Additional Cherokee Treaties

Eleventh Cherokee Treaty

A delegation, soon afterward, explored the Arkansas River country and reported that they had found a suitable tract which was not claimed by any other Indians, and on July 8, 1817, the chiefs, head men and warriors again met Gen. Andrew Jackson and two other United States commissioners at the Cherokee Agency and negotiated their Eleventh Treaty, by the terms of which the Indians ceded a large portion of their rapidly disappearing reservation east of the Mississippi in exchange for an equal number of acres out in the White and Arkansas rivers country. The United States authorities promised to furnish flat-bottomed boats and provisions to all Indians who desired to emigrate, and to pay a reasonable sum to those who had made valuable improvements on the lands which they were abandoning. This treaty also. provided that each head of a family that chose to remain upon their old reservation and accept United States citizenship should receive a square mile of land.

Twelfth Cherokee Treaty

The Federal authorities were, as usual, dilatory in executing some of the provisions of this treaty, such as causing a survey of the land to be made and a census of the Indians taken, all of which tended to aggravate rather than to quiet the feelings of unrest, uncertainty and dissatisfaction which prevailed quite generally, and in an effort to adjust these differences and misunderstandings, John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, summoned the Cherokee chiefs and head men to Washington, where, on the 27th day of February, 1819, their Twelfth Treaty was made. This treaty purported to define more clearly the boundaries of the land already ceded and also provided that certain tracts should be sold and the proceeds thereof held in trust by the government as a school fund for the Cherokees who remained on the east side of the Mississippi River.

Thirteenth Cherokee Treaty

The white man’s greed for Indian lands continued to manifest itself in the Thirteenth Treaty, which was made at Tellico on October 24, 1804, but which, it appears, was not finally proclaimed until May 17, 1824. By this treaty the Cherokees relinquished title to a small tract of land adjoining the northern boundary of Georgia, known as Wafford’s settlement.

For this tract, which appears to have been already partially settled by whites, the Cherokees were to receive $5,000 and an annuity of $1,000.

Some of the Cherokee emigrants, attracted by the fertile valley of the White River in the Territory of Arkansas, stopped there, on the western pilgrimage, and began to build homes and develop farms, as their Eleventh treaty had provided they should be permitted to do, but numerous white settlers also coveted those beautiful valleys, resulting again in serious friction between the two races, and the chiefs and head men of the Western Cherokees were called to Washington, where, on the 6th day of May, 1828, their Fourteenth Treaty was concluded, which treaty, as its preamble recites, was made necessary in order that the Cherokees might “free themselves and their posterity from an embarrassing connection with the Territory of Arkansas and guard themselves from such connections in future.”

This treaty defined the boundary line between Arkansas and the Indian reservations on the west and solemnly pledged to the Cherokees 7,000,000 acres of land in their new reservation adjoining Arkansas.

It is interesting to note that this treaty recites “that the United States anxiously desires to secure to the Cherokees a permanent home which shall, under the solemn guarantee of the United States, be and remain theirs forever a home that shall never, in all future time, be embarrassed by having extended around it the lines, or placed over it the jurisdiction of a territory or state, nor be pressed upon by the extension, in any way, of any of the limits of any existing territory or state.”

The United States agreed to pay for the improvements which the Indians had made on lands in Arkansas and to pay the Cherokee Nation various sums, amounting in all, to about one hundred thousand dollars, for the surrender of their claims to land in Arkansas Territory. This treaty reserved to the use of the United States a tract two miles wide and six miles long, for military purposes at Fort Gibson.

Soon after the Cherokees began to settle upon their new reservation in Indian Territory a dispute arose between them and the Creeks, as to boundary lines, the Creeks claiming that this last Cherokee treaty included some lands which had been previously included in their reservation.

Fifteenth Cherokee Treaty

In order to settle this dispute between the two tribes, the Fifteenth Cherokee Treaty was concluded at Fort Gibson on February 14, 1833, by which the Cherokees agreed to relinquish to the Creeks a small part of their new reservation on the west. In consideration of this relinquishment the United States agreed to erect and equip four blacksmith shops, one wagon-maker shop, one wheelwright shop and eight patent railway corn mills for the Cherokees.

Although several of the foregoing treaties provided that those Cherokees who did not desire to emigrate to their new western reservation, should have the right to retain their old homes in Georgia and would be entitled to the protection of the United States, yet those who chose to remain were constantly harassed by the white settlers who persisted in trespassing upon their lands. The State of Georgia, instead of respecting the treaty rights of the Cherokees, passed laws in direct conflict with many of the provisions of the treaties solemnly made by the United States authorities.

In 1828 the Legislature of Georgia enacted a law by which certain portions of the Cherokee reservation were added to the adjoining counties and made subject to the laws of the state.

In 1829 another act of the Legislature annexed certain other portions of the Indian reservation to various counties of the state and attempted to annul the laws and ordinances of the Cherokees therein.

In 1830 the Legislature of Georgia enacted a law providing for the survey and distribution of certain parts of the reservation to white citizens, and also purporting to take possession of the gold and silver mines belonging to the Cherokees.

During John Quincy Adams’ administration (1825-1829) arose one of the first bitter “States Rights” contests which, a third of a century later culminated in the Civil war.

President Adams believed that the solemn pledges made by the Government in its various treaties with the Indians, wherein the United States guaranteed that the Indians should not be molested by the whites, but should be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and privileges on their reservation were binding upon the Federal government, but the Legislature of Georgia, under the leadership of Governor Troup, contended that the state had the right to enact its own laws, free from Federal dictation. The governor resented what he termed “Federal usurpation of the constitutional rights of a state.”

Among other obnoxious laws enacted by the Legislature of Georgia was one which required that every white man who resided among the Indians should take an oath of allegiance to Georgia.

Under this law several missionaries, including Doctors Worcester* and Butler, were sentenced to serve terms in the state penitentiary.

Thousands of petitions were circulated, signed and sent to Congress by friends of the Indians throughout the North, protesting against the inhuman treatment of the Indians by the authorities of Georgia. The bill introduced in Congress in 1830 providing for the removal of the Indians to the territory west of the Mississippi occasioned much acrimonious debate, which involved, to a great extent the doctrine of states’ rights.

In defense of the laws passed by the Legislature of Georgia, a congressman from that state, in a speech in the House of Representatives at Washington, used this language:

“Georgia, sir, is one of the good old thirteen states. She entered the Union upon an equal footing with any of her sisters. She claims no superiority but contends for equality. That sovereignty which she concedes to all the rest, and would at any time unite with them in defending against all encroachment, she will maintain for herself. Our social compact, upon which we stand as a state, gives you the metes and bounds of our sovereignty; and within the limits therein defined and pointed out, our state claims entire and complete jurisdiction over soil and population, regardless of complexion.


“Pages may be filled with the sublimated cant of the day, and in wailing over the departure of the Cherokees from the bones of their forefathers. But if the heads of these pretended mourners were waters, and their eyes were fountains of tears, and they were to spend days and years in weeping over the departure of the Cherokees from Georgia, yet they will go. The tide of emigration with the Indians, as well as the whites, directs its course westwardly.”

When the Cherokees appealed to the United States Supreme Court to enjoin the State of Georgia from extending its laws over the Indian reservation, the governor of Georgia made the following recommendation in one of his messages to his Legislature:

“The Legislature has an unquestionable right to make it a highly penal crime for any citizen or inhabitant of the state to advise, aid or counsel in any measure, or issue or serve any process, which shall bring in question before any tribunal of this state, from the Second District of Oklahoma.

When Governor Wilson Lumpkin of Georgia learned that President Andrew Jackson would not agree to the enforcement of the act of the Legislature of Georgia which proposed to survey a portion of the Cherokee reservation and arbitrarily sell it to white settlers he wrote the following letter to the President on November 1, 1831:

“A crisis has arrived in our political affairs, in the Cherokee portion of Georgia, which cannot remain in its present attitude. A remedy must be applied. This subject is not only one of vital importance to Georgia, but your character, mine, and our common country are, and will be, deeply involved. Your opinions, private and public, will be venerated by me as coming from a father. The extension of our state laws and jurisdiction over the Cherokees has evinced the great difficulty of administering justice to a people circumstanced as the Indians are. A few thousand persons dispersed over a territory of 5,000,000 acres of land, abounding in rich gold mines ; the people indisposed and incompetent to aid in the administration of the law, presents an anomaly in the history of the world. Any laws which may be devised for the Government of this country in its present situation, to be efficient, must partake largely of a military character, and consequently be more absolute and despotic than would be admissible or necessary, in a country affording the materials for the administration of civil justice.


“The state cannot, with honor or justice to herself, retreat from any of the ground she has taken. To retrograde or stand still, will be ruinous. Would it not, then, be more manly and , honorable at once to place upon the unoccupied territory a virtuous freehold population, possessed of all the inducements of other citizens to maintain order and good government in this country? Carefully, at the same time, guarding, by our Legislature, the rights of the Indians to their entire improvements and property of every kind, together with an ample sufficiency of land to sustain them and their posterity in their present abodes, so long as they may choose to remain. I consider the present condition of Georgia a most delicate one. Prejudiced enemies, at a distance, may be tolerated and endured but rest assured that I speak advisedly when I say that the enemies of Georgia are alarmingly multiplying in her midst. The gold mines offer a rallying point for the concentration of bad men from all parts of the world. Even our domestics (negroes) may look to a controversy with the Cherokees with feelings of deep interest. And, many of our lawyers, judges and other distinguished selfish men, I have no doubt, begin now to look to and desire a continuance of the present state of things as affording the best prospect of a rich harvest for themselves.”

*Note: Dr. Worcester was the grandfather of Miss Alice Robertson, present member of Congress of the United States, our rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction over our entire population and territory.”

Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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