The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has an exhibit called Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations. This exhibit allows you to see treaties the United States has made with American Indian nations and learn more about those treaties and their outcomes.
David W. Penney is the Associate Director of Museum Scholarship, Exhibitions, and Public Engagement at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. He’s also an internationally recognized scholar and curator who has a lot of expertise in Native American art history, and he was involved in creating the Nation to Nation exhibit. He joins us to guide us through this exhibit and some of the treaties the United States has made with Indigenous nations.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.
David W. Penney is the Associate Director of Museum Scholarship, Exhibitions, and Public Engagement at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. He’s an internationally recognized scholar and curator with research and curatorial expertise in Native American art history.
During our tour of the Nation to Nation exhibit, David reveals the story behind the National Museum of the American Indian and its creation; Information about the treaty-making process and how Indigenous nations and the United States approach that process; And details about some of the important treaties the United States has created with Indigenous nations and whether the terms of those treaties have been fulfilled.
What You’ll Discover
- What types of objects are curated and housed at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
- The work the NMAI is doing to encourage Americans and the world to rethink their understanding of American Indian history and culture
- How, when, and why the NMAI was founded
- The repatriation program underway at the NMAI
- The origins of the National Museum of the American Indian name
- The history behind the creation of the Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations exhibit
- What treaties are and what they are meant to do
- How the United States’ treaties with its Indigenous peoples are unique
- The influence of British treaty-making models on the early United States’ approach to treaty-making
- The fact that most United States’ treaties with American Indian nations are about land regulation
- The fact that the United States has 374 treaties with American Indian nations
- How the NMAI decided which treaties to include in its exhibit
- The process a treaty has to go through to be ratified
- The history of California Treaty K and why it was never ratified
- Differences in how the English/ the Americans perceived a treaty and how American Indian nations understood a treaty
- Guswenta or Kaswentha Wampum belt as example of American Indian-style treaties
- The Horse Creek Treaty or Treaty at Fort Laramie of 1851
- The misperception that all treaties between the United States government and American Indian nations are broken or bad
- Why it's important for Americans to better understand the treaty making process that occurred between the United States and its Indigenous nations
- Information on how to visit the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and New York City
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- David W. Penney
- David W. Penney, North American Indian Art
- National Museum of the American Indian
- Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations Exhibit
- Native New York Exhibit
- Episode 163: The American Revolution in North America
- Episode 223: Susan Sleeper-Smith, A Native American History of the Ohio River Valley & Great Lakes Region
- Episode 264: Michael Oberg, The Treaty of Canandaigua, 1794
- Episode 286: Elections in Early America: Native Sovereignty
- Episode 323: Michael Witgen, American Expansion and the Political Economy of Plunder
In your opinion, what might have happened if the United States’ government had fully fulfilled just one of the treaties featured in the Nation to Nation exhibit? How might the trajectories of the Native nation and the United States have turned out differently?
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