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Choctaw Trade and Coexistence in the Nation

After the discovery of the new world, trade quickly became the most important interaction between the American natives and the colonists. For the Indians it was an extension and continuation of their inter-tribal practices. Reuben Gold Thwaites, an early nineteenth-century student of the American frontier, stated that “the love of trade was strong among the Indians,” and that they had a complex “system of inter-tribal barter.”1 This existing trade system allowed the Europeans to quickly establish their own trade with the various tribes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. One of the foremost Indian trading nations was the Choctaw tribe, followed closely by their Chickasaw cousins. Indeed, there is evidence that the Mobilian trading language of the southeastern Indians had strong connections to the Choctaw tongue.2 It has been suggested that this lingua franca was partially the result of centuries of inter-tribal trading that stretched as far as the Pacific ocean.3 By the mid-eighteenth century the southeastern Native Americans in particular had developed a growing appetite for manufactured items, especially metals and textiles, and they began cooperating in long-term trading relationships with the Europeans. These complex relationships involved cultural accommodations that took into account the Indian’s view of trading as more than a mere profit making endeavor. On the European side, traders needed more than an attractive inventory to assure success. They also had to understand native cultural practices, obey them, and develop an affinity with the Indian state of mind. The success of some of them is demonstrated by their marriages into the Indian nations which resulted in mixed-blood children. Indians offered not only furs, skins, the bounty of the land...

Trade Routes in the Lower Southeast

The memoir of French explorer, René Goulaine de Laudonniére state that the predominate flow of trade in the Lower Southeast in the late 1500s was north-south.  Greenstone, gold, ocher, mica, crystals, precious stones and silver that was mined in the Southern Highlands, were traded for salt, shells, grain, skins, furs, colorful clays, dried fish and dyes obtained from lower altitudes.  He emphasized that the desire to control the cargos of greenstone and gold from the mountains was the cause of many wars. A major trade route passed through Track Rock Gap, but it was not the most important one. The two most important trade routes ran through the Appalachian Valley in northwestern Georgia and the Savannah River Basin – Unicoi Gap – Dillard Gap in northeastern Georgia.  These were the only portals through the Southern Highlands that offered a reasonably level passage from one side of the mountains to the other.  The major trail paralleled the Savannah River up to the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers. One branch cut westward to the Nacoochee Valley and then northward through the Unicoi Gap to the Hiwassee River.  The other branch followed the Tugaloo River northwestward to the nearby source of the Little Tennessee River. It then went through Dillard Gap and followed the Little Tennessee all the way to the Tennessee River. The Great White Path or Etowah Trail apparently developed after a large town was founded on the Etowah River about 100 BC.  Its location is two miles west of Etowah Mounds. The trade route began on the Etowah River near Etowah Mounds and followed the river to...

Indian Trade

“The moral condition of the Indians,” my commission states, ” will necessarily be very dependent on the character of the trade with them; and a subject so important will, of course, claim your attention. You will report such facts as may come within your knowledge, as will go to show the state of the trade with them, and the character of the traders, and will suggest such improvements in the present system of Indian trade, as in your opinion will render it better calculated to secure peace between them and us, and will contribute more efficiently to advance their moral condition.” On this topic, of primary importance, I shall simply state the information received in answer to my enquiries, and at the close make such suggestions as have occurred to my own mind, in reflecting on this information.1 Three alternatives, only, appear to present themselves to the the choice of the Government. Whether the present mixed plan of conducting trade with the Indians shall be continued, partly by the government, on the capital deposited in the hands of the Superintendant of Indian Trade, and partly by licensed traders; or, Whether the Government will increase their capital to a suitable sum for the purpose of furnishing a full supply of goods for the Indians, and take the whole trade into their own hands; or, Whether the Government will withdraw their capital, and give up the trade wholly to licensed traders, under suitable regulations and restrictions; leaving this species of commerce, thus regulated bylaw, like all other branches of trade, to be carried on by those who shall engage in it,...

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