Peace medals became an integral part of the U.S. government's relations with American Indians in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Lewis & Clark Expedition maintained this practice of presenting peace medals to ensure goodwill between the United States government and the American Indians since the expedition depended--both for its economic and political success--on winning the respect and friendship of the American Indian tribes they encountered. However the medals given out on the Lewis and Clark expedition came with a price. Only if the chief would promise to be under the rule of the "the Great Father," and would make peace with the other Indian tribes in the area, would he be given a medal.
Questions for Photos 1a & 1b
1. Examine Photo 1a and read the engraved text. Who is "the great father" whose profile we see on one side of this medal?
2. Examine Photo 1b. What symbols are used to convey a message of peace to the Indians?
3. Throughout history, coins and medals have been used to tell stories and pay tribute. What story does this medal tell? Considering that most Indian chiefs presented with a medal could not read English, do you think the images engraved on the medal effectively tell the story? Why or why not?
4. Examine your own coins and medals. What story do they tell?
* The images on this screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Photo 1a & Photo 1b, but be aware that each file will take as much as 20 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.