The term "Five Civilized Tribes" derives from the colonial and early
federal period in the history of the United States. It refers to five
Native American nations—the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek
(Muscogee), and Seminole. These are the first five tribes that
Anglo-European settlers generally considered to be "civilized"
according to their own worldview. Examples of colonial attributes
adopted by these five tribes include Christianity, centralized
governments, literacy, market participation, written constitutions,
intermarriage with white Americans, and plantation slavery practices.
Five Civilized Tribes
Five Civilized Tribes tended to maintain stable political
relations with the Europeans.
The term has been criticized for its ethnocentric definition of
1.1 Experiment of "civilizing"
7 Terminology and usage
8 See also
10 External links
Mississippian culture was a mound building Native American urban
culture that flourished in the South and Eastern United States before
the arrival of Europeans.
The Five "Civilized" Tribes were indigenous peoples of the Americas
who lived in the Southeastern United States. Most were descendants of
what is now called the Mississippian culture, an agrarian culture that
grew crops of corn and beans, with hereditary religious and political
elites. The Mississippian Culture flourished in what is now the
Midwestern, Eastern, and
Southeastern United States
Southeastern United States from 800 to 1500.
Before European contact these tribes were generally matrilineal
societies. Agriculture was the primary economic pursuit. The bulk of
the tribes lived in towns (some covering hundreds of acres and
populated with thousands of people). These communities regulated their
space with planned streets, subdivided into residential and public
areas. Their system of government was hereditary. Chiefdoms were of
varying size and complexity, with high levels of military
George Washington and
Henry Knox pursued an agenda of cultural
transformation in relation to Native Americans. The
Choctaw tended, in turn, to adopt and appropriate certain cultural
aspects of the federation of colonies. At the time of the Declaration
of Independence, the culture of the United States as a nation was,
itself, emergent. Many of the cultural practices appropriated by The
Five Tribes were ones that they found useful.
In the early part of the 19th century, the U.S. government initiated a
displacement of the existing societies living east of the Mississippi
River, including The Five Tribes, to lands west of the river. This
displacement initiative was dubbed the Indian Removal. The Indian
Removal forced a significant number of the Five Tribes to Indian
Territory in other parts of the North American continent. A
significant number were displaced to the area that would, in future,
become the state of Oklahoma. At the time of their removal, the tribes
were suzerain nations.
Routes of southern removals to the first
Indian Territory of the Five
The federally legislated displacement of the tribes from their homes
east of the
Mississippi River took place over several decades during
the series of removals, which is also known as the Trail of Tears. The
territory to which they were displaced was, at the time, called Indian
Territory, currently eastern Oklahoma. The most infamous removal was
Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears of 1838, when President Martin Van Buren
enforced the contentious
Treaty of New Echota
Treaty of New Echota with the Cherokee
Nation. One point of contention regarding the treaty is whether it is
an instrument of mass displacement in violation of the human rights on
which the new republic had been established, or a legal exchange of
territory for land further west.
During the American Civil War, the politics of the Five Tribes were
Chickasaw fought predominantly alongside
the Confederates while the Creek and
Seminole fought alongside the
Cherokee fought a civil war within their own nation between
the majority Confederates and the minority, pro-Union camps. As an
element in Reconstruction after the Civil War, new Reconstruction
Treaties were signed with the indigenous nations that had entered into
treaties with the Confederate States of America. The Civil War was not
good to the tribes. The first three battles of the Civil War were
fought in Indian territory, with some tribes joining treaties with the
Confederates, and others with the Union.
Once the tribes had been relocated to Indian Territory, the United
States government promised that their lands would be free of white
settlement. Some settlers violated that with impunity, even before
1893, when the government opened the "
Cherokee Strip" to outside
settlement in the
Oklahoma Land Run. In 1907, the
Indian Territory were merged to form the state of Oklahoma.
Relative to other states, all Five Tribes are represented in
significant numbers in the population of
Experiment of "civilizing"
Washington promulgated a doctrine that held that American Indians were
equals, but that their society was inferior. He formulated and
implemented a policy to encourage the "civilizing" process, which
Thomas Jefferson continued. The noted
Andrew Jackson historian
Robert Remini wrote "they presumed that once the Indians adopted the
practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their
children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win
acceptance from white Americans. Washington's six-point plan
included impartial justice toward Indians; regulated buying of Indian
lands; promotion of commerce; promotion of experiments to civilize or
improve Indian society; presidential authority to give presents; and
punishing those who violated Indian rights. The government
appointed agents, like Benjamin Hawkins, to live among Indians and to
encourage them, through example and instruction, to live like
whites. The tribes of the southeast adopted Washington's policy as
they established schools, took up yeoman farming practices, converted
to Christianity, and built homes similar to those of their colonial
Cherokee Nation Historic Courthouse in Tahlequah, built in 1849, is
the oldest public building standing in Oklahoma.
How different would be the sensation of a philosophic mind to reflect
that instead of exterminating a part of the human race by our modes of
population that we had persevered through all difficulties and at last
had imparted our Knowledge of cultivating and the arts, to the
Aboriginals of the Country by which the source of future life and
happiness had been preserved and extended. But it has been conceived
to be impracticable to civilize the Indians of North America – This
opinion is probably more convenient than just.
— Henry Knox, Notes to
George Washington from Henry Knox.
It is notable that the legal systems among the five tribes reputedly
Main article: Cherokee
The Cherokee, (/ˈtʃɛrəkiː/;
(ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ)) are people of the Southeastern United States,
principally upland Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. They
speak an Iroquoian language. In the 19th century, historians and
ethnographers recorded their oral tradition that told of the tribe
having migrated south in ancient times from the Great Lakes region,
where other Iroquoian-speaking peoples were.
Of the three federally recognized
Cherokee tribes, the
and the United Keetoowah Band of
Cherokee Indians (UKB) have
headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The UKB are mostly descendants of
Cherokee who migrated to Arkansas and
1817. They are related to the
Cherokee who were forcibly relocated
there in the 1830s under the
Indian Removal Act. The Eastern Band of
Cherokee Indians is on the Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina,
and are descendants of those who resisted or avoided relocation.
In addition, there are numerous
Cherokee heritage groups throughout
the United States, such as the satellite communities sponsored by the
Cherokee Nation. The
Cherokee tribe is the second largest tribe in the
nation, having more than 300,000 members.
Main article: Chickasaw
Chickasaw are Native American people of the United States who
originally resided along the
Tennessee River and other parts of
Tennessee, west of present-day Huntsville, Alabama, parts of
Mississippi and the southwest side of Kentucky. They spoke some French
and some English. Some historians credit the Chickasaws' intervention
in the French and Indian War on the side of the British as decisive in
ensuring that the United States became an English-speaking nation.
Originating further west, the
Chickasaw moved east of the Mississippi
River long before European contact. All historical records indicate
Chickasaw lived in northeastern
Mississippi from the first
European contact until they were forced to remove to Oklahoma, where
most now live. They are related to the Choctaws, who speak a similar
language, both forming the Western Group of the Muskogean languages.
"Chickasaw" is the English spelling of Chikasha (Muskogee
pronunciation: [tʃikaʃːa]), that either means "rebel" or
"comes from Chicsa". The
Chickasaw are divided in two groups: the
"Impsaktea" and the "Intcutwalipa". The Chickasaws were one of the
"Five Civilized Tribes" who went to the
Indian Territory during the
era of Indian Removal. Unlike other tribes, who exchanged land grants,
Chickasaw received financial compensation from the United States
for their lands east of the
Mississippi River. The Chickasaw
Nation is the thirteenth largest federally recognized tribe in the
United States. The Chickasaws built some of the first banks, schools,
and businesses in Indian territory. They also signed a treaty with the
Southern United States during the Civil War and brought troops to
fight for the Confederates.
Main article: Choctaw
Choctaw are a Native American people originally from the
Southeastern United States
Southeastern United States (Mississippi,
Alabama and, to a lesser
extent, Louisiana). There were about 20,000 members of this tribe when
they were forced to move to Indian territory. Many of them did not
survive. They are of the Muskogean linguistic group. The word
Choctaw (also known as Chahta, Chato, Tchakta, and Chocktaw) is
possibly a corruption of the Spanish chato, meaning flattened, in
allusion to the tribe's custom of flattening the heads of
infants. Noted anthropologist John Swanton, however, suggests
that the name belonged to a
Choctaw leader. They were descended
from people of the
Mississippian culture which was located throughout
Mississippi River valley. The early Spanish explorers, according
to the historian Walter Lee Williams, encountered their ancestors.
Choctaw groups are located in the southern region,
Choctaw Nation of
Oklahoma and the
Mississippi Band of Choctaw
Indians are the two primary
Choctaw associations. This tribe was
predominantly farmers (like most Indians were at the time) until they
were removed from their land. They have grown substantially since the
Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears and there are currently about 231,000 members, making
Choctaw the third largest Native American population in the United
States. The capital of the
Choctaw Nation is currently located in
I rejoice, brothers, to hear you propose to become cultivators of the
earth for the maintenance of your families. Be assured you will
support them better and with less labor, by raising stock and bread,
and by spinning and weaving clothes, than by hunting. A little land
cultivated, and a little labor, will procure more provisions than the
most successful hunt; and a woman will clothe more by spinning and
weaving, than a man by hunting. Compared with you, we are but as of
yesterday in this land. Yet see how much more we have multiplied by
industry, and the exercise of that reason which you possess in common
with us. Follow then our example, brethren, and we will aid you with
great pleasure ...
— President Thomas Jefferson, Brothers of the
December 17, 1803
Muscogee Creek are an American Indian people originally from the
southeastern United States, specifically Georgia, Florida, South
Carolina, and Alabama. They were there from around 1500 AD till
they were forced out by the American Government in the early 19th
century. Mvskoke is their name in traditional spelling. The Muscogee
Creek tribe is not one tribe but a group of several tribes, each of
which had their own distinct land. Starting in 1836, the U.S. forced
them to move west of the
Mississippi along with the other civilized
tribes to "Indian territory". About 20,000
Muscogee members were
forced to walk the Trail of Tears, the same amount as the Choctaws.
Muscogee live primarily in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and
Florida. Their language, Mvskoke, is a member of the Creek branch of
the Muskogean language family. The
Seminole are related to the
Muscogee and speak a
Creek language as well.
Federally recognized Creek tribes included the
Muscogee Creek Nation,
Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal
Town, Kialegee Tribal Town, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, and the
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.
Main article: Seminole
Seminole are a Native American people originally of Florida and
now residing in Florida and Oklahoma. The
Seminole nation came into
existence in the 18th century and was composed of renegade and outcast
Native Americans from Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, most
significantly the Creek Nation, as well as African Americans who
escaped from slavery in
South Carolina and Georgia. While roughly
3,000 Seminoles were forced west of the
Mississippi River, including
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, who picked up new members along the
way, approximately 300 to 500 Seminoles stayed and fought in and
Everglades of Florida. In a series of United States wars
against the Seminoles in Florida, about 1,500 U.S. soldiers died. The
Seminoles never surrendered to the US government, and consequently the
Seminole of Florida call themselves the "Unconquered People."
Seminole tribes today include the
Seminole Tribe of Florida. For about twenty years
after the move to
Indian Territory (Oklahoma), the Seminoles refused
to live with the
Muscogee Creek tribe or under their Government until
they finally reached an agreement with the Government to sign a treaty
and live with them. The Seminoles favored the North during the Civil
War and remained loyal to the Union and proceeded to move north into
Terminology and usage
The use of the term "civilized" has historically been employed to
differentiate the Five Tribes from other tribes that, by contrast,
were referred to during the same period as "wild." Non-indigenous
historical texts have used terms like "savages" and "wild" as an
identifier of Indian tribes that, after European Contact, maintained
their traditional practices, such as hunting for food. Accordingly,
the term has virtually fallen out of use in contemporary academic
arenas and is increasingly less favored.
Use of the term "civilized" is of particular significance, however, in
reference to the Five Tribes collectively, given that during a
particular period of history they had a collective tendency to
integrate Anglo-European cultural practices into their cultures. This
common tendency is itself of interest. Sociological, anthropological
and interdisciplinary scholars do explore questions of how and why
various cultures and sub-cultures adopt, appropriate, and adapt to
features of other cultures in their proximity. Suggestions do exist
that the concept of "civilization" was itself to a degree internalized
among members of the Five Nations, who themselves even used the term.
However, much of Native North American history is of the oral
tradition, which makes this assertion difficult to substantiate.
Scholarly research on this particular point is also scarce.
The term "civilized" in a present-day discussion of Native American
culture, nationhood, or people, is nonetheless contentious and has
largely fallen out of common use. At various places and times (for
example in the writings of Vine Deloria, Jr.) the term has been
identified as insulting or derogatory, with its implication that the
various nations of people indigenous to the North American continent
were objectively "uncivilized" without the influence of Anglo-European
ways of life. As such, the term raises questions of what constitutes
"civilization" and assumes that qualitative "degrees" of civilization
exist between peoples. It is therefore regarded as a judgment-laden
term at worst, or highly perspective-dependent at best. Accordingly,
its application in contemporary scholarly, journalistic, or political
narrative puts those who would use it at risk of criticism for
ethnocentricity or bias.
Owing to its historical usage; however, the Five "Civilized" Tribes is
a term that can be used to advantage in a piece of writing provided
that an explanation addresses the notion of "civilized" at its first
mention. "The Five Tribes" functions as a more neutral form of the
term after that. An alternative term in use is the Five Tribes of the
Mississippian Culture, or simply, the Mississippian Culture.
Former Indian Reservations in Oklahoma
^ Clinton, Fred S.
Oklahoma Indian History, from The Tulsa World. The
Indian School Journal, Volume 16, Number 4, 1915, page 175-187.
^ "Five Civilized Tribes". Encyclopedia of
Oklahoma History &
Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
^ Charles Robert Goins, Danney Goble, James H. Anderson (2006).
"Historical Atlas of Oklahoma". University of
Oklahoma Press. CS1
maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ "The Native People of North America: Southeast Culture Area".
^ a b Perdue, Theda (2003). "Chapter 2 "Both White and Red"". Mixed
Blood Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South. The University
of Georgia Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-8203-2731-X.
^ a b "
Muscogee (Creek) Nation". Muscogeenation-nsn.gov. Retrieved
^ a b Remini, Robert (1998) . "The Reform Begins". Andrew
Jackson. History Book Club. p. 201.
^ a b Miller, Eric (1994). "
George Washington And Indians". Eric
Miller. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
^ Moser, George W. A Brief History of
Cherokee Lodge #10. (retrieved
26 June 2009)
^ Mooney, James (1900). Myths of the
Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of
the Cherokees. 393: Kessinger Publishing.
Cherokee Nation. "The
Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears and the Creation of the Eastern
Band of Cherokees". Missing or empty url= (help)
Cherokee History". Fivecivilizedtribes.org. Retrieved
^ "The Official Site of the
Chickasaw Nation History".
Chickasaw.net. 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
^ Jesse Burt & Bob Ferguson (1973). "The Removal". Indians of the
Southeast: Then and Now. Abingdon Press, Nashville and New York.
pp. 170–173. ISBN 0-687-18793-1.
^ Foreman, Grant 1971. "The Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee,
Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole" (Civilization of the American
Choctaw History". Fivecivilizedtribes.org. Retrieved
^ Frederick Webb Hodge (1907). ... Handbook of American Indians North
of Mexico: A-M. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 288.
^ Horatio Bardwell Cushman (1899). History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw
and Natchez Indians. Headlight printing house. p. 564.
^ Swanton, John (1931). Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial
Life of the
Choctaw Indians. The University of
p. 29. ISBN 0-8173-1109-2.
^ Williams, Walter (1979). "Southeastern Indians before Removal,
Prehistory, Contact, Decline". Southeastern Indians: Since the Removal
Era. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.
Choctaw Nation. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
^ "To the Brothers of the
Choctaw Nation". Yale Law School. 1803.
Retrieved 24 October 2010.
^ Transcribed documents Archived February 13, 2012, at the Wayback
Sequoyah Research Center and the American Native Press
^ Mark I. Greenberg; Samuel Proctor; William Warren Rogers; Canter
Brown (1997). Mark I. Greenberg; William Warren Rogers; Canter Brown,
eds. Florida's heritage of diversity: essays in honor of Samuel
Proctor. Sentry Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-889574-03-5.
Seminole History". DOS.Myflorida.com. Florida Department of State.
2016. Archived from the original on May 30, 2016. Retrieved 7 August
Seminole History". Fivecivilizedtribes.org. Retrieved
Five Civilized Tribes
Five Civilized Tribes Museum
Five Civilized Tribes
Trail of Tears
Indian Removal Act
Policies and laws
Georgia Land Lotteries
Worcester v. Georgia
Burt Lake burn-out
Choctaw Trail of Tears
Indian removals in Indiana
Long Walk of the Navajo
Nome Cult Trail
Potawatomi Trail of Death
Sandy Lake Tragedy
Trail of Tears
and military officials
John C. Calhoun
George Rockingham Gilmer
People who helped Indians
or documented removals
Benjamin Marie Petit
Land cession treaties
Treaties of Buffalo Creek
Treaty of Doak's Stand
Dancing Rabbit Creek
First Prairie du Chien
Second Prairie du Chien
Third Prairie du Chien
Fourth Prairie du Chien
Former Indian reservations in Oklahoma