Who were the Five Civilized Tribes?
The names of the Five Civilized Tribes were:
- The Cherokee Indians who spoke the Iroquoian language
- The Choctaw Indians who spoke the Muskogean language
- The Chickasaw Indians who spoke the Muskogean language
- The Creek Indians who spoke the Muskogean language
- The Seminole Indians who spoke the Muskogean language
The Five Civilized Tribes lived in the Southeastern United States until the 1820s. The Cherokee referred to themselves as the "Principal People" as they were the largest tribe living in mountain areas of North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
Five Civilized Tribes
The Five Civilized Tribes were were considered civilized by Anglo-European settlers during the colonial period and the early federal period. The term was used to describe this collection of tribes and peoples from the mid 19th century. Many of the Five Civilized Tribes, particularly the Cherokee, married people of European descent and so were “mixed bloods” even before 1800.
Five Civilized Tribes - Adoption of Cultural Features
The Five Civilized Tribes adopted the following cultural features:
- European style houses
- European style dress
- European farming techniques and methods with herds of cattle, horses, pigs and some sheep
- European farming tools, including the plough and other agricultural tools and implements
- They produced cotton and owned cotton plantations
- They had several large towns and villages
- They had black slaves
- They had Christian Churches
Five Civilized Tribes - Political System and Government
The Five Civilized Tribes were self-supporting and had a political system and structure of government, directing and controlling the actions of its members, which included:
- A judiciary system
- A written constitution
- Two legislative chambers
- A public school system
Five Civilized Tribes - American Civil War
The American Civil War (1861–1865) saw the political division of the Five Civilised tribes. The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes fought predominantly on the Confederate side. The Seminole and Creek tribes supported the Union. The Eastern Cherokees fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. The Western Cherokees were divided, into Union and Confederate factions.
Five Civilized Tribes - Detribalization
The end of the American Civil War saw the demise of the Five Civilised Tribes. The treaties of the majority of tribes who had supported the Confederacy were put aside. Their lands were restricted to Eastern Oklahoma and their black slaves were freed. The federal policy of detribalization followed resulting in the loss of authority of the governmental functions of the Five Civilized Tribes. Land was divided into individual holdings.
Five Civilized Tribes - The Indian Removal Act
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 started the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from their homelands to reservations in present day Oklahoma.
- In 1831 the Choctaw were removed
- In 1832 the Seminole were removed
- In 1834 the Creek were removed
- In 1837 the Chickasaw were removed
- In 1838 the Cherokee were removed
A limited number of the people of the Five Civilized Tribes remained in their homelands. Some Choctaw in Mississippi, some Seminole in Florida, some Creek in Alabama and some Cherokee in North Carolina. By 1837 a total of 46,000 Native American Indians had been removed from their lands which resulted in 25 million acres being opened up for white settlement.
Five Civilized Tribes - The Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears was the name the Cherokee gave to the route they were forced to travel as a result of the Indian Removal Act. The Trail of Tears ran from their land in the East to the reservation land west of the Mississippi - it was a 1000 mile march. One of the chiefs of the Cherokee nation signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835 which ceded all Cherokee land to the United States for $5.6 million. Many of the Cherokee condemned the treaty and resisted removal but 16,000 Cherokees were eventually forced off their land in 1838. Their tragic journey to the Indian Territory along the Trail of Tears was a desperate affair under severe conditions. Nearly 4000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears from malnutrition, exposure, and disease. The Cherokee refer to the Trail of Tears as 'Nunna daul Isunyi' which translates to “The Trail Where They Cried”.