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Replica of 1865 Peace Treaty to be in Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 18, 2011, at 11:42 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 19, 2011, at 6:42 a.m.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Kansas, a replica of the 1865 Peace Treaty will soon be on display.

The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is creating a permanent peace treaty exhibit, to open to the public July 29.

The treaty is one of many the federal government signed with American Indian tribes and spurred white settlement by promising settlers heading west safe passage. The 1865 Peace Treaty was signed along the Little Arkansas River near what is now 61st North and Seneca in Wichita.

A few months ago, some of Wichita's business leaders expressed interest in bringing the original 1865 Peace Treaty to Kansas.

Because of a long list of federal rules designed to protect historical documents, bringing the original treaty to Wichita proved to be too expensive an undertaking, said Eric Cale, director of the Wichita-Sedgwick county Historical Museum.

"To get the treaty here, we would be required to build a special case that would have probably ended up costing $10,000," Cale said. "We would also have had to pay to fly the treaty and a handler and have an armed guard, 24/7.

"We became hard-pressed for time and decided we really don't have that kind of money sitting around."

So, time for Plan B.

The Library of Congress, where the original treaty is housed, "sent us exquisite exhibit-quality scans of the document — all 15 pages," Cale said.

So, although it won't be the original, Wichitans will still get a chance to see and read the 1865 treaty.

Old West icons such as Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Kiowa Chief Satanta, Kit Carson, William Bent and Jesse Chisholm all signed or at least made their marks on the original.

Besides the reproduction of the treaty, the exhibit will include an artistic depiction of the treaty signing, and a video of the treaty site as it looks today. The exhibit will be on the rotunda on the third floor of the museum, 204 S. Main. The painting of the treaty signing that will be on display is a replica of a mural in Fidelity Bank.

Last year, when Clark and Clay Bastian renovated the Carnegie Library building next door to the museum for Fidelity Bank, the brothers commissioned Bryan Haynes, a St. Louis artist, to create a sense of history and legacy for Wichita.

Haynes created a work titled "Treaty of the Little Arkansas 1865."

The treaties were designed to create peace for white settlers traveling in the West. They accelerated the expansion of the railroads and gave the U.S. government authority to sequester Indians on reservations.

Indians were given flour, beans, sugar, clothing, blankets and bugles — and were moved into Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma.

The last time Kansans saw the original treaty was 50 years ago when it was brought back to Wichita for the state's centennial in 1961.

The treaty was signed on Oct. 17, 1865.

Several thousand people, including Indians and soldiers, camped along the Little Arkansas River and sat under the trees near the river for the signing.

The conference for the treaty began with an apology by the chairman of the peace commission, J.B. Sanborn, for the Sand Creek Massacre. The massacre occurred nearly a year before when a Colorado militia attacked a group of Cheyenne.

Any peace gained from the treaty was short-lived; two years later, the U.S. government called a second meeting at Medicine Lodge.

These two treaties shaped and divided Kansas into an often-violent, thundering clash of cultures, in the end forcing American Indians from the state and spurring European-American settlement onto the prairie.

"It is not widely known that we had a treaty signed here," Cale said. "People may have heard about Indian treaties but don't know what they involved. This touches on that."

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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