ABSTRACT: The Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C., the first national cemetery in United States, holds the remains of thirty six Native Diplomats who died in capital city while negotiating treaties for their nations. The diplomats faced discrimination in Washington D.C. because they were perceived as racially inferior. Myths, such as Manifest Destiny and the vanishing Indian, justified the displacement of Indigenous people from their homelands and attempted to erase them as America’s first people. Although Native diplomats faced intense racial stereotypes and intentional deception during treaty negotiations, they skillfully negotiated to protect their nations and their sovereignty. The stories of numerous Native diplomats buried in Congressional Cemetery reveal complex political relationships between the U.S. and Native nations, and their burials reveal the longevity of that relationship.
Additionally, various commemorations for the Native diplomats buried on Congressional Cemetery occured between 1879 and 2010. Different groups sponsored these events and had various agendas including: congressmen and congresswomen, fellow Native diplomats, the Washington D.C. Native community, local organizations, and Native people from home communities. The commemorations reveal how the diplomats stories were used to fulfill social, political, and cultural needs for these various groups. For Native people, both local and from home communities, the Native diplomats reclaim Native space in the U.S. capitol and assert the long history of nation-nation relationships between Indigenous nations and the United States.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Larry Durwood Ball
Third Committee Member
Native nations, Native diplomats, Congressional Cemetery, Native people in Washington D.C., Native Sovereignty, Native nations in American myth and memory
Cassidy, Rachael. "Buried History: Reclaiming Native Diplomats in Congressional Cemetery." (2017). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hist_etds/208
Available for download on Saturday, December 16, 2023