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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 15, No. 4
December, 1937

By W. W. Hastings

Page 477

The Indians of America have left their imprint upon the history of the Nation.

When the first English colony was settled at Jamestown in 1607—330 years ago—it was estimated there were approximately 900,000 Indians, grouped into some 300 tribes and speaking about 200 languages or dialects, claiming a possessory right to the entire continent afterwards to be included within the forty-eight states.

In the first hundred years the Government made 653 treaties with ninety-seven Indian tribes.

The Cherokees occupied a large territory in the southeastern part afterwards included within the limits for the most part of the five states of North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

The boundary lines of this large area were reduced from time to time by treaty but never enlarged.

Missionaries were welcomed, boarding schools were established, the Sequoyah alphabet was invented, some of their young men were trained in eastern colleges, intermarriage with whites was permitted, all resulting in an awakening that led to a study of government suited to their needs and the election of delegates to prepare a constitution in 1827 which pioneered the way for other Indian tribes.

This constitution was a model, phrased in concise language, and sufficiently comprehensive to meet the existing conditions among the Cherokees.

One hundred and ten years later we marvel at the following progressive educational provisions:

Page 478

Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government, the preservation of liberty and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged in this Nation.

Protected by the guarantees of their organic law and the legislation enacted to vitalize it, the Cherokees built comfortable homes, opened up farms, and were possessed of an abundance of livestock.

They fell a prey to the covetous eyes of those among whom they lived, and were surrounded by avaricious people intent then as now upon securing possession of their property. Conditions, political, legislative, administrative and judicial, were created which resulted in their being despoiled of their property; their homes in effect were confiscated, treaties were not observed and enforced, the decisions of the Supreme Court ignored; counseled by unworthy intriguing representatives of the Government, torn by strife among themselves, they were forced to yield and to remove to this their western home.

We must not pause here to examine more critically the darkest chapter in the history of the Government dealing with these Indian wards, who mere, for the most part, unlettered and non-English speaking. This will meet with the severest condemnation of history.

The inadequacy of preparation made for their removal and for their care upon reaching their western home resulted in a frightful mortality and indescribable suffering which could have been avoided.

We must not longer dwell upon this picture, but turn to the brighter side.

The Cherokees and the Five Civilized Tribes were induced to remove to this area of unexcelled natural resources and finally settled there.

Wise counsel prevailed. The act of union of July 12, 1839, reunited them. A revised constitution was adopted September 6,

Page 479

1839. Trees were felled and homes built. A reunited government was formed. A common school system including room for orphans was provided. Later the two Seminaries were authorized in 1846 and opened May 7, 1851.

Strife among them allayed, they were building a new civilization in this their western home when the War between the States interrupted their progress and retarded their future growth.

Notwithstanding almost insuperable difficulties and internal strife the Cherokees made such rapid advances in civilization that they will forever brighten the pages of history.

My Cherokee friends, we have a continuing duty to perform. We were made citizens, if that were necessary, by the Act of March 3, 1901. The seal of our passing government became a part of the great seal of our new State when admitted November 16, 1907.

We were assimilated into and became a part of the citizenship of this splendid commonwealth of Oklahoma—the home of the red man.

In 1917 and 1918 we supported the flag of the Nation and assisted in bringing it back in triumph from across the sea.

We owe a continuing duty to our state and nation to join with our other patriotic citizens in every effort to promote the interests of our state and to live in the present and not dwell on the injustices of the past, remembering the fate of the remnants of the Five Civilized tribes that remained behind, including the Seminoles, who became nomads and homeless in the Everglades of Florida; the Mississippi Choctaws, whose poverty beggared description, and the Cherokees who escaped into the mountain fastnesses and finally settled on a reservation in North Carolina; all with no chance for educational advancement or government development. But with our eyes to the future, we are intent on contributing our entire energy to the improvement of our State and to the making of the forty-sixth star, which represents Oklahoma, the brightest in all of the galaxy.

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