The Treaty of Watertown

The Historical Society of Watertown celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Watertown every July, in conjunction with the reading of the Declaration of Independence, at the Edmund Fowle House.

This observance commemorates a treaty of alliance and friendship signed between the Mi'kmaq Nation of northern New England and Canada and the newly-formed United States.  It was the first treaty to recognize the United States as an independent nation.  The original treaty was signed on July 19th, 1776, a mere 15 days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

During the Revolutionary War, General Washington was anxious to secure our northern border.  In February, 1776, he wrote a letter to the Mi'kmaq Grand Chief asking for his nation’s aid in the war against the British.  A letter was also sent in October, 1775, from the General Court of Massachusetts Bay.  Seven Captains of the Mi'kmaq Nation and three St. John’s (or Maliseet) Nation Captains responded and arrived in Watertown on July 10th, 1776.  Major Shaw “brought them in his sloop from Machias to Salem, from whence they rode hither in carriage which were provided for them.”  They were asked to come in person, for, not understanding each other’s language, it would have been too difficult to communicate in writing.

To read a transcript of the minutes from the conference that led to the treaty, click here.  To read the text of the Treaty of Watertown, click here.  An image of the original treaty, which was restored in the 1990s and resides at the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston, is shown below.


Photo of the original Treaty of Watertown