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The struggle between Indians and whites for land did not end on the battlefields in the 1800s. When this hostile era closed with Native Americans forced onto reservations, no one expected that rich natural resources lay beneath these lands that white America would desperately desire. Yet oil, timber, fish, coal, water, and other resources were discovered to be in great demand in the mainstream market, and a new war began with Indian tribes and their leaders trying to protect their tribal natural resources throughout the twentieth century.
In The Invasion of Indian Country in the 20th Century, Donald Fixico details the course of this struggle, providing a wealth of information on the resources possessed by individual tribes and the way in which they were systematically defrauded and stripped of these resources. Fixico contends that federal policies originally devised to protect Indian interests ironically worked against the Indian nations as the tribes employed new tactics with the Council of Energy Resources Tribes, using the law in courts and applying aggressive business leadership to combat the capitalist invasion by mainstream America.
Fixico's analysis of this war being waged throughout the century and today serves as an indispensable reference tool for anyone interested in Native American history and current government policy with regard to Indian lands.
JACKSON BARNETT AND THE ALLOTMENT
OF MUSCOGEE CREEK LANDS
Jackson Barnett, a full-blood Muscogee Creek, epitomized the exploitation of many Indian people during the allotment of tribal lands between 1887 and the mid-1920s. Caught in the capitalist web of the white world, the Creek and other allotted Indians found their lives chaotic and threatened upon being assigned individual lands by the government. From all sides, greedy whites and selfish mixed-bloods pressured and cheated the full-bloods, lusting after their royalties and their oil and gas lands. Allotment of tribal lands under the Dawes Act of 1887 and subsequent amendments divided tribal members and created factions for and against the allotment of those lands. Without the support of their kinspeople and lacking business experience, individual Indians such as Jackson Barnett fell victim to free enterprise profit making.
The federal policy of Indian allotment was designed to individualize Native Americans and destroy their communal orientation. Furthermore, the most basic element of Indian society—the person or self—came under ruthless attack. The idea of "self" being interconnected with community and environment is well documented in the case of Jackson Barnett. However, he and other Indian people found they had to reorient their thinking as they lived adjacent to or within white society, which stressed individuality. Learning to cope became a means of survival, as sadly proved by Native people such as Jackson Barnett during the allotment years.
Barnett's sad story began during the late 1800s when his people, the Muscogee Creek, experienced political strife as they tried to find a balance between retaining the old ways and becoming like the whites. The adult life of Jackson Barnett illustrated the confusion experienced by a single Indian person trapped between the dynamic changes of a traditional Native culture entangled with the white society. In this dilemma, Indian people had to make critical decisions involving their lands while alien pressures compounded their problems. The traditional "person" did not comprehend the land leases and property sales involved in the federal government's allotment policy, thus pulling them from the old world they knew.
Creation stories from long ago say that Jackson Barnett and his tribespeople descended from "Ekv'nv," or mother earth, as many tribes know it, with each generation deepening the relationship between the people and the earth. According to Muscogee Creek oral history, the people received the substance of life from "Ekv'nv," created by the Master of Breath, "Hesaketvmese," who breathed the spirit of life into people. Muscogee origin accounts tell of their ancestors emerging from the earth and encountering the forces of fire from the four cardinal directions. The Creek were in awe of the fires, and the power of nature over their lives appeared obvious to them; they respected the ways and laws of nature. Nature compelled the people to observe the earth's gifts of life to the plants, which nourished and sheltered the animals, thus enabling all to live. All things were related and belonged to nature's order or system, leading the Muscogee Creek to develop kinship relations with the earth's plants and animals as expressed in clans and animism.
Astonishingly, the Muscogee Creek survived President Andrew Jackson's policy of removing Indians to territory west of the Mississippi during the 1830s. Thirty years later, they endured the American Civil War that brought destruction to their homes in Indian Territory. As a tribe, their relationship with "Ekv'nv" persisted in spite of the Dawes Act and its amendment, which mandated that their land be carved up and distributed to tribal members. In the name of "civilization," the Creek would be transformed into individual farmers, which jeopardized tribal identity, caused factionalism, and netted large losses of their new homelands. Traditionalists in the late 1800s who underwent allotment, like Jackson Barnett, felt a loss of spirit and lacked an understanding of the whole situation. Even the wise elders with generations of traditional knowledge did not have an answer, and they blamed the white people for what was happening to them.
Factionalism among the Muscogee Creek has always existed, but fortunately, the tribe endured through even the most crucial times. External issues had also threatened tribal unity, especially as more Creek began to live nontraditionally. But in time, the pressures of issues related to the white world became more powerful than the internal cohesion of Creek society, creating persistent havoc. Even after their removal from their original homeland in the Southeast to lands in the West, the Muscogee Creek waged at least three civil wars within their tribe, basically pitting those members favoring more progressive ways against those wanting to retain traditional culture. In 1872, the Sands Rebellion divided the Creek when the majority of the tribe elected Colonel Samuel Checote, a mixed-blood and a former Confederate, as chief over Sands, also known as Oktarharsars Harjo, a full-blooded Union or Loyal Creek with an estimated 300 supporters. Checote prevailed. A decade later, the conservative full-bloods attempted another restoration under Isparhecher, who led 350 Loyal Creek (who stayed neutral in the Creek's internal civil war). In what was known as the Green Peach War of 1883, Isparhecher failed to restore the traditional government and society.
Intertribal political problems forced the Muscogee Creek to revise their tribal government. Internally, the primary concern involved maintaining law and order; externally, the tribe faced continual pressure from the United States to allot their lands. Moreover, both local whites and a state government coveted the lands, hoping to expand white settlement.
Eager non-Indians on former Creek lands and in other areas of the territory lobbied congressmen from nearby states to introduce federal legislation for white settlement and Oklahoma statehood. The Creek had much to lose. White opportunists did not want the Creek and other Indians to control Oklahoma Territory and the new state. Having little political influence in Washington, the Creek and the other Five Civilized Tribes could not muster sufficient outside support for their own state, and they witnessed control of the situation slipping from their grasp.
Lawless turmoil followed as bands of whites, blacks, and other Indians camped throughout the Muscogee Creek Nation and the rest of Indian Territory. Increasing crimes challenged the Creek Lighthorse to maintain peace and order. Robbers, murderers, and livestock rustlers plagued the Muscogees and other tribal nations. The Cookson Hills in nearby Cherokee Territory became the hideout for local outlaws such as Ned Christie and the famed female outlaw Belle Starr. Although the tribes attempted to maintain tribal laws, their efforts conflicted with the territorial law being enforced from Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Outlaws and general disorder undermined Creek authority, which played into the hands of white opportunists who wanted the best land of the territory for themselves. Simultaneously, federal agents traveled among the Creek to urge acceptance of the allotments. To the disadvantage of the Creek, the U.S. Congress entertained legislation in the interests of non-Indians wanting statehood for Oklahoma Territory.
As the end of the troubled 1800s approached, the Creek employed another method of fighting allotment to save the old ways. Soon, the Muscogee Creek entered the courtroom and petitioned Congress to express their support for traditionalism and their opposition to allotment. The Muscogee Creek National Council sent a message to President William McKinley during October 1889 to remind him of the eighteen ratified treaties that the United States had signed with their tribe.
During these unstable years, the U.S. Congress passed the Dawes Land Allotment Act (in 1887), but it initially excluded the Muscogee Creek and other members of the Five Civilized Tribes, many of whom had become successful farmers. The allotment policy individualized Indians for mainstream assimilation, with the purpose of dissolving reservations, and the Oklahoma statehood movement appeared to engulf the Creek and the other Five Civilized Tribes.
Wanting to control their own destiny, the Muscogee Creek wrote their own constitution during the early 1890s, consisting of ten artic]es that defined their new form of government; one company of Lighthorse would enforce the tribal laws in each Creek town. Working to overcome division within the tribe, the Muscogee Creek realized the need to solidify their nation against the United States.
The new constitution enabled the Muscogee Creek to begin regulating their natural resources. Section 376 stipulated that no less than three tribal citizens in a group could mine coal in the nation. Section 392 stated that members had to obtain a license from the treasurer of the nation and file a bond with good security for contracting with any railroad company to furnish ties from timberlands or other materials. Outside pressures for Creek resources convinced the tribe to remain united, but the greater battle proved to be waged among tribal members themselves.
Continual factionalism, pitting full-blood traditionalists against mixed-blood progressives, frustrated the Muscogee Creek, and the momentum of allotment undermined the tribe, causing many families to fragment. Fathers and sons disagreed, brothers fought each other, and the individual person had to choose between the old ways and the new.
In an effort to protect their people, members of the tribal council passed a resolution in opposition to the allotment of their lands. Section 120 of the resolution, dated November 5, 1894, stated: "We still believe that the Government of the United States will prove true to her many pledges and keep perfect faith with our people and will aid instead of obstruct our present form of government to the end that we may enjoy peace and happiness in our sacred home, for which we have paid full compensation."
At the close of the nineteenth century, the sovereignty of the Muscogee Creek was threatened on the political front as well. Politically ambitious white officials of Oklahoma Territory campaigned for statehood. Realizing they might be consumed by the movement, the Creek and other members of the Five Civilized Tribes pushed for a state of their own, which would be called Sequoyah and encompass the eastern half of Indian Territory. The reservations fought the movement for Oklahoma's statehood until Kansas Senator Charles Curtis, a part Kaw-Osage who would become vice president of the United States, introduced the Curtis Act of 1898, a law that negated all the Indian reservations in Indian Territory, except for that of the Osage, who held mineral rights in common as a tribe. As a part of the statehood plan, the territorial legislature introduced a radical bill to relocate all of the Indian population from the eastern half of the territory to the western portion. This proposal threatened to combine the western and eastern tribes, but resistance from the Indian nations prevented this from happening.
The Dawes Act had excluded the Five Civilized Tribes, and the Muscogee Creek at least avoided allotment for the next fifteen years. Increasing non-Indian support for allotment could not be averted. As other tribes experienced allotment, the Creek realized what the ultimate outcome would be. Unable to overcome the white desire for their lands and the government's aggressive policy of allotment, the National Council of the Muscogee Creek, in 1893 and 1899, authorized tribal representatives to negotiate with the Dawes Commission and the leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes and report back to the council. The Muscogee strove to hold their nation together, but opposition to allotment and the trespassing of whites wanting their lands added to the troubles of the tribe. In preparation, Isparhecher, the principal chief, appointed Samuel Haynes, James R. Gregory, Napoleon B. Moore, and Wallace McNac as members of a national committee to help the Dawes Commission in identifying and enrolling the Muscogee Creek for allotment. Finally, special legislation in an amendment approved on March 1, 1901, mandated that the tribe ratify the allotment agreement by March 25. Section 7 of the Indian Appropriation Act, passed in 1902, stipulated that "any deceased Indian to whom a trust or other patent containing restrictions upon alienation [that] has been or shall be issued for lands allotted him [his estate] may sell and convey lands inherited from such descendant." This law proved detrimental to the Creek as they lost more lands and properties such as homes and livestock.
At five o'clock on January 3, 1903, 255 Muscogee Creek received the first allotments, and it was not long before others did as well. Frustrated with all the actions launched against them, many Creek refused their allotments, thereby creating "surplus" lands that could possibly pass to white settlers and land speculators. William Foulke, a journalist for Outlook magazine, reported on the fraud consuming the Creek, describing the debauchery committed by whites and the land sharks who were cheating the Muscogees out of their allotted lands due to the carelessness of the federal government. The task of supervising Indian land distribution was monumental, and any mistakes occurred unfairly at the expense of the Indians.
The allotment program officials continued assigning allotments to the Creek and established the tribal roll, later known as the Dawes Roll. The Muscogee government initially made the roll with the help of an Indian agent, and the secretary of the interior and the commissioner of Indian affairs reviewed the roll for final approval.
As early as 1901, Chitto Harjo, a full-blood Creek, urged resistance against allotment and the ways of the white people. This last patriotic fight for traditionalism became known as the Crazy Snake Rebellion. Also known by the name of Wilson Jones, Harjo was a town mekko (Creek king) and a member of the House of Kings in the Muscogee Creek National Council. Born in 1846, he grew up among the Upper or Loyal Creek who sided with the Union during the American Civil War, fighting to protect themselves against Confederate soldiers. In protest to the allotment, Harjo led ninety-four "Snake" followers, who took their name from one of the Creek clans. Attempting to establish a new Creek government based on ancient tribal laws of "Ekv'nv," the Snakes gathered at Old Hickory stompground, five miles east of Henryetta, Oklahoma. (Harjo himself lived twelve miles east of Henryetta at the foot of Tiger Mountain.) As the Snakes gathered, U.S. troops and federal marshals were ordered in, and the two sides fought near Seminole and Wewoka. The action of the Snakes incited Choctaw traditionalists to oppose allotments, and federal officials had to use force to defeat them as well.
Immersed in turmoil, the House of Warriors of the Muscogee Creek government passed a series of twenty-five laws on December 7, 1903, to maintain the strength of the government. Harjo had been a member of the government, and his action divided both the tribal government and the communities.
Finally breaking the strength of the Snakes, federal officials arrested Harjo and some of his followers, and court charges were filed against them. A federal court convicted them, although Harjo and the Snakes continued to voice their opposition, claiming that allotment officials cheated their tribespeople during the assignments of land. Their protests fell on deaf ears as non-Indians and proallotment Indians campaigned for Oklahoma Territory to become a state in the union.
The Muscogee Creek continued to suffer at the hands of white opportunists and the devastating allotment program. Confused and bitter, they felt a horrible injustice had been done to them. In a letter dated 1904, the National Council appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt for help: "As a people we have kept our faith with the U.S. government.... Knowing your intense honesty, your hatred of shams ... we turn to you, Mr. President, feeling that you will understand us better than Congress.... You know the West—you know our hopes and our ambitions; and we appeal again to your sense of justice and fair dealing." The council failed.
In 1906, Indian Territory joined with Oklahoma Territory as non-Indian officials happily anticipated statehood. The growing interest in Oklahoma and the statehood movement convinced Chitto Harjo and several of his Snakes to make one last effort and plan a delegation to Washington. The delegates insisted that the Treaty of 1832 be upheld and believed that they had won a victory. Government officials opposed the Snakes's intentions, but Harjo insisted that justice would prevail.
In Washington, little concern was given to the Muscogee and other Indian groups, although a special Senate investigating committee surveyed the old Indian Territory to evaluate Indian progress. On November 23, 1906, the Senate committee held a hearing in Tulsa for the purpose of hearing from the Creek. An estimated 500 people jammed the Elk's Lodge Hall or stood nearby. In a plea on behalf of his people and future generations, Chitto Harjo spoke against the allotment program. Clutching his hat in his hands, with a sober look on his face, his eyes sincere, he stood before the committee to speak: "Now I hear the Government is cutting up my land giving it away to other people.... It can't be so for it is not the treaty. These people who are they? They have no right to this land. It never was given to them. It was given to me and my people and we paid for it with our land back in Alabama. The black and white people have no right to it. Then how can it be that the Government is doing this? ... It wouldn't be justice. I am informed and believe it to be true that some citizens of the United States have title to land that was given to my fathers and my people by the government. If it was given to me, what right has the United States to take it from me without first asking my consent?"
During the next several weeks, Harjo waited to testify against the allotment policy before a Senate committee. He realized the sovereign significance of the treaties between his tribe and the United States. He iterated the rights of his people under the treaties and described the relationship between his people and the United States as positive until the civil war.
In summary, the fight to save the old ways and opposition to white settlers wanting allotment of Indian lands produced skirmishes at Hickory Ground and Wewoka. Exaggerating these events, the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman, the Muskogee Daily Phoenix, the Eufaula Indian Journal, and other regional newspapers described the hostilities as an "Indian war." Rumors circulated that black freedmen had joined the Snakes in an all-out war against white settlers, provoking them to arm themselves and travel in mobs in search of the Snakes and freedmen. In the end, federal marshals and Loyal Creek defeated Harjo and his Snakes, arresting almost all of them. Swept under by a new era of change, Crazy Snake died in April, 1911, at the house of a Choctaw friend, Daniel Bob.
Excerpted from THE INVASION OF INDIAN COUNTRY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Donald L. Fixico. Copyright © 1998 by University Press of Colorado. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Copyright © 1997 Stuart Stevens. All rights reserved.
|Introduction to Indian and White Values|
|Pt. 1||Elements of Indian Society and Policies|
|1||Jackson Barnett and the Allotment of Muscogee Creek Lands||3|
|2||The Osage Murders and Oil||27|
|3||Struggle for Pueblo Water Rights in the Southwest||55|
|4||Termination of the Klamath and Timberlands in the Pacific Northwest||79|
|5||Chippewa Fishing and Hunting Rights in the Great Lakes||103|
|6||Controversy and Spirituality in the Black Hills||123|
|Pt. 2||Defense Strategies for Tribal Natural Resources|
|7||The Demand for Natural Resources on Reservations||143|
|8||The Council of Energy Resource Tribes||159|
|9||Battlegrounds in the Courts||177|
|10||Environmental Issues and Tribal Leadership||189|
|11||American Indian Philosophy and Global Concerns||205|
|App. A||CERT Member Tribes and Natural Resources for 1990||219|
|App. B||Structure of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes||221|
|App. C||Tribal Oil and Gas Production||223|