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Ch 5 Five Civilized Tribes

The term "Five Civilized Tribes" was invented by Euro-Americans to refer to the Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, Cherokees and Seminoles. Euro-Americans referred to these tribes as "civilized" because the cultures of these tribes had traditional characteristics that were misrepresented as evolving from Euro-American contact. They lived in settled towns, were farmers, and even held elected offices. In addition, Cherokee frequently intermarried with Euro-Americans. By the beginning of the 19th century, a small class of elite Cherokee existed. They lived on Euro-American style plantations with large land holdings and kept slaves. During the 1820s, the Cherokee developed a written alphabet for their language and regularly published their own newspaper. In the 1830s, the federal government undertook to remove the Five Civilized Tribes from their homelands and relocate them to Indian Territory. The Cherokee resisted removal and sued in the United States Supreme Court for the right to stay on their lands. In two key cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Cherokee to stay on their lands. President Andrew Jackson ignored the court's opinion and sent federal troops to forcibly remove the Cherokee and other "Civilized Tribes." The Cherokee were removed in 1838 during harsh winter conditions resulting in significant hardship and loss of life. The Cherokee remember this time as the "Trail of Tears." The Five Civilized Tribes were removed to the now overcrowded Indian territory. The government's policy of removing tribes from all over the United States to Indian Territory was beginning to show signs of stress. Although enemies, they were expected to share the limited land and now a new "civilized" group was being brought in to divide up the land again. The Five Civilized Tribes were not warmly accepted and were often viewed with suspicion and contempt. Some even went so far as to question their "Indianness." Painters of the Five Civilized Tribes developed a unique style which incorporates elements of Traditional Indian Painting, with ceremonial themes and genre scenes. However, these artists frequently depicted politically-charged historical events concentrating thematically on their forced removal and the Trail of Tears. Like the Jews of today that vow never to let the events of their Holocaust be forgotten, the artists of the Five Civilized Tribes keep alive the memory of their holocaust. The difference is that mainstream history has not recorded the atrocities of the Indian holocaust. Valjean Hessing. Choctaw Immigrants, 1972. Valjean Hessing's, Choctaw, 1934-, Choctaw Immigrants, a watercolor from the 1970s, depicts the removal of Choctaw Indians on the Trail of Tears. In the painting four women and two children are seen walking toward their new home in Indian Territory. One woman carries a small bundle of her most important possessions. The women are various skin colors indicating intermarriage between Native Americans, African slaves and Euro-Americans. The women's expressions reveal their responses to the new life which awaits them: anger, sadness and acceptance.

 Updated Tuesday, July 27, 2004 at 6:05:03 PM by Gerri Parker -
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