Honoring the Spirit On the Northern Great Plains

Friday, January 26, 2018

Question: What is the significance of the time period from April 29 to November 6, 2018? Hint: it is nationally significant to both indigenous and non-native people of the United States. Hint #2: seven months of commemorative activities will be held at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Give up? It is the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Treaty’s negotiation and signing by tribes of the Northern Great Plains took nearly seven months to complete. Even though it is a treaty between a handful of sovereign Native American nations and the U.S. government, virtually every indigenous person and community across the country has been—and continues to be—impacted by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.


The impacts were harsh and sudden: following decades of colonization and genocide against America’s indigenous people, they were now relegated to reservations rather than living on open lands; they were forced to transition to agrarian lifestyles rather than being connected physically and spiritually to the land in a more holistic fashion; children were forced to attend boarding schools where their cultural traditions were prohibited—cultural genocide; and tribal nations were subsequently forced to adopt a Euro-American form of government rather than their traditional forms of governance.


Through all of the negative impacts, Native American people and their respective sovereign nations have managed to survive. Cultural traditions—long since thought to have disappeared—had, indeed, been preserved and are resurfacing, becoming common practices of daily life once again. The teachings of the various, yet connected Seventh Generation principle, Seven Council Fires, and the like have taken on renewed relevance for tribal elders, spiritual leaders, grandmothers, aunties, warrior societies, and tribal youth. Preparing for seven generations into the future has once again become the norm.


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: there will be prayer; smudge; drums; song; Native history Before Trappers, Traders, and Forts; Native perspectives on the treaties; an Embassy On the Plains presentation by the National Park Service (NPS); and remarks by government and Native dignitaries. The afternoon will provide attendees with an opportunity to connect personally with tribal representatives, learning of specific cultural traditions and teachings. Vendors of Native foods and traditional arts will be present throughout the daylight hours. Traditional dance will be offered in the evening.


The initial tribal encampment will extend from April 28 through May 1. The Lakota/Dakota nations will commemorate the principal signing date for “The Great Sioux Nation” on April 29 along with the Northern Arapaho, who will also commemorate their initial signing date. A Lakota encampment will provide seven teachings of the Seven Council Fires. There will be many opportunities to learn the unique perspectives of Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Dakota, and Lakota nations throughout the day. There will also be a historical pageant performed by Lakota youth to relate Native oral traditions recounting events of the Treaty Council at Fort Laramie. Native foods and traditional arts will be available from sunrise to sunset, followed by traditional dance.


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. Lakota youth from the St. Francis Indian School—“Using Lakota Values to Achieve Excellence”— will present a detailed examination of what the Treaty means to them. Programs will revolve around 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. Impacts of policies such as the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, the Indian Reorganization Act, and the Indian Child Welfare Act will be discussed. Again, Native foods and traditional arts will be available from sunrise to sunset, and traditional dance will be offered in the evenings.


During the remainder of the commemoration period, symposiums will be offered monthly throughout the summer, 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. The NPS staff at Fort Laramie National Historic Site is proud to co-sponsor the commemoration with its Native American partners. Fort Laramie NHS is open from sunrise to sunset daily, and admission is free. Please call 307-837-2221 for more information, or visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/fola. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



Opening Program Poster. NPS Files.

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