In regards to buttons, the report describes the buttons that were worn by the soldiers as two-piece Sanders type brass buttons showing an eagle in whose claws held on the right, a laurel branch, which offers peace, and on the left a clutch of arrows that threatened war. The report says the message to Little Thunder’s Brule band of Lakota was "clear and explicitly coercive: submit or be destroyed."
But, one-piece loop shank buttons that were also found and are dated 30 years prior to Harney's stay, may have been used as trade items. This portrait on the left, shows how Native American men and women integrated gilded buttons with traditional items of adornment such as shell, feathers, and beads.
The report describes various possible cultural meanings of wearing the buttons:
- Personal decoration on women’s dresses
- Individual accomplishment when worn on a warrior’s shirt
- Achieved and ascribed social status when attached to a leader’s headdress.
Gilded brass buttons were also used on chief’s coats. Some of the coats were made at the forts themselves to use to reward cooperative Native American trade partners. Some coats were more elaborate than others based on the intended owner's status. American Fur Company records for 1827 specified the materials needed, including “1 dozen gilt buttons” for each chief’s coat. Five sets of hooks and eyes were also included, meaning that the buttons were probably not functional.