America The Beautiful?
Caliban, Coyote and the Knights of the Golden Circle
Trick or Treat
In 1752 the French destroyed a British blockhouse at the forks of the Ohio River and built Fort Duquesne on the site. Next year the colony of Virginia sent Major George Washington to request that they cease and desist, which they declined to do. In 1754 Washington returned with troops and started the French and Indian War.
In July 1755 General Braddock and half his command were killed by a mixed Ottawa and French Canadian war party. The Delaware and Shawnee were neutral but a delegation of those neutrals were in Philadelphia arguing over treaty land cessions when news of Braddock's defeat arrived. The Delaware and Shawnee were neutral and known to be neutral, but more to the point they were handy to be hanged in an act of infinite justice and so hanged they were, and high. Much rejoicing filled the colony of Pennsylvania. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed.
The Delaware and Shawnee were now no longer so neutral as hitherto (though they still did not consider themselves as allied to the French). In a series of raids along their frontier with the colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia they killed some 2,500 settlers.
In 1755 peaceful Munsee and Wappinger Indians living in villages in the Hudson Valley were urged by local colonists to move closer to white settlements for "protection". A few months later colonial vigilantes led by William Slaughter slaughtered them. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed.
The French and Indian War ended in 1763 and was followed soon after by the British Proclamation which attempted to halt white settlement at the crest of the Appalachians. The colonists ignored the Proclamation and five years later the British backed down, negotiating a treaty with the Iroquois at Fort Stanwix in 1768 which officially reopened Ohio to colonial settlement. By 1774 there were 50,000 frontiersmen (Long Knives) west of the Appalachians whose destiny was manifestly to plunge further westward. Seeing what was coming groups of Shawnee left Ohio to settle in Spanish Missouri.
In 1774 a series of raids by colonial militia and vigilantes on peaceful Shawnee and Mingo villages led to war with Virginia in which the Delaware remained neutral. That war (named Lord Dunmore's after John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, the governor of Virginia) ended within a few months when the Shawnee chief Cornstalk signed the Treaty of Camp Charlotte ceding Shawnee lands south of the Ohio River. Cornstalk is quoted (in Lee Miller, op. cit. p. 133) as having earlier said:—
"In a few years, the Shawnees, from being a great Nation, have been reduced to a handful. They once possessed land almost to the seashore, but now have hardly enough ground to stand upon. The lands where the Shawnees have but lately hunted are covered with forts and armed men. When a fort appears, you may depend upon it there will soon be towns and settlements of white men. It is plain that the white people intend to extirpate the Indians. It is better for [us] to die like warriors than to diminish away by inches. The cause of the red men is just, and I hope that the [Creator] who governs everything will favor us."
He tried, he failed, and then he tried to make the best of the situation created by that failure. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed.
The authority of American Indian chiefs was social, rooted in custom, and only intermittently in any sense political. Under the destabilising pressure of defeat after defeat in unceasing wars the social structure of the peoples was crumbling and the peoples themselves were fragmenting, with some groups fleeing the area of frontier conflict and other groups determined to remain and fight to the death.
That is the situation in which Cornstalk, striving against heavy odds to keep the peace, found that he could not control Shawnee warriors who were constantly being harassed and provoked by the Long Knives. In 1777 he went to Fort Randolph to warn the American troops there that the Shawnee had allied with the British and were planning an attack. The Americans took him hostage and a month or so later murdered him. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed.
In September 1778 Delaware representatives went to Fort Pit and signed a treaty of friendship and alliance with the Americans. Gregory Dowd (perhaps the most clear headed of any academic historian of this period, certainly among those I have read) comments on this...
"The most radical American suggestion, never implemented by Congress, guaranteed the Delawares' possession of all their claimed lands and suggested, audaciously, that the Ohio Indians still in friendship with the United States might 'form a state whereof the Delaware Nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress: Provided, nothing in this article to be considered conclusive until it meets with the approbation of Congress.' It is inconceivable that such a proposal was accepted, in good faith, by even the most broad-minded of the Commissioners, but it certainly illustrates the lengths American agents were willing to run in the lies they were willing to spin in order to achieve Delaware neutrality." (op. cit. p.70)
A provision in the treaty allowed that the Americans could build a fort on the west bank of the Tuscarawas River to 'protect' the allied Delaware 'from the British'. A party led by the leading accommodationist, White Eyes, escorted American soldiers to the site of the new fort. Suspicious of White Eyes' refusal to assist them in an attack on Detroit the Long Knives murdered him. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed.
This left Captain Pipe and Killbuck at the head of the Delaware. (There were three Delaware Clans: White Eyes had been head of the Turtle Clan, Captain Pipe was head of the Wolf Clan, and Killbuck was head of the Turkey Clan.) Captain Pipe was determined to avenge the murder of White Eyes. Killbuck was obstinately loyal to the American alliance.
Throughout this period groups of Delaware, Shawnee and Mingo were hunting shared ground in upper Ohio and living cheek by jowl in "the polyglot cluster of villages surrounding Coshocton" (Dowd, op. cit. page 65). By the end of 1779, the behaviour of the Americans had led most of the Delaware and Shawnee in the area to share the views of Captain Pipe, against those of Killbuck who had succeeded to White Eyes' dominant position. Confusion and demoralisation ensued, and were exacerbated when Killbuck led a war party in support of democracy and the land of the free (home of the brave?).
In 1780 most Delaware were still allied to and fighting alongside the Americans. In the same year American hunters and settlers were invading the land which the treaty of 1778 had guaranteed to the Delaware. By 1781 Coshocton was controlled by Killbuck's opponents. Killbuck then announced openly that he was about to turn Christian. Secretly he became an informer. He relocated to Fort Pitt and told its commander, Colonel Daniel Brodhed, of Coshocton plans to attack Wheeling and Pittsburgh. Brodhed then persuaded him to join, leading the warriors who had defected with him, in an attack on Coshocton. He agreed. Coshocton was burned, women and children were taken prisoner and men executed by tomahawk. Good old Killbuack. But wait...
Later that year Killbuack accompanied a party of Pennsylvania volunteers commanded by Colonel David Williamson which was failing to catch up with a Delaware war party. Since they couldn't war on the warriors Williamson and his stalwart band attacked a peaceful group of Christian Indians who were living in the Moravian mission towns of Salem and Gnadenhuetten...
"Finding the Moravians at Gnadenhuetten, Williamson placed them under arrest. In the democratic style of frontier militia, a vote was taken whether to take the prisoners back to Fort Pitt or kill them. The decision was to execute them. The Moravians were given the night to prepare. In the morning, two slaughter houses were selected, and 90 Christian Delaware--29 men, 27 women, and 34 children--were taken inside in small groups and beaten to death with wooden mallets." (Lee Sultzman's First Nation Histories, The Delaware.)
Killbuck had become almost a good Indian. Soon he made it all the way. On their way back to Fort Pitt Williamson's exuberant democrats killed him and all his men. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed.
Cornstalk had been succeeded as leader of the Shawnee by Malunthy who felt he had no option but to persevere with the policy of accommodation. In 1786, three years after the end of the War of Independence, Malunthy signed a treaty at Fort Finney which ceded Shawnee lands that were desperately needed by the Ohio Company and a New Jersey syndicate of land speculators. Like Cornstalk, Malunthy tried to maintain the peace and abide by the treaty that had been forced upon him. When Shawnee led by Black snake resisted, Malunthy and his people stayed at home. This just made them easier to find. In 1787 Malunthy' s village was attacked by Colonel Benjamin Logan's Kentucky militia. Logan killed Malunthy as he stood, his copy of the treaty in his hands, protesting the attack. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed. Coyote is laughing still.
Red Sticks and Black Hearts
The most numerous, powerful and prosperous of the Indian peoples of the southern regions of the North American continent were the "Five Civilised Tribes", the Creek Confederacy, the Seminole, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw and the Cherokee.
A small part of the Creek Confederacy was composed of several refugee bands of Shawnee, which had included the parents of Tecumseh before they migrated back to Ohio. Tecumseh's older brother, Cheeseekau, had remained with the Creeks. Tecumseh himself journeyed south in the summer of 1793 to join his brother and an allied band of Creeks and Cherokees in raids along the Cumberland Basin. Following Cheeseekau's death in battle Tecumseh joined the Chickasaw in raids against Tennessee colonists. He also toured in the country of the Creeks and Seminoles (who were originally an amalgamation of some Creeks with detribalised fragments of the Indian peoples of Florida).
Following the adoption by George Washington of his "peace policy" he conspired with Knox to corrupt the mixed-blood (a phrase I would prefer to avoid, but cannot) Creek leader, Alexander McGillivray, who was secretly granted the rank of brigadier general and an annual salary to cede Creek land to the state of Georgia. As was ever the way of such affairs the land cession in the treaty was welcomed by the state of Georgia and its agreed borders were ignored. Ah, peace. Ahh...policy!
War between the Creeks and the state of Georgia went on and on, which the Creeks lost and lost and lost.
In 1799 the Creeks, who had for some time been meeting regularly in a national council, agreed that the laws of the council should for the first time supersede customary clan law. It was from then on their National Council. The American Indian Agent for the south, Benjamin Hawkins, took credit for that development and claimed it as a major step towards the civilising of the Creeks. Twelve years later he demonstrated to its victims the real value of such civilisation. (Colonel Benjamin Hawkins was a graduate of Princeton, a friend of George Washington and a former U.S. senator. For 21 years after being appointed in 1795 he acted as United States Agent to the Creek Nation and General Superintendent of all tribes south of the Ohio River. He seems to have been one of those agents of genocide who genuinely liked Indians; in any event he made a detailed and sympathetic study of Creek culture and took a Creek woman to be his unlawfully bedded, common-law, wife.)
In 1811 the United States government was pressing strongly for a new treaty with the Creeks to ratify further land cessions and the building of a road from the Tennessee River to Fort Stoddert. The Creek National Council was holding out against this. President Madison and his Secretary of War Eustis told Hawkins that the road should be built. In September Hawkins told the Creek National Council that it would be built, regardless of their wishes, in disregard of the rule of law. And it was built.
Having acquiesced in being over-ruled by Hawkins the National Council ceased to bear any resemblance to a representative body and became Wasichu's hangman. By April 1813 the Creek National Council had, on Hawkins' orders, assassinated at least ten Creek opponents of Hawkins' civilisation. The consequence of all this warmed the cockles of the white Agent's black heart. It was civil war within the Creek Confederacy.
In the autumn of 1812 Tecumseh returned to the Creeks carrying bundles of red sticks from which one stick was to be removed each day until war should be unleashed. The war of the Red Stick Creeks began with a bonfire of white vanities and the execution of as many of Hawkins' hangmen as they could lay hands on (only about nine of them...ah well).
On August 30, 1813, the Red Sticks attacked the United States at Fort Mims where they overwhelmed the garrison and killed 107 soldiers, 160 settlers who had taken refuge in the fort and 100 of their Negro slaves.
A combined force of Georgia militia, Hawkins' Creeks, Federal troops with Choctaw auxiliaries and two Tennessee armies then advanced against the Red Stick Creeks. One of the Tennessee armies was commanded by Andrew Jackson and included 600 Cherokee mercenaries. The final battle of the campaign was fought on March 27, 1814, at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River. The Red Sticks were almost annihilated.
Surviving Red Stick families fled to the Seminole in Florida (Osceola, the most prominent leader of the long Seminole struggle against removal to Indian Territory some twenty years later had been a Red Stick Creek).
So much for the defeated. What then of the Creeks, Choctaws and Cherokees who counted themselves among the victors of Horseshoe Bend? Well the Creeks who had toed the line with Hawkins and fought for Jacksonian Democracy in the war to end all uppityness were less than pleased with the outcome of their victory.
"In a strange repetition of past American actions, Jackson drove some erstwhile accommodationists and peace-seekers into the nativist camp. Jackson's contempt for the Creek party of accommodation emerged with stark clarity during the negotiations that supposedly ended the Creek War, the Treaty of Fort Jackson on August 9, 1814. By this treaty, the United States did not so much make peace with its enemies as take land from its allies.
"According to its provisions, the Lower Creeks, by and large opponents of the Red Sticks, lost the southern third of their lands. Few Upper Creek Red Sticks and only one known Red Stick leader signed the document. The accommodationist leaders of the Lower Creeks, forced into drastic cessions by an overpowering American army, petitioned the federal government on the very day they signed the treaty. These Creek leaders, reminding the Americans that 'we have adhered faithfully in peace and war to our treaty stipulations with the United States,' described the Fort Jackson agreement as unfair: 'We do not deem the exchange as equivalent.' They acquiesced to it under Jackson's insistence, and they hoped, vainly, for 'the justice of the United States to cause justice to be done to us.'" (Dowd, op. cit. pp 189--190)
Jackson's Choctaw allies were also forced to cede large tracts of their lands as some kind of strange reward or stranger punishment for having supported him. I don't have details of those transactions to hand but I feel confident that they were wonderfully whimsical.
As for the Cherokee mercenaries, well...
"In 1814, when Jackson made his peace treaty with the Creeks, he included with the tract taken from the Creek Nation as reparations 2.2 million acres of rich cotton land in northern Alabama which was claimed by the Cherokees...this land had been confirmed to the Cherokees by the Treaty of Hopewell in 1785, and even Meigs and President Madison believed Jackson had erred in taking it from them in 1814." (William G. McLoughlin, op. cit. page 107)
You might think the accommodationist Cherokee leaders who brought their warriors to Horseshoe Bend would have learned something from that sequel but, as we will see soon enough, they were too accommodating for anything so radical as practical education.
The rest of this article will be concerned pretty much exclusively with the tragedy of the Tsalagi, with the story of their painful path to their trail of tears and a little beyond. Wasichu said, give up warring and adopt the ways of the White man. Coyote laughed. Coyote is laughing still.
With This Ring I Thee Plunder
Before contact with European civilisation (selfishness, greed, rape and genocide) the Tsalagi (from now on, mostly to avoid confusion with quotations, the Cherokee) lived in:--
"The southern Appalachian Mountains: including western North and South Carolina, northern Georgia and Alabama, southwest Virginia, and the Cumberland Basin of Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Alabama" (Lee Sultzman, op.cit).
They spoke an Iroquoian language.
The Cherokee first encountered white civilisation in 1540 in the wonderfully typical person of the Spaniard, Hernando de Soto. Having been appointed governor of Florida de Soto landed in Tampa Bay and went looking for gold, slaves and Florida (in that order), killing or enslaving everyone he met along the way until his death, of illness, a year or so later.
They were a settled, agricultural people who lived in 200 or so villages. Their staple foods were corn, beans and squash, which they supplemented by hunting deer, turkey and rabbits and gathering wild plants.
In their social organisation they practised the Iroquoian form of a matrilineal exogamous clan system (though the Cherokee women had little of the social power wielded by their northern sisters).
Their political organisation was as rudimentary as it was decentralised. The villages were for the most part independent within a common framework of shared customary law (perhaps 'protocols' would be a better term).
Their economic life was communal. Families ate what they grew and hunted and gathered. Surpluses were stored and shared at feasts or in times of need.
As for religion, they either lived it minutely or they had none, depending on your point of view. Certainly, they had no time at all for inconceivable theories of first and last things for which they had no names. They preferred stories and rituals which made ceremonial sense of the context of their lives to any theology.
"Explaining to their mission board why they were not making more rapid progress in mastering the Cherokee language, the Moravians insisted that virtually no adult white had ever been able to learn the language so as to speak it fluently...When the Moravians went to McDonald in 1809 and asked him to provide them with translations of some important paragraphs of Christian doctrine, he told them it was impossible. 'He assured us,' they reported, 'that for matters of that nature neither words nor expressions are available in this language.' They were appalled to find that the Cherokees had no words that could represent the concepts of sin, repentance, forgiveness, grace, redemption, perdition, damnation. 'How sad it is that the Cherokee language has no words for matters which are not related to the daily life and work of the Indians.' (McLoughlin, op. cit. page 64)
"Behind the 'wretched language,' the missionaries believed, lay wretched ideas and habits; civilization and Christianisation required the replacement of the Indians' ways of thought by Anglo-American ways of thought. Only the English language could convey the truth." (page 66)
Cherokee cultural and linguistic blindness to the fundamentals of the Christian creed was a source of great distress to the transcendental wing of the genocide that was about to sweep over them. The wretched, unhappy Indians, lost in sin and bound for damnation were not even aware that they were wretched, unhappy, lost in sin and bound for damnation. But the wrath of god was well nigh upon them, and their sins would find them out.
The Cherokee were open-minded, open-hearted and open-handed. In a word, savages. In two words, easy prey.
One aspect of the open character of Cherokee communalism made the people particularly vulnerable to the white invaders who followed in the bloody wake of de Soto. Any Cherokee, anyone who was born into, or who married into, one of the seven matrilineal clans, could settle on and farm any unoccupied land. If he then wanted to expand his holding but was blocked by neighbouring farms there was nothing to prevent him starting a second, third, fourth farm on other unoccupied land. The Cherokee were not an acquisitive people. They had no acquisitive instinct and no defence against incomers who had little else. Civilisation came to them bearing trade goods and wedding rings (and black dowries).
"Although the tribe officially recognized white husbands as having the civil rights of any Cherokee, and while technically, in a matrilineal system, the children were members of the mother's clan, the whites and their mixed blood offspring adopted the patriarchal system of white society. They seldom acknowledged any clan responsibilities or connection. White fathers, for example, did not allow their wives' brothers to discipline their children, and if they separated from their wives, they did not acknowledge the wife's right to the house, landed property, or children" (William G. McLoughlin, ibid, page 26).
Another academic (R. Halliburton, Jr., in Red Over Black, Black Slavery among the Cherokee Indians, Greenwood Press, 1977) goes into the process in some greater detail.
"Some traders who married Cherokee women amassed property, and their plantations soon rivalled those of the Carolinas in size. They purchased black slaves and left them and other properties as an inheritance to their half-Cherokee children. Traders brought black slaves to the Cherokee Nation and sold them to tribal members. As early as 1673 firearms were introduced among the Cherokees. They immediately began capturing black slaves in order to sell them and purchase ammunition. The English urged the Cherokees to sell them all the blacks whom they seized from Indians friendly to the French. The French in turn rewarded the Cherokees handsomely for blacks abducted from English plantations." (page 6)
"Ample village acreage was available to the prospective planter. Land was free to any Cherokee citizen. All land was owned by the Nation but any citizen could gain exclusive use of unclaimed acreage of it was not within a quarter-mile of land used by a neighbour. All improvements subsequently made on the land became the personal property of the individual and could be sold or willed to any citizen of the Nation. There was no limit of acreage which could be used by an individual. If a planter became surrounded by his neighbours and was therefore unable to expand contiguously, he could start another farming operation at another location. Large numbers of Indian planters took full advantage of this generous land policy. Consequently, in 1835, 224 Cherokee families operated two farms, 77 operated three, 33 operated four, 17 operated five, 8 operated six, 1 operated seven, 1 operated nine, and one family operated a total of thirteen farms. Moreover, 93 percent of all Cherokee families operated at least one farm." (page 20)
(Halliburton's book is generally useful but it is centrally misconceived. He claims that, though the Cherokee had no word for slave, they had practised slavery throughout their history. The custom he refers to as proof of this absurd contention is one whereby captives of war were either adopted into the clan system or, failing that, were held to forced labour. He seems to be entirely unaware of the crucial distinction between one of the many forms of human bondage practised by many societies throughout history and the very specific institution of chattel slavery which was unknown to the Cherokee until they encountered it as the economic basis of white civilisation, until it was held up to them as the essential sign of what being civilised was all about.)
The "mixed-blood" inheritors of their fathers' farms and slaves were full Cherokee citizens. They held themselves to be Cherokee and no other Cherokee disputed that. But they were the occasion of a fatal rupture in the social, economic and cultural bases of Cherokee life. They were brought up and educated outside the clan system which was the central support of Cherokee society. They were wealthy in a society which had never before had any notion of wealth. They spoke English and were, by and large, receptive to Christian ideas that Cherokee speakers had no conception of. They were the Cherokee that Americans, while holding them in as much contempt as all the rest, could, and invariably did, do business with.
The intellectual racist, Lewis Henry Morgan, who liked Indians well enough to hope they would be destroyed more by hypocritical social engineering than by military force, intellectualised a similar process for himself and, thinking it simply wonderful, speculated that it might work its racial mystery among those Indians, including the Cherokee, who had when he was writing been removed to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. In his Indian Journals (not published until 1959) he wrote...›
"I think an amalgamation with the Indians by the white race, or the absorption of the best blood of their race into our own, is destined to take place, and that Kansas will be the theatre of the first honest and regular experiment. Hitherto the lowest and basest whites have been the fathers of the half breeds. Now we are to see respectable white people marry the daughters of wealthy and respectable Indians and bring up their children with the advantages of education, Christianity and wealth." (quoted in,›Fred Eggan, The American Indian, Perspectives For The Study Of Social Change, Cambridge University Press, 1980, page 156)
"I think a most important idea lies in here and it is one that has occurred to me before; and that is, whether it is not in virtue of the white blood already taken up and distributed among the emigrant [that] the improvement that we see among them has come to pass; and that but for this blood all efforts would have been unavailable to introduce agriculture among them. I can hardly think it true and yet it may be." (quoted, ibid, page 157)
It is a wonder of white whimsy that anyone can describe the Cherokee Trail of Tears as "emigration". It is interesting, if absolutely typical, that Morgan cannot even bring himself to think of respectable Indian men marrying the daughters of wealthy and respectable white fathers. It is strange that he seems unaware that the "emigrants" had been settled agriculturalists throughout their history. And it is utterly to the point of that social anthropology which he was busy founding that Morgan should propose the precise mechanics of the genocide that was occurring as he wrote as a cure for the possibility of genocide he thought himself to be opposing. Wonderful, interesting, strange and to the point. All of it par for the course.
(The question of wealthy and respectable Indians marrying the daughters of equally wealthy and respectable white fathers had arisen as a matter of fact in the real New England world that Morgan moved in some twenty or so years before his journal entries.
Christian missions to the Cherokee had begun in an organised fashion towards the end of the eighteenth century with the Moravians and Presbyterians. These were followed in 1816 by a government sponsored wave of New England missionaries under the aegis of the Congregationalist American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The American Board mission was immediately successful among the leading families of the "mixed-blood" »lite who were to the fore on the Indian side of the drive to civilise the Cherokee; the Ridges, Waties and Rosses. Major Ridge's son John and David Watie's son Elias Boudinot [just to be awkward he had taken the name of a white benefactor] were sent to be educated at the Board's Cornwall Academy in Connecticut. There they courted and married two white girls of good family. The storm against this infamy, editorial outrage in the newspapers, riots and effigy burning on the streets, was so great that the Board closed the Academy.)