Monthly Archives: November 2019

The Five Civilized Tribes

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Good Afternoon, everyone.  I thought today I would share a little bit of history research concerning one of my books, Dobyns Chronicles. The time period was around the time of the Indian resettlement in the United States. If you like history, take a look at my book. http://amzn.to/1yL4hKC

I’m going to put my second ad in for myself.  I have a book that will be published in a couple of weeks, (I hope). It is called Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying. If you would like to read it before it becomes public let me know and I will send you a PDF copy. Also as a writer who always needs reviews, please consider leaving one on Amazon.  

                                                       FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES

Oklahoma Indian map2

The term “Five Civilized Tribes” came into use during the mid-nineteenth century to refer to the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations. Although these Indian tribes had various cultural, political, and economic connections before removal in the 1820s and 1830s, the phrase was most widely used in Indian Territory and Oklahoma.
Americans, and sometimes American Indians, called the five Southeastern nations “civilized” because they seemed to be assimilating to Anglo-American norms. The term indicated the adoption of horticulture and other European cultural patterns and institutions, including widespread Christianity, written constitutions, centralized governments, and intermarriage with white Americans, market participation, literacy, animal husbandry, patrilineal descent, and even slaveholding. None of these attributes characterized all of the nations of all of the citizens that they encompassed. The term was also used to distinguish these five nations from other so-called “wild” Indians who continued to rely on hunting for survival.

Elements of “civilization” within Southeastern Indian society predated removal. The Cherokee, for example, established a written language in 1821, a national supreme court in 1822, and a written constitution in 1827. The other four nations had similar if less noted, developments.

In the first four decades of the nineteenth century, the United States cajoled, bribed, arrested, and ultimately removed approximately seventy thousand American Indians out of their ancestral lands in the American South. Although Pres. Andrew Jackson is often deemed the architect of this program, the removal of the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole began years before the 1830 Indian Removal Act and Jackson’s subsequent use of the military to relocate the Indians.

In 1802 the state of Georgia agreed to cede its westernmost lands to the federal government, and in return, the government vowed to extinguish the Indian title to lands within Georgia as soon as possible. In the following years, the United States made only a few serious efforts to live up to that promise. After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase Pres. Thomas Jefferson pressured the Cherokee and other Indian nations to exchange their eastern domains voluntarily for regions in the newly acquired western territory. Only a few tribes accepted the offer. After the War of 1812, the United States obtained thousands of acres of Creek lands in Georgia and Alabama, but the acquisition did not accompany a larger plan for Creek removal.

Finally, in the 1820s Georgians began to demand that the United States extinguish the Indian title to lands within their state. Pres. James Monroe determined that arranging the exchange of acreage in the East for areas in the West was the best means to accomplish this goal. While the federal government tried to create inducements to convince the Southeastern Indians to leave their homes, the discovery of gold in Georgia led to more aggressive demands for immediate removal.

The election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1828 encouraged Georgia and its land-hungry settlers. Jackson made his position clear in his first message to Congress. He told the Cherokees that they had no constitutional means to resist and that it was in their best interest voluntarily to move west. Staying would lead to their destruction. As Congress debated the issues, several Cherokees negotiated a removal agreement with the United States. Major Ridge, a Cherokee planter and soldier,
his son John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot conducted these negotiations with the United States despite the expressed wishes of the majority of their nation. Most Cherokees, including Principal Chief John Ross, protested and tried to stop Ridge and his so-called Treaty Party.
On May 28, 1830, while Ridge and his supporters negotiated terms of removal with the United States, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This law provided the president with $500,000 to establish districts west of the Mississippi River, to trade eastern tribal lands for those districts, to compensate the Indians for the cost of their removal and the improvements on their homesteads, and to pay one years’ worth subsistence to those who went west. Armed with this authority, President Jackson authorized agents to negotiate and enforce treaties.

Chief John Ross hired former attorney general William Wirt to represent the Cherokee in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and then in Worcester v. Georgia (1832). In each case, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the sovereignty of the Cherokee tribe. The latter determined that Georgia could not make laws for the Cherokee people. The Supreme Court’s rulings, however, could not prevent forced removal. Georgia and the United States ignored the ruling and refused to recognize Cherokee sovereignty.
One of my grandmothers was Cherokee Indian and owned land in Georgia with a business of her own ferrying customers across the river. When the government came in they had a lottery for the Indian land and it was taken from her. They did pay her a small sum of money to make it legal.

President Jackson embraced Ridge and the Cherokee minority, and together they signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. Ridge ceded all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi in return for territory in present northeastern Oklahoma, five million dollars, transportation west, and one year of subsistence. Amid a chorus of protests by Cherokees and their American supporters, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty. Nearly two thousand Cherokees moved west in accordance with the agreement, but most of the nation remained. They still hoped that their constitutional victories and the illegalities of the treaty might be recognized. In 1838 the United States sent armed soldiers to enforce the law. The federal troops confined the Cherokees in disease-ridden camps for several months before forcing them to proceed west. Death and hardship were common, and nearly one in four Cherokees died.
The other Southeastern Indian nations experienced similar stories of upheaval and dislocation. Although each resisted, the Choctaw (1831-32), the Chickasaw (1837-38), the Creek, and the Seminole too found their ways westward on Trails of Tears. Divisions within the Creek Nation led to the execution of William McIntosh, one of its prominent chiefs, for signing the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. Ironically, McIntosh was killed in accordance with a law that he had created only years earlier. Despite their continued opposition, most of the Creek Indians trekked west in 1836. Hundreds of Seminoles moved to Indian Territory in 1832, but many more refused to leave the swamps of Florida. Instead, they fought the Second Seminole War (1835-42), and some moved further into the Everglades.
The Trail of Tears was the forced march of the Indians to the Indian Territory in what was to be Oklahoma. Each tribe was given land to settle on. It encompassed the entire area of what is now Oklahoma, except for the strip of land across the northwest section which was to be opened to settlement by the white man. The state received it’s nickname “Sooners” because some people crossed early and claimed their stake of land.
Eventually, the white man resided in the entire area. The Indians and whites lived together without any visible problems. The Indians were swindled out of their land by whites through the allotment plan. A lot of it was done by white men marrying Indian women who had allotments that were the husbands after the marriage. As with every other time the Indian came out the loser in any deal.