Year
1861

Confederacy signs treaties with Native Americans

Special commissioner Albert Pike completes treaties with the members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, giving the new Confederate States of America several allies in Indian Territory. Some members of the tribes also fought for the Confederacy.

A Boston native, Pike went west in 1831 and traveled with fur trappers and traders. He settled in Arkansas and became a noted poet, author, and teacher. He bought a plantation and operated a newspaper, the Arkansas Advocate. By 1837 he was practicing law and often represented Native Americans in disputes with the federal government.

Pike was opposed to secession but nonetheless sided with his adopted state when it left the Union. As ambassador to the Indians, he was a fortunate addition to the Confederacy, which was seeking to form alliances with the tribes of Indian Territory. Besides the agreements with the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, Pike also engineered treaties with the Creek, Seminole, Comanche, and Caddos, among others.

Ironically, many of these tribes had been expelled from the Southern states in the 1830s and 1840s but still chose to ally themselves with those states during the war. The grudges they held against the Confederate states were offset by their animosity toward the federal government. Native Americans were also bothered by Republican rhetoric during the 1860 election. Some of Abraham Lincoln’s supporters, such as William Seward, argued that the land of the tribes in Indian Territory should be appropriated for distribution to white settlers. When the war began in 1861, Secretary of War Simon Cameron ordered all posts in Indian Territory abandoned to free up military resources for use against the Confederacy, leaving the area open to invasion by the Confederates.

By signing these treaties, the tribes severed their relationships with the federal government, much in the way the southern states did by seceding from the Union. They were accepted into the Confederates States of America, and they sent representatives to the Confederate Congress. The Confederate government promised to protect the Native American’s land holdings and to fulfill the obligations such as annuity payments made by the federal government.

Some of these tribes even sent troops to serve in the Confederate army, and one Cherokee, Stand Watie, rose to the rank of brigadier general.

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