Longest Parade in the West - Fort Laramie 1851

The Longest Parade in the West – Fort Laramie 1851

Every student of American West history knows the treaty of Fort Laramie was signed in 1851. Not many know what a spectacle it was. I have posted about this treaty before but it is fascinating and I only live a few minutes from the old fort. Thought I might post something other than the typical.

So, what is that about the parade? When everyone got ready to finally sign, the tribes had been at Fort Laramie for weeks.  In typical Indian fashion the camps were moved to allow for enough grass for the horses. By the time the treaty was signed the tribes were 36 miles downstream at the point where Horse Creek flows into the North Platte River. The reason they were so far down stream? The signing was to be in September but the tribes hoping for trade opportunities and some freebies started arriving by the first of July.

 Government dignitaries, dubious luminaries, and army officers traveled over three days from their accommodations at the fort to get to the place of the signing ceremony. They traveled in fancy coaches colorful buggies or rode decorated horses complete with accompaniment from an army band. A three day, 36 mile long parade—whoopee!

Must have been quite a site at the signing, the government stuffed shirts, most of Fort Laramie’s 300 troopers, 10,000 Indians, 30,000 Horses and 10,000 dogs barking out of tune to the Fort band.

The treaty was a pretty good one, lasted from 1851, all the way up to the Grattan Massacre in 1854. As far as treaties in the west go, this one was pretty long lasting. The next forty years became the Indian wars period of the American west.

Interesting that one of the west’s most famous treaties was the start of the Indian wars in the west.  Important to remember that is was not the cause. The causes were many, but intrusion of people from the east on Indian land sums it up pretty well. When the 49ers trekked across Wyoming for the California gold fields the battles in the west were inevitable.

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