Local and state leaders should rally around the outstanding cause of bringing two peace treaties to Wichita for display as part of the state’s sesquicentennial, so Kansans can see these defining artifacts firsthand and better understand how wedded the state’s history is to that of Native Americans.
An article by Beccy Tanner in the Sunday Eagle explained the history of the two treaties and the effort to return them to Kansas. One was signed in 1865 at what is now 61st Street North and Seneca near the northern edge of Wichita and bears the signatures of such notables as Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Kiowa Chief Satanta, Kit Carson, William Bent and Jesse Chisholm. The other was signed two years later in Medicine Lodge.
Though the promise of “perpetual peace” between the people, U.S. government and American Indians made in the 1865 treaty went unrealized, the agreements matter as history because they furthered frontier settlement and railroad expansion, as they facilitated the relocation of Indians to reservations and signaled the demise of so much of their culture.
It would be up to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., to assess whether the condition of the original treaties would allow them to be shipped and displayed.
Fidelity Bank chairman and chief executive Clark Bastian deserves praise for taking up the idea of bringing them to Wichita, inspired by the late local historian Craig Miner.
Though many details remain related to cost and security, leaders at the Mid-America All-Indian Center expressed interest this week in exhibiting the documents at the city-owned facility.
Now, Mayor Carl Brewer should take the lead in making it happen, either by having the city apply to the National Archives or recruiting someone else to do so. Other leaders including Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, should step up with their support.
The current governor and a former one are especially well-positioned to exert influence:
Gov. Sam Brownback, as a U.S. senator, led the successful six-year effort to pass a congressional resolution acknowledging and apologizing for the U.S. government’s historical mistreatment of Native Americans.
And John Carlin, governor from 1979 to 1987, spent a decade in Washington, D.C., as national archivist before returning to Kansas, where he is visiting professor and executive-in-residence at Kansas State University.
As Brewer and others try to make this idea a reality, the community should prepare to step forward to cover whatever costs for shipping, insurance and the like are involved in bringing these precious pieces of Kansas history back where they began.