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This article is published with the kind permission of the author.

In 1811, rumors of difficulties with England disturbed the Tombigbee settlement, which is located just north of Mobile, Alabama. Occupying as they did a central position between the English, Spanish, and French colonies, the favor of the Creeks was a matter of concern to these nations, and they played a more important part than any other American Indians in the colonial history of the Gulf region.

For a considerable period, they (Creeks) were allied with the English, and they were largely instrumental in destroying the former Indian inhabitants of Florida and breaking up the missions which had been established there. Finding the territory thus vacated very agreeable and one abounding in game, they presently began to settle in it permanently, particularly after it was ceded to Great Britain in 1763. The first of the true Muskogee to emigrate to Florida, except for a small band of Coweta, were some Eufaula Indians, and the Muskogee do not seem to have constituted the dominant element until after the Creek-American war, 1813-14.

In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the internal organization of the Confederacy was almost revolutionized by Alexander McGillivray, the son of a Scotch trader, who set up a virtual dictatorship and raised the Confederacy to a high position of influence by his skill in playing off one European nation against another. After his death, friction developed between the factions favorable to and those opposed to the Whites. Inspired by the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, a large part of the Upper Creeks broke out into open hostilities in 1813, but nearly all of the Lower Creeks and some of the most prominent Upper Creek towns refused to join with them and a large force from the Lower Creeks under William MacIntosh and Timpoochee Barnard, the Yuchi chief, actively aided the American army. This war was ended by Andrew Jackson's victory at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, March 27, 1814. One immediate result of this war was to double or triple the number of Seminole in Florida, owing to the multitude of Creeks whom wished to escape from their old country.

From this time on friction between the pro-White and anti-White Creek factions increased. When the United States Government attempted to end these troubles by inducing the Indians to emigrate, the friction increased still more and culminated in 1825 when the Georgia commissioners had induced William MacIntosh, leader of the pro-American faction, and some other chiefs to affix their signatures to a treaty ceding all that was then left of the Creek lands. For this act, formal sentence of death was passed upon MacIntosh, and he was shot by a band of Indians sent to his house for that purpose on May 1, 1825. However, the leaders of the Confederacy finally agreed to the removal, which took place between 1836 and 1840, the Lower Creeks settling in the upper part of their new lands and the Upper Creeks in the lower part. (1)

In 1813, U.S. Gen. James Wilkinson seized Mobile from the Spaniards. Creek Indians massacre colonists at Fort Mims. The Creeks were defeated by Gen. Andrew Jackson at the battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. In October 1816, an important treaty, the treaty of Fort Confederation, was signed at Gaines's outpost on the Tombigbee River. John McKee, the Choctaw agent, convened the conference at the trading house under the instruction of Secretary of War John C. Calhoun. John Rhea and John Coffee joined McKee as commissioners for the United States. Choctaws from three districts gathered to participate in the treaty conference. Pushmataha and Puckshenubbee were in attendance at the treaty signing.

The Choctaw agent John McKee (1771-1832) a native of Virginia, was appointed in 1792 by Governor William Blount (1749-1800) of the Southwest Territory to negotiate a boundary settlement with the Cherokee. He served as temporary agent to the Cherokee in 1794 and as Choctaw agent from 1799 until Silas Dinsmoor's appointment in 1802. McKee and Gaines negotiated a cessation agreement with the Choctaw in December 1815 to locate a new federal trading house near the site of the Old Spanish Fort Confederation. He replaced Dinsmoor in 1814 as Choctaw agent and resigned in 1821 to enter politics, serving three consecutive terms (1823-29) as U.S. congressman from the Tuscaloosa District. McKee's plantation, Hill of Hoath, was in present-day Boligee, Green County, Alabama. (2)

During the War of 1812, many of the Indians again sided with the British. Afterward, with the victorious United States secure in its borders, federal policy turned to one of removal of the Indians west of the Mississippi River--to the so-called Great American Desert, where, supposedly, no white man would ever want to live. To implement this policy, the Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830. It gave President Andrew Jackson, a dedicated foe of the Indians, the power to exchange land west of the Mississippi for the southeastern territory of the Five Civilized Tribes--the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles.

The 1820 Treaty of Doaks Stand "exchanged" 4,150,000 acres of the prime cotton-growing delta region of the Choctaw Nation for lands of questionable quality west of the Mississippi River, in the (then) new "Indian Territory".

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed near Macon, Mississippi, on September 27, 1830. The three district chiefs-Greenwood Leflore, Nitakechi, and Mushulatubbee-and 168 other Choctaw warriors of the Choctaw Nation put their "marks' on the treaty. Secretary of War John H. Eaton and John Coffee were the federal commissioners who negotiated with the Choctaws at this treaty. Under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Choctaw who chose to remain in Mississippi could claim individual allotments of 640 acres and an additional 320 acres for each child under age ten and 160 acres for dependent children over age ten. However, the Choctaw agent, William Ward, failed to register many of the land claims and turned away many legal claimants. (3)

Nitakechi (1780-1845), a nephew of Pushmataha and a member of the 1824 Choctaw delegation to Washington D.C., replaced John Garland in 1829 as chief of the Southern district. He signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 and led the Choctaw delegation that explored the new Choctaw lands west of the Mississippi River with Gaines in 1830-31. He emigrated west in 1832, and made his home at Horse Prairie southeast of present-day Hugo, Oklahoma. He was reelected chief of Pushmataha District, Indian Territory, until his death in 1845. (4)

By 1830 these tribes fate had been sealed by the well-known Indian hating president, Andrew Jackson. "Peaceably" or otherwise, their lands would be forfeited to the ever-increasing pressures of the land-hungry settlers. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, negotiated between the federal government and the Choctaw tribe, as with most treaties, was only a token formality. Under these terms, all of the lands remaining under the control of the Choctaw Nation, being 10,421,139 acres, would be exchanged for the same land in Indian Territory that the Choctaws already owned under the terms of the Treaty of Doaks Stand! The Choctaw Nation would receive title in fee simple to an area west of Arkansas Territory, lying between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers on the north and the Red River on the south.

The 14th article of the treaty provided for those Choctaw citizens who wished to remain and become citizens of the United States to be issued Choctaw Land Script. This would allow these people to purchase, at a reduced cost, any public land of the United States. Many of the Choctaws had been issued these transferable land scripts, and then returned to their home to prepare for their journey to the west. Had they even wanted to stay and use this script, it would be in a land that would become overrun with the white settlers. In addition, they had no money with which to purchase this land even at a reduced price. In fact, they would not receive their "final accounting" under the terms of the treaty for another 60 years! The script did serve a purpose, however. During the forced removal by agents of the government who were totally ill prepared as far as transportation and provisions for these Indians, many of the land certificates were exchanged to the greedy merchants along the way for a mere sack of corn to feed their starving children. Most of these certificates were bartered in Arkansas Territory, and were then resold to the white settlers then coming into the territory to purchase public lands in the newly opened regions. This would mean that the white settler could afford to purchase a larger amount of land at a price actually less than a smaller area would have cost them, had they not held the script. Unfortunately, since the release of the Arkansas land records on CD-Rom by the Bureau of Land Management, many people are confused into believing that their ancestors were Choctaw, simply because the ancestor used Choctaw Script to purchase land in that state, and the name of the Indian is listed in the records.

In an account published at that time the area between the old lands in Mississippi and the new lands that these people would be passing through to go to the west was described as including many vast and dangerous swamps, averaging fifty miles in width, heavy forests, unfordable streams, impenetrable swamps and dense cane breaks. The very few white settlements were scattered along the larger streams, which were the frontier's "highways" and used by keelboats bringing in supplies to these communities. During the times of high-water, the smaller steamboats could ascend the Arkansas River as far as Fort Smith, occasionally to Fort Gibson, and up the Ouachita as far as the present-day town of Camden Arkansas. Overland travel was difficult and only made over rough trails on horseback and with pack animals.

The great majority of the Choctaws were bitterly opposed to the sale of the tribal lands and the removal to the west. It was truthfully said that the nation "was literally in mourning". Small parties of Choctaws made their departure for the new country as early as November of 1830. These first parties pressed ahead to the Saline River in Arkansas where they stopped for five weeks to build a ferry for those who were to follow. After extreme suffering from hunger and exposure to severe winter weather during much of the 550-mile journey, the surviving ninety-two Choctaws arrived in an emaciated condition at the Kiamichi River in February of 1831. Here they settled into the shelter of the abandoned and partially burned old Fort Towson, to barely survive on a scant supply of corn. These small provisions had been brought many miles by packhorses by one of their missionaries, the Reverend Talley, who had preceded them to the western lands.

During the following several years other groups were brought from the Choctaw Nation, usually with the same disastrous consequence. One group of 4,000 Choctaws were scarcely in boats on the Mississippi River when a severe winter storm overtook them. This was the beginning of one of the worst blizzards ever experienced to that time. 2,500 Choctaws were huddled in the open near the Arkansas Post, some bare-footed, many without blankets, to suffer the fury of the storm. The next group of about 8,000 were exposed and contracted cholera in the waterfronts along the river, while awaiting their turn to board the boats, resulting in a heavy loss of lives. Another group of 300 Choctaws, being transported from the southern part of their nation and on a ferry crossing Lake Providence in Louisiana, were struck by a sudden storm, but it did not appear that any lives were lost. In total, it is estimated that 17,500 Choctaws emigrated to Indian Territory, with another 1,200 who remained in Mississippi.

The Choctaws not only endured the suffering from hunger and cold, the sickness and death in the removal to Indian Territory, but (as previously remarked) to collect the amounts adjudicated to them through the courts took over 60 years, and almost all of the money due to them under the terms of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. (5)