Condition of the Choctaws on their Removal
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The agents employed by the Government to carry the Indians to the territory, were also required to furnish supplies of provisions for them, for one year after their arrival at their new homes.
The journey was long, tedious, and fatiguing. Travel-worn and discouraged, they finally reached the lands designated far them.
They had but few educated men, and scarcely any who were wealthy; and having mingled but little with the whites in Mississippi, there were but few half-breeds in the tribe. Intermarriages with our people had been discouraged, and but little sympathy had been cherished for the institutions of Christianity: hence in learning and in general intelligence they were quite inferior to the Cherokees. There were, however, a few educated men in the nation; and, fortunately for them, they were honest, enterprising, capable, and patriotic citizens; they were men who ardently desired the advancement and prosperity of the tribe; they were ready to labor and exert themselves to the utmost to rescue their people from their degraded and benighted condition; and yet their best endeavors were met with vehement and persistent opposition. The natives cherished and tenaciously clung to the customs and traditions of their ancestors, not pausing to bestow a thought upon the subject by way of investigation. They did not perceive the utter folly of adhering to usages which were not only senseless in themselves, but powerless to contribute to their prosperity and happiness as a people. Having witnessed so little in the white people to impress them favorably, they were resolute in their purpose to maintain lives of wild, exciting, and unfettered independence.
But in their new location they found themselves compassed about with unwonted and untold trials and afflictions. They were called to battle against overwhelming temptations, and hitherto unknown personal sufferings. It was a period of affliction and calamity which required no ordinary degree of fortitude and discipline to carry them through unscathed. They were by no means adequate to the endurance of the fiery ordeal. The history of their first year’s residence in the wilderness region of the west must remain forever unwritten; for there is no language that can express the anguish and sorrow which they were called to endure, while prostrated with malignant bilious fevers, which prevailed to a fearful extent. With out shelter to protect them, and with but little medical aid, and very few of the comforts of life, they fell beneath the stroke of the destroyer, perishing in great numbers.
Being destitute of the discipline of education and moral training to qualify them for the excitements and perils through which they had been doomed to pass in their journey to the territory, and during the period of their unsettled condition, it was not remarkable that intemperance and licentiousness, with other excesses, should cut off scores and hundreds in the meridian of life.
Their future seemed dark and foreboding, rendering them gloomy and desponding. Their strong men confessed themselves to be “weak and helpless as women and children.” They could discover nothing in store for them but want, wretchedness, and annihilation–their courage was gone and despair was settling down upon their spirits.
Then it was in the hour of their extremity that they began to look to education and Christianity as their only refuge their only hope. If civilization did not rescue the remnant of their once mighty and proud race, they were deemed to speedy and utter extinction. This was their only hope, for all other refuge had utterly failed them; they were thus brought to realize their forlorn and wretched condition, and were even ready to make a vigorous effort in favor of Christian civilization. Such were the views and sentiments which were gaining and spreading.
Throught out the tribe. But opposition was not wholly given up; a remnant of paganism still remained, a love of heathen rites and practices still lingered in the tribe. Mo-shu-la-tub-bee, one of the chiefs, headed the opposition; and, choosing the northern district as his home, he called upon all who entertained his views to rally around him and settle within the limits of his division of their territory. That district was named Moshulatubbee, in honor of its first chief. It thus received and long retained the unenviable appellation of the “heathen district;” it embraced about a fourth of their lands and, probably, a fourth of the people. It had a capital, or seat of justice, which was called Ayakni-achukma,” a word signifying good ground.