Sunday, April 24, 2016

Native American Biography: Cherokee and the Trail of Tears/Forced Removal to Indian Territory

The U.S. policy demanded that the Cherokee leave their homelands and move west to Indian Territory.  In making this move, the Cherokee fall into four categories: those who moved early, those who moved later but were part of signing their land away, those who resisted to the end, and those few who for whatever reason were able to stay in the East.
Those who moved early include John Chisolm, who managed trading posts along the route.  Another example would be Bowl, who moved East to stay ahead of White pursuit.  When he entered Texas it was part of Mexico, and he becamse an officer in the Mexican Army.  He was killed fighting the Texans.
Those who moved later, but were part of the Treaty of New Echota.  The primary signers of which were Elias Boudinot, John Ridge and Major Ridge.  This was despite the Cherokee having a blood law, saying if anyone sold Cherokee land without permission of the entire tribe, their life would be forfeit.
Elias Boudinot was a significant person in Eastern Cherokee life.  He married a prominent White woman, and his marriage was opposed by many.  They raised their children as Cherokee.  He edited a Cherokee newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix which was written in both English and Cherokee, using Sequoyah's syllabary.   With the passing of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 it appeared removal of the Cherokee was inevitable.  This act was sparked by discovery of gold in Georgia, and a desire for more land by the White settlers.  Boudinot and is family lived in Echota, and he signed the Treaty of Echota.  However John Ross the principal chief, and most of the Cherokee people were opposed to the treaty.  Never the less, the were removed to Indian Territory the next year.  Boudinot's wife died just before removal, and he traveled to Indian Territory with his six children.  However factions loyal to Ross murdered he and the other signers of the treaty in Oklahoma.  His children returned to his in-laws in Connecticut where they were raised and went to school.
His son Elias Cornelius Boudinot was young at the time of Cherokee removal.  However in the east he became a prominent lawyer and returned to Indian Territory.   Using his knowledge of the law, and the fact that on the Indian Territory there was no excise tax, he established the Boudinot Tobacco Company and became wealthy.  However the company was confiscated as the federal government for non payment of taxes.  Boudinot lost his appeal to the Supreme Court.   The ruling was that a new treaty of 1866 did not include tax immunity.  Boudinot also served in the Cvil War fighting for the Confederacy.  He was also a representative from the Indian Territory to the Confederate Government.
Major Ridge was the Uncle of Elias Bourdinot.  He was Cherokee, and attended school in Connecticut where he met his wife.  They raised their children as Cherokee.  Ridge fought in the War of 1812, and also fought with Andrew Jackson against the Red Sticks of the Creek.  He became a member of the ruling counsel and adopted White methods, owning a plantation with slaves.  He was quite wealthy.  He too signed the treaty of Echota, feeling Cherokee removal was inevitable.  He traveled to Oklahoma before the Trail of Tears, but was murdered after arriving there.
His son John Ridge was also a signer of the Treaty of Echota.  He like his father travelled to Connecticut to attend school, and married the schoolmaster's daughter.  The tribal laws where adjusted to allow their children to be part of the Cherokee Tribe.  He too was part of the ruling committee.  However in signing the Treaty of Echota he too signed his death sentence.  When the treat was used by the U.S. government to force the eviction of the Cherokee, a third of the nation passed away in the Trail of Tears.
Stand Watie was a brother to Elias Boudinot and cousin to John Ridge.  He too was among those to sign the Treaty of Echota.  Even though attempts were made upon his life, he was not murdered.  There was a general feud among the Cherokee Nation.  All of Watie's brothers were killed.  At one time he was accused and tried for murder.  He was defended by Elias Cornelius Boudinot and found not guilty for self defense.  Stand Watie served for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  He served as a general.  He was the last general to surrender.
Those who moved later as part of the Trail of Tears, but resisted were lead by John Ross.  Ross was leader of the Cherokee, and resisted all efforts for their removal.  He had helped write their constitution and became the first principal leader.  It was while he was in Washington negotiating withthem, the the Treaty of Echota took place.  Despite it being signed by a minority, despite a petition of 14,000 Cherokee against the treaty and despite all their efforts it was signed and ratified by Congress and signed by the president.  This gave them two years to prepare.  He was the leader during their forced removal known as the Trail of Tears.  They were given two years to prepare.  Of the 13,000 removed, at least 4000 died, including Ross' wife.  After arriving in Oklahoma, merging the three factions was difficulty.  Those who had moved to Indian Territory earlier did not want the newcomers, and those who signed the treaty vs those who resisted the signing carried a bloody feud.
Worse these two sides seemed to split on pro-Confederacy and pro-Union lines.  He went into exile during this time, as many of the pro-Union who stayed in Kansas.  Four of his sons fought for the  Union, and one died.  To the end he fought this schism, traveling to Washington to oppose splitting the reservation as proposed by the pro-Confederates.  Only after his death was a treaty keeping the reservation in tact approved.
John Adair would be another example of the group forced to move by Trail of Tears, although he was young at the time.

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