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Portrait of Toleuka (Dakota, Crow Creek).

This portrait of Toleuka, a Crow Creek Dakota man, circa 1877 may help elucidate the seriousness with which Native people took the treaties they signed with the US government. In this image, Mr. Toleuka wears two government-issued peace medals beneath a shell gorget, a traditional symbol of military rank on the Plains. Bronze peace medals were issued by the Federal government to Native leaders after successful treaty negotiations between the nations; it is clear from the juxtaposition of the gorget and the medals on this man’s chest that he considers the medals part of his honors as a leader in his nation. While these medals were only minted until 1869, many Native families on the Plains still keep these objects as heirlooms and reminders of the US government’s failure to keep its legal treaty obligations.