How the US Civil War Divided Indian Nations

How the US Civil War Divided Indian Nations

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The American Civil War wasn’t just a conflict between citizens of the Union and the Confederacy. Spilling over into Indian Territory, on the western frontier of the war, it profoundly divided tribal nations, communities and families. An estimated 20,000 Indian soldiers participated in the conflict, fighting for both sides.

At the outset of the war, many nations in Indian Territory signed treaties with the Confederacy—supported by a minority of wealthy slave-holding Indians within their communities. But those sympathies weren’t monolithic: Many Indians leaned toward abolitionism and advocated for sovereign independence from the U.S. and its bloody conflict. As the war progressed, momentum shifted as three Indian Home Guard regiments emerged to support the Union and protect vulnerable tribal communities from violent guerrilla warfare. The result: Indians fighting Indians in a white man’s war.

While Native American soldiers went to battle for a variety of reasons—to support or fight slavery, to defend tribal sovereignty and to protect family and community—the war did little to advance their needs and interests. Instead, it aggravated longstanding internal tribal tensions and ravaged territory the U.S. government had relocated them to decades earlier, creating a new wave of impoverished refugees.

READ MORE: How Native Americans Struggled to Survive on the Trail of Tears

An Old Feud ‘Burst Forth in All Its Fury’

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Indian Territory encompassed most of the area now occupied by the state of Oklahoma. Ancestral home to tribal nations including Osage, Quapaw, Seneca and Shawnee, it had also become the mandated home for the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations (known as the Five Civilized Tribes). Between 1830 and 1850, those groups had been forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Southeast and marched hundreds of miles west by the U.S. government. The relocation, later known as the Trail of Tears, killed thousands.

The Cherokee Nation, politically divided since that convulsive period, exemplified how tribal nations were further torn asunder by the war. On one side stood Principal Chief John Ross, the leader who had navigated the nation through the Trail of Tears. Supported by nearly a two-thirds majority, he urged neutrality and national unity as the secessionist influence grew in and around Indian Territory. His supporters, organized as the Keetoowah Society, supported abolitionism but were motivated by national sovereignty and the desire for a self-determined Cherokee identity.

On the other side: a minority of wealthy slave-holding Cherokees who deeply resented Ross and his failure to align with the Confederacy. Their leader was Stand Watie, longtime head of the Treaty Party, so called because its members, in defiance of the majority, illegally signed the treaty that forced removal of Cherokees from their homelands.

“There had been a smoldering hatred existing between two political factions ever since before the movement of the Cherokees from the old Cherokee Nation,” said tribeswoman Annie Hendrix, interviewed in 1938 as part of a WPA series of oral histories of Indian Territory pioneers. “And when the Civil War broke out, it only afforded an opportunity for the fire of this old feud to burst forth in all its fury.”

READ MORE: The Last Confederate General to Surrender Was Native American

Three Different Factions Take Up Arms

In October of 1861, Ross relented to growing pressure and signed a treaty with the Confederate States of America, which promised the Cherokee nation protection, food and other resources in exchange for several regiments’ worth of soldiers and access into their territory for building roads and forts. Unpopular with most Cherokees, the treaty allowed Ross to maintain governmental stability—and stay in power.

Several months earlier, Watie had worked surreptitiously with the Confederacy to form a regiment, the Cherokee Mounted Rifles, mustering several hundred supporters. (He went on to become a brilliant field commander and daring guerrilla leader.) After the treaty, a second regiment of Cherokee Mounted Rifles formed under the command of Ross loyalist Colonel John Drew—a counterbalance to Watie’s growing power and influence.

Meanwhile, a third political force began to mobilize: the “Loyal” Indians, led by Creek chief Opothleyoholo, a staunch advocate of Indian neutrality in the white man’s war. Refusing to ally with the Confederates, he led thousands of followers from multiple tribes, along with escaped slaves and freedmen, to exile in Union-controlled Kansas, where the U.S. government had promised refuge. Along the way, through the fall and winter of 1861, the group endured harsh conditions and defended repeated attacks from Confederate forces, including Watie’s Cherokee Mounted Rifles. But many Cherokees in Drew’s regiment, sympathetic to the Loyal Indians, deserted the Confederacy to join his camp—evidence of the deepening divide between pro-Confederate and pro-Union Indians.

READ MORE: When Native Americans Were Slaughtered in the Name of 'Civilization'

The Union-Backed Home Guard Invades from the North, Seizes Ross

By spring of 1862, James G. Blunt, brigadier general of the Kansas Union forces, wanted to raise an Indian expeditionary force to infiltrate Confederate-ridden Indian Territory. Intel had encouraged his belief that the Cherokee’s Principal Chief Ross was not only sympathetic to the North, but could be persuaded to abandon his Confederate alliance.

So, Blunt ordered the mustering of a 1st Kansas Indian Home Guard regiment encompassing refugees and survivors of Opothleyoholo’s camp of Loyal Indians. The regiment included nearly 1,800 men, primarily Creeks and Seminoles. Later, a second regiment was raised of nearly 1,500 men, mostly Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Osages.

The 1st Home Guard expedition soon made its way through Indian Territory toward Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation capital, and Park Hill, Ross’s home. After repelling Watie’s regiment at the Cowskin Prairie, routing a larger Confederate force in the Battle of Locust Grove and capturing Fort Gibson, they successfully claimed the interior of the Cherokee Nation.

News of the resounding Union victory spread quickly, attracting nearly 1,500 new recruits to the Kansas Indian Home Guard overall, including more than 600 deserters from Drew’s Cherokee Mounted Rifles. The influx prompted the mounting of a new, third Kansas regiment, the core of which came from deserters from Drew’s Confederate regiment, effectively gutting it as a fighting force.

Ross tried to remain steadfast in his treaty alliance. But after Blunt dispatched a force of 1,500 to escort him to Fort Leavenworth, the chief and the general quickly forged their own agreement: Ross would proceed immediately to Washington to meet with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss a renewed alliance with the United States.

READ MORE: Broken Treaties With Native American Tribes: Timeline

Confederate Guerrillas Ravage Cherokee Communities

After the Home Guard withdrew, Watie’s regiment of nearly 700 strong began reprisals that ravaged Cherokee society. The war in and around Indian Territory raged through the fall and winter of 1862, with the Indian Home Guard regiments redeployed in Kansas and Missouri, then moving back into Indian Territory to serve as a crucial fighting force in at least four separate battles. The Battle of Newtonia saw Indian units on both sides of the conflict.

In 1863, delegates from the Cherokee National Council pleaded for another Union military offensive to suppress the ongoing terrorism inflicted by Watie and his Confederate force. But while General Blunt’s command made several forays into Indian Territory that spring and summer, they couldn’t provide lasting stability.

According to Justin Harlin, the federal agent to the Cherokees, military authorities had assured him and the Cherokee people they would protect Indians in their homes, prompting him to procure and distribute farming supplies. But, he wrote, “About the 21st of May, the rebel Indians under the command of Stand Watie, entered the territory and robbed the women and children of everything they could find… Robbing, sometimes murdering and burning, continued until the about the fourth day of July without abatement.”

Union forces dealt a decisive blow to the rebels in Indian Territory in July 1863 at the Battle of Honey Springs, where they decimated a unified Confederate presence. The defeat forced many southern-sympathizing families to move to Texas for the duration of the war—including Watie’s wife and children. But after another Union withdrawal left the countryside unprotected, Watie’s group returned yet again to pillage and rob, along with white settlers who crossed into Indian Territory from Arkansas. Many families were forced to flee to Fort Gibson for protection. By the end of the year, Harlin reported, more than 6,000 refugees were camped within a mile and a half of the fort.

Through the end of the war, Cherokees and other Indians experienced tremendous suffering due to U.S. support failures, disease and continued guerilla warfare. By the time the Union won the war and the Indian Home Guard disbanded in May of 1865, the Cherokee Nation was barren and devastated, its people’s resilience infinitely tested.

MORE: How Stunning Photos Portraying Native American Life Carry a Mixed Legacy

Reconciliation At Last

General Stand Watie, the persistent nemesis of the Ross Party and the Union Indian Home Guard, was the last Confederate general to surrender on June 23, 1865. And Principal Chief John Ross died on August 1, 1866, in Washington, D.C., still negotiating a Cherokee Nation treaty with the United States.

Reconciliation did eventually emerge. “The legacy of the Civil War actually occurs a few years after the Civil War,” says Dr. Julia Coates, a Cherokee Nation tribal councilor and adjunct professor of American Indian Studies at Pasadena City College. In 1867, the Keetoowahs ran their own candidate, Lewis Downing, who had been part of the Indian Home Guard, after having been in Drew’s regiment first. He ran in opposition to the established Ross Party candidate, William P. Ross, nephew of John Ross.

“He does a really remarkable thing and reaches out a hand to Watie and the Southern Cherokees,” Coates says. “They say, ‘If you will join us in supporting Downing, we will begin to fold you back into the Cherokee government, into Cherokee society. Let's close this thing up, after the extraordinary devastation and division of the Civil War. And it works, it leads to an era of Cherokee reconstruction.”

History Channel: Civil War – A Nation Divided, The

The History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided is a 2006 first person shooter videogame developed by Cauldron HQ and released under the Activision Value brand. Unlike most first person shooter videogames of then up to now, The History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided actually makes a very good attempt at being an authentic, historical representation of the war that it is based on with in-game cutscenes and levels that describe and showcase the American Civil War's greatest battles between the Union and the Confederacy (Such as Chancellorsville and Gettysburg), giving players the option of choosing to play as either a Union or a Confederate soldier, and actually making an attempt to showcase authentic, reloading animations for the weapons that were common in that period. Despite a few weapon flaws and some very minor historical goofs here and there, this game is regarded as being more historically accurate than other historical-based first person shooters out there. A sequel, History Channel Civil War: Secret Missions, was released in 2008.

The following firearms were featured in the video game The History Channel: Civil War – A Nation Divided.

How the US Civil War Divided Indian Nations - HISTORY

Native Americans Prior to 1492

The Native Americans throughout North America had a number of similarities. Each group or nation spoke the same language, and almost all were organized around an extended clan or family. They usually descended from one individual. Each group had a series of leaders, in some cased the leaders inherited their rolls in others they were elected.

The Native Americans traded extensivelyamong the different tribes. This allowed different tribes to specialize in different products and trade with tribes that were located far away.

Native Americans believed in the power of the spirits. The spirits were found in nature. Their religious leaders were called Shamans. Native Americans believed that people should live in harmony with nature. They did not believe that people should own land rather the land belonged to everyone.

There were a number of distinct groups of Native Americans:

Northwest Coast
The Native Americans of the Northwest had no need to farm. The land was full of animals the sea was full of fish. Most of the villages were located near the Ocean. Wood was plentiful, and the natives of the areas used the woods to build large homes. One of the unique innovations of the Indians of the Northwest was large canoes that could hold 50 people. They were carved out of giant redwoods. More on Northwest Native Americans.

California's natives were blessed with mild weather. Over 100 Native American groups lived there. Those that lived by the sea were able to live off fishing and native plant life. Those that lived inland like the Pomo hunted small game. They also gathered acorns and pound them into mush to eat. More on Californian Native Americans

The Plateau

The Plateau Native Americans lived in the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. The area had many large Rivers and was the main source of food and travel. The area was cold in the winter and to protect them the Natives build homes that were partly underground, Approximately 20 groups lived in this area. More on Plateau Native Americans

The Great Basin

The Great Basins is located in what includes all of Nevada and Utah, most of western Colorado. It was the home of the Shoshone, Paiute and Ute’s Indians. It was a land that was hot and dry. Those that lived there were called “diggers” since they were forced to dig for most of their food. More on Great Basin Native Americans

The Natives of the Southwest were divided into two groups some were hunter-gathers and some were farmers. The Pueblos were the best known of the natives of the area. They were skilled farmers and grew many crops. The Pueblos used irrigations canals to bring water for their farming. The Apache and Navajo entered the southwest around 1500 and were hunter-gatherers. More on Native Americans of the Southwest

The Plains
The Plains stretch from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The areas had large herds of Buffalo and antelope, which provided abundant food. The Native Americans of the plains included the Sioux, Pawnee, Crow Cheyenne and Comanche. More on the Native Americans of the Great Plains

The Native Americans of the Northeast lived in an area rich in rivers and forests. Some groups were constantly on the move while others built permanent homes. The two main cultures of the Northeast were the Iroquois and Algonquin. For many years the Native Americans of the northeast were at war with each other. More on the Native Americans of the Northeast.

The Southeast was the most populated of all the regions of North America. It was home to the Cherokee, Creek Choctaw, Seminole, and Natchez. Many of the natives of the southeast hunted buffalo deer and other animals. The majority of the Native Americans of the Southeast were farmers. More on the Native Americans of the Southeast

Americans reflect on a divided nation: "This doesn't feel like America"

Time doesn't move any differently at Independence Hall, the birthplace of America. It's the building where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed in colonial Philadelphia. If you travel there, you can learn something about America today.

"America is in turmoil right now," Billy White told "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil.

Most people who journeyed to Independence Hall from all across the country had similar viewpoints.

"This doesn't feel like America. The America I was raised to love and believe in," Victoria Johnson said.

President-elect Joe Biden will face a daunting task after Wednesday's inauguration -- reuniting Americans after a bitter election.

"I'm not exactly sure that we're in the place that the Founding Fathers would have wanted us to be in," Laura Wilson said.

Trending News

A CBS News poll found that 54% of Americans today say the biggest threat to our way of life isn't economic collapse, natural disasters or foreign invasions &mdash but our own fellow Americans.

"It should be America under one nation under God, indivisible. But I don't see it that way in my eyes right now," White said.

The national mood, not to mention the 220-year-old American tradition of peaceful transfers of power, took a blow in January after rioters overran the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. But Jessica Roney, professor of early American history at Temple University in Philadelphia, says America has had some turbulent times before.

"We've never been a unified country. We've always had these huge fractures. If anything, what we have now is a recognition of them. And in some ways, that's hard and painful and scary. And in some ways, it's the only way forward," she said.

Roney agreed that divisiveness is American history, not the exception to American history. With that in mind, she said the goal of the Constitution was to somehow prevent the country from collapsing.

"They thought it would decay inevitably?" Dokoupil asked.

"This is a world that believes in corruption. Like, right now, we think about our conspiracy theories as a 21st-century thing. It's not. The 18th century was all about conspiracy theories," Roney said. "It was all about this idea of tyranny and the usurpation of liberty. and the same kind of heated rhetoric that we're used to today, there's a lot of that in the 1780s and '90s where people are really concerned about the imminent demise of the Republic right now, tomorrow, if the other guy is elected."

CBS News asked people to put today's America in context with America's past and people responded with answers some might have feared.

"Is there any moment from American history that comes to mind as a point of comparison with today?" Dokoupil asked.

"Maybe the American revolution? . Or the Civil War. There's a fracture that I don't think-- we've seen in over a century," Wilson replied.

Another person agreed and said it feels like America is back in a Civil War.

"I guess the Civil War when it was, like, the North versus the South. That's what it feels like again. It's just, it's not a matter of locations fighting each other. It's people fighting against people over a president," Nia King said.

But Roney says there's actually a lesser-known moment in American history that may give us hope: "What I'm proud of in American history, what's a moment that I look to, I always said, 'The election of 1800.' I think it's just a phenomenal moment."

That election, which marked the exit of John Adams and the entrance of Thomas Jefferson, was the first peaceful transfer of power between opposing sides in American history.

In his inaugural address, Jefferson made a now-famous appeal for unity among the parties of the time uttering the lines "We are all republicans, we are all federalists."

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to hit a very similar note in his inaugural address, not every American is ready to believe him.

"How is he unifying America when he was supporting everyone who started the riots back over the summer? I don't see that as unifying at all," Johnson said.

Others are hopeful about what Mr. Biden's election will mean for the state of the country but they have their doubts.

"Are you hopeful that he will be president for all Americans, not just the people who voted for him?" Dokoupil asked.

"I hope so. I hope so," White said. When Dokoupil followed up and asked if White believed it was likely or if he expected it would happen, he replied back no.

But in front of Independence Hall stood Susan Sandler. She was optimistic in part because of the decisions made long ago inside the building.

"I personally was not a Trump supporter, I supported the right of other people to believe in him and to give him a chance. I personally don't like how that worked out. So what did we do? We voted. That's what we do in the United States, right?" Sandler said. "And then we respect that vote. And then we move forward. And if we don't like it, we vote again. That's what we do in the United States. So there we are. Back to our basics."

A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era

This series seeks out the best new scholarship on the U.S. Civil War era, particularly works that connect the war to the major themes of the era and that integrate the social, political, economic, and cultural experiences of the period with military events.

Series Editors: Orville Vernon Burton and Elizabeth R. Varon

The Cacophony of Politics

The Cacophony of Politics charts the trajectory of the Democratic Party as the party of opposition in the North during the Civil War. A comprehensive overview, this book reveals the myriad complications and contingencies of political life in the Northern states and explains the objectives of the. More

My Work among the Freedmen

Between 1863 and 1871, Harriet M. Buss of Sterling, Massachusetts, taught former slaves in three different regions of the South, in coastal South Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina. A white, educated Baptist woman, she initially saw herself as on a mission to the freedpeople. More

Gold and Freedom

Historians have long treated Reconstruction primarily as a southern concern isolated from broader national political developments. Yet at its core, Reconstruction was a battle for the legacy of the Civil War that would determine the political fate not only of the South but of the nation.In Gold and. More

Colossal Ambitions

Leading politicians, diplomats, clerics, planters, farmers, manufacturers, and merchants preached a transformative, world-historical role for the Confederacy, persuading many of their compatriots to fight not merely to retain what they had but to gain their future empire. Impervious to reality. More

Newest Born of Nations

From the earliest stirrings of southern nationalism to the defeat of the Confederacy, analysis of European nationalist movements played a critical role in how southerners thought about their new southern nation. Southerners argued that because the Confederate nation was cast in the same mold as its. More

The Worst Passions of Human Nature

The American North’s commitment to preventing a southern secession rooted in slaveholding suggests a society united in its opposition to slavery and racial inequality. The reality, however, was far more complex and troubling. In his latest book, Paul Escott lays bare the contrast between progress. More

Slavery and War in the Americas

In this pathbreaking new work, Vitor Izecksohn attempts to shed new light on the American Civil War by comparing it to a strikingly similar campaign in South America--the War of the Triple Alliance of 1864–70, which galvanized four countries and became the longest large-scale international conflict. More

American Abolitionism

This ambitious book provides the only systematic examination of the American abolition movement’s direct impacts on antislavery politics from colonial times to the Civil War and after. As opposed to indirect methods such as propaganda, sermons, and speeches at protest meetings, Stanley Harrold. More

Preserving the White Man's Republic

In Preserving the White Man’s Republic, Joshua Lynn reveals how the national Democratic Party rebranded majoritarian democracy and liberal individualism as conservative means for white men in the South and North to preserve their mastery on the eve of the Civil War.Responding to fears of African. More

A Strife of Tongues

Near the end of a nine-month confrontation preceding the Compromise of 1850, Abraham Venable warned his fellow congressmen that "words become things." Indeed, in politics—then, as now—rhetoric makes reality. But while the legislative maneuvering, factional alignments, and specific measures of the. More

The War Hits Home

In 1863 Confederate forces under Lieutenant General James Longstreet, while scouring Southside Virginia for badly needed supplies, threatened the Union garrison in Suffolk. For the residents of surrounding Nansemond, Isle of Wight, and Southampton Counties, the Suffolk campaign followed an. More

Daydreams and Nightmares

The decision of the eventual Confederate states to secede from the Union set in motion perhaps the most dramatic chapter in American history, and one that has typically been told on a grand scale. In Daydreams and Nightmares, however, historian Brent Tarter shares the story of one Virginia family. More

Lincoln's Dilemma

The Civil War forced America finally to confront the contradiction between its founding values and human slavery. At the center of this historic confrontation was Abraham Lincoln. By the time this Illinois politician had risen to the office of president, the dilemma of slavery had expanded to the. More

Apostles of Disunion

In late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and. More

The First Republican Army

Although much is known about the political stance of the military at large during the Civil War, the political party affiliations of individual soldiers have received little attention. Drawing on archival sources from twenty-five generals and 250 volunteer officers and enlisted men, John Matsui. More

War upon Our Border

War upon Our Border examines the experiences of two Ohio River Valley communities during the turmoil and social upheaval of the American Civil War. Although on opposite sides of the border between slavery and freedom, Corydon, Indiana, and Frankfort, Kentucky, shared a legacy of white settlement. More

Longstreet's Aide

One of the Confederacy's most loyal adherents and articulate advocates was Lieutenant Grant James Longstreet's aide-de-camp, Thomas Jewett Goree. Present at Longstreet's headquarters and party to the counsels of Robert E. Lee and his lieutenants, Goree wrote incisively on matters of strategy and. More

Intimate Reconstructions

In Intimate Reconstructions, Catherine Jones considers how children shaped, and were shaped by, Virginia’s Reconstruction. Jones argues that questions of how to define, treat, reform, or protect children were never far from the surface of public debate and private concern in post–Civil War Virginia. More

Marching Masters

The Confederate army went to war to defend a nation of slaveholding states, and although men rushed to recruiting stations for many reasons, they understood that the fundamental political issue at stake in the conflict was the future of slavery. Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders. More

Confederate Visions

Nationalism in nineteenth-century America operated through a collection of symbols, signifiers citizens could invest with meaning and understanding. In Confederate Visions, Ian Binnington examines the roots of Confederate nationalism by analyzing some of its most important symbols: Confederate. More

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born enslaved in February 1818, but from this most humble of beginnings, he rose to become a world-famous orator, newspaper editor, and champion of the rights of women and African Americans. He not only survived slavery to live in freedom but also became an outspoken critic. More

Worth a Dozen Men

In antebellum society, women were regarded as ideal nurses because of their sympathetic natures. However, they were expected to exercise their talents only in the home nursing strange men in hospitals was considered inappropriate, if not indecent. Nevertheless, in defiance of tradition. More

A Separate Civil War

Most Americans think of the Civil War as a series of dramatic clashes between massive armies led by romantic-seeming leaders. But in the Appalachian communities of North Georgia, things were very different. Focusing on Fannin and Lumpkin counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains along Georgia’s northern. More

Reconstructing the Campus

The Civil War transformed American life. Not only did thousands of men die on battlefields and millions of slaves become free cultural institutions reshaped themselves in the context of the war and its aftermath. The first book to examine the Civil War’s immediate and long-term impact on higher. More

Civil War Talks

George S. Bernard was a Petersburg lawyer and member of the 12th Virginia Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Over the course of his life, Bernard wrote extensively about his wartime experiences and collected accounts from other veterans. In 1892, he published War Talks of Confederate Veterans. More

The Six Nations Confederacy During the American Revolution

The Five Nations, comprised of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk, united in confederation about the year A.D. 1200. This unification took place under the "Great Tree of Peace" and each nation gave its pledge not to war with other members of the confederation. Around 1720, the Tuscarora nation was admitted into the league as the sixth member. Confederacy members referred to themselves as "Haudenosaunee," which translates to "The People of the Longhouse." They saw their confederacy as a symbolic version of their traditional longhouse dwellings, stretching across most of what is today New York State. The Mohawks were the guardians of the eastern door in the lower Mohawk Valley area. The Oneidas occupied the upper Mohawk Valley and the area of modern day Oneida, NY. The Onondagas were the keepers of the council fire in the center of the "longhouse," in the modern day greater Syracuse area. The Cayugas occupied the finger-lakes area and the Seneca were the guardians of the western door in the modern Rochester-Buffalo NY area. Through a matriarchal hierarchy and a men's council, the Six Nations employed great executive ability in governing themselves and other nations. Situated upon the headwaters of the Ohio, Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna, Chenango, Mohawk, and St. Lawrence Rivers, the Six Nations held within their jurisdiction the passageway to the interior of the continent, and could easily travel in any direction. The military successes of the Six Nations left them in a strategically strong position. They traveled far beyond their own borders, conquering many Indian nations making them tributary nations. At one time, their domain reached north to the Sorel River in Canada, south to the Carolinas, west to the Mississippi, and east to the Atlantic. The Six Nations were easily the dominant Indian confederacy in the northeast and northwest areas of America.

The arrival of Europeans in their lands offered the Six Nations new opportunities of expanding their influence by becoming a dominant force in the fur trade industry. Initially their main trading partners were the Dutch which then changed to the English after the Dutch ceded their land claims in America to England in 1660. The Confederacy's relationship with France was not amicable, as France had initially aligned themselves with the Abenaki, long time foes of the Nations. Six Nations/French relationships see-sawed back and forth between periods of peace and violence.

With the coming of the French and Indian War in 1755, both France and England actively worked to gain the Six Nations as allies. While the French had some initial success, particularly among the Seneca, the Six Nations ultimately became allies of the English. This allegiance was won largely through the work of one man, Sir William Johnson. Johnson was a poor Irish immigrant who had built an empire in the Mohawk Valley through his dealings with the Indians. He immersed himself in the Indian culture and as a result of this he was ultimately adopted into the Mohawk Nation. Johnson eventually became Superintendent of Indian Affairs for a majority of the 13 Colonies and Canada. Throughout his life he was a trusted friend, mediator, and advisor to the Six Nations.The English/Six Nations alliance helped to facilitate the building of Fort Stanwix in 1758 on traditional Oneida land. As British allies, the Confederacy gave a measure of safety to English frontier settlements in New York and aided the British on many of their expeditions against the French, which ultimately led to English victory over the French.

The peace that came with the end of the French and Indian war was short lived however, as colonists pushed further into Indian lands. In an effort to stem further bloodshed, English Colonial, and Six Nations leaders met at Fort Stanwix in 1768 to establish firm boundary lines. This "Boundary Line Treaty" signed between England and the Six Nations (who were also signing for the Shawnee, Delewares, Mingoes, and others both with and without their consent), established a firm line between Indian and European lands. In the end however, the treaty did very little to stop the flood of settlement into Indian lands.

The coming of the war between England and her colonies brought new problems and concerns to the Six Nation Confederacy. They did not fully understand why the English were quarreling with one another, and had no desire to be drawn into what they perceived as a civil war. Early in the revolution, Oneida leaders sent a message to the governor of New York stating: "We are unwilling to join either side of such a contest, for we love you both, Old England and New. Should the Great King of England apply us for aid, we should deny him - and should the colonies apply, we shall refuse. We Indians cannot find or recollect from the traditions of our ancestors any like case."

This neutral course could not be maintained for long however, as pressure increased from both England and the 13 States. The English particularly were insistent that the Confederacy fulfill its obligations as allies of England. In the end, the civil war aspects of the American Revolution spilled over into the Six Nations. Unable to agree on a unified course of action, the Confederacy split, with not only nation fighting nation, but individuals within each nation taking different sides. Due to the old alliances and a belief that they stood a better chance of keeping their lands under the English, the majority of the nations supported England in some form or another. Only the Oneida and Tuscarora gave major support to the Americans.

The Confederacy members supporting the English, such as Joseph and Molly Brant, helped their allies launch numerous devastating raids throughout the war on the frontier settlements of New York and Pennsylvania. The Oneida and Tuscarora gave valuable service to the Americans as scouts and guides, and even supplied men to the Continental Army for a short time. Both sides raided and destroyed each other's villages.

The Treaty of Paris bought the war to an end in 1783. In this treaty however, neither the English nor the Americans had made provisions for their Six Nations allies. The Confederacy was forced to sign a separate treaty with the United States in 1784. This treaty was negotiated and signed at the ruinous Fort Stanwix, and resulted in the English allied Confederacy members giving up significant amounts of their traditional lands in the end it was no more binding than the 1768 treaty had been. The Oneida and Tuscarora would receive little way in compensation for their support of the United States.

The end of the Revolutionary War brought peace, but no victory, to the Haudenosaunee of either side. The war left their confederacy and culture shattered, and their lands and villages devastated and destroyed. While time and fortune has helped, many wounds from that time have yet to heal.

How the US Civil War Divided Indian Nations - HISTORY

The Seminole, like their Five Civilized Tribes brethren, were victims of a calculated purge of Native Americans throughout the United States in the 19th Century. Through coercion, deceit, and ultimately force, the U.S. Government relocated Southeastern tribes west of the Mississippi River. While many were forced on arduous and ignoble marches to their new lands, the Seminole withdrew into the Florida Everglades and resisted relocation through three great Seminole Wars.

Lasting over a decade, these engagements were the longest, costliest, and most bitter wars of removal fought by the U. S. government. In the aftermath, less than three thousand Seminoles were removed to the Indian Territory, while some three hundred were left in the swamps of central Florida.

Upon arrival in the Indian Territory, however, self-determination would be denied them as they were confined to the Creek Nation and its laws. Only after a decade of struggle and the political upheaval of the Civil War was the tribe able to form a sovereign Seminole nation in 1866 with Wewoka as its chosen capital.

Seminoles: A People Who Never Surrendered

The Seminole are classified among the Muskogean peoples, a group of remnant tribes having joined in forming this division in Florida during the border wars between the Spanish and the English colonists on the Florida-Carolina frontier in the 18th century. The name Seminole, first applied to the tribe about 1778, is from the Creek word 'semino le', meaning 'runaway,' meaning emigrants who left the main body and settled elsewhere.

In 1817, with the accusation that the Seminole were harboring runaway slaves, Andrew Jackson commanded nearly 3,000 troops to attack and burn the town of Mikasuki, starting the first Seminole War. Shortly thereafter, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S., bringing the Seminole under U.S. jurisdiction. A treaty later provided the tribe with a reserved tract east of Tampa Bay.

In 1832, the Payne's Landing Treaty took away all Florida land claims from the tribe, and provided for removal to Indian Territory. Ratification of that treaty in 1834 allowed the Seminole three years before the removal was to take place. But under the U.S. government's interpretation, 1835 (not 1837) ended the three year period prior to removal. The Seminole disagreed, and their bitter opposition resulted in the second, or Great Seminole War. Among the worst chapters in the history of Indian Removal, the war lasted almost seven years and cost thousands of lives. It finally ended in 1842 with the agreement that several hundred members of the tribe could remain in Florida. They stayed in the Florida swamps but never surrendered. Their descendants are the Seminole in Florida today.

No people have fought with more determination to retain their native soil, nor sacrificed so much to uphold the justice of their claims. Removal of the tribe from Florida to the Canadian Valley was the bitterest and most costly of all Indian removals.

As tribal leaders surrendered during the war, their followers immigrated to the Indian Territory under military escort. The first were led by Chief Holahti Emathla in the summer of 1836. His party, who had lost many of their number by death during the two month journey, located north of the Canadian River, in present Hughes County. Their settlement was known by the name of their influential leader, Black Dirt (Fukeluste Harjo).

In June, soon after the arrival of Chief Mikanopy at Fort Gibson, council was held with the Creek of the Lower Towns. When the matter of location of the Seminole was discussed, Chief Mikanopy and the Seminole leaders refused to settle in any part of the Creek Nation other than the tract assigned them under the treaty of 1833. A treaty signed by the U.S., and delegations of the Seminole and Creek Nations in 1845 paved the way for adjustment of the trouble that had arisen between the two tribes. The Seminole could settle anywhere in the Creek country, they could have their own town government, but under the general laws of the Creek Nation.

By 1849 the Seminole settlements were located in the valley of the Deep Fork south to the Canadian in what is now the western part of Okfuskee and Hughes counties, and neighboring parts of Seminole County. The revered Chief Mikanopy, who represented the ancient Oconee, died in 1849. He was succeeded by his nephew, Jim Jumper, who was soon succeeded by John Jumper, who came to Indian Territory as a prisoner of war. He became one of the great men in Seminole history and ruled as chief until 1877, when he then resigned to devote all his time to his church. Wild Cat, the principal advisor to Chief Mikanopy during his last years, never accepted being under the rule of the Creek Nation. Although his views won out in the end under the Treaty of 1856 , he made no profit from it, because six years earlier he left the Indian Territory to start a Seminole colony in Mexico.

By 1868, the refugee tribal bands were finally able to settle in the area that is known as the Seminole Nation. For the first time in 75 years they had a chance of establishing tribal solidarity. Their council house was built at Wewoka, designated capital of the Seminole Nation.

When the Seminole people made their last settlement in Indian Territory, eight tribal square grounds were established in different parts of the nation where the old ceremonials, dances and ball games were held. Two of these square grounds were known as Tallahasutci or (Tallahasse) and Thliwathli or (Therwarthle). There is still a loose organization of the twelve Seminole "towns" or "bands" that were organized for political and geographical reasons in re-establishing the tribal government that had formerly existed in Florida.

The Oklahoma Constitutional Convention divided all of Indian Territory into 40 counties, no county being exactly as the
pre-statehood Indian Nation, county or district with the exception of the Seminole Nation. It remains as Seminole County today.
The Seminole Nation is indeed alive and vibrant with its tribal culture, language, churches, and its art.

Native Americans in the Civil War

Photography: Artist Robert Lindneux commemorated the tragic Sand Creek Massacre, when Union soldiers attacked a peaceful Indian camp in Colorado/History Colorado (Scan #20020087)

In the midst of a war fought on land that once was theirs, over a nation that denied them citizenship, Native Americans found themselves faced with a dubious decision: Whose side should they be fighting for?

In 1861 it seemed that America was coming apart. Secession, Confederate nationhood, the firing on Fort Sumter, and a mesmeric rush to combat engulfed the nation. The realities of the crisis differed for everyone as individuals examined family, community, state, and national allegiances. One hundred and fifty years after the cataclysm of the American Civil War, we still tend to think of it in terms of black-and-white: the majority white soldiers and civilians, the minority African-American slaves. But what of the indigenous peoples of America?

For many American Indians, the impending conflict created no less of a crisis than it did for the dominant society. But their experience would be primarily defined by their location in the country. Geography was everything. As the tide of non-Indian settlement swept from East to West, indigenous people became minorities within settled regions. They remained Native, but adapted various political, economic, and cultural aspects of their lives to better coexist with their new neighbors. By the time the Civil War started, Indians in settled regions experienced the conflict as members of larger communities whose movements they did not control. Indians living on the edge of incorporated states were better able to retain tribal autonomy, yet they were still strongly influenced by national and state political discourse. Those groups well beyond the white frontier in “Indian Country,” however, generally lived with little concern for U.S. politics.

As the nation became consumed by war, few Anglos on either side of the Great Divide considered the Native Americans living among them. East of the Mississippi, tribal lands had been so diminished that most of the 30,000 Indians in the Union did not live in powerful tribal units. Thus, as the country headed for dissolution, Eastern Indians were left to make individual choices about whether or not to engage in the conflict. The Indian minority was concerned less about the divisive issues of slavery and the preservation of the American Constitution than about their ongoing struggle to hold on to their remaining land and culture. If fighting for the Union cause brought the respect and perhaps gratitude of those in power, then it was a means to an end. Army service also brought regular pay and food, adventure, and the continuation of an honorable tradition of Native warriors.

Photography: Although there are thousands of tintype images of Confederate and Union soldiers, few images remain of the many Native Americans who fought on both sides of the Civil War. The identity of this Union soldier is unknown. Courtesy Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield/National Park Service

Indians all over the North took up arms for the Union cause. Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters enlisted more than 150 Ottawa, Chippewa, Delaware, Huron, Oneida, and Potawatomi Indians. Sharpshooters received extra training, enjoyed high morale, and used their Sharps breechloaders to devastating effect. But they also experienced discrimination. Fellow soldiers often made uncomplimentary remarks, generally sticking to well-worn stereotypes of “desperate” or drunken men. Yet the Indian sharpshooters proved themselves time and time again in the grueling Virginia battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. After the ill-fated Battle of the Crater during the seige of Petersburg, survivors recounted how a group of mortally wounded Indian soldiers chanted a traditional death song before finally succumbing, inspiring others with their valor.

Native Americans living on the ever-shifting Western frontier confronted a different situation. Most Indian nations on the periphery of the organized states sought to avoid involvement in national issues that did not seem to affect their lives. However, neutrality was not an option for those in strategic locations. Indeed, recently settled areas just west of the Mississippi would bear the full brunt of the conflict. Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) lay directly between Confederate and Union territory. Both the United States and the Confederacy eventually realized that this important buffer area between Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas would play a critical role in the war. But before the national governments organized diplomatic missions, citizens in states adjoining Indian Territory clamored for Indian involvement. They were determined to recruit the thousands of Native people on their borders for their side in the war. Arkansas offered weapons, while Texas readied men to occupy former federal forts. The Native nations found themselves facing mounting pressure to take sides.

Photography: This flag was carried by Brig. Gen. Stand Watie’s 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles the white stars represent the 11 Confederate states, while the red stars represent the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole). Courtesy Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield/National Park Service

The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations could still be considered newcomers in Indian Territory in 1861, having arrived there at the end of the arduous journey known to history as Indian Removal two decades before. They were still putting their societies back together when the war came. Native leaders consumed with economic progress, political infighting, and societal disarray now had to choose sides in the conflict dividing the larger nation. The choice was not an easy one as the federal government provided the annuities owed to the nations for surrendering land in the East, while tribal members had strong economic, social, and religious ties to the surrounding Southern culture.

Each of the five southeastern Indian nations decided independently which side to support, and each chose the Confederacy. The United States’ complete disengagement with the region and the Confederacy’s proactive diplomatic overtures helped to sway the Indian leaders. The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations all signed treaties of alliance with the Confederate States of America in 1861. Official lines were drawn, but the outcome was far from simple.

Native soldiers were mustered into Confederate units comprised of their own members — including officers, a privilege the Union never afforded to either Indians or African-Americans in its service. At least one of the Indian officers, Cherokee Brig. Gen. Stand Watie, rose to prominence and is remembered as the highest-ranking Indian in the Confederate army.

Photography: (FROM LEFT) Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters was primarily made up of Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi Indians. Seven members of Company K died as POWs at Georgia’s notorious Andersonville prison. Library of Congress

Military service quickly became complicated for the Cherokees as they were ordered to attack neighboring Creeks loyal to the Union. This demand, which ran counter to ideas of Native kinship and values, caused unrest among Cherokee troops, and many left Confederate service. Soon their chief, John Ross, took advantage of the belated arrival of Union support in the territory and pledged his allegiance to the United States for the remainder of the war. The Cherokees were now sending men to don both blue and gray, causing an internal civil war within their nation.

The loyal Creeks suffered terribly as refugees in Kansas territory, awaiting federal support to allow them to return home unmolested by their Confederate kin. Seminoles, too, were split by mid-war and fought for both sides. However, the Choctaw and Chickasaw entered the war more united politically. Because they were heavily engaged in a slave-based, cash crop market economy, these two nations decided for Southern allegiance and remained committed.

Fighting raged in Indian Territory for most of the war. Regular troops from both armies, as well as countless guerrillas and raiders, swept back and forth through the region. Except for a few notable battles, like Honey Springs in July 1863, most of the fighting was characterized by skirmishes and raids. These small but destructive engagements took a terrible toll on soldiers and civilians. Homes and businesses burned, farmland lay fallow, mills ceased operation, livestock disappeared. Poverty, disease, and dislocation threatened to destroy Native society. The region suffered both military engagements and enemy occupation unlike any area of the Union and most of the Confederacy.

Photography: Gen. Brig. Stand Watie was the highest-ranking Indian in the Confederate army. Research Division Oklahoma Historical Society

As the federal government became consumed with war, Indian relations fell off the radar screen in Washington. But on the Western fringe, the drumbeat of nationalism combined with the lack of federal oversight created a perfect storm for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

In 1862, Colorado was still a territory with a new and ambitious governor, John Evans. A railroad and real estate investor, Evans presided over a territory facing increasing tensions between white settlers and Plains Indian tribes. Evans began to fear that the tribes were uniting and amassing arms as troops were being pulled out of Colorado to fight in the Civil War, so in the summer of 1864 he obtained authorization from President Lincoln to temporarily form the 3rd Colorado Infantry for the sole purpose of fighting “hostile” Indians.

Commanded by Methodist minister Col. John Chivington, the 3rd Colorado found itself with no one to fight after chiefs Black Kettle and White Antelope met with Evans and Chivington in Denver and accepted the governor’s entreaty to make peace. The chiefs agreed to bring any Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians who didn’t want to fight to Fort Lyon for protection, where they camped nearby alongside Big Sandy Creek.

But when Evans left for Washington to personally advocate for statehood, Chivington created his own conflict. On November 29, 1864, Chivington led his men in a surprise attack on the encampment of 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. This was an Indian village — not a raiding party — and at daybreak the still sleepy community was entirely unprepared for attack.

Surviving witnesses described the morning as a frenzied bloodlust of torture and killing. Seven hundred troops of the 1st and 3rd Colorado Cavalries committed atrocities upon 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho, most of whom were unarmed women and children, leaving 160 to 200 dead and many more raped and severely injured. Congressional investigations into the Sand Creek Massacre revealed that Chivington launched the gruesome attack without authorization and found that he should be removed from office and punished, but no charges were ever brought. In response, many Cheyenne and Arapaho joined the militaristic Dog Soldiers, seeking revenge on settlers throughout the southern Plains.

For many Native Americans, the irony of the Civil War was that they were inexorably involved, whether they chose to take sides or not. The repercussions of the enormous conflict entangled Native peoples living both within and without the borders of the Union and Confederate states. Not desired as participants at the start, their value as recruits grew as the war dragged on, as more and more white men died. By the end, a Native American — Ely S. Parker — would stand side by side with Ulysses S. Grant for the signing of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House, forever immortalized in that historic moment. But military involvement, whether sought or forced, did not substantially benefit Native peoples. Instead, the war of brother against brother, tribe against tribe, would cost them a great deal.

Dr. Clarissa W. Confer is an assistant professor of history at California University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007) and Daily Life During the Indian Wars (Greenwood, 2010).

How the US Civil War Divided Indian Nations - HISTORY

Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory

Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory Map

Oklahoma and Indian Territory Map

Oklahoma Territory was an organized territory of the United States from May 2, 1890, until November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state. It consisted of the western area of what is now the State of Oklahoma . The eastern area consisted of the last remnant of Indian Territory . The Indian Territory, also known as The Indian Country, The Indian territory or the Indian territories, was land set aside within the United States for the use of Native Americans. The general borders were set by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834. The Indian Territory was gradually reduced to what is now Oklahoma then, with the organization of Oklahoma Territory in 1890, to just the eastern half of the area. The citizens of Indian Territory tried, in 1905, to gain admission to the union as the State of Sequoyah , but were rebuffed by Congress and Administration who did not want two new Western states, Sequoyah and Oklahoma . Citizens then joined to seek admission of a single state to the Union . With Oklahoma statehood in November 1907, Indian Territory was extinguished. Many Native Americans continue to live in Oklahoma , especially in the eastern part.

Map of the Oklahoma and Indian Territory

Oklahoma and Indian Territories, 1890s

The greatest impetus for Oklahoma statehood began after the Land Run of 1889. Approximately fifty thousand non-Indian settlers made the run on April 22, 1889, into the Unassigned Lands (Oklahoma District). They began immediately to clamor for statehood in order to gain representation in Congress. The Organic Act of 1890 established a territorial government for Oklahoma Territory and defined the boundaries of Oklahoma Territory (O.T.) and Indian Territory (I.T.) comprising present Oklahoma . The law also called for the election of a non-voting delegate from O.T. to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Map of Native Americans

Map of Native American Tribes

Before the passage of the Oklahoma Enabling Act (1906), four statehood plans evolved. They included single statehood, double statehood, piecemeal absorption, and admission of O.T. to the Union without regard to I.T. Single statehood involved the joining of the two territories, whereas double statehood meant separate statehood for each territory. Numerous statehood conventions were held in O.T. and I.T. from 1891 to 1905.

Of significance was the meeting called in 1903 at Shawnee , when delegates formed the Single Statehood Executive Committee and elected Charles G. Jones of Oklahoma City as chair. This group lobbied for three years until the Enabling Act was passed in 1906. At the first statehood convention, held in Oklahoma City on December 15, 1891, delegates favored single statehood and wrote a memorial to Congress.

Consequently, in 1892 David A. Harvey, the first territorial delegate, submitted the memorial and introduced an unsuccessful bill in Congress calling for single statehood. Among those who favored the bill were Oklahoma City 's Sidney Clarke of Oklahoma City and Guthrie's Horace Speed and William P. Hackney. Opposing the bill were Elias C. Boudinot (Cherokee), Roley McIntosh and Albert P. McKellop (Creek), and J. S. Standley (Choctaw). In 1902 delegate Dennis T. Flynn advocated a piecemeal absorption approach, asking for immediate statehood for O.T., with individual Indian nations in I.T. added to the state as they became ready for statehood.

The driving forces of politics and economics created an ever-changing situation and caused individuals to waver in their support of the different statehood plans. For example, Sidney Clarke initially favored single statehood but later supported statehood for O.T. with I.T. added at a future date. At the national level, opposition arose in Congress from eastern representatives who were concerned that the admission of O.T. would overturn their supremacy by increasing the number of western states. Southern Democratic representatives worried that O.T. would enter the Union with a strong Republican following. Others argued that the land area of O.T. was too small to be considered a state and that its resources of agriculture and cattle raising were too limited. Also, there would be no tax base to support a state government for five years, because homesteaders were required to live on their claims for five years before receiving title to the land. Therefore, no taxes could be generated until 1894. In addition, allotments to American Indians in O.T. were held in trust by the federal government for twenty-one years and were exempt from taxes.

Map of Native American Tribes

Native American Tribes' Map

(Map) Plains Indians at time of European contact

Oklahoma and Indian Territory Map

Generally, American Indians opposed federal attempts to organize them as a territory or a state. They wanted to retain their tribal governments and to continue their communal land ownership. Prior to the agitation for statehood in the 1890s, events in I.T. caused distress among the Five Civilized Tribes . As early as 1854 Arkansas Sen. Robert W. Johnson introduced a bill calling for the division of the Five Civilized Tribes's domain into three territories, allotting land in severalty to the American Indians, and selling surplus lands to non-Indian settlers. Later the three territories would be joined to form the state of Neosho . In the 1860s the federal government initiated steps toward governing the American Indians. Because some members of the Five Civilized Tribes supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, the tribes were required to sign new treaties with the United States after the war. The Reconstruction Treaties of 1866 and federal Indian policy envisioned the formation of an Indian territorial government. To thwart this, representatives of the I.T. nations met at Okmulgee , Creek Nation, in 1870 and drafted the Okmulgee Constitution, which provided for an elected governor, a bicameral legislature, and a court system. Although the document was not ratified by I.T. voters, the event gave American Indian leaders experience that they applied during the future Sequoyah Convention.

As whites continued to move into I.T., their numbers increased from 110,254 in 1890 to 302,680 in 1900. They outnumbered American Indians by a ratio of 3 to 1 in 1890 and a ratio of 6 to 1 in 1900. While the Five Civilized Tribes retained their sovereignty, whites could not own land or vote. Whites complained of an inadequate justice system. Generally, no education for their children was available other than through subscription schools. Whites continued to follow party politics and attended national conventions, because they believed that I.T. would soon become a state. With statehood, a number of political offices would be offered to prominent party leaders.

Map of the American Regions and Areas

American Indians inhabited North America prior to European contact

As agitation for statehood continued in the 1890s, American Indian leaders and whites in Indian Territory (I.T .) favored double statehood. Indian leaders feared that if I. T. were added to O. T. to form one state, they would be outmaneuvered by the dominant political power in O.T. However, business owners in I.T. opposed double statehood, because they believed they would receive the brunt of the tax burden, as American Indian land allotments would not be taxed for twenty-one years. When it became apparent that double statehood would not occur, whites clamored for the joining of the two territories to form a state.

Several events in the 1890s brought I. T. closer to statehood. In 1893 the Indian Appropriation Bill called for the Dawes Commission to meet with the Five Civilized Tribes to start the allotment process. Through the Atoka Agreement, ratified in 1897, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations agreed to take their lands in severalty. In 1898 Congress passed the Curtis Act, which called for the abolishment of tribal governments on March 6, 1906. Realizing that their governments would soon be defunct, leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes convened the Sequoyah Convention in August 1905 in Muskogee to write a constitution and to write a memorial to Congress for separate statehood for I.T .

Great Plains Tribes

Native American Plains Indians

(Left) Map of the Great Plains

The Sequoyah Convention constitution was not acknowledged by the U.S. Congress, due to party politics. Indian Territory was bordered by two southern Democratic states, Arkansas to the east and Texas to the south. Consequently, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, and the Republican-controlled Congress wanted joint statehood to eliminate the possibility of I.T. joining the Union as a Democratic state. On June 16, 1906, President Roosevelt signed the Oklahoma Enabling Act, which provided for the writing of a constitution for a state to be formed from the merging of Indian and Oklahoma territories.

Plains Indians are usually divided into two broad classifications which overlap to some degree:

The first group of Plains Indians was fully nomadic, following the vast herds of buffalo. Some tribes occasionally engaged in agriculture growing tobacco and corn primarily. These included the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Cheyenne , Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Sarsi, Shoshone, Stoney, and Tonkawa.

The second group of Plains Indians (sometimes referred to as Prairie Indians) was the semi-sedentary tribes who, in addition to hunting buffalo, lived in villages and raised crops. These included the Arikara, Hidatsa, Iowa , Kaw (or Kansa), Kitsai, Mandan , Missouria, Omaha , Osage, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca, Quapaw, Santee, Wichita , and Yankton.

(Sources listed at bottom of page.)

Recommended Viewing: 500 Nations (372 minutes). Description: 500 Nations is an eight-part documentary (more than 6 hours and that's not including its interactive CD-ROM filled with extra features) that explores the history of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America, from pre-Colombian times through the period of European contact and colonization, to the end of the 19th century and the subjugation of the Plains Indians of North America. 500 Nations utilizes historical texts, eyewitness accounts, pictorial sources and computer graphic reconstructions to explore the magnificent civilizations which flourished prior to contact with Western civilization, and to tell the dramatic and tragic story of the Native American nations' desperate attempts to retain their way of life against overwhelming odds. Continued below.

How the Civil War Became the Indian Wars

Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.

On Dec. 21, 1866, a year and a half after Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ostensibly closed the book on the Civil War’s final chapter at Appomattox Court House, another soldier, Capt. William Fetterman, led cavalrymen from Fort Phil Kearny, a federal outpost in Wyoming, toward the base of the Big Horn range. The men planned to attack Indians who had reportedly been menacing local settlers. Instead, a group of Arapahos, Cheyennes and Lakotas, including a warrior named Crazy Horse, killed Fetterman and 80 of his men. It was the Army’s worst defeat on the Plains to date. The Civil War was over, but the Indian wars were just beginning.

These two conflicts, long segregated in history and memory, were in fact intertwined. They both grew out of the process of establishing an American empire in the West. In 1860, competing visions of expansion transformed the presidential election into a referendum. Members of the Republican Party hearkened back to Jefferson’s dream of an 𠇎mpire for liberty.” The United States, they said, should move west, leaving slavery behind. This free soil platform stood opposite the splintered Democrats’ insistence that slavery, unfettered by federal regulations, should be allowed to root itself in new soil. After Abraham Lincoln’s narrow victory, Southern states seceded, taking their congressional delegations with them.

Never ones to let a serious crisis go to waste, leading Republicans seized the ensuing constitutional crisis as an opportunity to remake the nation’s political economy and geography. In the summer of 1862, as Lincoln mulled over the Emancipation Proclamation’s details, officials in his administration created the Department of Agriculture, while Congress passed the Morrill Land Grant Act, the Pacific Railroad Act and the Homestead Act. As a result, federal authorities could offer citizens a deal: Enlist to fight for Lincoln and liberty, and receive, as fair recompense for their patriotic sacrifices, higher education and Western land connected by rail to markets. It seemed possible that liberty and empire might advance in lock step.

But later that summer, Lincoln dispatched Gen. John Pope, who was defeated by Lee at the Second Battle of Bull Run, to smash an uprising among the Dakota Sioux in Minnesota. The result was the largest mass execution in the nation’s history: 38 Dakotas were hanged the day after Christmas 1862. A year later, Kit Carson, who had found glory at the Battle of Valverde, prosecuted a scorched-earth campaign against the Navajos, culminating in 1864 with the Long Walk, in which Navajos endured a 300-mile forced march from Arizona to a reservation in New Mexico.

That same year, Col. John Chivington, who turned back Confederates in the Southwest at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, attacked a peaceful camp of Cheyennes and Arapahos at Sand Creek in Colorado. Chivington’s troops slaughtered more than 150 Indians. A vast majority were women, children or the elderly. Through the streets of Denver, the soldiers paraded their grim trophies from the killing field: scalps and genitalia.

In the years after the Civil War, federal officials contemplated the problem of demilitarization. Over one million Union soldiers had to be mustered out or redeployed. Thousands of troops remained in the South to support Reconstruction. Thousands more were sent West. Set against that backdrop, the project of continental expansion fostered sectional reconciliation. Northerners and Southerners agreed on little at the time except that the Army should pacify Western tribes. Even as they fought over the proper role for the federal government, the rights of the states, and the prerogatives of citizenship, many Americans found rare common ground on the subject of Manifest Destiny.

Disunion Highlights

Explore multimedia from the series and navigate through past posts, as well as photos and articles from the Times archive.

During the era of Reconstruction, many American soldiers, whether they had fought for the Union or the Confederacy, redeployed to the frontier. They became shock troops of empire. The federal project of demilitarization, paradoxically, accelerated the conquest and colonization of the West.

The Fetterman Fight exploded out of this context. In the wake of the Sand Creek Massacre, Cheyennes, Arapahos and various Sioux peoples forged an alliance, hoping to stem the tide of settlers surging across the Plains. Officials in Washington sensed a threat to their imperial ambitions. They sent Maj. Gen. Grenville Dodge, who had commanded a corps during William Tecumseh Sherman’s pivotal Atlanta campaign, to win what soon became known as Red Cloud’s War. After another year of gruesome and ineffectual fighting, federal and tribal negotiators signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie, guaranteeing the Lakotas the Black Hills “in perpetuity” and pledging that settlers would stay out of the Powder River Country.

The Indian wars of the Reconstruction era devastated not just Native American nations but also the United States. When the Civil War ended, many Northerners embraced their government, which had, after all, proved its worth by preserving the Union and helping to free the slaves. For a moment, it seemed that the federal government could accomplish great things. But in the West, Native Americans would not simply vanish, fated by racial destiny to drown in the flood tide of civilization.

Red Cloud’s War, then, undermined a utopian moment and blurred the Republican Party’s vision for expansion, but at least the Grant administration had a plan. After he took office in 1869, President Grant promised that he would pursue a “peace policy” to put an end to violence in the West, opening the region to settlers. By feeding rather than fighting Indians, federal authorities would avoid further bloodshed with the nation’s indigenous peoples. The process of civilizing and acculturating Native nations into the United States could begin.

This plan soon unraveled. In 1872, Captain Jack, a Modoc headman, led approximately 150 of his people into the lava beds south of Tule Lake, near the Oregon-California border. The Modocs were irate because federal officials refused to protect them from local settlers and neighboring tribes. Panic gripped the region. General Sherman, by then elevated to command of the entire Army, responded by sending Maj. Gen. Edward Canby to pacify the Modocs. A decade earlier, Canby had devised the original plan for the Navajos’ Long Walk, and then later had helped to quell the New York City Draft Riots. Sherman was confident that his subordinate could handle the task at hand: negotiating a settlement with a ragtag band of frontier savages.

But on April 11, 1873, Good Friday, after months of bloody skirmishes and failed negotiations, the Modoc War, which to that point had been a local problem, became a national tragedy. When Captain Jack and his men killed Canby – the only general to die during the Indian wars – and another peace commissioner, the violence shocked observers around the United States and the world. Sherman and Grant called for the Modoc’s “utter extermination.” The fighting ended only when soldiers captured, tried, and executed Captain Jack and several of his followers later that year. Soon after, the Army loaded the surviving Modocs onto cattle cars and shipped them off to a reservation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

President Grant’s Peace Policy perished in the Modoc War. The horror of that conflict, and the Indian wars more broadly, coupled with an endless array of political scandals and violence in the states of the former Confederacy – including the brutal murder, on Easter Sunday 1873 in Colfax, La., of at least 60 African-Americans – diminished support for the Grant administration’s initiatives in the South and the West.

The following year, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer claimed that an expedition he led had discovered gold in the Black Hills – territory supposedly safeguarded for the Lakotas by the Fort Laramie Treaty. News of potential riches spread around the country. Another torrent of settlers rushed westward. Hoping to preserve land sacred to their people, tribal leaders, including Red Cloud, met with Grant. He offered them a new reservation. “If it is such a good country,” one of the chiefs replied, “you ought to send the white men now in our country there and leave us alone.” Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and other warriors began attacking settlers. Troops marched toward what would be called the Great Sioux War.

Early in 1876, Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan, the Army’s commander on the Plains, insisted that all Indians in the region must return to their reservations. The Lakotas and Northern Cheyennes refused. That summer, as the nation celebrated its centennial, the allied tribes won two victories in Montana: first at the Rosebud and then at the Little Bighorn. The Army sent reinforcements. Congress abrogated the Lakotas’ claims to land outside their reservation. The bloodshed continued until the spring of 1877, when the tribal coalition crumbled. Sitting Bull fled to Canada. Crazy Horse surrendered and died in federal custody.

The final act of this drama opened in 1876. When federal officials tried to remove the Nez Perce from the Pacific Northwest to Idaho, hundreds of Indians began following a leader named Chief Joseph, who vowed to fight efforts to dispossess his people. Sherman sent Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, formerly head of the Freedmen’s Bureau, to quiet the brewing insurgency. As Howard traveled west, the 1876 election remained undecided. The Democrat Samuel Tilden had outpolled the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes by nearly 300,000 votes. But both men had fallen short in the Electoral College. Congress appointed a commission to adjudicate the result. In the end, that body awarded the Oval Office to Hayes. Apparently making good on a deal struck with leading Democrats, Hayes then withdrew federal troops from the South, scuttling Reconstruction.

Less than two months after Hayes’s inauguration, Howard warned the Nez Perce that they had 30 days to return to their reservation. Instead of complying, the Indians fled, eventually covering more than 1,100 miles of the Northwest’s forbidding terrain. Later that summer, Col. Nelson Miles, a decorated veteran of Antietam, the Peninsula Campaign and the Appomattox Campaign, arrived to reinforce Howard. Trapped, Chief Joseph surrendered on Oct. 5, 1877. He reportedly said: “I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, collective memory casts that conflict as a war of liberation, entirely distinct from the Indian wars. President Lincoln died, schoolchildren throughout the United States learn, so that the nation might live again, resurrected and redeemed for having freed the South’s slaves. And though Reconstruction is typically recalled in the popular imagination as both more convoluted and contested – whether thwarted by intransigent Southerners, doomed to fail by incompetent and overweening federal officials, or perhaps some combination of the two – it was well intended nevertheless, an effort to make good on the nation’s commitment to freedom and equality.

But this is only part of the story. The Civil War emerged out of struggles between the North and South over how best to settle the West – struggles, in short, over who would shape an emerging American empire. Reconstruction in the West then devolved into a series of conflicts with Native Americans. And so, while the Civil War and its aftermath boasted moments of redemption and days of jubilee, the era also featured episodes of subjugation and dispossession, patterns that would repeat themselves in the coming years. When Chief Joseph surrendered, the United States secured its empire in the West. The Indian wars were over, but an era of American imperialism was just beginning.

Boyd Cothran is an assistant professor of United States Indigenous and cultural history at York University in Toronto and the author of “Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence.” Ari Kelman is the McCabe-Greer Professor of the Civil War Era at Penn State and the author of 𠇊 Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek,” which won the Bancroft Prize in 2014, and, with Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, �ttle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War.” Cothran and Kelman are both writing books about the relationship between Reconstruction and Native American history.

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