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Choctaw: Removal

players On average the relations between the Choctaw and the various European powers were friendly. This friendly relationship came to an abrupt halt when the United States came into sole possession of the region, and, hungry for land adopted an imperialistic attitude toward the Choctaw.

Beginning in 1786 with the Treaty of Hopewell, the United State's intentions were made clear. This treaty was the first attempt by the U.S. to establish hegemony over the Choctaw and it required the return of escaped slaves, turning over of any Choctaws whom had been convicted of crimes by the U.S., and the return any property which had been captured during the Revolutionary War. The treaty is even more arrogant in tone when you consider that up until 1798, the territory occupied by the Choctaw was technically Spanish. As soon as Spain ceded the region, U.S. began enforcing the Treaty of Hopewell.

Actual loss of Choctaw land began a scant three years later with the signing of the Treaty of Fort Adams in 1801. This treaty strengthened the Treaty of Hopewell, directed the construction of a wagon road called the Natchez trace and "compensated" the Choctaw $2000 in trade goods and three sets of blacksmithing tools for 2.5 million acres of land referred to as the "Old Natchez District".

Further treaties in 1803 and 1805 (The Treaty of Hoe Buckintoopa and the Treaty of Mount Dexter) resulted in the loss of an additional 850,000 and 4.1 million acres in exchange for a small cash payment to be applied to the accrued debt the Choctaw had built up with certain traders, a $3000 annual payment to the tribe and some manufactured goods.

With the urging of Mississippi, which became a state in 1817, and despite the service the Choctaw provided the U.S. in the War of 1812 (including fighting alongside Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans), the first small step toward full-fledged removal came in 1820 with the Treaty of Doaks Stand. The Choctaw agreed to cede 13 million acres of land in exchange for land in what is now Arkansas. Any Choctaw wishing to relocate was given provisions: a blanket, a rifle, bullet molds, and ammo and corn for one year. The remaining Choctaw land in Mississippi was to remain autonomous, under Choctaw control until "said Nation shall become so civilized and enlightened to be made citizens of the United States..." and was to be provided with schools, a police force, and individual pensions for its inhabitants. Due to the presence of settlers in the promised territory, however, this treaty was not finalized until 1825, at which time the Choctaw had a government based on a constitution of their own design, a court system and their own police force.

Despite the relatively generous terms of this treaty, immediately after its passage the Mississippi state government declared the Choctaw government, and all its laws, void and branded its officials outlaws. The Federal government, which was dominated by southerners at the time, rather than honor the Treaty of Doaks Stand and redress the wrongs committed by Mississippi, chose to do nothing until 1830.

In 1830 the U.S. government passed the Indian Removal Act which was to affect all southeastern Native Americans and immediately followed it up with the Choctaw-specific Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. To this day there is a tombstone-like marker at Dancing Rabbit Creek to commemorate the signing.

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek abrogated all previous agreements and called for removal of all Choctaw from their remaining ancestral lands to reservations in what was to eventually become Oklahoma by 1833, though each individual had the option of accepting a parcel of land and remaining in Mississippi. However, the price of doing this was the loss of Choctaw identity and the acceptance of U.S. and Mississippi citizenship.

The First removal began in October of 1831 with 4000 Choctaw being transported on foot and by wagons to the Mississippi then west on steamboats. Due to poor planning and bad weather, however, the river leg of the journey was shortened and the Choctaw were forced to walk much farther than had been planned. Most of the first wave didn't arrive, tired and ill, in Oklahoma until March 1832. The second wave contained 550 Choctaw and was much more harsh. Due to cost overruns encountered in the first removal, the second wave was required to walk most of the way, was provided with fewer rations and was hit by a cholera outbreak while en route. Having heard about the travails of the first two removal efforts, only about 800 Choctaw showed up for the third and final trek. This final wave went relatively smoothly and concluded the removal effort even though almost 6000 Choctaw remained in Mississippi to take advantage of the promise of land.

So many of those who remained were cheated out of their land by corrupt officials of the state and local governments that in 1842 the Federal government was once again forced to intercede. This time in a slightly less unfriendly way. Choctaw who had been lost their land were reimbursed, but only if they relocated to the reservation in Oklahoma. As a result of this fresh round of removal only 3000 Choctaw remained in Mississippi.

The Choctaw whom the UGA Flying Rats play are those who remained in Mississippi. For more information about those who migrated to Oklahoma, I urge you to see the Unofficial Oklahoma Choctaw Homepage, an excellent page devoted to Choctaw heritage and the Oklahoma Choctaw in the modern world.