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By John William Wade

The Beginning

     Several hundred years ago in a land to the west of us, Chocta, we are told, became in his youth the leader of the people who have ever since borne his name. This youth and his people lived close to the bosom of mother earth, and were free children of wild nature. They were then as a race in their youth, full of endurance, courage and daring. Prompted by youth’s ambition, they faced the east and traveled toward the rising sun in quest of a new home, when, in the course of their wanderings, they reached what is now the State of Mississippi, the Great Spirit bade them stop; for they had found the happy hunting ground for which they were in search. 

     In time there arrived explorers from several countries of Europe, which countries at once laid claim to their forests and rivers, and soon began to found colonies in their midst. The forests were deep and the prairies wide. Wild nature was lavish in her supply;  there was room and abundance for all. When one race suffered because of scarcity the other divided with them their fuller supply.  Thus the white man and the red man lived together in peace, so much so that in after years both races could boast ‘that they had never taken up arms the one against the other.

     But a separation of the two races was inevitable. They represented two entirely distinct species of mankind. With the Choctaw, wild nature was his parent and master, affording him sustenance, recreation and happiness, furnishing him his all; with the white man, wild nature was his servant, furnishing him only a medium for improvement. The Choctaw loved the forest, the white man loved the field. Conditions necessary for contentment and happiness for the one brought dissatisfaction and misery to the other. 

     Thus unintentionally there arose between the two races a contest for supremacy. In this contest the Choctaw for a time had the advantage, but the white man was the more aggressive, and the Choctaw was forced to give way.  The United States Government began as early as November, 1805, to make treaties with the Choctaws looking forward to the ultimate acquisition of their territory.  This movement culminated in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, signed, September 27, 1830, the terms of which provided for the removal of the Choctaws to the west of the Mississippi river to their reservation in what is now known as the Indian Territory.

     That the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was the result of false representations and bribery on the part of the agents of the United States Government and deceit on the part of certain of the Choctaw chiefs is generally conceded.  Many of the Choctaws did not want to give up the happy hunting grounds of their fathers, and shrewd diplomacy was necessary to secure their ratification of the treaty.  A supplemental treaty had to be made with them the next day, September 28;  but probably the one thing most conducive in securing the ratification of this final agreement by the Choctaws finds expression in the 14th article of this instrument. The 14th article of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek is as follows:

“Each Choctaw head of a family being desirous to remain and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the agent within six months from the ratification of this Treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner shall be entitled to one-half that quantity for each unmarried child which is living with him over ten years of age; and a quarter section to such child as may be under ten years of age, to adjoin the location of the parent. If they reside upon said lands intending to become citizens of the States for five years after the ratification of this treaty, in that case a grant in fee simple shall issue; said reservation shall include the present improvement, of the head of the family, or a portion of it. Persons who claim under this article shall not lose the privilege of a Choctaw citizen, but if they ever remove are not to be entitled to any portion of the Choctaw annuity.”
     This 14th article furnishes the basis of what has ever since been known as the Choctaw claims. These claims have been the source of much speculation and infamous land frauds, and have developed by Acts of Congress in recent years into what is known in legislation applicable to the “Five Civilized Tribes” of the Indian Territory as the “Rights of Mississippi Choctaws."  Only an incidental reference will be made to the Choctaw claims in passing to a discussion of the “Rights of the Mississippi Choctaws,” a consideration of which together with the removal of the Mississippi Choctaws by virtue of these rights is the purpose of this narrative.

     While the Choctaws, as we may believe, in the physical vigor of their youth, full of courage and hope, had journeyed a long distance to their new home, yet in the year 1830, when they began their march to the West, it was in every part a slow and tardy movement. It was not until they were threatened with force that they ever began to move, and they had to be encouraged all the time. It must have seemed to them, facing the West, and traveling toward the setting sun, that their race had turned the meridian of life, and was traveling toward its close. 

     However it may have seemed to them, such has been the case; and while the remaining remnant of our natives have been carried to the West to join their ill-fated brothers who had gone years before in order that they might share together a handsome fortune given by the United States Government in lieu of what had been taken from their race, yet that fortune is not calculated to do them much good. It is not fertile fields nor handsome houses that these children of nature want or need, but rather the freedom of wide woods, where they live at ease in their wretched wigwams, satisfied without exertion.

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Ellen Pack