American History and Genealogy Project

Indian or Western Territory

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Indian or Western Territory.

The Indian Territory is a tract of country west of the settled portions of the United States, Which has been set apart by the general government, for the permanent residence of those Indian tribes that have been removed, chiefly from the southwestern states of the Union. Here they are to be secured in governments of their own choice, subject to no other control from the United States, than such as may be necessary to preserve peace on the frontier, and between the several tribes. It is about 600 miles long from s. to n. and from 300 to 600 miles in breadth, from e. to w. It has the Platte River on the n., the states of Missouri and Arkansas on the e., the Red river on the s., and a desert country on the w. This country contains, within the habitable district, an area of 120,000 square miles, or 76,800,000 acres. The number of the different tribes now occupying this territory is about 70,000, exclusive of the wild tribes of the prairies. The country, for about 100 miles west of the eastern boundary, is in general fertile, moderately elevated, and gently undulating, but not hilly, except in the southeastern parts, where it is traversed by several ranges of hilly and elevated lands. The principal rivers are Red River, Canadian, Arkansas, Neosho, Kansas, and Platte Rivers, with their tributaries. The largest of these rivers rise in the Rocky Mountains, and flow e. into the Missouri and the Mississippi. A considerable portion of the country is prairie, but the margins of the streams are generally covered with wood. Red river and the Arkansas are navigable at certain seasons to within the Indian Territory by steamboats, and the Kansas by boats. The climate of this region is generally healthy, rather cold in the winter, in the northern part, as it is exposed to an extensive sweep of the west winds, over the vast plains, from the mountainous region; but in the southern part, the winters are mild. All the productions of the United States, of the same latitude, can be here raised; and the grass on the prairies is particularly favorable to the raising of cattle. The country contains coal, some lead and iron ore, and many saline springs, from which a great amount of salt could be manufactured. Although the Indians felt a reluctance to removal, as it was natural they should regret leaving the scenery of their childhood and the graves of their fathers, yet it will be their own fault, if they do not better their condition by their change of residence. To break up the establishments of incipient civilization, and to commence anew, was in itself a great evil; but removed from the demoralizing influence of profligate white men, they are favorably situated for carrying on the work which they had successfully begun.

The Chickasaws and Choctaws, who were kindred tribes on the e. side of the Mississippi, dwell together in the same territory in the w. Their country is bounded north by the Canadian and Arkansas rivers, e. by the state of Arkansas, s. by the Red River, and w. by the western territory of the United States. Their country is about 200 miles long, and 150 broad. The Choctaws are extensively engaged in agriculture, and have good houses and well fenced fields. They raise large quantities of Indian corn; and in the southern part, considerable cotton. They have 7 cotton gins, and several grist and saw mills have been erected on Red River and other streams; and they raise large stocks of cattle, horses, sheep, and swine. They are governed by a written constitution and laws. The nation is divided into 4 districts, each of which elects a chief every 4 years. The general council, consisting of 40 members, meets on the first Monday of October annually, and is chosen by the qualified voters of each district. The council passes all laws, and the chiefs have a veto power, which can be overruled by a vote of the council, of two thirds. When the council assembles, a speaker is chosen, and clerks are appointed to record the proceedings, and the speaker is addressed, and the business transacted with the customary forms of legislative proceedings. The council generally continues in session about two weeks, and the members are paid from the funds of the nation, 2 dollars a day. They have a large and commodious council house. The nation is divided into judicial districts, and a trial by jury and appeal to the highest judicial tribunal are allowed. There is no enforcement of the payment of debts; but this is left to their honor, which is generally sufficient. The military department of the nation is entrusted to a general, elected by the people, with 32 captains in each district. Spinning and weaving are carried on in many parts of the nation; blacksmiths are furnished by the United States, by treaty stipulations, many of the principals, and all the assistants, belonging to the nation. The Choctaws may be regarded as among the most intelligent of the Indian tribes; and it is their boast, that they never shed the blood of an American in war, but have often entered the military service of the United States. Such a tribe may well be regarded as an important barrier on the western frontier.

The Chickasaws have settled promiscuously among the Choctaws; and by an agreement between the tribes, the Chickasaws were to have the privilege of forming a district within the Choctaw nation, governed by the same laws, and now form the fourth district, with a proportional representation in the national council. They receive their annuity separately. The American Board of Foreign Missions have 5 stations, 4 missionaries, and 10 assistants among the tribes; the Baptists have 1 station, the Methodists 1 station, and the Presbyterians have 4 stations.

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The Creeks inhabit a country bounded on the n. and e. by that of the Cherokees; and s. by that of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, from which it is separated by the Canadian River. Their country is fertile, producing Indian com, beans, potatoes, rice, wheat, pumpkins, melons, &c. Indian corn is their principal crop, and they furnish large quantities to the garrison at Fort Gibson; and as they are industrious, they have supplied themselves with comfortable houses, productive gardens and orchards, and well tilled fields. They generally associate in towns, and cultivate their lands in common. The government of the United States has furnished them with a stock of animals, according to treaty stipulations, consisting of cattle and hogs, and they will be able hereafter to supply themselves. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and wagon makers, are furnished by treaty. Their country is not so well watered or healthy as that of their neighbors, but is equally productive. The western winds from the prairies are cold in winter, and they sometimes suffer from drought in summer. They have elected a principal chief, and are engaged in building a council house, where representatives of the whole people will meet annually to pass laws. The Baptists have 2 missionary stations, the Board of Foreign Missions 1, and the Methodists 1, among the Creeks.

The Seminoles are considered a constituent part of the Creek nation, speaking the same language, and many of them are the same people. They are by agreement located with the Creeks, between the Arkansas and the Deep Fork of the Canadian river, above the Cherokee settlement. They have made some improvements, and raised some corn; but in general, are averse to labor. They have a blacksmith, under treaty stipulations. They are so well satisfied with their country, that they are anxious that their brethren who remain in Florida, and have been maintaining a hopeless contest with the United States, may be induced to join them. The slaves that they have been permitted to bring into the country have been an occasion of difficulty.

The country assigned to the Cherokees, is n. and e. of that assigned to the Creeks. They have advanced further in civilization than the other tribes. They have a fine agricultural country, comfortable houses, and well cultivated farms, producing in abundance the necessaries of life; and they raise large stocks of cattle and many fine horses, for which their extensive prairies enable them abundantly to provide. They have but few mills, as their streams, at certain seasons, fail Salt springs exist, and salt is extensively manufactured. The Cherokees are governed by written laws: they select annually, members to the general council, which meets on the first Monday in October annually; they have two branches, consisting of an upper and lower house. A speaker and clerk are elected, and the usual forms in legislative bodies are observed. Courts are held throughout the nation, which is laid out in judicial districts. They have sheriffs, and other officers, and collect debts in the customary way, reserving certain property, such as a bed, a work horse, a cow, &c. from execution. They to a considerable extent, manufacture their own clothing, dress in the English mode, and speak the English language. They have blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and wagon makers, furnished by the government, and a large sum vested by the United States, from which they receive a handsome annuity, the result of the sale of their lands E. of the Mississippi, and applied to the advancement of their improvement. The Board of Foreign Missions have 5 stations, 4 missionaries, and other assistants, making the whole number 24. They have also a printing press. The United Brethern have also a mission among them.

The Osages are an indigenous tribe, occupying a territory n. of the Cherokees. The United States have labored, by supplying them with agricultural implements, and stock animals, and erecting mills, and supplying blacksmiths, to persuade them to a settled life, and to industrious habits, which would secure in abundance, in their fertile country, the comforts of life. But they are averse to these things, and, in general, prefer their wandering habits; and as the buffaloes arc retreating to the west of their lands, they frequently kill the cattle of their neighbors. A few of these, however, are of a different mind; and their industry, and the comforts which it will secure, may persuade their brethern to follow their example. The Osages are among the least civilized of the Indians in the territory, and are not inclined to education.

The Shawnees occupy the country between the Osage and Kansas rivers, and are an industrious, frugal, and agricultural people, and have good farms, producing in abundance, Indian corn, wheat, oats, and a variety of culinary vegetables; and they raise stocks of horses, cattle, and hogs. They have a blacksmith, furnished by treaty stipulation, and a grist and saw mill. The Senecas are mingled with them. The Methodists and Baptists have missionary stations among them, and the latter have a printing press.

West of the Missouri, and n. of the Shawnees, are the Delawares. They resemble the Shawnees, and have Methodist and Baptist missions among them.

The Kansas are an indigenous tribe between the Shawnees and the Delawares; and like the generality of those tribes, are indolent and poor.

The Pawnees, the Omaha, and the Ottoes, who inhabit the country about the Platte River, are native tribes, who retain much of their original habits, and are little advanced in civilization, but are beginning to desire it. The Baptists and Methodists have missionary stations among them.

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Indians East of Rocky Mountains

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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