June 23: William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians

On this date in 1683, William Penn made his treaty with the Lenni Lenape under the great elm tree at Shackamaxon in Philadelphia. Although historians are unsure of the exact date of this treaty, it is remembered in the words of Voltaire as the only treaty “which has not been sworn to and which has not been broken.”

Wiliam Penn Treaty Banner

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Portrait of William Penn

Portrait of William Penn as a young man. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

Penn Arrives in America

William Penn arrived in America October 27, 1682 and made the Great Treaty the following spring. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

Treaty under the Great Elm

Wampum

Wampum belts were exchanged (rather than the usual European custom of signed paper documents). This illustration shows the belt received by Penn and presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania by a descendent. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

Treaty Monument

Monument erected by the Penn Society in 1827 to mark the spot of the great elm tree, which had blown over in 1810. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

William Penn

Portrait of William Penn as an older man. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

William Penn's Treaty

Penn and Native Americans under the great elm at Shackamaxon from the ClipPix ETC website. The illustration is inaccurate in that the buildings shown in the background were not there at the time of the treaty.