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What a Tangled Web We Weave

September 11, 2002

Almanac Transcript

What a tangled web we weave this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

For Native Americans, the U.S. Civil War resulted in a myriad of changes. Regardless of whether they opted to side with the Northern or Southern forces, the U.S. Government gave the various tribal nations what can only be called a raw deal. In the summer of 1865 following the defeat of Southern forces and the end of Civil War hostilities, Native American councils were called to represent their tribes in a general council at Fort Smith. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss actions to be taken regarding those Native Americans who had signed treaties with the Confederacy as well as those who had remained loyal.

It was in this week of September in 1865 that representatives of the Creek Tribe convened on Fort Smith to meet with agents of the U.S. Government. The U.S. representatives, acting under the orders of the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, were to, on the surface renegotiate a settlement of Creek affairs and help to rejoin the loyal Creeks with those who had sided with the Confederacy. The real agenda of the U.S. representatives, according to some historians, was to lump the loyal and disloyal factions into one group and make the entire tribe liable for the Southern actions.

For the loyal Creeks, many of whom had suffered the death of numerous family members, survived through forced relocations and starving winters and through it all remained loyal to the United States, the fact that they were being asked to sign a loyalty oath was outrageous. The loyal factions balked at this request and refused to sign. Those Creeks who had sided with the Confederacy, however, quickly signed their admission to guilt, their pledge of allegiance and accepted terms offered by the Government. In addition to settling terms with the U.S. Government the Creeks also had to work out negotiations between the Northern and Southern factions which in itself took almost a year.

When the U.S. representatives left the session at Fort Smith they had accomplished much of what they set out to do. Under the terms of the new treaties the Creeks, all of them, were to pay for the actions of the Southern faction. Three million acres of land were taken from the tribe, they had to allow two railroad lines across their land and Congress was now authorized to set up courts within the Creek Nation. The Southern Creeks were granted amnesty, and the loyal Creeks were promised payment for losses accrued during the war, money for that payment of course coming from the sale of land taken from the Creek tribe. The so-called "peace treaties" of September of 1865 accomplished much of its mission, that being in reality, the further intrusion of the U.S. Government into sovereign Creek territory.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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