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Lot #20
James Buchanan Ratifies the Treaty of Hellgate and the Establishment of the Flathead Indian Reservation

Buchanan establishes the Flathead Indian Reservation with the signing of the Treaty of Hellgate

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Estimate: $500+
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Buchanan establishes the Flathead Indian Reservation with the signing of the Treaty of Hellgate

Partly-printed DS as president, one page, 8 x 10.5, July 16, 1855. President Buchanan directs the Secretary of State to “affix the Seal of the United States to the Ratification of the Treaty between the United States and the Flathead, Koote-nay and Upper Pend D’Oreilles Indians.” Signed neatly at the conclusion by James Buchanan. In fine condition, with some light wrinkling. Accompanied by a printed copy of the "Treaty with the Flatheads" and a photograph of "Louis Flathead."

This document relates to the ratification of The Treaty of Hellgate, a treaty agreement between the United States and the Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend d'Oreille, and Lower Kutenai tribes. The treaty was signed at Hellgate, Montana, on July 16, 1855, by Isaac Stevens, superintendent of Indian affairs and governor of Washington Territory; Victor, chief of the Bitterroot Salish; Alexander, chief of the Pend d'Oreilles; Michelle, chief of the Kutenais; and several subchiefs. The treaty was ratified by Congress, signed by President James Buchanan, and proclaimed on April 18, 1859. Under the treaty, the Tribes ceded to the United States a significant portion of their aboriginal territory in return for the establishment of the Flathead Indian Reservation, which takes its name from the Flathead River.

The Hellgate Treaty was one of a series of similar Indian treaties entered into between the United States, represented by Washington Territory Governor Isaac Stevens, and numerous tribes in the Pacific Northwest. A common attribute of these ‘Stevens treaties’ was the express reservation of tribal aboriginal hunting, fishing, and gathering rights on and off reservations. In the Hellgate Treaty, the Tribes reserved to themselves the ‘exclusive right of taking fish in all streams running through and bordering’ the Reservation. They also expressly reserved the right to fish at usual and accustomed fishing sites off the Reservation ‘in common’ with non-Indian settlers.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #674 - Ended September 13, 2023

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