Keith Davis, noted expert on historical photographs, will give a talk on Alexander Gardner, the influence of early photography and the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie
In recognition of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, The Brinton Museum has exhibited rare, historically important photographs by the celebrated nineteenth century American photographer Alexander Gardner.
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. 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 and bring to life a glimpse of the important events that took place 150 years ago.
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, which ultimately led to the establishment of an Indian Peace Commission. The intent and purpose of the commission was to end the Indian wars and prevent future Indian conflicts. In 1868, the Indian Peace Commission found enough Indians at Fort Laramie to warrant making a treaty. The Fort Laramie Peace Treaty was signed on April 29. Additional signatures by the Oglala Sioux chiefs and headmen were subscribed and duly authorized on May 25, 1868.
On a local note, the 1868 Treaty ceded the Powder River Basin from the Black Hills to the Bighorn Mountains back to the Indian people. The forts on the Bozeman Trail, including Fort Phil Kearney, were abandoned by the US Army and subsequently burned by the Indians. Peace was only temporary as rumors of gold in the Black Hills were confirmed and yet another treaty was broken.
KEITH F. DAVIS, of Sheridan, WY, is the Senior Curator of Photography, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, and advisor to the Hall Family Foundation. Davis describes Gardner as “one of the most versatile and influential photographers of the mid-nineteenth century … who had clear ideas on both the documentary and artistic potential of photography.” Davis was a contributing author of the book Alexander Gardner: The Western Photographs, 1867-1868, published by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to accompany an exhibition presented in 2014/2015 and is the recipient of various awards including a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1986-87) for his work on the Civil-War era photographer George N. Barnard.