Native Americans and the Civil War

Published: 2021-06-29 06:27:23
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Category: American History

Type of paper: Essay

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The poor treatment of Native Americans is incontestable. Removal from their native lands, religious persecution, racism and broken promises from the government all played an important role in the degradation of Native culture. The Civil War did not hold a different fate for natives. Many tribes signed treaties, pledging allegiance with the Confederate United states, which ultimately resulted in further degradation of their traditional cultures. This paper will explore the events which led to the signing of the treaty, as well as the repercussions of that decision.
Removal of the Native Americans is a very grim period in our country's history, with which most are familiar. During this time, Natives became very dependent upon the United States government; having been ripped from their homelands and placed in the western territories which were open to attacks by the more feral tribes, when they were promised safe, fertile lands where they could prosper, did not squelch this dependence. Military garrisons were established to provide the physical protection necessary in order to ensure the tribes' safety and prosperity. (1)
By 1861, the United States had become a country divided. As states quarreled over whether to join the Northern Union States or the Southern Confederate States, Native territories were forced to do the same. Natives had already developed mistrust for the government due to removal, the conditions of removal and the promises that had yet to come to fruition. Julius Folsom, Choctaw, recalled the time in a letter to historian H.B. Cushman;
"Up to this time, our protection was in the United States troops stationed at Fort Washita, under the command of Colonel Emory. But he, as soon as the Confederate troops had entered our country, at once abandoned us and the Fort; and, to make his flight more expeditious and his escape more sure, employed Black Beaver, a Shawnee Indian, under a promise to him of five thousand dollars, to pilot him and his troops out of the Indian country safely without a collision with the Texas Confederates; which Black Beaver accomplished. By this act the United States abandoned the Choctaws and Chickasaws. . . .(2)."
The mistrust and discontentment is obvious in Julius Folsom's retelling of Colonel Emory's retreat from Indian Territory. This sense of abandonment, made the Choctaws and Chickasaws decision very clear, Folsom continues to explain; "Then, there being no other alternative by which to save their country and property, they, as the less of the two evils that confronted them, went with the Southern Confederacy (3)."
After removal most tribes had to assimilate (to some extent) into white culture, due to the option of assimilation or annihilation with which most are familiar. Tribes such as the Choctaw had begun assimilation into white culture as early as 1840 (4) and had intermingled with the white men enough that the tribe was no longer purely Native American. Many of the tribes (most notably the Cherokee John Ross) had engaged in interracial marriages with white men or woman which resulted in interracial children. While they tried to preserve certain aspects of their culture, with any merging of two cultures some traditions will be lost, new traditions gained and some will remain. This is the case with the civilized tribes, and many had adopted the tradition of slavery. Adam Goodheart explains,
". . . There were Choctaw leaders who owned black slaves. There were many Cherokee leaders who owned black slaves. And many of these Indian groups also had become really intermarried with whites at this point. So the divisions between groups in America were much fuzzier than the sort of Union and Confederate, blue and gray categories that we try to fit people into."(5)

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