Silver peace medal, 1801
The practice of giving medals to Native American tribes to promote diplomatic relations began during the early colonial era and continued up to the late nineteenth century. Presented by explorers, military officers, and government officials, the U.S. medals bore the likeness of the current president and various symbols of peace and friendship. To the chiefs and delegates who received them, the medals were prized possessions, badges of power and status that were often buried with them. This silver peace medal, issued under President Thomas Jefferson, was given to an Osage chieftain and passed down to Chief Henry Lookout, the last hereditary chief of the Oklahoma Osage tribe. In 1952 Lookout loaned the medal to the Smithsonian, and in 1990 his heirs allowed it to become a permanent part of the numismatics collection at the National Museum of American History. Of the many peace medals in the museum's collection, this is the only one known to have been presented to a Native American.
Native American History