Wednesday, 29 July 2009

on the trail of tears: bribery and bones

This post continues the tragedy of the Trail of Tears - the forced relocation of five Indian nations to Oklahoma so their lands could be exploited by the US Government and it's citizens. What interests me is the differing attitudes to the tribes whose responses may inspire numerous game or story situations and the darker side of US national heroes like Andrew Jackson.

Chickasaw Purchase

Oddly, the Chickasaw nation weren't forcibly relocated. This may be due to their ongoing good relations with the US Government, with whom they allied against the Northwest Territories and the presence of the Colberts, a Chickasaw family born of a Scots trader who became influential in the tribe and in state Government. Yet even this amiable relationship would not save them.

The Government paid money for their lands east of the Mississippi and the Chickasaw moved voluntarily. Yet much of this money would remain unpaid for nearly 30 years and the fair share of it become forfeit as the Chickasaw sided with the Confederates during the Civil War; of those who remained, they sought other lands to the west.

3,001 Chickasaw moved to Oklahoma and 500 died of dysentery and smallpox along the way; on their arrival they sought to assimilate with the Choctaw. This was met with distrust aggravated by the purchase of formerly Choctaw land by the Chickasaw and in some cases violence; so that with further Chickasaw relocations, they eventually reformed their own nation.

Muskogee Migration
The Muskogee (or Creek) nation were not so favoured by the Government. In 1812, a Shawnee warrior called Tecumseh sparked off a fierce war which in two years cost the US Government $26 million. In 1814 Andrew Jackson demanded it in compensation from the Muskogee 'for listening to evil counsel' despite the aid of some tribes in the war against Tecumseh.

Despite overturning a treaty (something no other tribe managed) and dissent between military and federal government that almost led to civil war; the Muskogee were told to sell their land in lots and relocate or stay and submit to state laws. As white land speculators defrauded the Muskogee, unrest grew leading to war in 1836 when two tribes turned violent.

A significant military presence (inspired by fear of another Seminole war) ended the war quickly and forced relocation took place. Thousands of men, women and children were herded between internment camps from Fort Mitchell, Alabama to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. Many died on the route, enough that their bones littered the trail to the Indian Territories.

This post summarises heavily; a little digging into this era reveals a rich tapestry of events and shows a side of American history some may find uncomfortable. Again thanks to Rogue Games for Colonial Gothic, without which I wouldn't have enquired into this topic.

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