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Andrew Jackson peace medal, 1st size / United States


An Andrew Jackson silver medal. On the front, the bust of the president and the words, “Andrew Jackson President of the United States. A. D. 1829.” The back features two hands shaking, a crossed pipe and tomahawk pipe, and the words, “Peace and Friendship.”

Silver peace medals were given to influential Native Americans as a symbol of friendship and allegiance with the United States government. Medals were given on important occasions, like the signing of a treaty, and then only to very influential members of the tribe. The medals held even greater importance than normal during times of war or tension, particularly between the US and Great Britain. The countries would compete for the loyalty and friendship of the tribes, and a chief trading in British medal for a US one signified a change in loyalty (Prucha 2000, xiv). Gradually, the medals original meaning diminished, and they were given as rewards for good behavior. The practice was discontinued in the late 1800s.

Native Americans placed great significance on the peace medals and viewed them not only as a sign of friendship, but of power. A suggested reason for this is the connection they saw between these medals and the shell gorgets worn and decorated to represent power. The gorgets, which typically only chiefs and the elite would wear, held a supernatural power source. Images on a gorget gave the wearer the power of what the image represented. Similarly, to the Native Americans, the image displayed on the medal, the head of the president or king, gave the wearer the leader’s power (Reilly III 2011).

Gallery Label

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was President of the United States from 1829-1837. A controversial political figure, Jackson was also a former general in the United States Army, where he had earned a reputation for ruthlessness and cunning. He was the principal advocate of Indian Removal in the federal government, signing the Indian Removal Act into law on May 28, 1830, and giving the office of the president power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi. Under these treaties, Native American tribes were to give up their homeland in exchange for reservations west of the Mississippi River. Those wishing to remain in the east would become citizens of their home state.

From the exhibition: After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation, August 25, 2017 - January 21, 2018.
Curated by Dr. Duane King & Dr. Natalie Panther, 2017.

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Andrew Jackson peace medal, 1st size
United States
circa 1829
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Not On View

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