Facing West from Indian Territory: Removal and Native Visions of the American West

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:50 AM
Boulevard B (Hilton Chicago)
Lauren Brand, Southern Nazarene University
My paper will explore how Native people viewed and adapted to the new realities created by forced removal in the 1830s. When removed groups arrived in Indian Territory, they had to navigate complex relationships with federal officials, white settlers in neighboring Texas, and other regional Native groups. I will focus on how groups like the Cherokees and Choctaws began purposely engaging in diplomacy that placed them in a middleman position, as “civilized” Native people who could act as liaisons between the federal government and “wild” Native groups.

In particular, I will explore an expedition planned in 1834 by the Cherokees and Choctaws to visit the “wild” Natives who lived in the western plains of Indian Territory. The goal of the expedition was to build diplomatic and trade relationships with western Natives and to be brokers who would establish connections for the United States with those western Native groups. Cherokee and Choctaw leaders also explicitly expressed their intention to U.S. officials to communicate to western Native groups the benefits and importance of having a good diplomatic relationship with the United States and of adopting what U.S. officials deemed “civilized” practices.

Choctaw and Cherokee leaders argued that the U.S. government should fund their expedition because it would ultimately result in treaties with other “wild” western groups that would allow the U.S. to continue its westward expansion unhindered. By thus assisting in the expansion of U.S. empire, these recently removed Native leaders hoped to prove their loyalty and protect their own sovereignty from being further impacted by the ongoing process of Indian removal and U.S. expansion.