandra Sunrising Osawa. PBS, 1995. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEpC-D2Ppug>.
Minnesota Humanities Center. Relationships: Dakota and Ojibwe Treaties. n.d. 4 April 2018. <http://treatiesmatter.org/treaties>.
treaties matter. Treaty Making in America. n.d. Minnesota Humanities Centre. 4 April 2018. <http://treatiesmatter.org/exhibit/welcome/treaty-making-in-america/>.