The following post was authored by Gordon Adams, the Historical Preservation Officer for the Pawnee Nation
1863 was a year of extreme violence and turmoil for all American populations, especially those living on the American Great Plains. The Great Plains is a geographic term describing that land between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, and the Dakotas to present day Oklahoma. Under the Great Plains lies the vast Ogallala Aquifer, its potable water source. Great Plains demographics at that time were composed mainly of American Indian Nations, homesteaders, ranchers, military units, railroad constructors, and those travelling. These demographics broke down into three factions primarily involved in an ugly day-to-day struggle for survival and use of the land. This struggle pitted Native American Nations who had occupied the Great Plains for centuries against two other factions intent upon disestablishing them: 1) American homesteaders, ranchers, travelers, railroaders, and military units, and 2) one another. Orchestrators of the struggle were preoccupied with the American Civil War. Such were the social dynamics of the 1863 Great Plains – Antidisestablishmentarianist Nations against usurpers.
On January 23, 1863, a document entitled the Treaty between the Pawnee Nation and the Yankton Sioux Tribe was signed by six representatives of the Pawnee Nation and six representatives of the Yankton Sioux tribe. Both groups of delegates, interpreters, and other entourage travelled to the Ponca Reserve in Niobrara, Nebraska for this unique, innovative, and historic ceremony. In 1915, Hon. George W. Kingsbury wrote of the treaty in his History of Dakota Territory:
It was the first treaty between Indians that was reduced to written terms that we have record of… [it was] A treaty for the establishment of peace and restoration of friendship, made and concluded in grand council at the peace village on the Ponca Reservation in the Territory of Dakota.
Unlike over 300 treaties American government made with the “wild Indian tribes,” the treaty between the Pawnee people and the Yankton Sioux people made on that bitterly cold Nebraska day stands intact after 150 years. None of the American made Treaties remain. The Reaffirmation Ceremony on January 23, 2013 at a peace village near Wagner, SD will attest to the quality and endurance of Native American Treaties and their promises to one another.
However, this Reaffirmation Ceremony not only attests to the Treaty’s endurance, it will also herald the formal unification of the Great Nations of the Pawnee and Yankton Sioux people in their present struggle to protect against destruction of their Sacred Sites, the Cemeteries in which their ancestors rest, and the Ogallala Aquifer from which flows drinking water for the entire Midwestern American population. All are threatened by TransCanada and their proposed construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline through which will flow toxic material into the Pawnee and Yankton Sioux ancestral homeland. The Pawnee and Yankton Sioux people stand united against this travesty.