Brigadier General Stand Watie. Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library
John Ross was born at Rossville, Georgia on October 3, 1790. In 1809, his father-in-law, Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs sent a young Ross on a mission to visit the Cherokee whom had migrated to and were living in Arkansas.
He became adjutant under Major Ridge in Colonel Andrew Jackson's army during the Creek "Red Stick" War. He was on the Cherokee National Council, which had been taken over by Cherokee mixed bloods, and in 1827, was elected President of the Cherokee Constitutional Convention and was also elected Cherokee Chief of the East of the Mississippi Cherokees that same year. The Cherokees in the west governed themselves and had their own chiefs.
The political parties were supported by most full bloods but the leaders were mixed bloods, most with some traditional learning. Ross himself was one-eighth Cherokee and seven-eighths white. He could neither understand nor speak the Cherokee language. He would devote all of his efforts to making the Indians believe that by following him, he could convince the United States to allow the Cherokee Indians to remain on their lands in Georgia. Of course, he knew the federal policy of the administration of President Jackson, the Removal Acts passed by Congress and the conditions caused by the state of Georgia. He wanted to hold out for more money and to be able to dictate the terms of migration.
While no one can sell what they do not own, Georgia had "ceded" lands to the United States and the United States had agreed that in return, the federal government would move all of the Indians off their lands east of the Mississippi. In fact, in 1830, the U.S. Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act for that purpose. The Cherokees refused to leave their lands east of the Mississippi, although about one-third had left voluntarily when the Removal Act was finally enforced by government troops and Georgia militia. Life had purposely been made unbearable for the Indians in Georgia by federal and state actions.
Before long, in order to force the Cherokees to leave, the Cherokee had been made as miserable as possible. The last of the removals under Winfield Scott, however, had turned into a nightmare.
The Indians were herded up into detention camps to be moved under the worst possible conditions in the dead of winter. Their homes, belongings and even their shoes had been taken. Had the Indians left earlier, thousands more may have survived and not faced the savage brutality that was inflicted upon the weak and helpless people. While it was the most savage death march in history, it is now referred to as the "trail of tears". .
This became one of the most wicked chapters in American history, all to satisfy the Jacksonian expansions driven by their lust for Indian lands, gold and other resources; in retrospect, at least we can recognize a system of uncontrolled people in operation against the Cherokees under American leadership in our own country's history. We must also recognize the part that the greed of John Ross played. .
That is, the United States Congress of the time must be held responsible for their congressional claim of unfettered powers to take the life, liberty and property under the Indian Commerce clause and, by the withholding of Fourteenth Amendment and other protections of the Bill of Rights. See: Lonewolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U.S. 553 (1903), where the theft of massive areas of Indian land can be called "good faith" behavior, by a Supreme Court that is perverting the U.S. Constitution, upholding plenary power concepts and in blatant violation of prior treaty contracts.
However, as we look back on the Andrew Jackson administrations, we must also consider the underground currents as well, for instance, the advent of John Ross into Cherokee politics. .
John Ross was seven-eighths white and a protégée of the U.S. War Department's agent to the Cherokee, Colonel Return J. Meigs. While Ross couldn't speak the Cherokee language and had to use interpreters, especially for his prayers, the rapid mixture of the white traders and others with the Cherokee, both male and female, and the government's policy of bringing Christianity to the Indians took its toll on tribal politics. To the white Christian of that time, all people who did not belong to the Christian belief were "savage heathens" and something less than free human beings. This is where the concept of manifest destiny, a belief in white superiority, begins which could rationalize the unprovoked taking of large areas of land. In the case of the American Indians, the policy continues to this day. See: 25 U.S.C. 334, 336, 345-346; 8 U.S.C. 1401(b). .
The other side of the coin is that a minority group of Cherokees favored leaving their homelands in the east for a new promised home west of the Mississippi, for reason they saw no other way to escape removal. The United States was now powerful (1834-35) and Congress had spoken through the Indian Removal Act of 1830. .
A treaty was desired because the federal pressure was on. The state militia was out of control and was following the dictates of Jackson. The "harassment" of the Cherokee is hardly the correct word. It was much more than that and even though this is not a matter of labels, the policy was genocidal in nature. .
The politics of the Cherokee was to listen carefully to all the Cherokee people whom felt they should speak out for the tribe as a whole needed to know. .
John Ross wanted the Cherokees to believe he was in control of the removal situation and interfered with the printing of the Cherokee tribal newspaper. The editor, Elias Boudinot resigned on August 1, 1832, saying that, in his opinion, the people needed to know the consequences of failing to move peacefully, the stance of the President and what the Congress had provided. John Ross, however, wanted to hold out for more money and also wanted the authority to dictate and head up the removal process as the government contractor. .
Cherokees whom wanted their tribesmen to fully realize the danger they were in were being found "shot from their ponies". At a council tribal meeting at Red Clay, Tennessee, John Ross and others planned the charges made against Major Ridge and his son John which John Ross would not allow to proceed to prosecution before the tribe nor would he dismiss the charges, namely that the two Cherokee statesmen had acted against the tribal law in advocating that the Cherokee make a treaty for removal while time remained in order to avoid certain death for Cherokees whom would refuse to remove to lands west of the Mississippi. .
When his services were sought by his friend, President Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston was appointed sub-agent to the Cherokees by the War Department. Houston had served under Jackson in the Red Stick Creek War and Houston had been wounded at the battle of Horseshoe Bend. When ordered from battle due to his injuries, he instead continued to fight rather than quit. .
Sam Houston's job as Indian agent was to encourage the Cherokee to move west of the Mississippi. He told the Cherokee people that, if they were to retain their political freedom, they must move. He participated in the process of the treaties of 1817 and 1819, and conducted most of the affairs connected with them. In December of 1817, he traveled to Washington with a group of Cherokees living in Arkansas to meet with John C. Calhoun, the Secretary of War. The treaties of 1817 and 1819 exchanged Cherokee lands north of the Hiwassee River in the east for lands in the Arkansas territory west of the Mississippi. Houston had bought lands from the Osages and stood to prosper from the deals he put together for Jackson. The emigration of the Indians, however, was mostly by riverboat and were peaceful in comparison to the "trail of tears" which was directed by John Ross in 1838, during which thousands died of starvation, forced marches in sub-zero weather, many of the Indians being barefoot and without warm clothing, and agonizing death from illnesses and other causes, all of which characterized the John Ross marches west. .
Houston resigned from the Army after being charged by Calhoun as participating in a slave smuggling ring, which Houston denied. Guided by Jackson, Houston became Attorney General of the Nashville District and later was elected to Congress. He was elected Governor of Tennessee in the same election in which Andrew Jackson was elected President. .
After he left the governorship of Tennessee, he returned to live with the Cherokees and on October 21, 1829, the Cherokee Council made him a Cherokee citizen, proclaiming that: "We do solemnly, firmly and irrevocably grant to Samuel Houston forever, all the rights, privileges and immunities of a citizen of the Cherokee Nation". .
Most of the white Cherokees operated businesses. Among them was Jack Rogers, a Scottish trader and ex-Tory captain and veteran of the American Revolution battle of Horseshoe Bend. Tiana Rogers was his daughter and she went on to marry Sam Houston. Her four brothers operated profitable trading posts. She was the aunt of well-known entertainer Will Rogers of Claremore, three generations removed. .
By 1829, Houston had become a peacemaker between warring tribes. He himself owned a large trading business and fought against corrupt U.S. government agents whom defrauded and terrorized the Cherokees. When he couldn't move Jackson off high-center, he began a public relations campaign writing protests to newspapers so that the Indian agency organization was revised and corrupt employees replaced. .
Houston joined the Texas revolution for independence from Mexico and at San Felipe on November 3, 1835, the Texans in the militia elected Houston as Commander-in-chief of the Armies. .
In the meantime, east of the Mississippi, John Ross was beginning to fear that advocates for a new treaty for self removal were gaining momentum so he and his followers stepped up their opposition by any means necessary to stop those who were against him, even to killing them off. .
Major John Walker Sr. was a friend of President Jackson, having served under Jackson in the Red Stick Creek War, as had Major Ridge. John Sr. wore rings in his ears and nose and was a major in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. John Walker Jr. was born around 1800 in the town of Wachowee, on the Hiawassee River in Tennessee. His paternal grandmother was Nancy Ward and his mother, Elizabeth Lowery and his father John Walker Sr. were both half Cherokee. John Walker Jr. was educated in New Jersey. On January 10, 1824, he married Emily Stanfield Meigs, granddaughter of Colonel Return J. Meigs. The marriage was performed by Thomas Cox. The Walkers had four children. He also had a plural wife, Nancy "Nannie" Bushyhead. Her brother, Jesse Bushyhead, was a noted Cherokee teacher and preacher. Nancy had two children by Walker, named Ebenezer and Sara E. Walker. Most of the white and Indian traders had plural wives. In the 1820's, Walker had been a civil officer in the Cherokee Nation. .
On August 18, 1834, the Cherokee National Council convened at Red Clay, Tennessee. During the first day, John Ross explained why he opposed moving west and had his followers mingling among the Cherokees in attendance and telling them that Ross could force the government to allow the Cherokee to remain in Tennessee and Georgia if he had the backing. The following day, John Ross addressed the Council, stating reasons for opposing the U.S. government policies and his followers gained control of the mood of the crowd. .
After Ross, Tom Foreman attacked the treaty advocates, calling them enemies of the Cherokee Nation and blamed them for holding up Ross's efforts to make a settlement with the government, allowing the Cherokees to remain. He particularly attacked Major Ridge, a member of the Executive Council, for his present stance in favor of a treaty removal after having opposed the movement west all over the Nation, and for participation in the killing of Chief Doublehead for selling tribal land when he himself was now recommending dealing with the United States. .
Because of the heated arguments and some statements against him being told by the Ross faction, although apparently false, John Walker Jr., along with Dick Johnson of Athens, Tennessee, left the council grounds to ride home. Shortly thereafter, they were followed by James Foreman and Anderson Springston. .
The Ridges spoke about Tom Foreman, and then Foreman denied all accusations and produced a letter that John Ross read to the Committee which was translated into Cherokee by Ned Gunter. The letter was from an immigrant in Arkansas to his family in which he told of sickness among the western Cherokee and went on to urge his parents to remain in the east, even if they had to rent land, until he could return in the fall. Then Gunter went on to deliver a fiery speech attacking the treaty advocates once again. .
The claims of John Ross were that the treaty advocates were the reason removal was still being considered by the government. Ross's plan, to divert the attentions of the people from his failures, was to raise their indignation against the advocates of a treaty. Feelings were running high against the treaty advocates when a John Ross relative, Elijah Hicks, produced a petition signed by 144 Cherokees, calling for the impeachment of Major Ridge, John Ridge and David Vann because they maintained their opinions in favor of moving the Nation west. Earlier, a similar motion had been tabled on the motion of Dick Fields. Signatures on the second petition were obtained while the meeting was in progress. The Council, except for George Chambers who made a speech against the notion, found the accused guilty as charged and impeached them. The Committee would then go on to sit as a high court of impeachment on oath. William Rogers and Elias Boudinot would serve as counsel for the accused. .
During the Council and at its close, threats were made to kill those in favor of removal. At 9 o'clock in the evening, Jack McCoy advised all present that there had been an express received to state that Jack Walker Jr. had been waylaid and shot on his way home. .
John Walker Jr., shot from his horse in an ambush and with the bullet going through his body, was able to get up in time to see James Foreman and Anderson Springston fleeing on their horses. His partner helped him get back on his horse and they continued on. His wound was bleeding profusely as they arrived at his home, whereupon he entered the living room and fell unconscious. .
After three weeks of suffering, John Walker Jr. died from his injuries. His funeral was performed with full Masonic honors and Cherokee rites. John Walker Sr. made several failed attempts on John Ross's life. Andrew Jackson was at Hermitage when he received the news of the attack on and death of John Walker Jr. He sent word to Major Curry to notify John Ross and his council that the government would hold them responsible for every murder committed against the emigrating party. .
James Foreman and Anderson Springston were arrested and charged with murder. Then John Ross called a meeting at Red Clay of his followers and raised a large sum of money for the defense of Foreman and Springston. When the case began in the McMinn County Court at Athens, Tennessee, Foreman did not plead his innocence but rather pled that the court had no jurisdiction to try him because the crime, if it was a crime, was committed in the Cherokee Nation and the state had no jurisdiction under Tennessee law. The McMinn County Criminal Court sustained his motion but on appeal, the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed the judgment and ordered the case remanded to the Circuit Court in McMinn County for a trial on the merits. .
The large sum of money raised by John Ross provided Foreman's defense and he was released from jail without trial. Foreman, when asked how he got released, reportedly said "By God, sir, I was let out with a silver key", suggesting bribery to be involved in the release. .
The death of John Walker Jr. completed the polarization of the two factions in the Cherokee Nation east. At the October meeting of the Council, John Ross controlled the meeting. He declined to prosecute the impeachment charges against Major Ridge, John Ridge and David Vann. Ross also declined to withdraw the charges, therefore depriving the accused of the right to attempt to clear their names in an open hearing. There was no chance for compromise between the two factions. Vann and the Ridges resigned and sent out couriers to inform the people that they would be holding a council of their own in November. .
The November meeting was held at the home of John Ridge which resulted in the formation of the Treaty Party. Both parties sent delegations to Washington the following year to discuss removal. John Ross reversed himself openly by stating he was now willing to discuss removal but he still insisted on dictating the terms. On December 29, 1835, the government concluded the Treaty of New Echota with the Treaty Party. The Ross faction did not support the treaty and many Cherokees believed the statements Ross made claiming the treaty to be invalid. However, during the next three years, the U.S. government removed the Cherokee to the west.
Removal as a government policy did not begin with Andrew Jackson. Thomas Jefferson had instituted plans for Indian removal and all tribes were affected. .
The government's quest for "a suitable home for the Indians" was coupled to empirical expansion and a greed for land unparalleled in history. Simultaneously, the United States government supported and imposed missionary programs to "civilize" eastern Indians in hopes that by getting the Indians to adopt white customs, they could be integrated into the white man's society. This policy failed miserably because the Indians had a far better outlook on life and contrary to popular belief, the Indians of the Americas had developed perhaps seven-tenths of all the food products which today feed the world. To the embarrassment of time worn ideas, for instance, the Cherokees were very fast in developing a high degree of literacy among their people, in both Cherokee and English, to them a foreign language, and soon published a newspaper in both languages. There were dynamic changes in tribal culture and just as dramatic, the growth of an extensive Indian plantation network throughout the southeast and southwest. .
The Pandora's Box of the white man's diseases, such as smallpox and other diseases which the Indian had no resistance to, was killing off the Indians at an alarming rate. In the case of the Cherokees, these factors did not encourage their acceptance of removal as hoped but instead, added to the Indians' determination of land retention ideals such as if the well is going dry, you dig a deeper well.
Jackson did not invent "Indian removal". It was well in progress and being debated while looking for a way to accomplish Indian removal. Thomas Jefferson and all of his successors were in support of Indian removal and finding ways to convince the Indians that the government could, by plenary power of Congress, require the Indians to cede their lands to the government. .
Certainly the missionary programs to "civilize" the Indian under the superstition of empirical progress was an embarrassment to the white advance because the facts contradicted the age-old argument that the Indians were unbelieving heathen savages, nomads incapable of building a peaceful agrarian social order. The basis of the conflict between the white and Indian ideologies was that the Indians advocated retention of lands and the protection of its abundance as opposed to the white man's savage seizure, development and destruction of the land and natural resources owned by the Indians under the banner of their "God given right to spread the word". In reality, even with their destructive practices toward the stewardship of the land, the white men multiplied, living off the land and their success simply drove their need to have all of it. .
In the wake of these destructive policies, the destitute Indians have survived. The history of the so-called Irish potato, imported to Ireland to become a food staple and the resulting potato famine which drove millions of Irishmen to America, is an example of what the superstition of progress can do. The Indians found themselves drawn into the savage War of the Rebellion. Some of the Cherokee had adopted the practice of owning slaves, although the Indian slaveholders were generally known to treat their slaves more as a member of the family instead of as property. .
President Andrew Jackson objected to treating the Indians as Nations and making treaties with them. He called it "an absurdity" and argued that "Indians are subjects of the United States". They were regarded as denizens and after giving lip service to the idea of "civilization", Jackson spoke of the true intent of his policy, which was "to destroy the tribal structure, replacing it" with the "fostering care" of the central government which would then "prescribe their bounds at will". Without such control, the "real Indians, the natives of the forest" would fall prey to the "designing renegade white men who have taken refuge in Indian Country". "For it is true," he believed "that avarice and fear are the predominate passions that govern an Indian". He urged the government to bring "ceded Indian land into the market" and have the land "populated". "Only white settlement could bring adequate defense to an area that for thirty years" had been the "den of murderers". .
Following the murder of John Walker Jr. by John Ross's people, James Foreman and his half-brother Anderson Springston, the following events led to the formation of the Treaty Party by the Ridges. On December 29, 1835, the U.S. government concluded the Treaty of New Echota with this party and during the next three years, the Cherokee people were moved to the west of the Mississippi under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. .
The Ridges and Waties left for the west in the next voluntary group of migrants. After their arrival in Arkansas and Indian Territory, the Indians set about making their new homes. Eventually, the remaining Cherokees were removed under the conduction of John Ross. This portion of the Cherokees left in mid-winter and the horror of the forced marches came to be known as the "trail of tears". .
Upon his arrival, Ross demanded that the government of the western Cherokee be merged with the Ross faction with himself in the position of principal chief.
Following a meeting in June of 1839 in the Indian Territory, the remnants of the Treaty Party left the meeting, being forewarned that John Ross's followers were going to murder the Ridges and others. .
On June 22, 1839, Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot were assassinated by Ross followers. .
John Ridge was stabbed to death at his home on the morning of June 22nd. .
Three riders appeared at the home of Elias Boudinot and approached Boudinot by his barn and asked for medicine which he kept to give to any persons being ill. He stopped his work on his barn and started for his house to get the medicine when the three men attacked him from behind with knives and hatchets. When his workers tried to help, a group of about thirty riders emerged from the nearby bushes and trees and killed Boudinot's helper. .
Major Ridge had been to visit a sick friend, a former slave, at his home in Arkansas and was on the way to his daughter's house after spending the night with the Harnage family. On the way, he was bushwhacked, shot in the back and killed. Those whom fired upon him were James Foreman, Anderson Springston, Bird Doublehead, Isaac Springston, James Hair and Jefferson Hair. .
James Foreman and Anderson Springston were the killers of John Walker Jr. in Tennessee and the same men for whom John Ross supplied the money for their defense and release. .
Following the murder of Boudinot, Stand Watie, himself oblivious to the danger he was in, appeared at Tahlequah and offered a reward of $1000 to anyone who would tell him who had murdered his brother, Elias Boudinot. .
In May, 1842, James Foreman was shot and killed by Stand Watie at the grocery store of Dave England in Burton County, Arkansas. Less than a week earlier, Anderson Springston was shot in the same location. .
Stand Watie, tried in the Arkansas Court, was released, having acted in self defense. .
The Treaty Party had lost its leadership. However, through treaty, the parties buried the hatchet. Political differences improved somewhat in the Territory, in appearances, but tribal differences under the law of revenge, blood law, persisted and a large number of Cherokee families were affected. Many persons still were victims to the political hostilities of John Ross, and even bloodshed. The political killing of Jesse Starr, for instance, created its own blood war. .
Much propaganda was issued about the Ridge Treaty Party backers being persons of mixed blood while the Ross faction was backed by the full bloods. Ross, however, was one-eighth Cherokee and seven-eighths white. The fact is that the ratio of mixed bloods and full bloods supporting either side was about the same for as long as the Treaty Party continued to exist. The Ross party did have the backing of most of the Christian full bloods. In the Treaty Party, Major Ridge was the brother of Oowatie (The Ancient One) whom was the father of Stand Watie, Ridge's nephew. Major Ridge was the first of the Ridges among the Cherokees. His Indian name, translated to English, meant "he walks the mountaintops", thus his translated name became "The Ridge". In 1812 in war, he attained the rank of Major and he went by that name the rest of his life. All of his offspring can be traced by a search for Major Ridge in the World Family Tree where he is listed with his wife and children. He took his land in Arkansas where he was later murdered. He is the same Major Ridge who, in 1807, had been one of a party that had killed Chief Doublehead for signing a treaty in 1806 which ceded Cherokee land located in Tennessee and Kentucky to the United States. Doublehead had been bribed to sign the treaty. Ridge had killed a Cherokee to denounce the man's treachery. .
In the coordinated attacks on the Ridges and Elias Boudinot in places scattered through the Cherokee Nation and Arkansas, as many as seventy other persons, though lesser known, were also killed. You can find their stories while doing genealogy on Cherokee surnames. The other brother of Stand Watie, Thomas Watie, and Stand Watie's close friend James Starr were also murdered. .
The bloodbath between the Ross and Treaty parties finally ended with the treaty of 1846 which was signed in Washington by representatives of the Old Settlers, Treaty Party and the Ross Party. The treaty gave amnesty to fugitives on various crimes if they returned to the Cherokee Nation by December 1, 1846, provided for equal protection of all inhabitants, guaranteed trial by jury, decreed that all land in the Cherokee Nation was for the use of all Cherokees and set aside $115,000 for losses suffered by the Ridge Treaty Party, including $5000 for each heir of Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. Among the signors were John Ross and John Drew. This treaty dissolved the "Treaty Party" but did not resolve the deep differences in the two bands. .
When the Civil War began, it rekindled old hatreds that had remained ongoing from past actions and earlier killings by the Ross faction but now, they were on a new political level. .
When the Civil War broke out, Ross was 70 years old but had maintained a tight grip on Cherokee government by nature of his following. .
The U.S. Army abandoned their federal posts and those at Little Rock and Fort Smith in Arkansas were taken over by the Confederates without a fight. On the other hand, Kansas to the north was a pro-union state. Confederate forces promised the tribes that the Confederacy would live up to the treaty commitment the United States had made but failed to keep. The South, furthermore, would respect tribal sovereignty. .
Albert Pike, who was born in Boston and schooled at Harvard, was a Little Rock attorney, newspaperman, teacher and trader. Well-known for his writings in the Little Rock Advocate and his successful representation of the Choctaws in the Court of Claims, winning a nearly three million dollar settlement for the tribe, he was appointed as Confederate Commissioner to the Indians. His friendship with the Indians was recognized and he was commissioned as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army on August 15, 1861. .
The Indians of the southern plains, namely Kiowa, Comanche and Apache as well as the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole and Creek tribes sent representatives to meet with the Confederates at Antelope Hills in far western Indian Territory. .
Albert Pike made a treaty with the pro-confederate Creek faction. .
John Ross sent delegates to Antelope Hills to encourage neutrality. As his strongest supporters, Ross had John and Evan Jones, white First Baptist missionaries. They were the abolitionists whom had organized the secret religious faction called Keetowahs, a group consisting mostly of full bloods. Evan Jones who had been born in Wales and his son John Buttrick Jones were first members of the Church of England. They became Methodists and later converted to Baptist upon immigrating to the United States. In 1821, Evan Jones became a Baptist missionary to the Cherokees in North Carolina and migrated to Indian Territory with the Cherokees in 1838. J. Buttrick Jones was born in North Carolina in 1824, graduated from the University of Rochester, became a Baptist minister in 1855 and served with his father at the Baptist mission at Westville, Oklahoma. .
The Keetowah Society was organized in 1859 to preserve the religious and moral code of the old Keetowah Society which had been abandoned many years before. Its members were Christians who wanted to learn and preserve the ancient Cherokee rites. It started among a Baptist congregation at Peavine in the Cherokee Nation's Going Snake district and soon spread throughout the Nation. Some three thousand Cherokees were reported as belonging to the Keetowah Society. This group was formed, in part, to oppose the Blue Lodge and the Knights of the Golden Circle, which were secret pro-secession organizations. .
As long as they protected John Ross, even to committing murder for him, the Keetowahs were used by Ross. Using names such as Nighthawks and Pins Indians, so-called because of the pins worn on their clothing for identification to others of their group, the Keetowahs played a special role in the opposition to the members of the Ridge and Watie band. .
The Keetowahs were also a fraternal organization. Death was the punishment for anyone revealing the activities of the secret society. The Keetowahs had secret signs with which to identify one another. From a distance, they could touch their hats in a salute. They had a special way of holding the lapel of their coats, drawing it away from their bodies and giving a motion as though wrapping it around their hearts. .
John Ross, at first favoring neutrality, had to deal with Stand Watie whom had organized a company to protect the remnants of the Ridge and Watie band from the Ross party. .
On August 21, 1861, the Great Cherokee Council held a council on the question of neutrality at the settlement called Tahlequah near Park Hill where John Ross and many of the leaders of the Cherokee Nation lived. The Council was held in the town square of Tahlequah which was, at the time, a small village just north of the Illinois River at the site of a government supply depot during the time of the Cherokee migration. Tahlequah was chosen by the Cherokee because of its central location.
Attending the Council meeting was Joseph Crawford who had resigned his position as a federal Cherokee agent in June, 1861 and attended the meeting as a Confederate State agent. .
Also attending the historic Council as a Southern Cherokee was Stand Watie, a colonel in the Confederate Army, along with fifty to sixty armed men from his Confederate Cherokee regiments. Watie had chosen the South and was allied therewith in war against the United States and all of their components, including the other political parties not joined to him and the south, in his efforts to support the South. Watie said his companions had come armed to the meeting "to protect themselves from assassination". Many writers of the day refer to Watie's command as having been "Ridge Party" or "Treaty Party" but that is not true. Stand Watie had practiced law and served as a sheriff in the Nation. He had also served on the National Council several years and had recovered some of his property. .
Watie was intimidating to some Cherokees since his men vehemently supported abandoning neutrality and making a treaty with the Confederate States of America. .
John Ross urged the Council to support the Confederacy and to raise a regiment of Confederate Indians. John Ross appointed John Drew and all the other officers for Drew's regiment from among his friends. Stand Watie asked the Confederacy for arms and other supplies for his regiment of mounted Cherokees. Basically, the South agreed with Watie's ideas and planned to keep the two regiments separate. .
Stand Watie became the last Confederate General to cease fighting, having covered the withdrawal of other Confederate units, and when the South was down and out, Stand Watie entered into "Treaty stipulations made and entered into this 23rd day of June 1865 near Doaksville, Choctaw Nation, between Sent. Colonel A. C. Mathews and W. H. Vance U. S. V., commissioners appointed by Major General Herron U. S. A., on part of the military authorities of the United States and Brig. General Stand Watie, Governor and Principal Chief of that part of the Cherokee Nation lately allied with Confederate States". (See: Treaty of Doaksville, June 23, 1865). He had done all he could do to protect his people as well as the southerners engaged in the war with the Union. He refused to take the "obnoxious oath" and ended his war by a treaty of amnesty and peace. .
The treaty of 1866 was made with the Southern Cherokee and their need for protection from the so-called loyal Cherokees, in mind. The first eight articles of the treaty pertain to the Southern Cherokee, establishing their right to separate government and jurisdiction. The Southern Cherokee mentioned in the treaty were those that had served under Brig. General Stand Watie in the Civil War on the side of the South against the Union. Stand Watie, at the time of the treaty, was principal chief of the Southern Cherokee whom are mentioned in the treaty of Doaksville, Choctaw Nation. .
One fact which must be clarified and understood is that the old "Treaty Party" members were not necessarily Southern Cherokee. "Treaty Party" members ended up fighting on both sides during the Civil War. If one has only proven descent from a member of the "Treaty Party", this in no way makes you a Southern Cherokee. The Southern Cherokee did not exist as such until the Civil War. This misrepresentation of some relationship between being "Treaty Party" and Southern Cherokee has been carried forward to the point of even rewriting federal documents to state "treaty party/southern Cherokee" for personal gain. The blood feud that started in 1834, lasted through the "Treaty Party" years and continued even after the treaty of peace in 1846. The Civil War brought it to the surface stronger than ever. It went on all through the Civil War with the Southern Cherokee and exists yet today. But today, it's fought with lobbyists and lawyers whose aim is to destroy the Southern Cherokee. For better or worse, the truth must be told. .