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Treaties and Murders

June 25, 2003

Almanac Transcript

Treaties and murders this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

In the early 1800's the Cherokee Tribe was located mainly in the present day state of Georgia. With continued, quiet encroachment on their land, the issue of how to handle the invasion often became a topic of much debate in the Cherokee council meetings. Two factions soon arose within the tribe: the elders and the new young chiefs. The elders opposed signing any kind of removal agreement or any treaty at all with the U.S. government, preferring to take the matter to court. While the faction of young politicians led by Major Ridge, advocated signing treaties and getting out as fast as possible. Graft and corruption spread throughout the Cherokee tribe on both sides of the issue. Some of the elders didn't want to leave Georgia, because they were making thousands of dollars illegally selling the Cherokee land to the government. Major Ridge along with his sons John Ridge and Alias Butanov and followers, all pushed their idea of quick a removal as the best decision but to no avail. The great majority of tribal members headed by Chief John Ross made it known that they opposed any kind of removal agreement.

In December of 1835 in a meeting supposedly well publicized, Major Ridge and his two sons and five hundred followers met with representatives of the U.S. government, and in the Treaty of New Echota signed away almost all of the Cherokee land east of the Mississippi without the approval of the remaining 17,000 Cherokees. At signing Major Ridge remarked that he had just signed his own death warrant. Ridge and his supporters soon left for the new land in the Indian Territory. While the vast majority of tribal members stayed in Georgia protesting the treaty.

The end result of Ridge's actions, and the protest of the tribe, was the "Trail of Tears." Staying on their land for as long as they could the Cherokees were forcibly removed to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838 and 39. Once in Oklahoma, an unknown number of Cherokees located the signers of the removal treaty and plotted revenge. It was in this week of 1839 that Major Ridge and his sons were murdered for their role in forcing the removal of the Cherokee tribe. The perpetrators were never apprehended as the great majority of the tribe either publicly or silently probably agreed with the action.

Troublesome treaties make for murder this week on the Almanac.

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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