Navajo Nation to obtain copy of 1868 treaty

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Members of the media inspect the pages of the Navajo-U.S. Treaty of 1868 on June 1, 2018 at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is working toward acquiring one of three copies of the 1868 treaty between the tribe and the United States.

The treaty was signed on June 1, 1868 and is significant because it acknowledges tribal sovereignty and emancipated Navajos who were forcibly removed for internment at Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico.

This version of the treaty was discovered last spring by the great-grandniece of Samuel F. Tappan, an Indian Peace Commissioner who assisted in the negotiation process for the treaty.

Clare Weaver is Tappan's descendant and is donating the item to the tribe after finding it in the attic of her home in Manchester, Massachusetts.

While Tappan kept the peace commission's copy, the version signed by federal representatives and Navajo leaders is housed at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

That copy was loaned to the Navajo Nation and was the focus of an exhibit last year at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

The third version was given to Navajo leader Barboncito for the tribe, but its location is unknown.

Navajo Nation Museum Director Manuelito Wheeler stands next to the display containing the pages of the Navajo-U.S. Treaty of 1868 on June 1, 2018 at the museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

MORE: Navajo-U.S. Treaty of 1868 exhibit draws large crowd

Tappan acted as secretary during the May 28-June 1, 1868 proceedings and when the treaty was signed at Fort Sumner, according to the museum.

As part of the process, he hired three clerks to produce the copies.

Weaver declined to comment about her donation on May 20. She confirmed discussion between herself, the Navajo Nation Museum and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez began last summer.

"The treaty holds significant cultural and symbolic value to the Navajo people; the signing of the treaty marks the return of the Navajo people from Bosque Redondo to our traditional homelands, which is partly the present-day Navajo Nation. It is also an acknowledgment of our inherent sovereignty," Nez wrote in a May 13 letter to Weaver.

Before the donation is complete, the tribe must formally accept it and a bill to do so was introduced by Navajo Nation Council Delegates Otto Tso and Herman Daniels on May 16.

The outcome of the legislation will be determined by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee.

If accepted, the museum would house and assume responsibility for the treaty. Museum director Manuelito Wheeler was unavailable on May 20 for comment about the transaction.

This is an image of the first page of the treaty between the United States Government and the Navajo Indians signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, on June 1, 1868.

Treaty in 'very good condition'

Information attached to the bill describes the features and condition of the treaty.

It is comprised of 17 lined pages, each approximately 8 by 12 inches, and tied with a faded red ribbon. Small tears on the cover pages were stabilized last spring by the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts.

The July 2018 appraisal listed it in "very good condition" with a market value of $10,000.

The donation form by the Navajo Nation Museum states that since it is the peace commission's copy, it was not signed by Tappan or by Lt. Gen. William T. Sherman and markings for the Navajo leaders were printed by a clerk.

It does have the signature of Delgadito, the only Navajo leader who could write his name.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at