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The complete Choctaw Nation shaded in blue in relation to the U.S. state of Mississippi.

The Choctaw Trail of Tears was the relocation of the Choctaw Nation from their country referred to now as the Deep South (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana) to lands west of the Mississippi River in Indian Territory in the 1830s. A Choctaw minko (chief) was quoted by the Arkansas Gazette that the removal was a "trail of tears and death." After removal the Choctaws became three distinct groups, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.



In 1832 a young twenty-two year old Harkins wrote the Farewell Letter to the American People.

After ceding nearly Template:Convert/acre, the Choctaw emigrated in three stages: the first in the fall of 1831, the second in 1832 and the last in 1833.[1] The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was ratified by the U.S. Senate on February 25, 1831, and the U.S. President Andrew Jackson was anxious to make it a model of removal.[1] George W. Harkins wrote a letter to the American people before the removals began.

We go forth sorrowful, knowing that wrong has been done. Will you extend to us your sympathizing regards until all traces of disagreeable oppositions are obliterated, and we again shall have confidence in the professions of our white brethren. Here is the land of our progenitors, and here are their bones; they left them as a sacred deposit, and we have been compelled to venerate its trust; it dear to us, yet we cannot stay, my people is dear to me, with them I must go. Could I stay and forget them and leave them to struggle alone, unaided, unfriended, and forgotten, by our great father? I should then be unworthy the name of a Choctaw, and be a disgrace to my blood. I must go with them; my destiny is cast among the Choctaw people. If they suffer, so will I; if they prosper, then will I rejoice. Let me again ask you to regard us with feelings of kindness.

—-George W. Harkins, George W. Harkins to the American People [2]

The first wave of removal suffered the most. The second and third wave "sowed their fields promptly and experienced fewer hardships than the Indians of most of the other expatriated tribes."[3] Removal continued throughout the 19th century. In 1846 1,000 Choctaw removed, and by 1930 1,665 remained in Mississippi.[3]


The Choctaw and the United States agreed to nine treaties between 1786 and 1830. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was the last to be signed agreeing to the final removal of the Choctaw Nation. Choctaw land was systematically obtained through treaties, legislation, and threats of warfare. Treaties were made with Great Britain, France, and Spain. Nine treaties were signed with the United States.[4] Some treaties, like the Treaty of San Lorenzo, indirectly affected the Choctaws.

The Choctaws considered European laws and diplomacy foreign and puzzling. The most confusing aspect of treaty making was writing which was impressive for a people who have not developed a written system. Choctaw history, as with many Native Americans, was passed orally from generation to generation. Europeans needed treaties to satisfy their cultural laws and ease their consciences. During treaty negotiations the three main Choctaw tribal areas (Upper Towns, Six town, and Lower Towns) had a "Miko" (chief) to represent them. Spain had the earliest claims to Choctaw country which was followed by French claims starting in the late 17th century. The United States, following the Treaty of San Lorenzo, laid claim to Choctaw country starting in 1795.

Treaty Year Ceded Land
Hopewell 1786 n/a
Fort Adams 1801 Template:Convert/acre
Fort Confederation 1802 Template:Convert/acre
Hoe Buckintoopa 1803 Template:Convert/acre
Mount Dexter 1805 Template:Convert/acre
Fort St. Stephens 1816 Template:Convert/acre
Doak's Stand 1820 Template:Convert/acre
Washington City 1825 Template:Convert/acre
Dancing Rabbit Creek 1830 Template:Convert/acre


File:Louisiana Indians Walking Along a Bayou.jpg

Choctaws were removed west of the Mississippi started in 1831. Louisiana Indians Walking Along a Bayou by Alfred Boisseau was painted in 1846.

Nearly 15,000 Choctaws made the move to what would be called Indian Territory and then later Oklahoma.[5] About 2,500 died along the trail of tears. Approximately 5,000–6,000 Choctaws remained in Mississippi in 1831 after the initial removal efforts.[6][7] For the next ten years they were objects of increasing legal conflict, harassment, and intimidation. The Choctaws describe their situation in 1849, "we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died."[7] Racism was rampant. Joseph B. Cobb, who moved to Mississippi from Georgia, described Choctaws as having "no nobility or virtue at all, and in some respect he found blacks, especially native Africans, more interesting and admirable, the red man's superior in every way. The Choctaw and Chickasaw, the tribes he knew best, were beneath contempt, that is, even worse than black slaves."[8] The removals continued well into the early 20th century. In 1903, three hundred Mississippi Choctaws were persuaded to move to the Nation in Oklahoma.[9]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Remini, Robert. ""Brothers, Listen ... You Must Submit"". Andrew Jackson. History Book Club. p. 273.
  2. Harkins, George (1831). "1831 - December - George W. Harkins to the American People". Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Swanton, John. "Choctaw Social and Ceremonial Life". Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians. The University of Alabama Press. p. 5. ISBN 0817311092.
  4. Ferguson, Bob (2001). "Treaties". Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Retrieved 2008-02-06.[dead link]
  5. Satz, Ronald. "The Mississippi Choctaw: From the Removal Treaty of the Federal Agency". In Samuel J. Wells and Roseanna Tuby. After Removal: The Choctaw in Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi. p. 7. ISBN 0878052895.
  6. Baird, David. "The Choctaws Meet the Americans, 1783 to 1843". The Choctaw People. United States: Indian Tribal Series. p. 36. Library of Congress 73-80708.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Walter, Williams. "Three Efforts at Development among the Choctaws of Mississippi". Southeastern Indians: Since the Removal Era. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.
  8. Hudson, Charles. "The Ante-Bellum Elite". Red, White, and Black; Symposium on Indians in the Old South. University of Georgia Press. p. 80. SBN 820303089.
  9. Ferguson, Bob; Leigh Marshall (1997). "Chronology". Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Retrieved 2008-04-23.[dead link]


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