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FORT SMITH COUNCIL

After the conclusion of the Civil War in April 1865, U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Dennis N. Cooley led a commission to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to renegotiate treaties with various American Indian tribes. The council lasted from September 8 to September 21, 1865. The pro-Union Indians arrived first, followed by those who had supported the Confederacy. Among the eleven tribes represented were factions of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole of Indian Territory, whose lands and annuities were forfeited regardless of their loyalties. Kansas politicians and lobbyists won behind-the-scenes assurances that Kansas tribes would be relocated to Indian Territory, where railroad promoters sought substantial rights-of-way.

Elias C. Boudinot, John Ross, John Jumper, and other Indian Territory delegates were concerned by Cooley's additionally stringent terms, which included the abolition of slavery and the incorporation of the freedmen into the tribes. In addition, the nations of Indian Territory would be required to form one government, and no white person, besides U.S. government officials and employees and others so authorized, would be permitted to reside therein. The Indian leaders were concerned that the latter would allow the South's freed slaves to be resettled in Indian Territory. Discovering that some tribal representatives lacked authority to accept terms, the commissioners settled for a signed peace protocol and left questions at issue to be negotiated under the Reconstruction Treaties of 1866.

SEE ALSO: CIVIL WAR ERA, RECONSTRUCTION TREATIES.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: LeRoy H. Fischer, ed., The Civil War Era in Indian Territory (Los Angeles: Lorrin L. Morrison, 1974). Joseph B. Thoburn and Muriel H. Wright, Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People, Vol. 1 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1929).

Martha Hartzog

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