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HARJO, CHITTO (1846-ca. 1911)

Chitto Harjo, or Crazy Snake

Among Creeks (Muscogee Nation), the name Chitto Harjo (Chit-t Ha'ch ) is symbolic of opposition to the forces of assimilation, and his leadership is legendary because of his tragic, mysterious death. Chitto is a form of the Creek word meaning snake, and Harjo, a common second name among Creeks, means recklessly brave. The English equivalent is "crazy." Consequently, among non-Creeks in Indian Territory, and later Oklahoma, Chitto Harjo was known as "Crazy Snake." He was also known as Wilson Jones, Bill Jones, Bill Snake, and Bill Harjo.

Harjo was born in 1846 in Arbeka on the Deep Fork River in Indian Territory. His father was Aharlock Harjo and his mother unknown. Originally known as the "gate of the Muskogees," Arbeka's traditional function was to guard the Creek people. Prior to removal, Arbeka warriors were expected to warn other Creek towns of approaching danger. When Harjo traveled to stomp grounds starting in 1898 to oppose the allotment of Creek territory, he was fulfilling his town's gatekeeper role.

Harjo and his followers, called "Crazy Snakes," opposed the allotment of Creek land until his disappearance in 1909. Starting in 1900 he used various means to halt the allotment process, including a trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. He led a rebellion of dissident Hickory Ground Creeks to establish an independent government, was arrested twice, ran for Creek chief, refused to file for an allotment, schemed to move to Mexico, and made an eloquent speech before the select Senate committee mandated with "the final disposition of the affairs of the Five Tribes."

Sadly, a racist incident resulted in a shootout at Harjo's home, located near Henrietta in 1909. He was wounded and forced into hiding in the Kiamichi Mountains, where he eventually died of his wound circa 1911.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mel H. Bolster, Crazy Snake and the Smoked Meat Rebellion (Boston: Branden Press, 1976). Angie Debo, The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941). Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., Alex Posey: Creek Poet, Journalist, and Humorist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992). John Bartlett Meserve, "The Plea of Crazy Snake," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 11 (September 1933).

Kenneth W. McIntosh

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