Indian Peace Medal
During the administration of George Washington, the United States government
began a policy of presenting silver “peace medals” to American Indian leaders
at treaty signings and other formal ceremonies. One of the first medals shows
an Indian sharing a peace pipe with President Washington, the new “Great
Father” on the continent. Every subsequent president from Jefferson to Benjamin
Harrison (1889–1893) is represented on an Indian peace medal, with the
exception of William Henry Harrison, who died less than a month after taking
This Millard Fillmore medal, dated 1850, was issued in 1851, the first year of
Fillmore’s administration. One treaty signed that year, the Treaty of Traverse
des Sioux, had particularly disastrous results. Two bands of Dakota, or eastern
Sioux, ceded all of their land in Minnesota Territory. At the end of the
decade, the government had still not fulfilled its promises of compensation for
the land. The Dakota began a war in which 500 Minnesota settlers were killed.
Thirty-eight Dakota men were executed in Mankato, Minnesota, in 1862.
Credit: National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of American History