Fort Laramie Treaty Commemoration: Honoring the Spirit

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. While this treaty was negotiated and signed by the Native American Nations of the Northern Great Plains and took seven months to complete (April 29 - November 6, 1868), it has impacted nearly every indigenous person and community across the United States. After the last tribe signed the treaty, the impacts that followed were harsh and sudden as American Indian tribes were moved from open lands to reservations and were transitioned from a nomadic lifestyle to a more regimented way of life, including new forms of school and government as cultural traditions were prohibited. While American Indian were negatively impacted, their sovereign nations, traditions and cultural heritage managed to survive and have become common practices of daily life once again.  

This year, Honoring the Spirit will be held at Fort Laramie National Historic Site to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, beginning with a very public opening ceremony on April 28, 2018. The event will start by greeting the day in the traditional way at sunrise, while the rest of the event will include prayer, smudging, drums, songs, dancing, American Indian history and treaty perspectives, a presentation by the National Park Service and remarks from government and American Indian dignitaries. The afternoon will provide attendees with an opportunity to connect personally with tribal representatives and learn about specific cultural traditions and teachings. 

The initial tribal encampment will extend from April 28 through May 1, 2018, while the Lakota/Dakota nations will commemorate the principal signing date for “The Great Sioux Nation” on April 29 along with the Arapaho and Cheyenne. A Lakota encampment will provide seven teachings of the Seven Council Fires, as well as opportunities for attendees to learn the unique perspectives of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Dakota and Lakota nations throughout the day. Lakota youth from the St. Francis Indian School will present a detailed examination of what the treaty means to them. April 30 and May 1 will feature presentations, discussions and demonstrations related to the significance of the 1851 (Horse Creek) Treaty, the attempt at an 1866 Treaty and the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Other programs will icnlude presentations focusing on historical significance, current relevance and impacts of the treaties on indigenous people and communities. Tribal sovereignty and the future of treaty rights will also be explored. Throughout the opening weekend, vendors for native foods and traditional art will be available. 

During the remainder of the commemoration period, symposiums will be offered monthly throughout the summer, which will be interspersed with speakers and demonstrations of cultural traditions. The commemoration for the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie will conclude on November 6, with a solemn remembrance of Red Cloud’s signing of the treaty in a final act to ensure the survival of his people.

Most activities will be open to the general public and the tribes encourage all to learn, understand and gain a greater appreciation for their cultural traditions, specific to each indigenous, sovereign nation. For more information, visit Fort Laramie National Historic Site.