Loyal Citizens or Doomed Remnants? Negotiating Citizenship and Indian Removal in the American South, 181460

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 11:10 AM
Boulevard B (Hilton Chicago)
Jane Dinwoodie, Cambridge University
Traditionally, historians have consigned much of their discussion of indigenous citizenship to the twentieth century and, more recently, to the post-Civil War “Greater Reconstruction” period. Yet this paper demonstrates that many indigenous Southerners seized concepts of loyalty and citizenship to resist removal in the 1820s, 30s, and 40s. As settlers seized their homes, thousands of indigenous Southerners staked claims to citizenship, landholdings, and loyalty to the United States in an effort to escape deportation to Indian Territory. By performing allegiance to the United States, thousands of indigenous Southerners managed to avoid removal and remain in the American South for generations.

Jacksonian policymakers trumpeted Indian removal policy as a clear break from the “civilization” schemes that preceded it, but many of these claims had long roots in treaties and agreements drawn up decades earlier. Other families negotiated frantically as troops arrived in Indian Country to round up friends and neighbours. Often, these routes to remain were open only to a small, often elite, proportion of the Five Tribes, and many people failed to get agents to recognize their credentials. Still, for the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw families who successfully seized them, these claims to loyalty, landownership, and legal status provided an escape from removal. By using these claims to remain in their homelands, indigenous Southerners staked their own claims to power and place, and silently subverted American claims to total sovereignty over the region in the decades beyond. They also created new precedents of American Indian citizenship that would influence policymakers as they headed farther West across the continent.

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