Patrick Jane, the mentalist, learns of the treasure when he interviews an old salt in a bar. The key exchange goes like this:
OLD SALT: Yes, she went down in 1906. She was carrying all the annual treaty payments for the Indian tribes up north.
JANE: Crates of gold coins, and bullion. Sixty million dollars' worth, today's value.
No gold for Indians
I posted the following on Facebook for my Native friends:
Native history question: The US government sometimes bought Indian land via treaties. My impression is that the government paid for the land with goods and services. Do you know of any case where the government paid cold hard cash for land? You know, like chests full of Treasury bills or gold coins?
Somehow, I don't envision the government giving, or Indians getting, piles of money. What would the Indians do with it: hide it under their blankets? Open a savings account at a local Indian-friendly bank?
Instead, I imagine the government gave the Indians goods and services because it would be easier to cheat them that way. I.e., to provide inferior goods and skimp on the services.
This led to the following discussion with various people:
No, when a treaty called for a money payment, they would usually put money on account in the Treasury for the tribe's use. The government would tend the money and make the purchases the tribe requested.
I ask because the sunken treasure in last week's Mentalist was supposedly gold being shipped for Indian treaty rights in 1906. Every part of that claim sounded false. Gold paid directly to Indians in the 20th century, after the treaty era ended? I don't think so.
Sounds fishy to me also.
No one had an answer for that.
Conclusion: Once again, The Mentalist includes Native culture or history (good) and does a mediocre job of it (bad). Oh, well.
For more on The Mentalist, see Maya Artifacts in The Mentalist and Aingavite Baa in The Mentalist.