Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cherokee Feud

In the early 1800s, a feud developed among the Cherokee Indians of the southeastern United States over the question of removal to western lands. One group felt removal was inevitable and wanted to reach a treaty with the U. S. government for removal that provided the best terms possible for the Indians. This group, called the Treaty Party, was led by Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and his nephews Elias Boudinot and Stand Watie. Members of the Treaty Party tended to be mixed race Indians who had already assimilated into white society to some degree. Members of the other group, called the Anti-Treaty Party, tended to be full-blooded Cherokees, and they vigorously opposed removal from the tribe's ancestral lands. The group was led by John Ross, who ironically was only one-eighth Cherokee himself.
The Treaty Party's belief that removal was inevitable proved correct, and the Indians were forcibly removed to present-day Oklahoma in the late 1830s. The feud, however, continued after the arrival of the Cherokees in Indian Territory, partly because the Anti-Treaty Party blamed the Treaty Party for the infamous Trail of Tears on which so many of the Cherokees died of starvation, disease, and hardship. On June 21, 1839, the leaders of the Anti-Treaty Party met and pronounced a death sentence on Boudinot, Watie, and the two Ridges for their role in relinquishing the ancestral lands, which was considered a capital offense under "blood law."
The next day Boudinot and the two Ridges were killed by members of the Anti-Treaty Party, while Stand Watie survived an attempt on his life the same day and became the undisputed leader of the Treaty Party. During the next several years, the feud between the two factions intensified, as Watie's group, which included the infamous Starr family, sought revenge for the June 1839 killings. In 1842, Watie partially avenged the murders (as he considered the killings) when he killed a man named James Foreman, who had participated in the killing of Major Ridge. Both sides, however, continued to carry out raids against the other into the mid-1840s.
One chapter of my Two Civil War Battles of Newtonia discusses the removal of the Cherokees, the feud between the two factions, and how the feud carried over even into the Civil War. Virtually all the sources I consulted in writing the chapter were secondary sources, but I recently ran across an 1846 newspaper article about an incident that represented an outbreaking or resumption of the feud. Under the headline "Another Indian Murder," the piece (which was reprinted in the Springfield Advertiser on March 14, 1846 from a prior issue of the Arkansas Intelligencer) reported that Ta-ka-tan-ka, leader of the police at the time James Starr was killed, had recently been killed himself. After briefly relating the contradictory reports concerning the exact circumstances of Ta-ka-tan-ka's killing, the newspaper journalist opined, "Again, we fear there will commence a series of murders by both parties. The friends of Ta-ka-tan-ka will certainly take revenge on some one, whether he be the real offender or not; and in return, the friends of Starr will be equally sure to kill some of the other party."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting story.

I have been following your blog for a long time. I don't often comment, but the posts are much appreciated.

April 30, 2012 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoy the posts.

May 4, 2012 at 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Nancy Brown said...

Larry - very good analysis of the story. The Treaty Party knew after numerous trips to meet with members of Congress and the President that the Indians were going to be forced out and thought that they should make the best deal they could and not wait until they were forcibly removed. John Ross left the Cherokees unprepared for what was coming and, as a result, many died from the forced march.

May 7, 2012 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Thanks, Nancy. I know you know more about this issue than I do. I've studied it just enough to be dangerous. However, I try to be fair to both sides. I know it wasn't, as some might want to portray it, just a matter of the Treaty Party caving in and relinquishing Native American claims without trying to get the best terms and compensation they thought they could get
. As is almost always the case when there is a dispute, there were two sides to the issue.

May 10, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger CC said...

The Treaty Party had no authority to make a treaty with the United States government. They acted against the elected leaders of the Cherokee Nation and sold Cherokee land. No matter how anyone personally feels about it today, at the time, they broke Cherokee law and suffered the consequences. They were not murdered or assassinated. They were executed under Cherokee law just like any other criminal would have been for breaking the law about selling land without the approval of the council.

May 26, 2012 at 7:11 AM  

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