anthropology

Indian Peace Medals

Peace Medals at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The Museum’s anthropology collection includes one of the best publicly accessible Indian peace medal collections in the world. The English, French, Spanish, Canadian, US, and other governments made Indian peace medals as tokens of friendship and good intent, often awarding them during treaty signing ceremonies and diplomatic events. Awarded from the middle of the 16th century through the late 19th century, some of these remarkable numismatic objects have histories that can be traced back through individuals including explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and Sioux chief Tun-Kan-Sekyana, among many others.

Staff

Stephen E. Nash, PhD

Senior Curator of Archaeology and Director of Anthropology

Rick Wicker

Photographer


Brain Scoop: Can Peace Be Purchased?

Dr. Lawrence J. Lee

The peace medal collection has not been systematically examined in nearly two decades. In 2017, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science reached out to Lawrence J. Lee, PhD, of Lincoln, Nebraska, to appraise the collection. Since then, Dr. Lee has visited the collection many times; he and curator of archaeology Stephen Nash will soon publish a systematic overview of the Crane Collection of Peace Medals in the Museum’s Annals series. Francis Crane amassed the vast majority of the Museum’s peace medal collection in the 1950s and 1960s; his notes and correspondence richly inform our research.

Were Peace Medals the Price of Loyalty?

Were Peace Medals the Price of Loyalty

Beginning in the late 18th century and continuing through much of the 19th century, the US government offered peace medals as gifts to leaders of Native American communities. The British, French, and Spanish governments had long used medals stamped with images of their respective kings in international diplomatic efforts; the United States began copying that practice using images of the president as soon as the presidency came into being in 1789.

No matter which president was on the front, peace medals were important instruments in US diplomacy with Native American tribes across North America. They were offered as gifts of introduction and to celebrate treaty signings and other significant events.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Highlights may be found in Crossroads of Culture: The Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2010).

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