Bargaining Power in Practice: US Treaty-making with American Indians, 1784–1911
Native Americans are unique among domestic actors in that their relations with the
United States government involve treaty-making, with almost 600 such documents
signed between the Revolutionary War and the turn of the twentieth century. We contend that the changing nature of their treaty negotiations can be seen as part of a theoretical, bargaining framework familiar to scholars of international relations. We then construct a comprehensive new data set by digitizing all of the treaties for systematic textual analysis. Employing scaling techniques validated with word use information, we show that a single dimension characterizes the treaties as more or less 'harsh' in land and resource cession terms. With a mind to earlier historical and legal literatures, we also show that the 'broken' treaties are not obviously distinguishable from contemporaneous valid ones, and that the post-1871 'agreements'
represent a straightforward continuation of earlier treaty policy in both style and substance. In bargaining terms, we find evidence suggestive of a detrimental 'losing'
effect for Indians involved in war with the US.
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