Haudenosaunee–U.S. Treaty of 1794 Comes to the Museum
Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, opening September 21, offers people a rare opportunity to see documents that have shaped our history and still define our mutual obligations. The treaty between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the United States is one of the earliest negotiated between Native Americans and the U.S. government under the Constitution.
From left: Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Oren Lyons, PhD; Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief Sidney Hill; Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), guest curator of Nation to Nation; Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Jim Gardner, executive for Legislative Archives, Presidential Programs, and Museum Programs at the National Archives, unveil the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, on loan to the museum.
In 1794 representatives of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and an American delegation led by President Washington's ambassador, Timothy Pickering, met on treaty grounds near Canandaigua, New York, to negotiate an accord. The two parties wished to confirm the peace between them and to secure their respective interests. Working together, the Six Nations—Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora—sought to recover lands in New York State they had lost to the United States following the Revolutionary War. The United States wanted Native lands in Ohio and assurances that the Haudenosaunee would not ally themselves with the Ohio tribes against the U.S. Army.
More than 1,600 Haudenosaunee people gathered for the treaty council. Cornplanter (Ki-On-Twog-Ki), a Seneca war chief, and Red Jacket (Sagoyewatha), a distinguished Seneca and speaker for his fellow chiefs, took the lead, although others joined the talks as well. In the end, after 23 days of negotiations, the United States ceded back more than a million acres of Haudenosaunee lands and agreed to an annual payment of goods. The Haudenosaunee ceded all claims to Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley.
This week, the National Archives lent the Treaty with the Six Nations to the National Museum of the American Indian for the opening of the exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations. Haudenosaunee Faithkeeper Chief Oren Lyons and the Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Chief Sidney Hill, came to Washington to welcome the treaty to the museum.
Top left: Gail Joice, collections manager at the museum, and Terry Boone, exhibits conservator for the National Archives, prepare to move the treaty to the exhibition gallery. Top right: Chief Lyons and Director Gover study the treaty after installation. Center: Chief Hill and Chief Lyons scan the names of the leaders who signed the treaty for the Six Nations. Bottom: The signature and seal of Ki-On-Twog-Ky, also known as Cornplanter, and the signatures of President George Washington and Secretary of State Edmund Randolph; Washington often had a secretary add his signature to documents, but the president signed this treaty in his own hand.
Nation to Nation represents one of the rare times the treaty has been exhibited. James Zeender, senior registrar in the Exhibits Division of the National Archives, describes the document's journey to this point:
After its signing on November 11, 1794, the treaty was brought back to the seat of government in New York City. President Washington obtained the Senate's advice and consent and ratified the treaty on behalf of the United States Government. Washington's ratification is visible as two smaller pieces of parchment attached to the treaty at the top and bottom of the original, signed on lower piece by Washington and Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. In the years to come, the treaty was kept with other treaties at the State Department until they were moved to the new National Archives Building on the Mall in the mid-1930s. At the beginning of this century, the treaty and other highly valuable records were relocated temporarily during a major renovation of the building downtown and returned a few years later.
Historic documents are fragile and sensitive to light, so original treaties can be displayed for only a short time. The treaty kept by the Haudenosaunee is held in the collection of the Ontario County Historical Society in Canadaigua, where it is shown once a year on Treaty Day, November 11. The treaty on loan from the National Archives will be on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., from September 21, 2014—the opening of Nation to Nation and the tenth anniversary of the museum on the National Mall—through February 2015.
The transcript of the Treaty with the Six Nations originally appears in Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler, 1904. Digitized transcript made available by the Oklahoma State University.
The photos above were taken September 8, 2014, at the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., by Kevin Wolf/AP Images for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.