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Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF)

Research Guide
AboutSearchDownload FileTreaties​​Signers
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Why Treaties Matter
In less than 100 years (1778 to 1871), the diverse Indian nations of North America entered into nearly 400 treaties with the United States. These agreements covered the full range of international relations: trade compacts, military alliances, peace accords, land cessions. All of the official US-Indian treaties are examined in the US Treaty Signer Project.

The treaties hold a special place in the American Myth as historical milestones in the inspiring story of US ascendancy, documents that relegated Indigenous nations to the past tense. In reality, however, the US-Indian treaties remain vital and operative today, for several reasons.

Retained Rights
First, through these agreements Indigenous peoples have retained collective, sovereign rights that delineate their national identities. Treaties (the “supreme law of the land” in the language of the Constitution) established legally-based government-to-government relationships that guaranteed the Indian nation’s retention of certain rights and privileges, such as land use and occupation. These rights – assaulted and defended continuously over subsequent generations – continue to shape the political, legal, social and economic life of North America. 

US Property Rights
Another enduring legacy of the treaties – and one that attracts surprisingly little public discourse today -- is their role in creating the US property system. It was only at treaty signings that land essentially became property. Through treaties, the US (according to its own legal framework) perfected its title to land and could then pass on that title. The alchemy by which treaties created property rights was spelled out by John Marshall in the Supreme Court case of Johnson v. M’Intosh. Spoiler alert: it involved the infamous “Doctrine of Discovery.” For more on treaties and US property rights, click here.​ 

Treaty Signers
A treaty, then, was the moment when elements of the natural world became the capital of a capitalist society. And this moment attracted land speculators, railroad executives, mining and timber company owners, traders and Indian agents who would benefit most directly and immediately from a land cession. Looking at the US signers of a treaty opens a window on what transpired there.

The motivations behind US "Indian policy" changed over the course of the treaty-making era (1778-1870.) Before the war of 1812, for instance, large-scale land speculators controlled US policy making and insisted on the acquisition of Indigenous land. In the 1830s the focus of US policy was "Indian Removal". In the 1860s railroads asserted treme​ndous influence. All of these interests were represented by US treaty signers. In short, we can learn about treaties by knowing who signed them for the US.

The historial overviews below present six distinct eras in treaty-making. Within each era, descriptions of smaller groups of treaties emphasize the interests represented by US signers. 

Before the War of 1812Before the War of 1812
US-Indian relations from the Revolution to the first treaties in the Louisiana Purchase.
Before the War of 1812In page navigation
War of 1812 Aftermath, 1814-1818War of 1812 Aftermath, 1814-1818
Treaties establish a new international status quo after British military and trade withdrawal.
War of 1812 Aftermath, 1814-1818In page navigation
1819 to Indian Removal Act (1830)1819 to Indian Removal Act (1830)
Boundary making, negotiated removal, and the rise of St. Louis.
1819 to Indian Removal Act (1830)In page navigation
Removal Era (1830s)Removal Era (1830s)
Ethnic cleansing becomes the official policy of the US.
Removal Era (1830s)In page navigation
Further US Expansion, 1840-1859Further US Expansion, 1840-1859
US boundaries, settlement, and resource extraction reach the Pacific.
Further US Expansion, 1840-1859In page navigation
Civil War to End of Treaty MakingCivil War to End of Treaty Making
Reservations, Railroads, Timber, War, and Peace Commissions
Civil War to End of Treaty MakingIn page navigation


Count= 386
Apache 1852Signed on July 1, 1852, Santa Fe9
Apache Cheyenne Arapaho 1865Signed on October 17, 1865, Little Arkansas River9
Appalachicola 1832Signed in October of 1832, Tallahassee7
Appalachicola Band 1833Signed in June of 1833, Pope's3
Arapaho Cheyenne 1861Signed in February of 1861, Fort Wise8
Arikara Tribe 1825Signed on July 18, 1825, Ricara Village26
Belantse Etoa 1825Signed on July 30, 1825, Lower Mandan23
Blackfeet 1855Signed in October of 1855, Judith River22
Blackfeet Sioux 1865Signed on October 19, 1865, Fort Sully13
Caddo 1835Signed in July of 1835, Agency House Caddo11
Certain Sioux 1873Signed in May of 1873, Lac Traverse agency11
Chasta etc. 1854Signed in November of 1854, Applegate Creek4
Cherokee 1785Signed in November of 1785, Hopewell12
Cherokee 1791Signed in July of 1791, Holston13
Cherokee 1791 addSigned on February 17, 1792, Philadelphia5
Cherokee 1794Signed on June 26, 1794, Holston6
Cherokee 1798Signed in October of 1798, Tellico15
Cherokee 1804Signed in October of 1804, Tellico10
Cherokee 1805 1Signed in October of 1805, Tellico11
Cherokee 1805 2Signed on October 27, 1805, Tellico10
Cherokee 1806Signed in January of 1806, Washington10
Cherokee 1816 1Signed in March of 1816, Washington4
Cherokee 1816 2Signed on March 22, 1816, Washington4
Cherokee 1816 3Signed in September of 1816, Chickasaw council10
Cherokee 1817Signed in July of 1817, Cherokee Agency11
Cherokee 1819Signed in February of 1819, Washington8
Cherokee 1835 1Signed on March 14, 1835, Washington10
Cherokee 1835 2Signed in December of 1835, New Echota22
Cherokee 1846Signed on August 6, 1846, Washington7
Cherokee 1866Signed in July of 1866, Washington6
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Note: Many "unofficial" treaties were also signed by Indigenous nations with the US, the Confederate States, Texas, etc. These are not included in the database​


Basic information on each of 386 treaties and agreements between the US and Indigenous nations is available here. Included are all treaties and agreements from 1778 to 1873 that are found in ​Kappler, Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, vol. 2, plus a treaty between the State of New York and the Oneida people.

​To find the record for any treaty, which includes every US signer, start by clicking on the appropriate decade above, or use "find an item" to the left to search for a specific treaty. The treaty records include:

  • Date and place of signing
  • Date of ratification and proclaimation
  • Indigenous nations involved in treaty
  • Margin notes on articles of every treaty
  • The name of every U.S. signe​r
  • Signature and any title for each signer
  • Links to treaty text and land cession maps

Treaty of Traverse des Sioux by Blackwell MeyerTreaty of Traverse Des Sioux, Frank B. Mayer​​​ Minnesota Historical Society