The Brinton Museum presents the 150th Anniversary – Treaty of Fort Laramie exhibition, featuring rare, historically important photographs by the celebrated nineteenth century American photographer Alexander Gardner. Gardner was a Scottish-born immigrant who is known for his emotionally moving photographs of Indian Delegations and Civil War soldiers and his photographic portraits of Abraham Lincoln. In 1868, Gardner was commissioned by the federal government to photograph the peace talks between a federally-appointed commission and chiefs of the Plains Indians tribes at Fort Laramie in Wyoming. Gardner’s photographs of the many Indian tribal leaders who gathered at Fort Laramie to meet with U.S. government peace commissioners are considered to be among some of his most poignant works.
150th Anniversary – Treaty of Fort Laramie opens in the museum’s S. K. Johnston, Jr. Family Gallery on March 15 and is available to visitors through May 28. This exhibition will again be presented in the fall, September 2 through November 9th.
Treaty of Fort Laramie
In 1841, the first westward-bound emigrants arrived at the fort located at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. They were bound for Oregon, California and Salt Lake City in Utah. In the years 1858 to 1861, the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush brought even more white settlers to the western territories, accelerating conflicts between settlers and the Indians. In 1865, a congressional committee began a study of the Indian uprisings and wars in the West, resulting in a written report, Report on the Condition of the Indian Tribes, published in 1867. The report ultimately led to the establishment of an Indian Peace Commission on July 20 of the same year. The intent and purpose of the commission was to end the Indian wars and prevent future Indian conflicts.
In 1868, the Indian Peace Commission, comprised of three generals: William Tecumseh Sherman, Alfred H. Terry, and William S. Harney; and four civilians: N. G. Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Senator John B. Henderson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Samuel F. Tappan; and John B. Sanborn, found enough Indians at Ft. Laramie to warrant making a treaty.
The Brinton Museum Photographs
Original photographs in The Brinton’s exhibit feature twenty-seven of Gardner’s works, including photographic images of Iron Nation of the Brulé, Lakota peoples; chiefs of the Crow Indians; members of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne, and other photographs of the many tribal leaders who gathered at Ft. Laramie to meet with U.S. government peace commissioners. Additional images relate to scenes in the Indian Territory surrounding the region. From the haunting image of an Indian burial place near Fort Laramie to the timeless, photographic portraits of Plains Indians such as Grey Eyes, White Horse, Mountain Tail, Little Face, Yellow Bull, and others. Gardner’s photographs tell the story of a peoples’ life in the West that was rapidly disappearing. The Fort Laramie Peace Treaty was signed on April 29. Additional signatures by the Oglala band of Sioux by the chiefs and headmen were subscribed and duly authorized on May 25. Unfortunately, conflicts over hunting rights and ownership of land were to continue well into the next two decades. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 had much to do with the unraveling of the peace treaty.
An American icon of photography, Alexander Gardner’s historic photographs bring to life a glimpse of the important events that took place 150 years ago at Fort Laramie. Photographs in the 150th Anniversary – Treaty of Fort Laramie exhibit are part of a larger collection of more than 2,000 recently acquired photographs of the American West gifted to The Brinton Museum’s Endowment Fund through the will of Forrest E. Mars, Jr., past president of the museum.
For group or school docent-guided tours, contact Barbara McNab, Curator of Exhibitions and Museum Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission for teachers and students is offered free.
An educational symposium to accompany this show will be presented in The Brinton’s S. K. Johnston, Jr. Family Gallery on Saturday, April 14 and will feature four guest scholars knowledgeable in the fields of U.S. History, photography and American Indian Studies. Symposium topics include an overview of the work of Alexander Gardner, the biographies and stories about the people in Gardner’s photographs and the historical events leading up to the 1868 Peace Treaty.