1838 Treaty Found & Returned to Miami Tribe

By Stephanie Parkinson - 21Alive

August 16, 2013 Updated Aug 16, 2013 at 5:31 PM EDT

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (21Alive) - A treaty signed in northeast Indiana in 1838 was returned to the Miami Tribe Friday.

The documents are part of the tribe's history but were never a representation of peace.

"These documents are tied to a period of time that our ancestors were struggling to stay within their homeland," said Daryl Baldwin, Cultural Resources Advocacy Committee, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. "They didn't really have choices in that period. Often times the tribes were forced into signing these treaties."

Baldwin grew up hearing the stories of what his tribe went through back in 1838 and knows it wasn't an easy time.

"Upon their removal they could be seen grabbing handfuls of soil. So I think the connection to place and their feelings for this place and their deep, deep history in this place was something that was very, very difficult for them to sever with," said Baldwin.

Although these stories have always stayed with the Miami these documents were lost.

"Many of our government documents and historical documents became alienated from the community because of the removal," said Baldwin.

The documents were tucked away for decades in the archives at the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese. The 1838 treaty was found with 8 land deeds. Surprisingly they are in very good condition. They do have fold marks from the way they were stored. The archivist working with them now says they will continue to store them flat, and possibly relax them by putting humidity in the air.

"Well it's a miracle they're in as good a shape as they are. The fact that after 175 years they've surfaced is really quite remarkable," said Jim Scheiber, President. Historic Forts of the Wabash.

After realizing what they had discovered the Diocese handed over the documents to the Historic Forks of the Wabash. But the president for the organization said he knew where they were meant to be.

"This is a treaty between two sovereign nations, just like the Declaration of Independence, and so it was without a doubt that these documents belonged to the Miami Tribe," said Scheiber.

The treaty was signed on the present day site of the Historic Forks of the Wabash in Huntington. The treaty handed over land to the United States of America and gave the tribe annuities in return. It also forced them to resettle in what is now Oklahoma, and that's exactly where these historic documents will now go.

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