A highly important series including “the only known photograph of the ritual smoking of a peace pipe among the Native Americans in the 19th century”
GARDNER, ALEXANDER. An Exceptional Group of 32 Fort Laramie Treaty Photographs
Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory, 1868
32 albumen stereographs, comprising 64 albumen prints (approx. 3 x 3 in.) on 32 square-cornered yellow card mounts. The verso of each card bears a number and title in Gardner’s hand. Images in good condition, with variable fading
This important set of 32 Alexander Gardner photographs documents a landmark event in the history of the American West and includes the only known photograph of the ritual smoking of a peace pipe. Each photograph is titled and numbered in the hand of Alexander Gardner, the father of American photojournalism.
These photographs represent a landmark achievement in the history of the American West. In addition to the striking group scenes of Indian leaders, their families, scouts, American soldiers, the series includes numerous candid photographs documenting events – both earthshaking and everyday – as they were taking place. The Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868 established the Great Sioux Reserve setting aside land west of the Missouri, including the sacred Black Hills, for the exclusive use of the Lakota people. The treaty was signed by U.S. officials and representatives of the Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and the Brule, Oglala and Miniconjou Lakota. Intended to halt Indian hostilities against white settlers and miners traveling the Bozeman Trail, the treaty ended Red Cloud’s War. The celebrated Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner, working for the Indian Peace Commission, was the only photographer present. Gardner arrived at Fort Laramie from Washington on April 24 and made these photographs between late April and early May 1868.
The collection includes images of Native Americans from the Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and the Brule, Oglala and Miniconjou Dakota, all taken at Fort Laramie. Gardner’s May 10 photographs of the negotiations between the Cheyenne and Arapaho include one of the most important Indian photographs of the nineteenth century. The photograph of the Oglala chief Man Afraid of His Horses smoking a pipe is “the only known photograph of the ritual smoking of a peace pipe among the Native Americans in the 19th century” (Fleming). Leading authority Paula Fleming notes that, of the 200 negatives Gardner produced of the treaty negotiations, about 100 were stereoscopic, and of these, 54 were of Native American subjects. Considered in this context, the collection offered here is especially noteworthy.
Twenty-five of the images are scenes depicting Native Americans, including four images of the council tipi of Man Afraid of His Horses. These include the famous image showing him smoking the pipe (labeled No. 88 1/2) and another image apparently taken immediately beforehand (No. 88). Eight views show Crow attendees, including one of a mounted chief. Cheyenne and Arapaho images include a full-standing view of Little Wolf, a leading Northern Cheyenne chief and a signer of the treaty. The collection also includes several images of Indian guides and interpreters, as well as the Peace Commissioners, including one showing William Tecumseh Sherman treating with Indians. The tentative peace brought about by the Fort Laramie treaty was broken when Gen. George Armstrong Custer led an expedition to the Black Hills in 1874. A gold rush ensued, and miners demanded the protection of the U.S. Army. These events led to the last of the plains wars including the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 and ending with the confiscation of the land in 1877.
In this remarkable collection, one of America’s greatest photographers documents a defining event in the history of the American West and captures for the first time a view of the iconic ritual smoking of the peace pipe.
Provenance: Western Reserve Historical Society.
The collection comprises (titles and numbers taken from the captions in Gardner’s hand):
Crow Indians Breaking Camp (8)
Scene at Encampment of Crow Indians (9)
Group of Crow Indians &c at Spotted Tails Tent (10)
Squaws Cooking in front of Spotted Tails Tent (11)
Two Sioux Indians on Horseback (12)
Crow Squaw packing mule (14)
Interior of a Crow Lodge Indian Sewing (15)
Indians Cooking (16)
Scene at Crow Encampment (24)
Family of Crow. Indians on the March (25)
Crow Chief on Horseback (28)
Indian Peace Commission Staff at Laramie (31)
Indians Slaughtering a Beef (32)
Group at Quarter Masters Department Fort Laramie (33)
Indian Peace Commissioners in council with the Arapahoes & Cheyennes (34)
Arapahoe Indian Children (35)
Little Wolf. Cheyenne Chief (37)
Group at Red Nose Camp (41)
Group Indian Guides & Interpreters on Horseback (46)
Indian Girl & dog (48)
Group of Indians in front of Tepee (51)
Group. Major Grimes. Col. Chamblin. Ash. White & Mr. Holtzman (53)
Bluff on the Laramie (63½)
Bluff on the Laramie (65)
Ogalalee Indians Crossing North Platte (77)
Scene at Ferry on North Platte (82)
View at Ferry across the Platte (83)
Council Chamber of Man Afraid of his Horses (85)
Group of Ogalalee Indians (86)
Interior of Council of Ogalalee Indians (87)
Interior of Council Chamber. Man Afraid of his Horses in centre (88)
Interior of Council Chamber. Man Afraid of his Horses. Smoking (88½)