Removal of Five Tribes to Oklahoma Is Historical Event


By Joe Bruner


The American Indian, November, 1927


A Seminole Bandit1


            Years before the Indian was moved to Oklahoma there lived a Seminole Indian in Florida who was a desperado.  He was called Wild Cat because of [his] ability to move here and there unmolested while doing his acts of crime.

            The United States government sent troops to capture Wild Cat because of his depredations.  Somehow he and his followers always escaped and in turn swooped down on the soldiers, killing and wounding many of them, which was tantalizing to the white man.

             Finally the on-pressing troops surrounded Wild Cat and his men, and they were taken to headquarters.  The commanding officer did not know whether he had Wild Cat and his gang of desperadoes, but in order to get rid of them, he shipped the captives to Cuba, some 90 miles across the waters.

             Wild Cat was canny in his action with the troops and appeared [not] the least bit alarmed that he was a prisoner of war.  All the time he was planning to escape and lead his men back to the United States.  The soldiers guarding the Indians became reckless one night, and the Seminole bandit and his men succeeded in gaining their freedom.

             Wild Cat informed his men the only chance of escaping was to swim back to the mainland of the United States.  All agreed to attempt such a task, with their leader the first one in the water to attempt such an undertaking.

            They swam for several miles, and Wild Cat touched a rock or oyster bed which enabled the swimmers to take a rest.  They swam all night, and the sun came up directing them the way to the mainland.2

             Their people were exceedingly glad to see them, and a big celebration was held.  The Seminole government soon made a treaty with Uncle Sam giving up their country for new land in the West.3

     It is said that Wild Cat was not satisfied with the country that is now Oklahoma and penetrated the wilderness to Old Mexico, and that it was here he lived his remaining days—still unconquered by the white man.


1 Wild Cat, also known as Kowakochi, is revered by the Seminoles as a patriot who resisted his people’s removal from Florida by the U.S. Army.  He was a leader of dissident towns and colonies before the Seminoles, along with some Kickapoos, moved to Northern Sinaloa, Mexico.


2 The shortest distance between Florida (Key West) and Cuba is ninety miles.


3 Some Seminoles eluded the soldiers and remained in Florida; their descendants still live there.

Removal of Five Tribes to Oklahoma Is Historical Event

By Joe Bruner

The American Indian, November, 1927

Five Tribes Removal

     After the removal of the five tribes—Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw—to Indian Territory,1 these folk lived happily in their new homes until the outbreak of the Civil War.

     Many of the Indians were slave holders and had brought them to the new country.  The Indians had no more than began showing progress and prosperity when the North and South became engaged in warfare for the supremacy of the country.

     A military man, General Albert Pike,2 met with the Indians of the Five tribes to enlist their services for the cause of the South.  The great council was held near Eufaula,3 on the banks of what is known as the Baptising river.4  The question of the tribes uniting with the South was argued pro and con.

     On the second day, Hopothe Yohala,5 one of the ablest Creek leaders, was called upon for his opinion of entering the conflict.  In response he told [them] that once he had loved war and had fought valiantly against the United States.  But since that time he had solemnly signed a treaty never to raise arms against the United States government.

     In fact, it would be a much better idea to remain neutral because the North and South were waging a war merely because of the negro and that the Indians always got the worst of it when it came to making treaties with the white man.

     He concluded by saying that the little game of war should be fought out between the whites and that he was ready to move westward, taking his belongings and slaves with him to pastures that were green and far away from the encroaching white man.6

     Yohala assembled about half of the Creek tribe and took a route up the Arkansas River, presumably to find a new home for his people away from the oncoming turmoil.

     On his westward route he was attacked by General McIntosh7 and General Gans,8 supported by Arkansas troops of the Confederacy, and his forces were routed.  Yohala retreated into Kansas for the protection of his people, which included quite a few Choctaw, Osage, Chickasaw, and Cherokee.

     After peace was signed, the loyal Creeks asked to be reimbursed for their lost slaves and property, which amounted to about $5,000,000.  Congress appropriated $600,000 for their benefit, and again the Indian came out on the short end in the transaction.

     For years the two factions of Creeks bitterly opposed each other, and at times there was bloodshed; and the country was in a continuous state of wrangling.

     When the Dawes Commission9 took over the allotment of Indian land, it made one great and grave mistake.10  Descendants of negro slaves were given land—thereby thousands of acres of Indian land was turned over to them.  This is said to be the penalty imposed on the Five tribes for joining the Confederacy, yet many Indians fought for the Northern cause.

     Today, you find the Indian living side by side with the white man, engaged in many occupations to make a livelihood.  Down through the years, he has demonstrated that he is progressive and for the upbuilding of the community in which he resides.

     And during the late World War, the Indian went across the seas, sacrificing his life in order to make this a better world to live in—which reveals his warpath days are over and that he has become a worthy citizen, striving to do nobler things in life.    (The End.)


1 Indian Territory: Present-day Eastern Oklahoma


2 General Albert Pike: A brigadier-general who was influential in making treaties between the Confederacy and the tribes of the Indian Territory.


3 Eufaula: Most likely a city in Eastern Oklahoma


4 Baptising river: Most likely a reference to the Canadian River


5 Hopothe Yohala: Actually spelled Opothleyahola.


6 This exodus was to Kansas in 1861–1862.


7 General McIntosh: Mostly likely General Lachlan McIntosh, who, after almost 10 years of serving in the army as a colonel and a brigadier-general, was ultimately 1 of 4 commissioners of Congress to make treaties with Southern Indians. 


8 General Gans: A Confederate general who commanded a brigade in Indian Territory.


9 Dawes Commission: Authorized March 3, 1893, under a rider to an Indian Office appropriation bill and chaired by Henry L. Dawes.  Its purpose was to convince the Five Civilized Tribes to cede their tribal lands through individual plots over to each member signed up on the National Registry or roll under the General Allotment Act of 1887, also known as the Dawes Act.  Individual plots could then be easily purchased from Native Americans for white expansion, and “surplus” land could be opened to white settlement.


10 The “mistake” is debatable.