Diplomacy in 1762

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on July 16, 2009
Joshua Reynolds, Syacust Ukah, 1762

Joshua Reynolds, Syacust Ukah, 1762

Gilcrease Museum of the Americas – Tulsa, Oklahoma
July 4, 2009 – January 10, 2010

Emissaries of Peace: The 1762 Cherokee and British Delegations recounts the story of British and Cherokee diplomatic missions to each other’s capitals in 1762. The exhibition takes a look at British and Cherokee societies through the eyes of first-time observers. Two of the most important works related to this story, portraits of Ostenaco by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Cunne Shote by Francis Parsons painted in June and July 1762, are reunited with the ethnographic and archaeological material that provide their historical context.

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Cherokee were considered by Great Britain to be strong allies and trading partners. The alliance was broken in 1758 and a destructive three-year war followed. The Cherokee and British peace delegations in 1762 attempted to re-establish the military and economic alliance.

Providing insights into how British and Cherokee societies viewed each other during the pre-Revolutionary war era, Emissaries of Peace relies heavily on the memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake, a British officer sent to the Cherokee capital of Chota after a peace treaty was concluded in November 1761. His memoirs provide one of the best accounts of Cherokee life and society in the late-eighteenth century and were published about the time of his death in 1765. An original copy, considered to be one of the rarest books in America is part of the Gilcrease Museum archives.

Archaeological materials excavated from eighteenth-century Cherokee sites, historical documents, and British artifacts from the period are matched with illustrations and artwork (including a portrait of George III by Allan Ramsay on loan from the Indianapolis Museum of Art) to tell the story of these two nations and their representatives who made diplomatic missions to each other’s capitals in 1762.

This exhibition was originally produced by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, located in Cherokee, North Carolina, and was seen by more than a million people during a four-month period at the Smithsonian Institution.


In conjunction with the exhibition, a conference was held on July 11 with the following speakers:

  • Jack D. Baker, president of the Trail of Tears Association and a Cherokee Nation Tribal Council member, on the British view of Cherokee society during the 18th century
  • Barbara Duncan, Ph.D., Museum of the Cherokee Indian education director, on the acculturation and adaptation in Cherokee and British societies in 1762
  • Robert Griffing, historical artist, “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Woodland Indian”
  • Duane H. King, Ph.D., Gilcrease Museum executive director, on the Cherokee view of British society in 1762
  • Jonathan C.H. King, Ph. D., the keeper and manager of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas with the Centre for Anthropology at the British Museum, “Cheering Cherokees: Performing Diplomacy for 18th-Century Visitors”
  • John Martin Robinson, Ph.D., a British architectural historian and officer of arms, on Wilton House and the surrounding area as seen by the Cherokee delegation in 1762
  • Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, with opening remarks

Text from Gilcrease press materials; the postcard of the conference invitation comes from Turtle Talk, a blog for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law, focusing on news items related to Indian law and politics.

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