Navajo Nation Museum to display its copy of 1868 treaty

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Museum will display its copy of the treaty that federal officials and Navajo leaders signed on June 1, 1868.

The document is being put on view – for the second time since the museum acquired it three years ago – from May 31 to June 3 at the museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

"We encourage everybody to come and take a look and I say, think about it in the way they want to think about it," Manuelito Wheeler, the museum director, said.

He explained that opinion varies about the treaty with some viewing it as setting the nation-to-nation relationship between the tribe and the U.S. while others see it as part of the colonization of Indigenous people.

A copy of the treaty that federal officials and Navajo leaders signed on June 1, 1868, going on display May 31, was donated by Clare "Kitty" Weaver, great-grandniece of Commissioner Samuel F. Tappan. She is seen in this file photo speaking at a press conference on May 29, 2019 at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

There were three copies of the Navajo-U.S. treaty that were issued at Fort Sumner, where Navajo and Mescalero Apache were interned from 1863 to 1868 at the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation.

According to Wheeler, one copy went to the federal government, which is now at the National Archives and Records Administration, while one was last known to be in the possession of Navajo leader, Barboncito, but its whereabouts is unknown.

The copy the museum has was the one that went to the Indian Peace Commission but was kept by Commissioner Samuel F. Tappan.

Tappan's great-grandniece, Clare "Kitty" Weaver, donated the document to the tribe in 2019 and it has been kept at the museum.

Tappan, along with Gen. William T. Sherman, represented the peace commission, Weaver wrote in 2019 in a story for the Manchester, Mass. publication, The Cricket.

Navajo Nation Museum Director Manuelito Wheeler stands on June 1, 2018 next to the display containing the pages of the Navajo-U.S. Treaty of 1868 during the document's visit from the National Archives and Records Administration. Starting on May 31, the museum in Window Rock, Arizona, will display its copy of the treaty.

The museum does not have plans to have the treaty on display as permanent exhibit, but this is the second time it can be viewed by the public.

"Naaltsoos Sání – that commends the high amount of respect. It's a special item," Wheeler said.

Naaltsoos Sání is the word for the treaty in the Navajo language. It means "the old paper."

"This is the agreement between our ancestral leaders and a president and Congress of the United States of America. These are the agreements that we are holding each other to, so it's a very powerful document," he said.

The museum's hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 31, June 2 and June 3 then from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 1 because of Navajo Nation Memorial Day.

At the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site, there will be a grand opening of the permanent exhibition, Bosque Redondo: A Place of Suffering … A Place of Survival, on May 28.

The exhibit was designed in collaboration between the New Mexico Historic Sites, a division of the state's Department of Cultural Affairs, and tribal partners, to inform visitors about the forced removal of Navajos and Mescalero Apaches from their traditional homelands to Bosque Redondo.

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

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