INDIAN TERRITORY HISTORY

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Indian Territory History.gif

In the late eighteenth century white settlers began migrating from the original thirteen colonies over the Appalachian Mountains and into the "West." Around the turn of the nineteenth century they slowly began to move into the eastern parts of the Northwest Territory, which had been established in 1787, and into parts of the Old Southwest, or Alabama, Mississippi, and western Kentucky and Tennessee. They viewed the Native peoples who resided there as an obstacle to be conquered or pushed further westward.

Original Territory: Native American Indian Tribes
Early Native American Indian Tribes.jpg
Indian Territory Map

The United States negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Although the boundaries remained undefined until the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty, after 1803 the Mississippi River no longer served as nation's western boundary. Explorers of this enormous American portion of the trans-Mississippi West revealed the eastern part to be fertile and habitable. The middle-western part, viewed by some as the "Great American Desert," was thought uninhabitable.

Pres. Thomas Jefferson and those who followed him envisioned an "Indian colonization zone" or permanent Indian frontier, in a north-south tier on the west bank of the Mississippi. Many people advocated this approach to "the Indian problem." They believed that removal of Indians (Indian Removal and Trail of Tears) to that area would permanently resolve the conflict between the original Native inhabitants and the Euroamericans who were clamoring to "civilize" the continent (Five Civilized Tribes). Whites would live east of the river, Indians west of it. One vocal advocate of a trans-Mississippi Indian zone was Baptist missionary Isaac McCoy, who believed that eventually the region should become a formal territory, with government and laws, for all Indians. The concept of an Indian zone solidified during the administration of Pres. John Quincy Adams and Sec. of War John C. Calhoun and later developed fully under the direction of Pres. Andrew Jackson. A region conceived as "the Indian country" was specified in 1825 as all the land lying west of the Mississippi. Eventually, the Indian country or the Indian Territory would encompass the present states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and part of Iowa.

Map of American Indian Territory Losses
American Indian Territory Losses.jpg
Native American Map

In actuality, the Indian Removal process had begun by treaties soon after 1800. In addition, many tribes simply fled westward as the line of white settlement advanced toward and then across the Mississippi River. Some of the Cherokee, for example, had begun moving west in the 1810s, with large migrations into west-central Arkansas in 1817 into a region they had exchanged for land in the Southeast. Shortly before the 1817 Cherokee treaty came "Lovely's Purchase" in 1816, and an 1818 Osage treaty theoretically cleared northeastern Oklahoma and added the land to the public domain. In 1820 the Choctaw agreed to accept land between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers and the Red River, in present Oklahoma. (See Cherokee Treaties.) 

Meanwhile, whites also crossed the Mississippi and began to occupy a wide strip running north-south along its west side. Soon thickly populated, Missouri became a state in 1821 and Arkansas a territory in 1819. In 1824 a western boundary was surveyed for Arkansas, and it included all or part of the present Oklahoma counties of Craig, Mayes, Delaware, Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Muskogee, Wagoner, Haskell, LeFlore, Latimer, Choctaw, Pushmataha, and McCurtain. It also incorporated the 1816 Osage cession of Lovely's Purchase as well as a huge chunk of land promised to the Choctaw in the 1820 treaty. As early as 1816, whites had begun to settle in this strip of land, which in 1820 was incorporated by Arkansas Territory into Crawford County, on the north, and Miller County, on the south, even extending down into present northeastern Texas. In 1827, Lovely County was created from Crawford County, taking in nearly all of present northeastern Oklahoma, and its seat established at Lovely Court House (Nicksville), later the location of Dwight Mission in Sequoyah County.

Map of Southeastern Native American Indians
Map of Southeastern Native American Indians.jpg
American Indian Tribes' Map

Land occupied by Southeastern Tribes, 1820s.
(Adapted from Sam Bowers Hilliard, "Indian Land Cessions" [detail], Map Supplement 16, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 62, no. 2 [June 1972].)
 
Key:
1. Seminole
2. Creek
3. Choctaw
4. Chickasaw
5. Cherokee
6. Quapaw
7. Osage
8. Illinois Confederation

Indian Territory and Native American Settlement
Indian Territory Native American Settlement.jpg
Map of Native American Territory, aka American Indian Territory

The Western Cherokee objected to being surrounded by whites and by organized Arkansas counties. The Choctaw objected to Miller County and its white residents, as well. In 1825 a new treaty adjusted the Choctaw eastern boundary, and Miller County was reduced. Many whites who had settled in that region now moved east of the new line. In 1828 the federal government used the situation to engineer another treaty with the Western Cherokees in which they agreed to move west of the new line. Lovely County was abolished, and the border between Arkansas and the Indian Territory actually the Choctaw and Cherokee nations was resurveyed in 1828 generally along the present Oklahoma-Arkansas boundary.

During the 1820s and 1830s dozens of northeastern, midwestern, and southeastern tribes were removed by treaty and under the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to force tribes to cede their lands east of the Mississippi. Those who did were to be placed west of the new white settlements, that is, west of the 95th Meridian. An 1834 Trade Act further defined "the Indian country" as all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri, Louisiana, or Arkansas Territory, or any other organized territory. Whites were carefully excluded from the region, for most purposes, and trade by them with Indians was regulated. For judicial purposes, the northern region (mostly present Kansas) was attached to Missouri and the southern part (mostly present Oklahoma) to Arkansas Territory (after 1836, Arkansas state). In 1835, Isaac McCoy apparently used the words "the Indian Territory" for the first time in print.

Indian Territory Map
Indian Territory.jpg
Oklahoma and Indian Territories, 1890s

The Creek, Seminole, and Chickasaw also succumbed to forced migration. All of these southeastern tribes thereafter inhabited the southern part of "the Indian Territory." Similarly, numerous tribes of the Northeast and the Northwest Territory, including the Kickapoo, Miami, Delaware, and Shawnee, were removed into the northern part, present Kansas. Thus by 1840 the Indian Territory had been populated, sparsely, by Native groups but was not a formal or organized territory.

However, because its fertile land proved desirable to whites, with the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 (which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820), Congress formally organized those parts of northern Indian Territory into official territories that afterward became states. (Kansas entered the Union in 1861 and Nebraska in 1867.) After the Civil War ended, Indians were moved further south into the part of the Indian Territory that is present Oklahoma (Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory). Plains tribes, including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache, were concentrated on reservations in the western half of the territory. By 1889 more than three dozen tribes resided here.

In order to understand the full meaning of the term "the Indian Territory," one must also understand the process by which a region became a territory. As established by United States law, beginning with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, when a specifically defined part of the unorganized federal domain was sufficiently populated, its residents (United States citizens) could petition Congress for territorial status. Congress would subsequently pass an organic act, with a bill of rights for territory residents, and set up a three-part government, with appointed executive and judicial branches. Residents elected a legislative branch. The federal government had ultimate authority over territorial affairs, and an elected territorial representative was seated in Congress. Congress never passed an organic act for the Indian Territory, although a few measures were proposed, and one bill was written, for that purpose. The region never had a formal government, and it remained unorganized. Therefore, the geographical location commonly called "Indian Territory" was not a territory.

Oklahoma Land Openings
Indian Territory Map.gif
Indian Territory Map with Settlement of Tribes

In the late nineteenth century the federal government began to assume more control over events transpiring in Indian country. A March 1889 law established a federal court system based at Muskogee, assuming judicial authority and jurisdiction that had been exercised since the 1834 Trade Act by the Western District of Arkansas. The 1889 measure for the first time specified enclosed boundaries for the Indian Territory, now officially reduced to an area bounded by Texas, on the south, Arkansas and Missouri on the east, Kansas on the north, and New Mexico Territory on the west.

Shortly, this area was reduced again when Oklahoma Territory was created out of it by the Organic Act in May 1890. A governor was appointed, and a two-house territorial assembly and a judicial system were set up. A bona fide territory of the United States, Oklahoma Territory would be eligible for statehood if its population grew large enough and if its leaders followed the process prescribed by federal law. The Oklahoma Territory Organic Act even more closely defined Indian Territory, reducing it to slightly more than the eastern half of the present state. In the 1905 Sequoyah Convention, Indian leaders sought to bypass the territorial process and bring about separate statehood for Indian Territory. However, with the 1907 union of the Indian nations and Oklahoma Territory as the State of Oklahoma, a separate, Indian-dominated territory or state was no longer viable. During the twentieth century the generic term "Indian Territory" came to be used by historians, genealogists, and the public to represent the entire Oklahoma region during the pre-statehood period.

Formed from the Indian Territory on November 16, 1907, Oklahoma (Oklahoma Settlement History) was the 46th state to enter the union. Its citizens are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City. The "Indian Territory" had officially vanished... 

Oklahoma Map : "Indian Territory Vanquished"
Oklahoma Map.gif
Map of Indian Territory

(Sources listed at bottom of page.)

NEW! Recommended Viewing: We Shall Remain (PBS) (DVDs) (420 minutes). Midwest Book Review: We Shall Remain is a three-DVD thinpack set collecting five documentaries from the acclaimed PBS history series "American Experience", about Native American leaders including Massasoit, Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, Major Ridge, Geronimo, and Fools Crow, all who did everything they could to resist being forcibly removed from their land and preserve their culture. Continued below...
Their strategies ranged from military action to diplomacy, spirituality, or even legal and political means. The stories of these individual leaders span four hundred years; collectively, they give a portrait of an oft-overlooked yet crucial side of American history, and carry the highest recommendation for public library as well as home DVD collections. Special features include behind-the-scenes footage, a thirty-minute preview film, materials for educators and librarians, four ReelNative films of Native Americans sharing their personal stories, and three Native Now films about modern-day issues facing Native Americans. 7 hours. "Viewers will be amazed." "If you're keeping score, this program ranks among the best TV documentaries ever made." and "Reminds us that true glory lies in the honest histories of people, not the manipulated histories of governments. This is the stuff they kept from us." --Clif Garboden, The Boston Phoenix.

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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...

Mention the word "Indian," and most will conjure up images inspired by myths and movies: teepees, headdresses, and war paint; Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and their battles (like Little Big Horn) with the U.S. Cavalry. Those stories of the so-called "horse nations" of the Great Plains are all here, but so is a great deal more. Using impressive computer imaging, photos, location film footage and breathtaking cinematography, interviews with present-day Indians, books and manuscripts, museum artifacts, and more, Leustig and his crew go back more than a millennium to present an fascinating account of Indians, including those (like the Maya and Aztecs in Mexico and the Anasazi in the Southwest) who were here long before white men ever reached these shores.
It was the arrival of Europeans like Columbus, Cortez, and DeSoto that marked the beginning of the end for the Indians. Considering the participation of host Kevin Costner, whose film Dances with Wolves was highly sympathetic to the Indians, it's no bulletin that 500 Nations also takes a compassionate view of the multitude of calamities--from alcohol and disease to the corruption of their culture and the depletion of their vast natural resources--visited on them by the white man in his quest for land and money, eventually leading to such horrific events as the Trail of Tears "forced march," the massacre at Wounded Knee, and other consequences of the effort to "relocate" Indians to the reservations where many of them still live. Along the way, we learn about the Indians' participation in such events as the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as well as popular legends like the first Thanksgiving (it really happened) and the rescue of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas (it probably didn't).

 

Recommended Reading: Atlas of the North American Indian. Description: This unique resource covers the entire history, culture, tribal locations, languages, and lifeways of Native American groups across the United States, Canada, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Thoroughly updated, Atlas of the North American Indian combines clear and informative text with newly drawn maps to provide the most up-to-date political and cultural developments in Indian affairs, as well as the latest archaeological research findings on prehistoric peoples. The new edition features several revised and updated sections, such as "Self-Determination," "The Federal and Indian Trust Relationship and the Reservation System," "Urban Indians," "Indian Social Conditions," and "Indian Cultural Renewal." Continued below...

Other updated information includes: a revised section on Canada, including Nunavut, the first new Canadian territory created since 1949, with a population that is 85% Inuit; the latest statistics and new federal laws on tribal enterprises, including a new section on "Indian Gaming"; and current information on preferred names now in use by certain tribes and groups, such as the use of "Inuit" rather than "Eskimo."

 

Recommended Reading: Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. Description: One of the many ironies of U.S. government policy toward Indians in the early 1800s is that it persisted in removing to the West those who had most successfully adapted to European values. As whites encroached on Cherokee land, many Native leaders responded by educating their children, learning English, and developing plantations. Such a leader was Ridge, who had fought with Andrew Jackson against the British. Continued below...

As he and other Cherokee leaders grappled with the issue of moving, the land-hungry Georgia legislators, with the aid of Jackson, succeeded in ousting the Cherokee from their land, forcing them to make the arduous journey West on the infamous "Trail of Tears." ...A treasured addition for the individual remotely interested in American Indian history as well as general American history.

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War in the Indian Territory, by Steve Cottrell (Author), Andy Thomas (Illustrator). Review: From its beginning with the bloody Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861, to its end in surrender on June 23, 1865, the Civil War in the Indian Territory proved to be a test of valor and endurance for both sides. Author Steve Cottrell outlines the events that led up to the involvement of the Indian Territory in the war, the role of the Native Americans who took part in the war, and the effect this participation had on the war and this region in particular. As in the rest of the country, neighbor was pitted against neighbor, with members of the same tribes often fighting against each other. Cottrell describes in detail the guerrilla warfare, the surprise attacks, the all-out battles that spilled blood on the now peaceful state of Oklahoma. In addition, he introduces the reader to the interesting and often colorful leaders of the military North and South, including the only American Indian to attain a general's rank in the war, Gen. Stand Watie (member of the Cherokee Nation). With outstanding illustrations by Andy Thomas, this story is a tribute to those who fought and a revealing portrait of the important role they played in this era of our country's history. Continued below...

Meet The Author: A resident of Carthage, Missouri, Steve Cottrell is a descendant of a Sixth Kansas Cavalry member who served in the Indian Territory during the Civil War. A graduate of Missouri Southern State College in Joplin, Cottrell has participated in several battle reenactments including the Academy Award winning motion picture, "Glory". Active in Civil War battlefield preservation and historical monument projects and contributor of a number of Civil War relics to regional museums, Cottrell recently co-authored Civil War in the Ozarks, also by Pelican. It is now in its second printing.

 

Recommended Reading: The Blue, the Gray, and the Red: Indian Campaigns of the Civil War (Hardcover: 288 pages). Description: Inexperienced Union and Confederate soldiers in the West waged numerous bloody campaigns against the Indians during the Civil War. Fighting with a distinct geographical advantage, many tribes terrorized the territory from the Plains to the Pacific, as American pioneers moved west in greater numbers. These noteworthy--and notorious--Indian campaigns featured a fascinating cast of colorful characters, and were set against the wild, desolate, and untamed territories of the western United States. This is the first book to explore Indian conflicts that took place during the Civil War and documents both Union and Confederate encounters with hostile Indians blocking western expansion. Continued below...

From Publishers Weekly: Beginning with the flight of the Creeks into Union territory pursued by Confederate forces (including many of Stand Watie's Cherokees), this popular history recounts grim, bloody, lesser-known events of the Civil War. Hatch (Clashes of the Cavalry) also describes the most incredible incidents.... Kit Carson, who fought Apaches and Navajos under the iron-fisted Colonel Carleton, arranged the Long Walk of the Navajos that made him infamous in Navajo history to this day. The North's "Captain" Woolsey, a volunteer soldier, became a brutal raider of the Apaches. General Sibley, a northerner and first Governor of Minnesota, oversaw the response to the Sioux Uprising of 1862 that left several hundred dead. The slaughter of Black Kettle's Cheyennes at Sand Creek in 1864 by Colorado volunteers under Colonel Chivington, a militant abolitionist whose views on Indians were a great deal less charitable, “forms a devastating chapter.” Hatch, a veteran of several books on the Indian Wars that focus on George Armstrong Custer, has added to this clear and even-handed account a scholarly apparatus that adds considerably to its value. 

 

Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations (Facts on File Library of American History) (Hardcover). Editorial Review from Booklist: More than 450 inventions and innovations that can be traced to indigenous peoples of North, Middle, and South America are described in this wonderful encyclopedia. Criteria for selection are that the item or concept must have originated in the Americas, it must have been used by the indigenous people, and it must have been adopted in some way by other cultures. Continued below...

Some of the innovations may have been independently developed in other parts of the world (geometry, for example, was developed in ancient China, Greece, and the Middle East as well as in the Americas) but still fit all three criteria. The period of time covered is 25,000 B.C. to the twentieth century. Among the entries are Adobe, Agriculture, Appaloosa horse breed, Chocolate, Cigars, Diabetes medication, Freeze-drying, Hydraulics, Trousers, Urban planning, and Zoned biodiversity. Readers will find much of the content revealing. The authors note that the Moche "invented the electrochemical production of electricity" although they used it only for electroplating, a process they developed "more than a thousand years" before the Europeans, who generally get the credit. The Aztec medical system was far more comprehensive than anything available in Europe at the time of contact.

 

The Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World is an "Eyeopener to the innumerable contributions of the American Indian to our nation and to world civilizations...."

 

The awards it has won and some of the print reviews this book has received are listed below.

Winner 11th Annual Colorado Book Award, Collections and Anthologies

Winner Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Writer of the Year, Creative Reference Work, 2002

Selected by Booklist as Editors Choice Reference Source, 2002

"This is a well-written book with fascinating information and wonderful pictures. It should be in every public, school, and academic library for its depth of research and amazing wealth of knowledge. We've starred this title because it is eye-opening and thought-provoking, and there is nothing else quite like it." Booklist Starred Review

"[An] interesting, informative, and inspiring book." Native Peoples Magazine

"I would strongly urge anyone with a kernel of intellectual curiosity: teacher, administrator, researcher, lawyer, politician, writer, to buy this book. I guarantee it will enlighten, stimulate and entertain...Native students and indigenous instructors must obtain their own copies of the Encyclopedia. Whether Cree, Mayan or Penobscot they will find a deep source of pride on each and every page. I can well imagine the excitement of Native teachers when they obtain the book followed by an eagerness to share its contents with everyone within reach."

"I hope the Encyclopedia will serve as the basis for an entirely new approach to Native history, one in which the scholar is liberated from the anti-Indian texts of the recent past. Ideally, a copy of the Encyclopedia should be in every class in every school across the hemisphere." Akwesasne Notes-Indian Time–Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association and the Akwesasne Communications Society

"Highly recommended for academic libraries keeping collections about American Indians." Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

"Native accomplishments finally get their due in this award-winning book." American Indian Report

"A treasure trove of information about the large range of technologies and productions of Indian peoples. This is indeed the most comprehensive compilation of American Indian inventions and contributions to date. It is most worthwhile and should be on the bookshelves of every library and home in America." Indian Country Today

"This large, well-illustrated volume is an excellent reference. One of the important strengths of the encyclopedia is that the information provided is balanced and rooted in facts, not speculation. Highly recommended." Multicultural Review

"Far from the stereotypical idea that Native Americans were uncultured and simple, possessing only uncomplicated inventions such as bows and arrows or canoes, these varied cultures donated a rich assortment of ideas and items to the world. This book can be recommended to libraries that support an interdisciplinary approach to student learning, such as units that integrate biology and culture studies projects." VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates

"...a comprehensive, unique A to Z reference to the vast offerings made by the American Indians throughout history." Winds of Change (American Indian Science and Engineering Society)

"We bought one for each center. It is a GREAT resource." Ann Rutherford, Director Learning Resources Center, Oglala Lakota College

 

"As I travel to conferences and host presentations, I take your book as a reference and to show individuals. It allows science, engineering and math students to gain insight into the traditional knowledge held about these and related subjects. I believe it empowers them to know this knowledge is already within. To balance contemporary knowledge within that context creates a student who can experience a topic from a number of perspectives." Jacqueline Bolman, Director, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Scientific Knowledge for Indian Learning and Leadership (SKILL)/NASA Honors Program

 

"…the three page introduction alone makes this book a valuable resource as it sets forth the circumstances which led the invaders to change their initial writings of wonder at the advanced native societies…I hope a way can be found to put this book in the hands of our youth and all who touch them." Carter Camp, American Indian rights activist, Ponca tribal leader and founder of Kansas/Oklahoma AIM

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ray Allen Billington and Martin Ridge, Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier (1949; rev. ed., Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001). Brian C. Hosmer, "Rescued from Extinction? The Civilizing Program in Indian Territory," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 48 (Summer 1990). William Miles, "'Enamoured With Colonization': Isaac McCoy's Plan of Indian Reform," Kansas Historical Quarterly 38 (Autumn 1972). George A. Schultz, An Indian Canaan: Isaac McCoy and the Vision of an Indian State (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972).
Dianna Everett
Oklahoma Historical Society

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