American Indian Treaties
From 1774 until about 1832, treaties between individual sovereign American Indian nations and the U.S. were negotiated to establish borders and prescribe conditions of behavior between the parties. The form of these agreements was nearly identical to the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War between the U.S. and Great Britain. The negotiations ended in a mutually signed pact which had to be approved by the U.S.Congress. Non-tribal citizens were required to have a passport to cross sovereign Indian lands.
From 1832 until 1871, American Indian nations were considered to be domestic, dependent tribes. Negotiated treaties between tribes and the U.S. had to be approved by the U.S. Congress.
In 1871, the House of Representatives ceased recognition of individual tribes within the U.S. as independent nations with whom the United States could contract by treaty, ending the nearly 100 year old practice of treaty-making between the U.S. and American Indian tribes.
For more information on American Indian treaties:
Published Government Sources Relating to Native Americans provides information about treaties, policies, Congressional hearings and debates, and the implementation of federal law.
- U.S. Senate records related to Indian treaties are described in
Guide to Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989 Bicentennial Edition.
Treaties negotiated between American Indian tribes and the U.S. Government required ratification by the Senate before taking effect. Treaties that were not ratified by the Senate were not put into force, leaving unresolved issues. "
The Secret Treaties with California's Indians" by Larisa K. Miller, a Prologue article, explores some of the consequences of unratified Indian treaties.
- Visit our Archives Library Information Center (ALIC) section on Laws and Treaties.