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Post Office Mural Historical Context

Excerpt from Julie Pelletier, Acting Director of D'Arcy NcNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies of The Newberry

The mural by George Melville Smith titled "Indians Cede the Land" could illustrate any of the treaties signed in the area - the Treaty of Chicago, the Treaty of Greenville, or the Treaty of St. Louis. Tribes participating in the treaties included Potawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa, Wyandot, Delaware/Lenape, Shawnee, Miami, Kickapoo, and Kaskaskia. The act of ceding land by Native Americans was involuntary and typically done under duress. In return for vast tracts of land, tribes might be promised goods, money, reserved lands (reservations), and protection from encroaching settlers. Over time, more and more Native Americans were pushed west into territories already inhabited by other tribes. The Treaty of Chicago gained over a million acres of land for the United States. In return, signatory tribes received $100,000 in trade goods, $280,000 in twenty annual payments of $14,000 each, and $150,000 for the erection of mills, houses, etc. The treaty does not list any land to be held for the tribes so one wonders where the houses and mills would be built. The United States government often did not honor its treaties with Native Americans and most tribes do not receive what they were promised as payment for land cessions.

Learn more at

Mural Restoration Committee. Indians Cede the Land by George Melville Smith. Indians Cede the Land by George Melville Smith, Mural Restoration Committee, 2013.

Pelletier, Julie. “Suggested Edits to Mural Text.” Suggested Edits to Mural Text, 15 May 2018.

Thompson, Mary Emma. Let's Look for Cultures, Education, and Such in Illinois Post Offices. Mary Emma Thompson, Ph. D., 2014.