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Indian Removal

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Indian Removal

The evolving U.S. policy of Indian Removal shaped Arkansas geographically, economically, and ethnically. Federal removal treaties with the Choctaw in 1825 and the Arkansas Cherokee in 1828 established the state's western boundary. Throughout the territorial period (1819-1836), Arkansas politicians were obsessed with removing Indians from the land within its shrinking borders, even the few destitute Quapaw for whom the state had been named. Yet, a cash-poor frontier economy profited enormously from government contracts when Southeast tribal groups were transported across Arkansas throughout the 1830s, along routes later collectively labeled "the Trail of Tears." Still, the state's political leaders complained loudly that the presence of sovereign tribes in neighboring Indian Territory stifled development in Arkansas and, especially after the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean following the Mexican War (1846-1848), wanted those tribes removed again even further west.

The American policy of removing Indians from tribal lands east of the Mississippi River began to influence the development of Arkansas soon after the Louisiana Purchase. The 1804 act separating Upper Louisiana from the Territory of Orleans authorized the president to exchange land above the thirty-third parallel--the line that became Arkansas's southern border--with any eastern tribe willing to "remove and settle thereon." In fact, many refugee bands--notably Cherokee, Choctaw, Delaware, and Shawnee--were already in Arkansas, forced west by questionable land cessions, tribal disputes, harassment, or the search for better hunting grounds. Also scattered around the future state, with more coming, were white squatters, also not waiting for official settlement policies to be decided. For three decades, Arkansas was in flux, awaiting surveys and federal decisions.

Removal continued past the 1830s in Arkansas as scattered tribal remnants were moved west and elsewhere in the United States as the federal government continued to designate state boundaries surrounding Indian lands. The Osage, for example, who had been moved north to make way for the Cherokee, were forced out of Kansas in the 1870s and back into the future Oklahoma.

Removal from their ancestral lands forever changed these tribes and their cultures. But even greater threats were ahead. By the 1890s, in violation of treaty guarantees and with the help of key Arkansas politicians, tribal lands in Indian Territory would be carved into individual allotments with the aim of terminating tribal governments and preparing the way for Oklahoma statehood in 1907. Yet, despite the efforts to destroy them, the tribes survive, and as federal policy continues to evolve, some even thrive. For individual Indians, now accepted as Native American, they have legal status as dual citizens of their tribe and of the United States.

Accompanying Arkansas' march to statehood was the federal government's solution to the problem of the southeastern Indian tribes and the local Quapaw. The largely empty lands of Arkansas tempted the more pressured southeastern tribes almost as much as it did land-hungry whites. Eventually because the whites were overwhelming in numbers and militarily stronger, they won control of the region.

Quapaw Removal

When the United States took control of Louisiana, the Quapaw consisted of 575 men, women and children living in four villages, one of which contain Choctaw men with Quapaw wives. Anxious to conciliate the Indians, the government presented them with two hogsheads of tobacco and four barrels of whiskey. Arkansas Post renamed Fort Madison, received a garrison of a captain and sixteen soldiers. The Quapaw were not impressed and complained that the government ignored them.

At the outbreak of the War of 1812 , Federal troops stationed at Fort Madison were withdrawn, but some white settlers fleeing possible danger elsewhere took refuge at the Fort. According to the white squatters the Quapaw and Choctaw were daily in the "habit of killing their cattle, hogs, and stealing horses, and committing personal abuse on the inhabitants." While the whites called for restoring military protection, the government was considering plans to make the Trans-Mississippi an dumping ground for the eastern Indians.

In May 1816 Missouri Governor William Clark sent David Musick and William Parker to order the white families living on the Quapaw lands to leave and scheduled a conference with the Quapaw, Cherokee and Osage chiefs. Nothing was decided at the conference and as more Cherokees began to move west into Arkansas, the Osage responded to this invasion of the lands they considered theirs by waging open warfare. The Quapaw sided with the Cherokee, and the war occasioned great alarm among the few whites in Arkansas.

The government again addressed the western question in 1818. In order to obtain more lands to offer the eastern Indians, the government forced the Quapaw to give up all their claims to lands east of the Mississippi and north of the Arkansas River and their hunting grounds to the West. What remained of their previous 30,000,000 acres was now a mere 2,000,000 located in southeastern Arkansas, the right to hunt in the west and a yearly annuity. Despite the loss of hunting land, the Quapaw had preserved a large area suitable for extensive agriculture.

The treaty proved to be little obstacle to white greed. In it first session the Arkansas legislature petitioned the government to reduce the 2,000,000 acre tract to 12 square miles and James W. Bates, the territorial delegate, pursued a consistently anti-Quapaw policy. The government was late in paying the annuity, refused to provide a blacksmith and when the Osage murdered three Quapaw hunters near Fort Smith, the territorial secretary, Robert Crittenden, told the Quapaw "to stay at home and tend their crops.:

In addition, government surveyors misinterpreted the 1818 treaty and cut off some 800 square miles of Quapaw lands. When the discrepancy was pointed out, the government simply published a new version of the treaty, changing the language to coincide with the survey. The pressure increased in the following years. Crittenden called the Quapaw "a poor, indolent, miserable remnant of a nation, insignificant and inconsiderable.". He believed the Quapaw could be induced to sell out for $25,000. Congress took the suggestion that they be merged with the Caddo on the Red River and voted $7,500 for that purpose with the understanding that the Quapaw were anxious to resettle with the Caddo.

In fact the Quapaw were determined to stay. In May 1824 Crittenden met with the Quapaw who reluctantly agreed to the reduction of their

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