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"THE GREAT SMOKE"
From all directions they came in late summer 1851--Plains Indian tribes, summoned by
government officials so their chiefs could smoke the peace pipe and sign a treaty with
representatives of "The Great Father." Never before had so many American Indians assembled to
parley with the white man. (Estimates range from 8,000 to 12,000.) It was perhaps history's
most dramatic demonstration of the Plains tribes' desire to live at peace with the whites.

The tribes had been invited to assemble at Fort Laramie, but a shortage of forage for their
thousands of horses caused the parley to be moved downstream. Because some tribes had been
at war for generations, most Indian camps were widely spaced to minimize contact. About 270
soldiers were present to help keep the peace. However, a spirit of friendliness prevailed.

Among those helping bring the tribes together were mountain man and trailblazer Jim Bridger
and Jesuit Father Peter De Smet, the beloved "Blackrobe" who worked 50 years among the
Indians.

Nebraska State Historical Society
One mile west of Morrill on U.S. 26
Scotts Bluff County
Marker 369A

 

THE HORSE CREEK TREATY
The treaty was proposed by former fur trader Thomas Fitzpatrick, Upper Platte Indian agent,
supported by David D. Mitchell, superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis. The treaty
provided that the government would give the tribes $50,000 a year in goods for 50 years for
damages caused by emigrants bound for Oregon, California and Utah. In return the Indians
would allow free passage on the emigrant trails, permit forts to be built on their land, and pledged
peaceful settlement of intertribal disputes.

Signing were such chiefs as White Antelope (Cheyenne), Little Owl (Arapaho), Big Robber
(Crow) and Conquering Bear, whom the whites persuaded the Sioux to elect as head chief.
Assiniboine, Mandan, Gros Ventre and Arikara chiefs also signed. The Shoshone traveled over
400 miles but were not asked to sign because they were not from the Plains.

With few exceptions, the tribes honored the treaty until 1864, when the whites' demand for land
pressured the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho into warfare, ending the hope for peace which had
prompted "The Great Smoke."

Nebraska State Historical Society
One mile west of Morrill on U.S. 26
Scotts Bluff County
Marker 369B

 

THE HORSE CREEK TREATY - MAP
(Legend under map)
Beyond the tree line about 2 3/4 miles in front of this marker, Horse Creek flows into the North
Platte River. There the treaty was signed September 17, 1851. Officially known as The Fort
Laramie Treaty of 1851, it is commonly called The Horse Creek Treaty.

Nebraska State Historical Society
One mile west of Morrill on U.S. 26
Scotts Bluff County
Marker 369C

 


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