In three treaties concluded between 1820 and 1833, the US government purchased the land of the Choctaw and the Chickasaw in exchange for land west of the Mississippi River. Pressure for the treaties came from white settlers wanting access to Mississippi land, especially in fertile cotton-growing areas, and from a federal government increasingly intent on the policy of Indian Removal. Removal caused considerable contention among the Choctaw and Chickasaw, some of whom fought the policy for years.
The Treaty of Doak’s Stand was signed by the Choctaw Indians on 18 October 1820 and ratified by the United States on 8 January 1821. Andrew Jackson and Pushmataha were the chief negotiators for the treaty. In return for surrendering about one-third of their remaining land to the US government (about five million acres), the Choctaw received thirteen million acres in the Arkansas Territory, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and Spanish Texas from southwestern Arkansas to the western boundary of the United States. Some of this land had already been settled by whites, and few Choctaw emigrated as a result of this treaty. However, it included many new ideas regarding how native tribes would be treated, and it introduced new concepts to tribal society. The treaty stipulated that each Choctaw male would receive a rifle, bullet mold, camp kettle, and blanket as well as a year’s worth of ammunition for hunting and defense and a year’s worth of corn for his family. Further, all Choctaw who subsisted by traditional hunting lifestyle instead of working in the white world would be moved west. It provided for a federal Indian agent, a factor, a blacksmith, and a Removal agent. The treaty prohibited whiskey trade and provided for the establishment of police force in the Choctaw Nation.
The treaty specified that any individual Choctaw who adopted the lifestyle of an American farmer could become a US citizen, subject to the laws and jurisdictions that applied to all American citizens, and the tribal land designated by the treaty would be then divided into a family farm. It provided federal aid for education of children and included humanitarian aid. Money generated from the sale of land in Mississippi was earmarked for the support of Choctaw schools on both sides of the Mississippi River.
The Treaty of Doak’s Stand defined boundaries of land that “shall remain without alteration.” Nonetheless, the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek forced the Choctaw to exchange this land for acreage in the Indian Territory. The Choctaw signed this treaty, also known as the Choctaw Removal Treaty, on 27 September 1830, and the United States ratified it in February 1831. By signing the treaty the Choctaw agreed to relinquish their rights to all of their lands east of the Mississippi River—more than ten thousand acres in Mississippi and Alabama—and to relocate to what is now southeastern Oklahoma. The treaty also guaranteed that “no Territory or State shall ever have a right to pass laws for the government of the Choctaw Nation of Red People and their descendants; and that no part of the land granted them shall ever be embraced in any Territory or State.” The relocation began in 1831 and took three years to complete, and an estimated twenty-five hundred Choctaw died of starvation and exposure en route. They received no compensation for farm buildings, schoolhouses, or livestock that they left behind in Mississippi and Alabama.
About six thousand Choctaw chose to remain in Mississippi and Alabama, where they received allotments of land within the ceded territory and became subjects of the state governments. However, the terms of the treaty, which allowed each head of household to select a 640-acre plot of land, each child over ten to have 320 acres, and each young child 120 acres, were widely disregarded, and many Choctaw scattered across the Mississippi swampland. A reservation was later established for the Mississippi Choctaw near Philadelphia.
The Chickasaw signed the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek (the second attempt at an agreement between the nation and the US government) on 20 October 1832, and the United States ratified it on 1 March 1833. The Chickasaw ceded their lands in Alabama and Mississippi to the US government. Each family was allowed to sell its land to white settlers and received a temporary residence until Removal to Indian Territory. The tribe was to pay for its own relocation with the proceeds of the sale of land. The Chickasaw negotiated with the Choctaw for land in Indian Territory in 1837.
In 1970 the US Supreme Court revisited the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek and the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek (as well as the 1835 Treaty of New Echota with the Cherokee Nation) in Choctaw Nation v. Oklahoma. The Court found that the treaties gave the Native Americans both the Arkansas River riverbed and oil and mineral rights.
- D. L. Birchfield and Melissa Walsh Dolg, in The Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, vol. 1, ed. Sharon Malinowski and Anna Sheets (1998)
- Duane Champagne, ed., Chronology of Native North American History from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present (1994)
- Arthur H. DeRosier Jr., in Forked Tongues and Broken Treaties, ed. Donald E. Worcester (1975)
- Grant Foreman, Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (1966); Arrell M. Gibson, in History of Indian-White Relations, vol. 4 of the Handbook of North American Indians, ed. Wilcombe E. Washburn (1988)
- Francis Paul Prucha, American Indian Treaties: The History of a Political Anomaly (1994)