Choctaw Nation and the Greer County Dispute

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The Dispute In The Right Of Ownership Of Greer County Between The United States And Texas.

The petition of the Attorney General of the United States affirms that according to the treaty of Feb. 22, 1819 made by the United States and the King of Spain, which was ratified two years later, and so proclaimed by both the United States and Spain, and that by the third article of the treaty it was provided and agreed that the boundary line between the two countries west of the Mississippi River shall begin on the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Sabine River, in the sea, continuing north along the, western bank of that river to the thirty-second degree of latitude; thence by a line due north to the degree of latitude where it strikes the Rio Roxo of Natchitoches or Red River; then following” the course of the Rio Roxo westward to the degree of longitude 100 west from London and 23 from Washington; then crossing the said Red River and running thence by a line due north to the river Arkansas: thence following the course of the southern bank of the Arkansas to its source in latitude 42 north, and thence by that parallel of latitude to the South Sea. The whole being as laid down in Melish’s map of the United States, published at Philadelphia, improved to January 1, 1818.

“The two high contracting parties agreeing to cede and renounce all their rights, claims and pretensions to the territories described by the said line. That is to say, the United States hereby cede to his Catholic majesty and renounce forever all their claims, rights, and pretensions to the territories lying west and south of the above described line, and in like manner his Catholic majesty cedes to the United States all his rights, claims and pretensions to any territories east and north of the said line, and for himself, his heirs and successors renounces all claim to the said territory forever.”

“The petition states that at the date of the conclusion of the treaty aforesaid Mexico constituted a part of the Spanish monarchy, but that Mexico, subsequently, in the year 1824, became and was established as a separate and independent power and government, and the boundary line defined and designated in the treaty of 1819, aforesaid, thereby be came in part the boundary line between the United States and Mexico, all the territory of the state of Texas being then a part of the Mexican territory.

“The Attorney Generals petition to the court then goes on to review the different movements of the United States and Texas commissioners to establish the line between the disputed territory, and which all resulted in a failure to agree.

“The Attorney General further states that the said state of Texas has, without any right or title thereto, claimed, taken possession of, and endeavored to extend its laws and jurisdiction over the said parcel or tract of land herein before described, and does still claim, hold possession of, and exercise certain jurisdiction over the same, and has excluded the United States from possession of and jurisdiction over the same in violation of the treaty rights of your oratrix as aforesaid; all of which your oratrix charges is a manifest invasion of her sovereign rights and tends to the disturbance of that amity and peace which ought to exist between the authorities of the United States and the state of Texas.

“The area of the disputed territory is one million, five hundred and eleven thousand, five hundred and seventy six and seventeen one hundreds acres, of land.

1818 Melish Map of the United States
John Melish (1771–1822), a Scottish merchant, traveler, author, and cartographer, drew a map of the United States to accompany his book A Geographical Description of the World, Intended as an Accompaniment to the Map of the World on Mercator’s Projection (1818). The 100th meridian, as shown on the map, was specified in the Adams-Onís Treaty as part of the boundary between the United States and New Spain. The map continued to be recognized as the final authority on the Texas boundary during the period of the republic, and, although errors were found in the location of the meridian on the map, the map was recognized as a boundary authority until after the Compromise of 1850.

“The petition further states that the south fork of Red river as now named and delineated on the maps, is the Rio Roxo or Red River delineated on Melish’s maps, described in the treaty of February, 22, 1819, and as the boundary line of said treaty to the point where the 100th degree of west longitude crosses the same.

And your oratrix further states that under and by virtue of the terms of the treaty of 1819, between the United States and Spain, she became entitled to possession of and jurisdiction over all that parcel or tract of land which lies between what has been herein designated as the Prairie Dog” town fork or Main Red River, and the north fork or Red river, and is more accurately described as the extreme portion of the Indian territory lying west of the north fork of Red River, and east of the one hundredth meridian of west longitude from Greenwich; that she has never voluntarily abandoned or relinquished such claim to title and jurisdiction, but has continually asserted the same at all times since the ratification of said treaty of 1819 up to the present time, and does still assert the same; that said tract of land was never subject to the jurisdiction or claim of Spain subsequent to the treaty of 1819 aforesaid, nor was it subject to any claim or jurisdiction on the part of Mexico after her independence from Spain was secured and asserted.”

The following clause in the petition of the Attorney-General states that “in consideration whereof, and for as much as your oratrix can only have adequate relief in the premises in a court of equity; where matters of this nature are properly cognizable, and in this court by original bill, to the end for the purpose of determining and settling the true boundary line between the United -States and the state of Texas, and to determine and put at rest questions which now exist as to whether the Prairie Dog Town fork or the North fork of Red river, as aforesaid, constitutes the true boundary line of the treaty of 1819, aforesaid, and whether the tract or parcel of land lying and being between two said streams and called by the authorities of the state of Texas Greer county, is within the boundary and jurisdiction of the United States or of the state of Texas.”

Dr. Gideon, Lincicum who lived in Columbus, Miss. several years prior to the exodus of the Choctaws, was present at the treaty held by General Jackson and General Hinds at a place known as Doaks’s Stand, in the Choctaw nation, in the fall of 18201. The object of the United States in holding this treaty was to exchange all that country where the five civilized tribes now reside south of the Canadian River for a strip of territory from the lower and western part of the then Choctaw nation, known as the Huchchalusachitoh pro.as Huch-chah (River) loo-sah (black) che-toh (big.) i. e. Big Black River country. A great many Choctaw’s were in attendance, and after General Jackson had read the commission and the President’s letter to them, in a lengthy speech he explained the object and purpose for which they had been called together. He declared to them that “to promote their civilization by the establishing of schools among them, and to perpetuate them as a nation, was a constant solicitude with the president of the United States.” (But the sequel soon proved that solicitude” to be false.)

“To enable the President to effect this great national and very desirable object to accommodate the growing state of Mississippi and thereby secure greater safety and protection to the Choctaws and their seminaries of learning at home, it was proposed by him to exchange for a small part of their lands here, a large country beyond the Mississippi river, where all who live by hunting and will not work, and who by the nature of their mode of life are widely scattered, may be collected and settled together in a country of tall trees, many water courses, rich lands and high grass, abounding in game of all kinds buffalo, bear and deer, ante lope, beaver, turkeys, honey, and fruits of many kinds, in this great hunting ground they may be settled near together for protection and to be able to pursue their peculiar vocation without danger.

Another great benefit to be derived from this arrangement would be the removal from among the people at home who are already inclined to progress and civilization of the bad example of those who, in their wild wandering propensities do not care for improvement. The project recommends itself to the thinking portion of the industrious community, while it will provide ample means for the protection of the careless stragglers of the Nation.

The tract of territory, which the President proposes to exchange for the Big Black River country here, lies between the Arkansas and Red Rivers. It is a large and extended country. Beginning where the lower boundary line of the Cherokees strikes the Arkansas river, thence up the Arkansas to the Canadian river fork; thence up the Canadian to its source, thence due south to Red river, thence down Red river to a point three miles below the mouth of Little river which enters into Red river from the north, thence on a direct line to place of beginning.

This extensive rich territory is offered in exchange by the President for the little strip of land in the lower part of the present Choctaw Nation. It is a much larger territory than the whole of your possessions this side of the Mississippi river, and is certainly a very liberal proposition. What say the chiefs and Choctaw people to this great offer?

“After the pipe lighters had finished handing the pipes around and order was again restored, Apushamatahah arose, and, addressing himself to his own people first, told them the man who had just finished his big talk was the great warrior, General Jackson, of whom they had all so of ten heard. Many of them had, no doubt, seen him and, like himself, had served under him in many successful battles. His great character as a man and warrior, in addition to the commission he bore from the President of the United States, demanded from the Choctaw people respectful replies from his propositions, and for that purpose he moved that the council adjourn until the middle of the day, tomorrow, which motion was carried and the council adjourned.

“The chiefs and head men went into secret council that night, where they very deliberately discussed the merits of the propositions that “had been made by the United States commissioners. They considered it a wise and benevolent proposition, and, not withstanding that the land they offered to exchange the large tract of western territory for was worth more to them at this time than two such countries as the one they were offering, with the Choctaws, the thing stood very differently, particularly in relation to the fixing of a home for our wandering hunters in the midst of a game country. However, as good as the proposition is, we must in this case adopt the white man’s rules in the transaction and get all we can from them. General Jackson is a great man, but in his talk in making the proposition to exchange countries he has been guilty of misrepresentations, which he knows are such, and others which, perhaps, he is not apprised of their being false. Our plan is to meet him in the treaty with his own policy and let the hardiest reap the profits. If we can do no better we will take them at the offer already made.” “This much and the appointment of Apushamatahah to do the talking, next day was the result of the secret council.

“When at 12 o’clock the next day the council had assembled, the commissioners inquired of the chiefs if they had come to any conclusion on the subject of the propositions made to them yesterday in relation to the exchange of countries? Apushamatahah arose and said that the chiefs and leaders of his people had appointed him to reply to the commissioners on the subject. He remarked that he fully appreciated the magnitude of the proposition and his incompetence into do it justice, especially while in contact with two such master minds as he would have to deal with. He further remarked that when any business was intended to be fairly and honestly transacted it made no difference as to the capacity of the contracting parties. One party might be a great man as General Jackson, the other a fool, but the result would be the same. The wise man in such cases would protest the rights of the fool, holding him firm on safe ground. From what he had already heard he had discovered that the great transaction now about to take place between friendly nations, was not to be conducted on those equitable principles, and that it would not be safe for him, fool as he was, to rely upon any such expectations. He was to come to the contest with such powers, as he possessed, do the best he could, and his people must be satisfied and abide the results and consequences.

The object and benefits to be derived by the United States were very great and desirable, or they would not have sent two of their greatest warrior generals to conduct the treaty in their behalf. He was friendly toward the United States, and particularly to their two distinguished agents, for he had served under them and side by side in the hour of peril and deadly strife, had aided them in the acquisition of Florida and a considerable portion of the Muskogee country with his manhood, and as many of his countrymen as he could persuade to take part in the dangers of the enterprise. Under all these considerations he intended to strike the bargain in the exchange of countries with them if he could. He thought it was one of those kinds of swaps, if it could be fairly made, that would accommodate both parties. He should do his best, and he hoped to succeed in presenting the thing in such a form as to convince the commissioners that further misrepresentation would be entirely unnecessary. He then sat down.

“General Jackson arose and gravely remarked: Brother Push, you have uttered some hard words. You have accused me of misrepresentation, and indirectly, of the desire to defraud the red people in behalf of my government. These are heavy charges, charges of a very serious character. You must explain yourself in a manner that will, clear them up or I shall quit you. “Apushamatahah then arose and made a long explanatory speech, but its length precludes its production here.

“The closing portion was, I shall take much pleasure in. my explanation to render a plain and irrefutable interpretation of what I have said, and which will present in a very clear light the misrepresentations in relation to the quality of the country west of the Mississippi and the size of the country on this side of the great river.

In the first place, he speaks of the country you wish to obtain in the swap as a little slip of land at the lower part of the present Choctaw Nation, whereas it is a very consider able tract of country. He has designated the boundaries of it, and I am very familiar with the entire tract of land it will cut off from us.

“In the second place, he represents the country he wishes to exchange for the little slip as being a very extensive country of tall trees, many water courses, rich lands and high grass, abounding in game of all kinds, buffalo, bear, elk, deer, antelope, beavers, turkey, honey and fruits of many kinds. I am also well acquainted with that country. I have hunted there often, have chased the Comanche and Wichita over those endless plains, and they too have some times chased me there. I know the country well. It is in deed a very extensive land, but a vast amount of it is poor and sterile, trackless and sandy deserts, nude of vegetation of any kind. As to tall trees, there is no timber anywhere, except on the bottom lands, and it is low and brushy even there. The grass is everywhere short; as for the game, it is not plenty, except buffalo and deer. The buffalo, in the western portion of the tract described, and on the Great Plains into which it reaches, are very numerous and easily taken. Antelopes, too, are there, and deer almost every where, except in the dry grassless; sandy desert There are but few elk, and the bear are plenty only on the Red river bottom lands. Turkey is plentiful on all the watercourses. There are, however, but few beaver, and fruit and honey is a rare thing. The bottoms on the river are generally good soil, but liable to inundation during the spring season, and in summer the rivers and creeks dry up or be come so salty that the water is unfit for use. It is not at these times always salty, but often bitter and will purge a man like medicine.

This account differs widely from the description given by my friend yesterday, and constitutes what, in my reply to him, I styled a misrepresentation. He has proven to me by that misrepresentation and one great error that he is entirely ignorant of the geography of the country he is offering to swap, and therefore I shall acquit him of an intentional fraud. The testimony that he bears against himself, in regard to his deficiency of knowledge of that far off country manifests itself in the fact that he has offered to swap to me n undefined portion of Mexican territory. He offers to run the line up the Canadian river to its source, and thence due south to the Red river. Now, I know that a line running” due south from the source of the Canadian would never touch any portion of Red River, but would go into the Mexican possessions beyond the limits even of my geographical knowledge.

“General Jackson interrupting him, said: See here, Brother Push, you must be mistaken. Look at this map. It will prove to you at once that you are laboring under a great geographical error yourself, and he spread out the map.

“Apushamataha examined it very minutely, while General Jackson traced out and read the names of the rivers” for him. Apushamatahah said: The paper is not true. “He then proceeded to mark out on the ground with the handle of the pipe hatchet, which he held in his hand while speaking, the Canadian and the upper branches of Red river, and said, holding the end of the hatchet handle on the ground, there is the north, then rapidly tracing a deep line on the ground, here is the south, and, you see, the line between the two points do not touch any portion of Red river, and I declare to you that it is the natural position of the country and its water courses.

“You must be mistaken, said General Jackson; at any rate, I am willing to make good the proposition I have named.

“Very well, replied Apushamatahah, and you must not be surprised nor think hard of me if I call your attention to another subject within the limits of the country you designate west of the Mississippi, which you do not seem to be apprised of. The lower portion of the land you propose to swap to us is a pretty good country. It is true that as high up the Arkansas River as Fort Smith the lands are good and timber and water plenty, but there is an objectionable difficulty in the way. It was never known before, in any treaty, made by the United States with the Red people, that their commissioners were permitted to offer to swap off or sell any portion of their citizens. What I ask to know in the stipulations of the present treaty is, whether the American settlers you propose to turn over to us in this exchange of countries are, when we get them in possession”, to be considered Indians or white people?

“General Jackson replied and told the speaking chief that, As for the white people on the land, it was a mere matter of moonshine. There were perhaps a few hunters scattered over the country, and I will have them ordered off.

“I beg your pardon, said Apushamataha, there are a great many of them, many of them substantial, well-to-do settlers, with good houses and productive farms, and they will not be ordered off.

” But, said General Jackson, I will send my warriors, and by the eternal, I’ll drive them into the Mississippi or make them leave.

“Very well, replied the chief, and now the matter is settled as far as the land west of the Mississippi river is concerned. We will now consider the boundary and country the Choctaws are to give to you for it, and if we can agree upon that the trade will be completed. You have denied its boundaries and they include a very valuable tract of country of considerable extent, capable of producing corn, cotton, wheat and all the crops the white man cultivates. Now, if we do agree on terms and run this line, it must, as a part of this contract, be very clearly understood, and put on paper in a form that will not die or wear out, that no alteration shall be made in the boundaries of that portion of our territory that will remain, until the Choctaw people are sufficiently progressed in the arts of civilization to become citizens of the States, owning land and homes of their own, on an equal footing with the white people. Then it may be surveyed and the surplus sold for the benefit of the Choctaw people.

“That, said General Jackson, is a magnificent arrangement and we consent to it readily.

An adjournment of the council was then made until 10 o’clock next day to allow the chiefs and warriors time to discuss the treaty and the secretary of the commissioners for preparing his big paper, the treaty, ready for the seal.

“Next day at the appointed time the council met and General Hinds, one of the commissioners of the United States, made a long talk to the chiefs and warriors.

“Apushamatahah, was the speaking chief, and demanded the following additional remuneration:

1st. That the United States furnish each of those who chose to go to the new country a good rifle, bullet mould, camp-kettle, one blanket and powder and lead to last one year. Also corn for one year.

2nd. “Out of the land about to be swapped, fifty-four sections of, a mile square shall be surveyed and sold to the best bidder by the United States for the purpose of raising a fund to support Choctaw schools, all to be placed in the hands of the President of the United States to be dealt out by him for school purposes only in the Choctaw Nation.

3rd. “The United States to pay for military services of all the Choctaw warriors during the campaign to Pensacola.

4th. Payment to all having good houses and residing on the ceded territory.

All the propositions were agreed to by the United States commissioners. The commissioners first signed the treaty, them Mushulatube, Apukshinubi and Apushimataha, the head chiefs of the upper, middle and lower districts of the Choctaw Nation. Then 100 leaders and warriors signed with their names or x mark. All were pleased and satisfied.

“Apushimataha was then requested to speak. His effort, now on record, would equal Daniel Webster in any of his famous orations.

“He concluded as follows”: I most solemnly declare that on my part the sacred words perpetual friendship, included in the last article of the treaty, shall never be violated or suffer the slightest infringement. We have made many treaties with the United States, all conducted in peace and amicably carried out, but this last one, the greatest of all has been peculiar in its stipulations, giving another and a stronger proof of the fostering care and protecting intentions of the United States toward their Choctaw friends. In all our treaties we have been encouraged by them to institute schools, urging us to prepare ourselves as fast as possible to become citizens and members of that great Nation. In the treaty which has been concluded today the subject of schools has been more particularly urged, and appropriations more extensively provided than any other former treaty. The applauding murmurs on that subject have passed through the camps of the Red people. It meets their approbation. They will most certainly succeed. It is a peculiar trait in the Choctaw character, which all the national movements turn out to be successes. I am pleased to hear so many speaking favorably of school institutions. It tells me that they will have them. It is a national sentiment, and I here venture the prediction, for I am considered a sort of a prophet any way, that the time will come, and there are many children and some grown men here to-day, who will live to see it, when the highly improved Choctaw shall hold office in the councils of that great Nation of white people, and in their wars with the Nations of the earth, mixed up in the armies of the white man, the fierce war whoops of the Choctaw warrior shall strike terror and melt the hearts of an invading foe. Mind that; Apushimataha has this day declared it and his words of prophecy are not uttered foolishly. To the chiefs, leaders and warriors of my countrymen I may say: Return to your homes and forget, not the words of this great treaty to which so many of you subscribed your names with your white brothers to the same big paper, this bright day. Nuktaniabilia, perpetual friendship, is placed on that paper. You have all agreed to stand to it and manifested your consent by having your names placed on the big paper, where they will remain long after you have all passed away to the good hunting ground.

Nuktaniabilia are corruptions of the whites and are not the Choctaw words for “perpetual friendship.” The Original: Biliahittibaiachuffah. Pro. Be-le-ah (for ever) it-tib-ai-ar-chuf-fah (to be one mind) i. e. perpetual friendship.

How easily could the sentiments and desires expressed by the Choctaw people through their noble chief, have been, realized but for that base venality which demanded their country alone and their banishment to the then most inhospitable region then known upon the western continent, in open violation of a thousand as sacred pledges as it is possible for man to make to man. Surely we are not a government of law but of brute force impelled alone by that venality that knows 110 principle of virtue whatever.

See the low duplicity and misrepresentation adopted by Jackson to mislead Apushamataha, in regard to the country west of the Mississippi River that he was endeavoring to exchange with the Choctaws for a portion of their west; and today, after three quarters of a century has past, it stands as a living testimony of the honesty and truthfulness of the noble Choctaw chief. And when he pointed to the white settlers occupying a part of the offered land mark the threat of Jackson, “I will send my warriors, and, by the eternal, I’ll drive them into the Mississippi or make them leave;” which, whatever name Truth and Justice deem it merits, was never executed; and after remaining five years, the quiet of the Choctaws was again disturbed on October 20th, 1825, by the voice of the white man howling in Sinai thunder tones: “More land!” “More land!” Again were they summoned from their peaceful homes by the arbitrary voice of their “Great Father at Washington” great in the unsurpassed ability of defrauding helpless Indians to cede to the United States that portion of their land still occupied by the aforesaid settlers that the “truthful” Jackson had sworn “by the eternal” to put into the Mississippi river or make them leave.” The United States got the land, as no doubt, it was a prearranged plan to keep the whites upon it until the proper time arrived, then take it; therefore, Jackson’s “into the Mississippi” was but a toot of his own horn, understood alone by himself, though deceiving” the too confiding Apushamataha. And in ten years after A-push-a-ma-ta-ha had made the treaty of 1820 (the last he ever made) the United States Government had defrauded (the word might be used as can be proven) the Choctaws out of every acre of their country east of the Mississippi. The old hero had died in Washington City six years before, and with him also died: “The time will come when the highly improved Choctaw shall hold office in the councils of that great Nation of white people, and in their wars with the Nations of the earth, mixed up in the armies of the white man, the fierce war whoop of the Choctaw warrior shall strike terror and melt the hearts of an invading foe,” and buried so deep down under the dirt and rubbish of the white man s avarice, that left no hope of a resurrection morn.

When stretched in his tent upon his bed of death he said to Jackson standing near:

“Original, “Illi siah makinli su paknaka ta; pro. Il-lih se-ah mar-kin-lih soo park-da kah,ta; signifying, dead I am as soon as me above.

“Original, napoh- chitoh tokahiechih; pro. narn-poh che-toh to-kah-le-chih; sig. guns big shoot off.” Which was done according to his request.

Verily “Let Hamlet” also “be his eulogist:” How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable: “Let Mark Anthony” also “writes his epitaph:”

His life was gentle; and the elements So mixed in him, that nature might stand up And say to all the world: This was a man.”

His Motto: Onward career of duty;
His Canopy: A conscious rectitude of purpose;
His lamp, truth;
His Motto, Nil, nil, desperandum. Never, never, despair!

Footnotes

  1. Treaty with the Choctaw, October 18, 1820 



MLA Source Citation:

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899 AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/choctaw-nation-greer-county-dispute.htm - Last updated on Apr 20th, 2014

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