Five Civilized Tribes

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The Five Civilized Tribes

The Five Civilized Tribes History includes, definition of the Five Civilized Tribes, map of lands inhabited by the tribes during the era of dominance, maps of Indian Territory (IT) with new tribal land allotments, including borders, for each of the Five Tribes, and related material and resources are enclosed for additional study of the Tribes. Although Indians are often identified and classified with racial and ethnic identification of Native Americans, and Native American Indians, it is widely acceptable to substitute by identifying the peoples as American Indians.
Students are encouraged to answer the following questions:  Who are the Five Civilized Tribes? Where are the Five Civilized Tribes Located? What are two unique qualifications of each of the Five Civilized Tribes? If possible, assign students to five groups or Five Tribes. Assign one of the Five Tribes to each group, and require the groups to discuss what they have learned about their tribe. Example question: If you were a member of the Seminole Nation in 1820 and were forced to leave your home, your toys, your playground, and move to a foreign land far away, how does that make you feel? The question is not abstract, because it actually happened to thousands of boys and girls in the United States. When one thinks of the Five Civilized Tribes, emphasize that the tribes were also Five Nations with unique cultures and customs: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.

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The Five Civilized Tribes is the term applied to five American Indian (aka Native American) nations: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. They were considered civilized by white society because they had adopted many of the colonists' customs and had generally good relations with their neighbors. The Five Civilized Tribes lived in the Southeastern United States before their forced removal to other parts of the country; many were relocated to what is currently referred to as the state of Oklahoma. Today, many Native Americans, especially those from other nations, find the "Five Civilized Tribes" label patronizing or racist. When the tribes are discussed together, sometimes the modified label "Five Tribes" is used to avoid the suggestion that other indigenous peoples were savages. Cherokee Indian Territory Nation Oklahoma 

Map of Southeastern Native American Indians
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Five Civilized 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].)
1. Seminole
2. Creek
3. Choctaw
4. Chickasaw
5. Cherokee
6. Quapaw
7. Osage
8. Illinois Confederation

The tribes were uprooted from their homes east of the Mississippi River in a series of Indian removals, authorized by federal legislation, over several decades and moved to what was referred to as Indian Territory and is now the eastern portion of the state of Oklahoma. The most infamous Indian removal was the 1838 Trail of Tears; the President's enforcement of the highly contentious 1835 Treaty of New Echota.

Five Civilized Tribes
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Native American Tribes

During the American Civil War, the Five Tribes were divided in their loyalties. The Choctaw and Chickasaw fought predominantly on the Confederate side, while the Creek, Seminole and especially the Cherokee were split between the Union and the Confederacy.


Manifest Destiny and the Homestead Act assisted in the destruction of the American Indian.

Oklahoma Land Openings
(Five Civilized Tribes Map.gif
(Five Civilized Tribes Map)

Once the tribes had been relocated to Indian Territory, the United States government promised that their lands would be free of white settlement. Some settlers violated the agreement with impunity even before 1893, when the government opened the "Cherokee Strip" to outside settlement by the Oklahoma Land Run. In 1907, the territories of Oklahoma and Indian Territory were merged into the new state of Oklahoma; where all Five Civilized Tribes currently have a major presence. (See Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory.)

Oklahoma State Map : "Indian Territory Vanquished"
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(Map) Five Civilized Tribes were forced onto Indian Territory, which is present-day Oklahoma

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. While the Five Civilized Tribes remain, the "Indian Territory" officially vanished...

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).

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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.


Recommended Reading: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Description: 1491 is not so much the story of a year, as of what that year stands for: the long-debated (and often-dismissed) question of what human civilization in the Americas was like before the Europeans crashed the party. The history books most Americans were (and still are) raised on describe the continents before Columbus as a vast, underused territory, sparsely populated by primitives whose cultures would inevitably bow before the advanced technologies of the Europeans. For decades, though, among the archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others whose discoveries Charles C. Mann brings together in 1491, different stories have been emerging. Among the revelations: the first Americans may not have come over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C. but by boat along the Pacific coast 10 or even 20 thousand years earlier; the Americas were a far more urban, more populated, and more technologically advanced region than generally assumed; and the Indians, rather than living in static harmony with nature, radically engineered the landscape across the continents, to the point that even "timeless" natural features like the Amazon rainforest can be seen as products of human intervention. Continued below...

Mann is well aware that much of the history he relates is necessarily speculative, the product of pot-shard interpretation and precise scientific measurements that often end up being radically revised in later decades. But the most compelling of his eye-opening revisionist stories are among the best-founded: the stories of early American-European contact. To many of those who were there, the earliest encounters felt more like a meeting of equals than one of natural domination. And those who came later and found an emptied landscape that seemed ripe for the taking, Mann argues convincingly, encountered not the natural and unchanging state of the native American, but the evidence of a sudden calamity: the ravages of what was likely the greatest epidemic in human history, the smallpox and other diseases introduced inadvertently by Europeans to a population without immunity, which swept through the Americas faster than the explorers who brought it, and left behind for their discovery a land that held only a shadow of the thriving cultures that it had sustained for centuries before. Includes outstanding photos and maps.


Recommended Reading: Nations Remembered: An Oral History of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1865-1907 (Contributions in Ethnic Studies) (Hardcover). Description: This work offers a view of Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole life rarely glimpsed by the scholar or general public.... An impeccably researched and readable document that will appeal to specialist and generalist alike.
Recommended Reading: The Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole (Civilization of the American Indian) (455 pages) (University of Oklahoma Press). Description: Fascinating and captivating study of the often referred to Five Civilized Tribes, with each tribe's: evolution, struggles, Indian removal, treaties, internal and external strife, and outlook...numerous maps and photographs compliment this research. Continued below...
By focusing on all 'Five Tribes' it also presents a better understanding of how the tribes interrelated in the Indian Territory (most of present-day Oklahoma). While most authors only focus on "a tribe" rather than "the tribes," Foreman, by interconnecting the tribes, conveys a more comprehensive understanding of the Five Nations.

Recommended Reading: A Student's Guide to Native American Genealogy (Oryx American Family Tree Series) (Hardcover). Description:  This major contribution to young adult genealogy studies helps create ethnic pride, self-esteem, and awareness of the extraordinary accomplishments each ethnic group has brought to the American experience. Designed for use in grades 6-12, this important new series explores the creation of the American people while promoting the use and understanding of solid research techniques. Oryx American Family Tree Series enhances the social studies curriculum--especially the thematic strands in the New Curriculum Standards for Social Studies-- culture, time, continuity, and change; people, places and environment; individual development and identity; individuals, groups, and institutions; power, authority, and governance; global connections. Continued below... 

While using the volumes in this series, young adults experience a uniquely personalized opportunity to practice the historians craft as they learn how to collect data, obtain and evaluate documents and sources, use the latest electronic tools for researching, and conduct and record eyewitness accounts of historical events in family life. The volumes carefully describe the challenges unique to researching each ethnic group or region. Also explained are the "why" and "how" of tracing their roots if users are adopted or come from nontraditional families. Also, each book in the series provides basic historical and cultural background information. As young adults explore their cultural heritage, they gain self-esteem, personal identity, and ethnic pride. Each volume in the Oryx American Family Tree Series is packed with hundreds of annotated bibliographic references for print, electronic, and media sources, as well as many helpful organizations. Every book is lavishly illustrated with 4-color and black and white photographs throughout and features a glossary and an index. The series is published in sturdy 6" x 9" casebound volumes of approximately 200 pages printed on acid-free paper.

About the Author

E. Barrie Kavasch is a research associate at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. She has written and lectured extensively on Native American foods and healing plants. Her other publications include the highly acclaimed book Native Harvests. Of Creek, Cherokee, and Powhatan descent, Ms. Kavasch can trace her own ancestry to the famous daughter of Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas.


A Student's Guide To Native American Genealogy gives young people the tools to discover their Native American roots, while giving their teachers an easy way to enhance the curriculum -- whether it be social studies, history, or geography. Middle and High school students learn how to collect data, obtain and evaluate documents and sources, use the latest electronic tools for researching, conduct interviews, and record eyewitness accounts of historical events in family life. A Student's Guide To Native American Genealogy lists annotated bibliographic references for print, electronic, and media sources, as well as many helpful organizations. Barrie Kavasch provides historical and cultural Native American background and there are full color and b/w illustrative photographs throughout. -- Midwest Book Review

“The work is nicely done and appears to offer useful advice to the person wishing to explore this interesting aspect in the field of genealogy.”–ARBA

“ young people the tools to discover their Native American roots, while giving their teachers an easy way to enhance the curriculum - whether it be social studies, history or, geography.”–Children's Bookwatch

“Each volume provides an easy to understand overview of the history of immigration and culture in the U.S. for the particular ethnic group....Where these books shine, for the student and adult genealogist, is in the resource listings....For students, these books provide a great way of getting started in geneology and learning about the life and heritage of their ancestors. For adult researchers these books provide excellent resources to move beyond the genealogical books into learning about the history, culture and experience of their ancestors.”–FGS Forum

“Librarians will drool over the rich lode of resources identified in this book, and students will appreciate the straightforward, practical advice in tracing genealogical roots....this book is a "must buy" if your library serves a Native-American population of any size....This title will be useful for history or social studies classes and as a resource for librarians. If the other titles in this series prove as useful and informative as this title, consider purchasing other ethnic groups as needed.”–Tena Natale Litherland Head Librarian, Webb School Knoxville, Tennessee

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas: Cherokee Indian Agent to Washington; Tsali: Cherokee Hero and Legend; President Andrew Jackson; Cherokee War Rituals, Culture, Festivals, Government, and Beliefs; Cherokee Indians and the American Civil War; Cherokee Declaration and the American Civil War; History of the Cherokee Indians.

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