Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
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Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830), signed on September 27, 1830, was the first removal treaty negotiated after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. By the terms of the treaty, the Choctaw Nation signed away all its land holdings east of the Mississippi River for land in Indian Territory. In exchange for their land, the Choctaw received a 20-year annuity of $20,000 as well as other monetary allowances to build schools, churches, and a tribal council house in Indian Territory.

The federal government had begun pressuring the Choctaw to relocate in 1820, when Gen. Andrew Jackson was commissioned to meet with three Choctaw district chiefs and other lesser Choctaw officials at Doak's Stand to discuss removal. All three chiefs opposed removal, but Jackson presented to them a bill, proposed by a Mississippi representative to Congress, that would prevent the Choctaw from using or settling on land west of the Mississippi. Although this sounds contrary to government policy, the federal officials thought that, as long as the Choctaw had free access to their western hunting grounds, they would never cede their Mississippi land. They reasoned that, if the Choctaw believed that the United States already owned the western land, the Natives might be willing to cede part of their eastern land in order to keep their western hunting grounds. The treaty did not require any Choctaw to leave their homes; those wishing to stay on the ceded land would receive a one-square-mile tract of land, to include their improvements.

The Choctaw's new territory had not yet been surveyed when the Treaty of Doak's Stand was ratified. When the land was surveyed, it was discovered that white settlements already existed on the land. The federal government believed it would be almost impossible to remove the white settlers, so government officials requested that a Choctaw delegation come to Washington in the fall of 1824 to negotiate a new boundary line for the Choctaw's western land.

After the treaty of 1825 was negotiated, the United States expected the Choctaw to leave for their new land in Indian Territory. However, the majority of the Choctaw did not move. Consequently, the federal government and the state of Mississippi increased pressure on the Choctaw to remove. In 1829, the Mississippi legislature took strong action against the Choctaw people and extended Mississippi state laws over the Natives. In January 1830, the Choctaw became citizens of Mississippi; their tribal government was abolished, and any Native exercising the office of chief or headman became subject to fines and imprisonment. The federal government passed the Indian Removal Act and informed the Choctaw Nation that they would not be protected from hostile Mississippi State laws.

After Mississippi extended its laws over the Choctaw, the Natives were constantly harassed by white settlers. To obtain relief, the Choctaw leadership requested a meeting with federal officials at the Dancing Rabbit Creek campgrounds. The negotiations dragged on for about two weeks. When the negotiations began to fail, the government purchased the signatures of the leaders with valuable land grants, lifelong salaries, and other presents. In the end, the government secured the leadership's cooperation by playing to the Choctaw leadership's lust for money and power.

As soon as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, the Choctaw people let it be known that they were outraged by the actions of their chiefs. Different factions elected different chiefs, and anarchy prevailed in the Choctaw Nation. However, little could be done. A few Choctaw left immediately for Indian Territory in order to claim the best land, but most waited to be moved by the U.S. government in one of three planned moves in 1831, 1832, or 1833. Removal proved to be an extremely difficult experience for the Choctaw. Out of 14,000 tribal members and 512 slaves who left Mississippi during these years, at least 2,500 died during the travel west. More died after reaching Indian Territory due to inadequate food supplies and severe weather.

Around 6,000 Choctaw decided to take advantage of Article 14 of the treaty, which provided an opportunity for the Choctaw to remain in Mississippi; any head of household could apply for and receive U.S. citizenship, along with 640 acres of land. These people did not fare well, either. The Choctaw agency refused to let most of the Natives register for land allotments, and the paperwork for most of the remaining people who did register was lost. In the end, only 69 heads of household were officially registered. The vast majority of the Choctaw remaining in Mississippi became squatters living in isolated areas on poor farmland. They lost all access to schools and public services and survived as best they could by gathering nuts and wild berries and by growing corn, pumpkins, and potatoes. Some worked for white farmers picking cotton, hoeing the fields, and doing other menial tasks. Many of these people eventually went to Indian Territory during the 1840s.

Joyce Ann Kievit

Further Reading
Baird, W. David. The Choctaw People. Phoenix, AZ: Indian Tribal Series, 1973; Debo, Angie. The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967; Kidwell, Clara Sue. Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818–1918. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995; McKee, Jesse O., and Jon A. Schlenker. The Choctaws: Cultural Evolution of a Native American Tribe. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1980.

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