Perhaps one of the most common family stories I hear as I travel throughout Missouri and Arkansas goes something like this: My Great great great Grandmother was “part” Cherokee and escaped from the “Trail of Tears” or something along these lines: My great great great great grandmother hid out in the hills of Arkansas or Missouri or “escaped” from Indian territory. Apparently large groups of Cherokees were “escaping” for today we have seen an explosion of Heritage groups that have formed in the past 30 years. Many of these groups uses stories like these to “explain” or as I like to say use these creation myths to legitimize claims of ancestry. They rely on myths surrounding lack of documentation due to numerous “courthouse fires” and avoiding the numerous Rolls that were done of the Cherokees from the early 1800’s to 1910. This is pure conjecture, In this article I will present to the reader from numerous sources a more accurate picture of the History of Arkansas and Missouri regarding not just the Cherokee but other tribes that called this area there home from the dawn of time.
1) We begin with Indian Territory 1800-1830:
In 1808, a delegation of Cherokees from the upper and lower towns of the Cherokee Nation in the East went to Washington D.C. to inform the President of the United States that not all Cherokee people wanted to pursue what was deemed a “civilized life”. The delegation requested the President divide the upper towns, whose people wanted to establish a Regular government, from the lower towns who wanted to continue living traditionally. On January 9, 1809, the President of the United States allowed the lower towns to send an exploring party to find suitable lands on the Arkansas and White Rivers. Seven of the most trusted men explored locations both in what is now Western Arkansas and also Northeastern Oklahoma. The people of the lower towns desired to remove across the Mississippi to this area, onto vacant lands within the United States so that they might continue the traditional Cherokee life. In 1817, the United States ceded such lands to the Kituwah people (also known as Old Settlers, or Western Cherokee) in exchange for a portion of the Cherokee lands they had occupied and were entitled to in the East. As many as 4,000 Kituwah Old Settlers came. The Treaty of 1817 with the United States exchanged lands back East for lands in Arkansas. So in the early 1800’s we have documented proof of a rather large group of Cherokees some 4000 did indeed reside in the area that would later become the States of Arkansas, Northeastern Oklahoma and Southern Missouri.
In this map from 1810 the territory in Red is lands in dispute between the US government, State governments and many different Indian tribes that held the territory by treaty.
Treaty of 1828 with Western Cherokee 1:
WHEREAS, it being the anxious desire of the Government of the United States to secure to the Cherokee nation of Indians, as well those now living within the limits of the Territory of Arkansas, as those of their friends and brothers who reside in States East of the Mississippi, and who may wish to join their brothers of the West, a permanent home, and which shall, under the most solemn guarantee of the United States, be, and remain, theirs forever— a home that shall never, in all future time, be embarrassed by having extended around it the lines, or placed over it the jurisdiction of a Territory or State, nor be pressed upon by the extension, in any way, of any of the limits of any existing Territory or State; and, Whereas, the present location of the Cherokees in Arkansas being unfavorable to their present repose, and tending, as the past demonstrates, to their future degradation and misery; and the Cherokees being anxious to avoid such consequences, and yet not questioning their right to their lands in Arkansas, as secured to them by Treaty, and resting also upon the pledges given them by the President of the United States, and the Secretary of War, of March, 1818, and 8th October, 1821, in regard to the outlet to the West, and as may be seen on referring to the records of the War Department, still being anxious to secure a permanent home, and to free themselves, and their posterity, from an embarrassing connexion with the Territory of Arkansas, and guard themselves from such connexions in future; and, Whereas, it being important, not to the Cherokees only, but also to the Choctaws, and in regard also to the question which may be agitated in the future respecting the location of the latter, as well as the former, within the limits of the Territory or State of Arkansas, as the case may be, and their removal therefrom; and to avoid the cost which may attend negotiations to rid the Territory or State of Arkansas whenever it may become a State, of either, or both of those Tribes, the parties hereto do hereby conclude the following Articles, viz:
The Western boundary of Arkansas shall be, and the same is, hereby defined, viz: A line shall be run, commencing on Red River, at the point where the Eastern Choctaw line strikes said River, and run due North with said line to the River Arkansas, thence in a direct line to the South West corner of Missouri.
The United States agree to possess the Cherokees, and to guarantee it to them forever, and that guarantee is hereby solemnly pledged, of seven millions of acres of land, to be bounded as follows, viz: Commencing at that point on Arkansas River where the Eastern Choctaw boundary line strikes said River, and running thence with the Western line of Arkansas, as defined in the foregoing article, to the South-West corner of Missouri, and thence with the Western boundary line of Missouri till it crosses the waters of Neasho, generally called Grand River, thence due West to a point from which a due South course will strike the present North West corner of Arkansas Territory, thence continuing due South, on and with the present Western boundary line of the Territory to the main branch of Arkansas River, thence down said River to its junction with the Canadian River, and thence up and between the said Rivers Arkansas and Canadian, to a point at which a line running North and South from River to River, will give the aforesaid seven millions of acres. In addition to the seven millions of acres thus provided for, and bounded, the United States further guarantee to the Cherokee Nation a perpetual outlet, West, and a free and unmolested use of all the Country lying West of the Western boundary of the above described limits, and as far West as the sovereignty of the United States, and their right of soil extend.
The United States agree to have the lines of the above cession run without delay, say not later than the first of October next, and to remove, immediately after the running of the Eastern line from the Arkansas River to the South-West corner of Missouri, all white persons from the West to the East of said line, and also all others, should there be any there, who may be unacceptable to the Cherokees, so that no obstacles arising out of the presence of a white population, or a population of any other sort, shall exist to annoy the Cherokees— and also to keep all such from the West of said line in future.
The United States moreover agree to appoint suitable persons whose duty it shall be, in conjunction with the Agent, to value all such improvements as the Cherokees may abandon in their removal from their present homes to the District of Country as ceded in the second Article of this agreement, and to pay for the same immediately after the assessment is made, and the amount ascertained. It is further agreed, that the property and improvements connected with the agency, shall be sold under the direction of the Agent, and the proceeds of the same applied to aid in the erection, in the country to which the Cherokees are going, of a Grist, and Saw Mill, for their use. The aforesaid property and improvements are thus defined: Commence at the Arkansas River opposite William Stinnetts, and run due North one mile, thence due East to a point from which a due South line to the Arkansas River would include the Chalybeate, or Mineral Spring, attached to or near the present residence of the Agent, and thence up said River (Arkansas) to the place of beginning.
It is further agreed, that the United States, in consideration of the inconvenience and trouble attending the removal, and on account of the reduced value of a great portion of the lands herein ceded to the Cherokees, as compared with that of those in Arkansas which were made theirs by the Treaty of 1817, and the Convention of 1819, will pay to the Cherokees, immediately after their removal which shall be within fourteen months of the date of this agreement, the sum of fifty thousand dollars; also an annuity, for three years, of two thousand dollars, towards defraying the cost and trouble which may attend upon going after and recovering their stock which may stray into the Territory in quest of the pastures from which they may he driven — also, eight thousand seven hundred and sixty dollars, for spoliations committed on them, (the Cherokees,) which sum will be in full of all demands of the kind up to this date, as well as those against the Osages, as those against citizens of the United States— this being the amount of the, claims for said spoliations, as rendered by the Cherokees, and which are believed to be correctly and fairly stated.—Also, one thousand two hundred dollars for the use of Thomas Graves, a Cherokee Chief, for losses sustained in his property, and for personal suffering endured by him when confined as a prisoner, on a criminal, but false accusation; also, five hundred dollars for the use of George Guess, another Cherokee, for the great benefits he has conferred upon the Cherokee people, in the beneficial results which they are now experiencing from the use of the Alphabet discovered by him, to whom also, in consideration of his relinquishing a valuable saline, the privilege is hereby given to locate and occupy another saline on Lee’s Creek. It is further agreed by the United States, to pay two thousand dollars, annually, to the Cherokees, for ten years, to be expended under the direction of the President of the United States in the education of their children, in their own country, in letters and the mechanic arts; also, one thousand dollars towards the purchase of a Printing Press and Types to aid the Cherokees in the progress of education, and to benefit and enlighten them as a people, in their own, and our language. It is agreed further that the expense incurred other than that paid by the United States in the erection of the buildings and improvements, so far as that may have been paid by the benevolent society who have been, and yet are, engaged in instructing the Cherokee children, shall be paid to the society, it being the understanding that the amount shall be expended in the erection of other buildings and improvements, for like purposes, in the country herein ceded to the Cherokees. The United States relinquish their claim due by the Cherokees to the late United States Factory, provided the same does not exceed three thousand five hundred dollars.
It is moreover agreed, by the United States, whenever the Cherokees may desire it, to give them a set of plain laws, suited to their condition— also, when they may wish to lay off their lands, and own them individually, a surveyor shall be sent to make the surveys at the cost of the United States.
The Chiefs and Head Men of the Cherokee Nation, aforesaid, for and in consideration of the foregoing stipulations and provisions, do hereby agree, in the name and behalf of their Nation, to give up, and they do hereby surrender, to the United States, and agree to leave the same within fourteen months, as herein before stipulated, all the lands to which they are entitled in Arkansas, and which were secured to them by the Treaty of 8th January, 1817, and the Convention of the 27th February, 1819.
The Cherokee Nation, West of the Mississippi having, by this agreement, freed themselves from the harassing and ruinous effects consequent upon a location amidst a white population, and secured to themselves and their posterity, under the solemn sanction of the guarantee of the United States, as contained in this agreement, a large extent of unembarrassed country; and that their Brothers yet remaining in the States may be induced to join them and enjoy the repose and blessings of such a State in the future, it is further agreed, on the part of the United States, that to each Head of a Cherokee family now residing within the chartered limits of Georgia, or of either of the States, East of the Mississippi, who may desire to remove West, shall be given, on enrolling himself for emigration, a good Rifle, a Blanket, and Kettle, and five pounds of Tobacco: (and to each member of his family one Blanket,) also, a just compensation for the property he may abandon, to be assessed by persons to be appointed by the President of the United States. The cost of the emigration of all such shall also be borne by the United States, and good and suitable ways opened, and provisions procured for their comfort, accommodation, and support, by the way, and provisions for twelve months after their arrival at the Agency; and to each person, or head of a family, if he take along with him four persons, shall be paid immediately on his arriving at the Agency and reporting himself and his family or followers, as emigrants and permanent settlers, in addition to the above, provided he and they shall have emigrated from within the Chartered limits of the State of Georgia, the sum of fifty dollars and this sum in proportion to any greater or less number that may accompany him from within the aforesaid Chartered limits of the State of Georgia.
It is understood and agreed by the parties to this Convention, that a Tract of Land, two miles wide and six miles long, shall be, and the same is hereby, reserved for the use and benefit of the United States, for the accommodation of the military force which is now, or which may hereafter be, stationed at Fort Gibson, on the Neasho, or Grand River, to commence on said River half a mile below the aforesaid Fort, and to run thence due East two miles, thence Northwardly six miles, to a point which shall be two mile distant from the River aforesaid, thence due West to the said River, and down it to the place of beginning. And the Cherokees agree that the United States shall have and possess the right of establishing a road through their country for the purpose of having a free and unmolested way to and from said Fort.
It is agreed that Captain James Rogers, in consideration of his having lost a horse in the service of the United States, and for services rendered by him to the United States, shall be paid, in full for the above, and all other claims for losses and services, the sum of Five Hundred Dollars.
This Treaty to be binding on the contracting parties so soon as it is ratified by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Done at the place, and on the day and year above written.
Indian Territory – 1830-1850
During the 1820s and 1830s dozens of northeastern, midwestern, and southeastern tribes were removed by treaty and under the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to force tribes to cede their lands east of the Mississippi. Those who did were to be placed west of the new white settlements, that is, west of the 95th Meridian. An 1834 Trade Act further defined “the Indian country” as all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri, Louisiana, or Arkansas Territory, or any other organized territory. Whites were carefully excluded from the region, for most purposes, and trade by them with Indians was regulated. For judicial purposes, the northern region (mostly present Kansas) was attached to Missouri and the southern part (mostly present Oklahoma) to Arkansas Territory (after 1836, Arkansas state). In 1835 Isaac McCoy apparently used the words “the Indian Territory” for the first time in print. 3
Treaty of 1832 with Western Cherokee: This Treaty was written to make small “changes” with the previous Treaty specifically Art. 6 regarding giving up lands in the future and own them individually ( Can you say Allotement Act 1880!!) By 1832 all Western Cherokees and other Indian Tribes such as the Osage and Quapaw Tribes had moved out of the Territories of Arkansas and Missouri by Treaty. The Western Cherokee lived in what is present day Northeastern Oklahoma along various rivers such as the Arkansas, Verdigree and many smaller creeks such as 14 mile creek in what is today Cherokee County. This was holding with Traditional values of being near water many of our cermonies and medicine involves “going to water”. This original group of Cherokees held land in common and worked the land in small farms and raised Hogs and some cattle. Many changes were to come in the next few years but from 1828 to 1838 it was a peaceful time for the Western Cherokee living in the reformed Indian Territory.
2) Eastern and Western Cherokees Reunited
1835 Treaty of New Echota 2:
WHEREAS the Cherokees are anxious to make some arrangements with the Government of the United States whereby the difficulties they have experienced by a residence within the settled parts of the United States under the jurisdiction and laws of the State Governments may be terminated and adjusted; and with a view to reuniting their people in one body and securing a permanent home for themselves and their posterity in the country selected by their forefathers without the territorial limits of the State sovereignties, and where they can establish and enjoy a government of their choice and perpetuate such a state of society as may be most consonant with their views, habits and condition; and as may tend to their individual comfort and their advancement in civilization. And whereas a delegation of the Cherokee nation composed of Messrs. John Ross Richard Taylor Danl. McCoy Samuel Gunter and William Rogers with full power and authority to conclude a treaty with the United States did on the 28th day of February 1835 stipulate and agree with the Government of the United States to submit to the Senate to fix the amount which should be allowed the Cherokees for their claims and for a cession of their lands east of the Mississippi river, and did agree to abide by the award of the Senate of the United States themselves and to recommend the same to their people for their final determination. And whereas on such submission the Senate advised “that a sum not exceeding five millions of dollars be paid to the Cherokee Indians for all their lands and possessions east of the Mississippi river.” And whereas this delegation after said award of the Senate had been made, were called upon to submit propositions as to its disposition to be arranged in a treaty which they refused to do, but insisted that the same “should be referred to their nation and there in general council to deliberate and determine on the subject in order to ensure harmony and good feeling among themselves.” And whereas a certain other delegation composed of John Ridge Elias Boudinot Archilla Smith S. W. Bell John West Wm. A. Davis and Ezekiel West, who represented that portion of the nation in favor of emigration to the Cherokee country west of the Mississippi entered into propositions for a treaty with John F. Schermerhorn commissioner on the part of the United States which were to be submitted to their nation for their final action and determination: And whereas the Cherokee people at their last October council at Red Clay, fully authorized and empowered a delegation or committee of twenty persons of their nation to enter into and conclude a treaty with the United States commissioner then present, at that place or elsewhere and as the people had good reason to believe that a treaty would then and there be made or at a subsequent council at New Echota which the commissioners it was well known and understood, were authorized and instructed to convene for said purpose; and since the said delegation have gone on to Washington city, with a view to close negotiations there, as stated by them notwithstanding they were officially informed by the United States commissioner that they would not be received by the President of the United States; and that the Government would transact no business of this nature with them, and that if a treaty was made it must be done here in the nation, where the delegation at Washington last winter urged that it should be done for the purpose of promoting peace and harmony among the people; and since these facts have also been corroborated to us by a communication recently received by the commissioner from the Government of the United States and read and explained to the people in open council and therefore believing said delegation can effect nothing and since our difficulties are daily increasing and our situation is rendered more and more precarious uncertain and insecure in consequence of the legislation of the States; and seeing no effectual way of relief, but in accepting the liberal overtures of the United States. And whereas Genl William Carroll and John F. Schermerhorn were appointed commissioners on the part of the United States, with full power and authority to conclude a treaty with the Cherokees east and were directed by the President to convene the people of the nation in general council at New Echota and to submit said propositions to them with power and authority to vary the same so as to meet the views of the Cherokees in reference to its details. And whereas the said commissioners did appoint and notify a general council of the nation to convene at New Echota on the 21st day of December 1835; and informed them that the commissioners would be prepared to make a treaty with the Cherokee people who should assemble there and those who did not come they should conclude gave their assent and sanction to whatever should be transacted at this council and the people having met in council according to said notice.Therefore the following articles of a treaty are agreed upon and concluded between William Carroll and John F. Schermerhorn commissioners on the part of the United States and the chiefs and head men and people of the Cherokee nation in general council assembled this 29th day of Decr 1835.
This was the treaty that terminated all rights to lands to the East for Eastern Cherokees and moved them to lands to the West in Indian Territory, up until then the Cherokee Nation had been turned into 2 distinct tribes Western Cherokees aka Old Settlers and Eastern Cherokees. Signed in 1835 it took 4 years before all the provisions of the Treaty were finally carried out by force marching those that refused to move some 16,000 Cherokees. As result of this treaty a roll was carried out to list the “emigrants” to comply with the provisions of this treaty. By treaty these people were not subject to the laws of the States and Territories of the United States but the Laws of the Cherokee Nation. Here is a Historical definition of Indian Territory at the time: In order to understand the full meaning of the term “the Indian Territory,” one must also understand the process by which a region became a territory. As established by United States law, beginning with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, when a specifically defined part of the unorganized federal domain was sufficiently populated, its residents (United States citizens) could petition Congress for territorial status. Congress would subsequently pass an organic act, with a bill of rights for territory residents, and set up a three-part government, with appointed executive and judicial branches. Residents elected a legislative branch. The federal government had ultimate authority over territorial affairs, and an elected territorial representative was seated in Congress. Congress never passed an organic act for the Indian Territory, although a few measures were proposed, and one bill was written, for that purpose. The region never had a formal government, and it remained unorganized. Therefore, the geographical location commonly called “Indian Territory” was not a territory. 4 This fact becomes very important later in the 1880’s but for this article we are using this information to provide an understanding of the laws and more importantly the Status of a Cherokee Indian in the 1840’s and on.
In Part 2 of the Article we will explore Indian Territory in the 1840’s up to 1907.
1) Treaty of 1828 http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/vol2/treaties/che0288.htm
2) Treaty of 1835 http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/vol2/treaties/che0439.htm
3) Indian Territory http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/I/IN018.html
4) Epcert for Indian Territory http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/I/IN018.html