Treaty of Watertown

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The Treaty of Watertown, the first foreign treaty concluded by the United States of America after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, was signed on July 19, 1776, in the Edmund Fowle House in the town of Watertown, Massachusetts Bay. The treaty established a military alliance between the United States and the St. John's and Mi'kmaq First Nations in Nova Scotia - two of the peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy - against Great Britain for the early years of the American Revolutionary War.[1]

Three years later, on 7 June 1779, the Mi'kmaq "delivered up" the Watertown treaty to Nova Scotia Governor Michael Francklin and re-established Mi'kmaw loyalty to the British. [2] [3] After the British resounding victory over the American Penobscot Expedition, according to Mi'kmaw historian Daniel Paul, Mi'kmaq in present-day New Brunswick renounced the Watertown treated and signed a treaty of alliance with British on 24 September 1779.[4][5][6]


The treaty was signed by the "Governors" (Council) of the State of Massachusetts Bay, "in behalf of said State, and the other united States of America," just one day after the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed from the balcony of the Old State House in nearby Boston. After the Declaration had been translated, the First Nations delegates said, "We like it well."[7] The preamble of the treaty quotes verbatim from the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, asserting for the thirteen colonies "that as Free and Independent States they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts & Things which Independent States may of Right do."

Under the terms of the treaty, the Mi'kmaq and St. John's Tribes (Maliseet and Passamaquoddy) committed to "supply and furnish 600 strong men...or as many as may be" for service in the Continental Army. (600 Indigenous fighters from the Wabanaki confederacy was a significant reduction from the 1200 fighters estimated to be available during the French and Indian War.[8] There were 5000 British troops in Nova Scotia by 1778.[9])

Three of the six Mi'kmaq delegates who signed the treaty "manfully and generously" volunteered to enlist immediately. The treaty also notes that their pay would commence upon their arrival at Washington's camp in New York. Tribal forces formed an "American Battalion" in the Battle of Fort Cumberland (November 22-December 28, 1776). They also protected the Maine border and launched other attacks against British installations.[10] Since 1995, the town of Watertown, Massachusetts has held an annual Treaty Day celebration.

Mi'kmaw historian Daniel N. Paul notes many individual Mi'kmaq did indeed volunteer and serve with the Continental army as per the terms of the Treaty. However the Signators who signed on were representing their Districts only; its part of Mi'kmaq Treaty protocol that each District was Sovereign and could sign Nation to Nation agreements; then they would return home to present the agreements to the Grand Council, the Council of Women, and finally to all citizens, which if consensus occurred, the newly signed Treaty would be ratified District by District. The Watertown Treaty was never fully ratified by all Mi'kmaq First Nation Districts until modern times. What circumvented this process of coming to consensus and ratifying the Watertown Treaty as a whole in 1776 is unknown.

The Treaty of Watertown is still honored today: all Mi'kmaq citizens are allowed to join the US Armed Forces, regardless of the Nation of their birth. These warriors who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, and many other places around the world are celebrated.

See also[edit]


  • Paul, Daniel N. (2006). We Were Not the Savages: Collision Between European and Native American Civilizations (3rd ed.). Fernwood. pp. 180–185. ISBN 978-1-55266-209-0. (includes full text of both treaties).


  1. ^
  2. ^ Michael Francklin, p. 282
  3. ^ Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia, p. 599
  4. ^ Paul, Daniel N. (2000). We Were Not the Savages: A Mi'kmaq Perspective on the Collision Between European and Native American Civilizations (2nd ed.). Fernwood. pp. 169–170. ISBN 978-1-55266-039-3. (includes full text of both treaties).
  5. ^ Murdoch, Beamish (1866). A History of Nova-Scotia, Or Acadie. Vol. II. Halifax: J. Barnes. p. 595.
  6. ^ John Allen re: Watertown, p.318
  7. ^ Groden & Simon.
  8. ^ Scott, Tod (2016). "Mi'kmaw Armed Resistance to British Expansion in Northern New England (1676–1761)". Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. 19: 1–18.
  9. ^ Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia. p.594
  10. ^ Denny (1987).


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