2013 Native American $1 Coin: 1778 Treaty With the Delawares
At the time when the United States was fighting to become a nation, it was making treaties with Native American tribes. The 1778 treaty with the Delaware Indians, subject of this coin, was the first treaty that was written and signed by both sides.
Later, when the Constitution was created, it specified that Congress should control trade with Native American tribes as with foreign governments. Congress affirmed this principle by passing trade and real estate laws that are still in effect.
But some people debated the legal theory behind that relationship. Are native tribes really foreign nations? In an 1832 case, Chief Justice John Marshall declared tribes to be dependent nations, not foreign nations. This was a step down from the tribes’ former status as independent nations, but made them equal with state governments.
The treaty with the Delawares took place at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, on September 17, 1778. This mutual defense treaty allowed American troops to pass through the Delawares’ land to attack the British fort at Detroit, Michigan.
The treaty also recognized the Delawares’ right to govern themselves and gave them the option of joining other tribes in the Ohio region to form a state. The Delawares would have led the state and been represented in Congress. Although the statehood option was never put into action, it was the government’s first step in recognizing tribes as part of the U.S. confederation.