The Fort Smith Council was held in this building in September 1865. To establish relations following the Civil War, delegates of twelve Indian nations met with President Andrew Johnson's representatives. Bitterly divided, Indians had fought for both sides in the war, but the United States now treated them all as defeated enemies. Tribes were told their rights had been forfeited, their slaves must be freed, and their property could be confiscated.
The Council ended with little resolved. Not expecting to sign treaties, and concerned that tribal sovereignty was at stake, the Indians simply pledged allegiance to the United States. A year later Washington, D.C., tribes signed separate treaties with the federal government.