Little Arkansas Treaty

Wichita Urban Native History Tour

Little Arkansas Treaty

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Wichita History Walk


The confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers has been a crucial gathering place for Indigenous peoples for centuries prior to European contact. Jesse Chisholm, of half Cherokee descent, having first visited the area in 1826, established his initial trading post near this natural confluence years later. In the early 18th century, the region was a relatively peaceful area, but as western expansion pushed along the Santa Fe Trail, tensions escalated between settlers, local tribes, and Plains tribes such as the Kiowa and Comanche in South Central Kansas, and the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Apache in Western Kansas.

In an effort to secure safe passage along the Santa Fe Trail for westward travelers, the U.S. government sought to negotiate peace with the Native tribes. U.S. officials and tribal leaders convened at the river confluence on August 15, 1865 to begin peace treaty negotiations, with Jesse Chisholm serving as an interpreter.

The Little Arkansas Treaty, signed in October 1865 near the Little Arkansas River, represented a pivotal moment in the complex dynamics between the U.S. government and several Plains Indian tribes. This treaty included two separate agreements: one with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho, and another with the Comanche and Kiowa.

The U.S. government's goal was to ensure safe and controlled access along the Santa Fe Trail by establishing peace and setting boundaries for Indigenous territories. The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, in particular, sought compensation for the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, a brutal attack by U.S. troops that resulted in the death of 250 Arapaho, including women and children.

Despite promises of reservations south of the Arkansas River and reparations for the massacre, the treaty's commitments were never fulfilled. The designated reservations were not established, and the promised compensations were not provided. Notably, the Little Arkansas Treaty is remembered as one of the shortest-lived treaties in history, lasting only until the Medicine Lodge treaties of 1867, as conflicts resumed shortly after its signing.

A historical marker was erected in 1982 by the Jane Peebles Sexton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Colonists to commemorate the significant meeting between Jesse Chisholm and tribal leaders near the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers, across the street from the Wichita Art Museum.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Wichita Urban Native History Tour


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