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Peace medal

Peace medal presented to Kiyo´kaga (Chief Keokuk, Sac and Fox, ca. 1780–1848)
Franklin County, Kansas
Silver, hide, glass beads
13.5 cm

“The many moons and sunny days we have lived here will long be remembered by us. The Great Spirit has smiled upon us and made us glad. But we have agreed to go. We go to a country we know little of. Our home will be beyond a great river on the way to the setting sun. We will build our wigwams there in another land. The men we leave here in possession of these lands cannot say Keokuk or his people ever took up the tomahawk. In peace we bid you goodbye. …If you come see us, we will gladly welcome you.”
—Keokuk, 1834

Following the Black Hawk War of 1832 and Black Hawk’s imprisonment, the Sauk and Fox looked for new leadership to guide their negotiations with the United States. Keokuk (He Who Moves About), who had advocated peace, emerged as the leader of both groups as they became known as the Sac and Fox. Using strategies of accommodation, delay, and persuasion, Keokuk secured a new homeland for his people.

Awarding peace medals was U.S. government protocol for acknowledging distinguished Native leaders who posed no threat to U.S. interests and served to maintain U.S.–tribal relations. From 1792 to 1892, the United States gave numerous silver or silver-plated peace medals of various sizes and oval or circular shape to Indian leaders.

The government bestowed this medal on the articulate Indian statesman in 1847 after several negotiations that led to the removal of his people farther west to Indian Territory. The medal, a bust of James Polk on one side and two hands shaking on the other, symbolizes “peace and friendship,” the most common sentiment in U.S.–Indian treaties from 1778 through the last treaty, negotiated in 1868.

Donald L. Fixico (Shawnee/Sac & Fox/Muscogee Creek/Seminole)

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