Synopses & Reviews
Treaties were the primary instruments by which Native American tribal homelands passed into non-Indian hands. Indian people were coerced, manipulated, and misled into signing treaties and Euro-Americans used treaty documents to justify their acquisition and perpetuate their occupation of Indian lands. Indians called treaties "pen and ink witchcraft."
But each treaty had its own story and cast of characters and involved particular maneuverings and competing ambitions, and Indians frequently matched their colonizing counterparts in diplomatic savvy. Treaties were cultural encounters, human dramas, and power struggles where people representing different ways of life faced each other in a public contest of words rather than weapons. Treaty making changed over time and serves as a barometer of Indian-white relations in North America. Early treaty negotiations usually followed Indian protocol and forms, and sometimes were conducted on Indian terms, and early treaties were often agreements between equals. As power dynamics shifted the United States adapted and applied processes and procedures developed in the colonial era to effect the acquisition of Native lands by a rapidly expanding nation state.
Pen and Ink Witchcraft begins with the protocols, practices, and precedents of Indian diplomacy in colonial America but then focuses the century between 1768 and 1871 when Congress ended treaty making. It traces the stories and the individuals behind three treaties that represent distinct phases in treaty relations. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 culminated colonial efforts to establish a boundary between Indian lands and white settlers; the Treaty of New Echota in 1835 implemented national efforts to remove Indians, and the Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 intended to confine and transform Indians as the United States pushed across the Great Plains.
Although treaty making officially ended in 1871, nearly four hundred Indian treaties remain the law of the land. They continue to define the status of tribes as sovereign entities, determine their rights to hunting, fishing, and other resources, shape their dealings with state and federal governments, and provide the basis for much litigation and lobbying.
Indian peoples made some four hundred treaties with the United States between the American Revolution and 1871, when Congress prohibited them. They signed nine treaties with the Confederacy, as well as countless others over the centuries with Spain, France, Britain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Canada, and even Russia, not to mention individual colonies and states. In retrospect, the treaties seem like well-ordered steps on the path of dispossession and empire. The reality was far more complicated.
In Pen and Ink Witchcraft, eminent Native American historian Colin G. Calloway narrates the history of diplomacy between North American Indians and their imperial adversaries, particularly the United States. Treaties were cultural encounters and human dramas, each with its cast of characters and conflicting agendas. Many treaties, he notes, involved not land, but trade, friendship, and the resolution of disputes. Far from all being one-sided, they were negotiated on the Indians' cultural and geographical terrain. When the Mohawks welcomed Dutch traders in the early 1600s, they sealed a treaty of friendship with a wampum belt with parallel rows of purple beads, representing the parties traveling side-by-side, as equals, on the same river. But the American republic increasingly turned treaty-making into a tool of encroachment on Indian territory. Calloway traces this process by focusing on the treaties of Fort Stanwix (1768), New Echota (1835), and Medicine Lodge (1867), in addition to such events as the Peace of Montreal in 1701 and the treaties of Fort Laramie (1851 and 1868). His analysis demonstrates that native leaders were hardly dupes. The records of negotiations, he writes, show that "Indians frequently matched their colonizing counterparts in diplomatic savvy and tried, literally, to hold their ground."
Each treaty has its own story, Calloway writes, but together they tell a rich and complicated tale of moments in American history when civilizations collided.
About the Author
Colin G. Calloway
is Professor of Native American Studies and John Kimball Jr. Professor of History at Dartmouth College. His books include One Vast Winter Count: The American West before Lewis and Clark
, for which he won the Merle Curti Award and the Ray Allen Billington Prize, The Shawnees and the War for America, The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America
, and New Worlds for All
. He recently won the 2011 American Indian History Lifetime Achievement Award.
Table of Contents
Ch. 1: Treaty Making in Colonial America: The Many Languages of Indian Diplomacy
Ch. 2: Fort Stanwix, 1768: Shifting Boundaries
Ch. 3: Treaty Making, American-Style
Ch. 4: New Echota, 1835: Implementing Removal
Ch. 5: Treaties in the West
Ch. 6: Medicine Lodge, 1867: Containment on the Plains
Ch. 7: The Death and Rebirth of Indian Treaties
Appendix: The Treaties