Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
Teaser Image

Treaty Site: Doak's Stand, Mississippi

Doak's Stand is a tavern and trading post named for its builder, merchant William Doak, an 1810 emigrant to the Choctaw Nation. Doak's tavern was on the Natchez Trace near modern Jackson, Mississippi. On October 18, 1820, Doak's Stand was the site of a treaty of "friendship" and "limits and accommodation" between the United States and the Choctaw Nation. The Treaty of Doak's Stand (1820) was the fifth major Choctaw cession treaty; the first was the Treaty of Fort Adams (1801).

Leading the negotiations for the United States at Doak's Stand was Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, considered by many to be the architect of Indian removal. Thomas Jefferson, early in the 19th century, was the first to articulate Indian removal. In 1817, President James Monroe declared that U.S. security depended on rapid settlement of the Southwest and that, accordingly, it was in the best interests of Native Americans to relocate west of new U.S. settlement. In 1825, Monroe set before Congress the first actual proposal to resettle all eastern tribes on tracts in the West, on which the federal government would prohibit white citizens from living. Jackson had become a forceful proponent of removal by the time of his election to the presidency in 1828. The success of the Doak's Stand Treaty set an important precedent for this shift in federal Indian policy, which was fully realized in the 1830s.

Negotiations began at Doak's Stand in 1819. The Choctaw were asked to exchange a "small part" of their national territory for "a country beyond the Mississippi River" in order to relocate all those Choctaw who "live by hunting and will not work." This "small part" of the Choctaw Nation actually amounted to nearly five and a half million acres, comprising a significant portion of central and western Mississippi.

Initially, the Choctaw would not concede to the proposed terms of the treaty. Tribal leaders consulted with Christian missionaries in their nation. Cyrus Kingsbury, a prominent Presbyterian missionary, gave the Choctaw his personal approval of the U.S. plan. Under the direction of Pushmataha, the Choctaw signed the Treaty of Doak's Stand in October 1820, ceding about a third of all Choctaw territory. The treaty gave the United States western Mississippi in exchange for lands west of the Mississippi River, from the Cherokee boundary on the Arkansas River, up the same to its fork with the Canadian River in Oklahoma, then south to the Red River and down the same back up to the Arkansas. In all, this area comprised more than 13 million acres, or most of western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. Further, the United States agreed to provision each adult male Choctaw emigrant with a blanket, a kettle, a rifle, bullet molds, and enough ammunition for hunting and defense for one year; and each warrior's family received enough corn to support them for one year.

The United States had purchased the cession land first from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and then from the Quapaw tribe in 1818. Yet there were already several thousand U.S. settlers in the Arkansas Territory who objected to having to vacate and abandon their improvements to the Choctaw. To correct this problem, U.S. commissioners met with Choctaw leaders at the Treaty of Washington (1825), January 20, 1825. In this, the United States asked the Choctaw to cede back the eastern portion of the land given in the Doak's Stand Treaty. The Choctaw, in need of money and provisions, were easily persuaded to sign the new treaty. The Washington treaty fixed the eastern limit of the Choctaw cession at a line running due south from Fort Smith to Red River, thus forming what became and remains the present Arkansas-Oklahoma boundary.

Doak's Stand was the first large-scale effort at removal. The treaty opened former Choctaw lands to settlement by U.S. citizens. Choctaw who remained in their former country could merge into a new "Mississippi" society by claiming private tracts of land, receiving "American" education, and adopting "civilized" habits. Between 1820 and 1830, nearly 30,000 settlers moved into the lands opened up by the cession. The remaining Choctaw quickly found themselves surrounded and well outnumbered. By then, the Choctaw were ready to accept further cessions, and the bulk of the nation finally agreed to remove across the Mississippi. A century after Doak's Stand, barely a thousand Choctaw remained in Mississippi, a largely landless and marginalized enclave. At the same time, thousands of other Choctaw struggled to maintain their culture in the relatively new state of Oklahoma. The burgeoning power of the United States and the dwindling influence of the Choctaw readily compromised the terms of the Doak's Stand Treaty.

C. S. Everett

Further Reading
De Rosier, Arthur H., Jr. The Removal of the Choctaw Indians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970; Kappler, Charles J., ed. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, vol. 2, Treaties. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904; Reeves, Carolyn Keller, ed. The Choctaw Before Removal. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985.

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

ABC-cLIO Footer