National Civic Summit - National Museum Of The American Indian
Great Nations in Their Own Words
Treaties Exhibition Project
Treaties between the American Indian nations and the
Great nations, United States government have had an important and lasting
like great men, influence on the history of America and all of its citizens. As
children, most of us were taught that America was an unpeopled
should keep wilderness before Columbus arrived. To a very great extent, schools
their word. still promote myth as history when it comes to American Indians.
Today, children learn that Native people lived in a state of nature,
free of laws and governing institutions. This telling of Native
-Justice Hugo Black,
American history diminishes the critical role played by Native
Supreme Court of the
nations and American Indian leaders in the making of American
United States, 1959
history, and eliminates an opportunity to teach a new generation of
Americans about the special relationship between Native people
and the U.S. government today.
A Comprehensive History
For the National Museum of the American Indian, the Treaties exhibition will
mark the first major venture into telling a comprehensive history of tribal relations
with the United States. The museum has chosen Treaties because of the breadth
of the subject and the many opportunities it presents to address both historical and
For nearly a century after independence,
relations between the Indian nations and the
United States were conducted primarily by treaty,
from the promises made by George Washington to
the peace treaties with the warrior nations of the
Plains. The Native statesmen who made these
treaties believed the promises of the United States
were good and that they ensured the futures of
Native nations for all time.
While Americans may have some vague understanding that treaties were made
with the Indians, how many today know that Indian treaties are part of the supreme
law of the land? How many realize that the treaties established a government-to-gov-
ernment relationship between Indian tribes and the United States, or recognize the
continuing impact of that precedent? Through this exhibition and its complementary
programs, millions of museum visitors and tens of millions of students will have an
opportunity to learn fundamental truths about the government-to-government relation-
ship that remain relevant to today.
• Education. The ultimate goal of the Treaties exhibition is to educate all
Americans, especially American schoolchildren, of the foundational role of Indians
and Indian treaties in American history.
• Traveling Exhibition. Key ideas and examples from the exhibition will be
reproduced to travel to tribal colleges and museums, urban Indian community
centers, sites where treaties were signed, and many other locales.
• Scholarship. We want to create opportunities for indigenous scholars and others
to study the subject matter of the exhibition at the NMAI.
• Publications. A book about the Treaties exhibition will be published to reach
the broadest possible audience.
• Cultural Arts. In addition to planning special events for the opening of Treaties,
public programs featuring music, dance, storytelling, and documentary films
will be offered throughout the run of the exhibition.
• Symposia. Public education programs are also important to maximize the
impact and reach of the exhibition. The museum will host a series of symposia
in conjunction with Treaties, and put out a call to scholars in Indian law, history,
and Native American studies for papers on related themes.
• Multimedia Opportunities. Another way to further the impact of the exhibition
is through media outlets. For example, the museum may produce a series of radio
programs for distribution to appropriate radio stations throughout the country.
Support for this exhibition from foundations, corpor-
tions, individuals, and Indian nations is critical.
Working together, the NMAI and Native nations have
an opportunity to correct and complete the American
narrative, erase damaging stereotypes and misunder-
standings, and create a generation of Americans who
understand that the history of the Native nations is also
the history of America.
For more information, please go to:
NMAI Development Office: 202-633-6980