On January 13th, 1733, the truly Christian philanthropist, Oglethorpe, with a hundred and twenty emigrants landed at Charleston, South Carolina. Afterwards sailing down the coast, he anchored his vessel, “Anne,” for a few days at Beaufort, while he, with a small company ascended the Savannah river to a high bluff on which the present city of Savannah, Georgia now stands, which he selected as the place for the establishment of his little colony. And there, February 1st, 1733, he laid the foundation of the oldest English town south of the Savannah River. In a few days the great chief of the Yemacaws, Tam-o-chi-chi, called upon the strangers who had thus unceremoniously taken possession of that portion of his peoples territories; and then and there two congenial spirits, the one of European, the other of an American, first met and formed a friendship each for the other that was never broken; and at the departure of the venerable old man, he presented to Oglethorpe a magnificent buffalo robe upon the inside of which was painted with elaborate Indian skill, the head and feathers of an eagle, and said: “Accept this little token of the good will of myself and people. See, the eagle is bold and fearless, yet his feathers are soft; as the eagle, so are my people bold and fearless in war; yet as his feathers, so are they soft and beautiful in friend ship. The buffalo is strong, and his hair is warm; as the buffalo, so are my people strong in war; yet, as his robe, the} are warm in love. I and my people would be your friends, beautiful in our friendship and warm in our love. Let this robe be the emblem of friendship and love between me and you, and mine and thine.” Oglethorpe accepted the present with its tokens; nor was the purity of those emblems ever tarnished by a dishonorable act of Tomochichi and his tribe or Oglethorpe and his colony, the one toward the other.
It is evident that the Yamacaws were an ancient off shoot of the Choctaws from the similarity of their language, habits and customs. The very name of the tribe is plainly a corruption of the Choctaw words yummakma (that one also) Ka-sha-pah, (to be a part).
How well did the North American Indians read and comprehend the symbolic language of Nature in all its different phases! What white man, whether illiterate or boasting the comprehensive genius of a United States Colonel (Dodge) who was enabled to discover one race of Gods created intelligences (the North American Indians) to be “absolutely without conscience,” could have drawn such grand sentiments from a buffalo robe and a bunch of eagle feathers, since “the money that was in them” would have absorbed every other consideration of his soul! Alas! that “The love of money” should so engross every noble faculty of our souls, that we could not, or would not, comprehend those beautiful symbols found in nature, on earth and in heaven, everywhere, and would not, or did not, heed them, as they call with their ten thousand voices to the discharge of our duty to the Indians and plead for the perfection of the character of both the red and white race, as illustrated in those grand sentiments of the no less grand old chief of the Yummak ma kashapas. “I and my people would be your friends, beautiful in our friendship and warm in our love!” How sad! How humiliating the reflection that, during four centuries, the North American Indians have found no responsive sentiment in the White Race, except in Penn and his followers, Oglethorpe and his colony, the self-sacrificing missionaries and a few noble philanthropists, though the same earnest and sincere plea was heard from the mouths of every tribe, when first visited by the whites, echoing from the Atlantics stormy shores in the east to the Pacific’s rock-bound coast in the distant west, “I and my people would be your friends, beautiful in our friendship “and warm in our love;” but only to fall upon the ear of our avarice as a tinkling cymbal, since deaf to all else but the gratification of our love of greedy gain, (that stranger to truth and justice, and untouched by any emotion of humanity) which demanded the extermination of the Indians, as the only guarantee to sure possession of their country and homes ; and then called for obloquy to cover their memory as an honorable justification for that extermination. And though Nature, every where in all its phases from the finite to the infinite, and the infinitesimal to the grand aggregate of knowledge, is full of instruction, by which she would teach us our duty to God, our fellowmen, and to ourselves, yet we heeded not the symbolic whispers of her low, sweet plaintive voice pleading in behalf of the Red Race; and in so doing, forfeited a privilege that heavens angels would have embraced with eagerness and joy, for the gratification of our frenzied avarice.
On the 29th of May following, Oglethorpe held a council with the Muscogees at Savannah; for whom and all their allies, Long Chief of the Ocona clan of Muscogees spoke and welcomed Oglethorpe and his title colony to their country in the name of peace and friendship by presenting to him large bundles of the skins and furs of wild animals in which their territories then abounded. And soon so great and wide extended became the fame of Oglethorpe and his followers as true and sincere friends to the Indian race, that the chiefs of the Cherokees, from their distant mountain homes, came to see and confer with Oglethorpe and his colony, to them a prodigy, a white man and great chief and yet a true man to his word pledged to an Indian. Naught like this had been known since the days of Penn and his Quakers. Was the bright morn of a glorious future about to dawn upon their race dispelling the long night of darkness that had for ages obscured their moral and intellectual vision? Was the White Race truly to prove their benefactor, once so brightly shadowed forth in the precepts and practice of the noble Penn and his colony? Indeed it appeared as the second dawn of hope; but alas, only to flicker a moment as the feeble and expiring taper, and then to go out to be seen no more, an illusive dream even as the first had proven to be.
In August 1739, a great council was convened at Coweta in the Muscogee Nation by Oglethorpe, the Indians undeviating friend, in which the Muscogees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Yummakmakashapahs and many others were represented, and in peace and harmony equally participated. The faithful and honest old Tumoachi stood among the most conspicuous of the various and distinguished chiefs. Coweta was, at that time, one of the largest towns of the Muscogee Nation, and many days travel from Savannah through the deep solitudes of a vast wilderness, untrodden by the foot of a white man since the days of De Sotos march, two hundred years before; but through which Oglethorpe and his little band of followers fearlessly and safely traveled, to fulfill his engagement with the unknown Indians there in council to assemble. When it was learned that he had arrived near Coweta, a deputation of chiefs, representatives of the respective tribes assembled, met and escorted him to the town with unfeigned manifestations of pride and joy. The next day the council convened, and remained in session several days, during which stipulations of peace and friendship were ratified, and free trade and friendly intercourse to all established, to the mutual satisfaction and delight of both red and white; after which the Grand Finale was performed, the solemn ceremony of drinking the “Black drink, and smoking the Pipe of Peace; in all of which the noble Oglethorpe participated, to the great delight and satisfaction of the admiring Indians; then, after the closing ceremony of bidding adieu, all to their respective homes returned delighted with the happy results of the council. Oglethorpe was ever afterwards held in grateful remembrance, and loved and honored by all the southern Indians; and was known everywhere as the Indians friend, and everywhere regarded and received as such with implicit confidence. How so? Because he was never known to wrong them in a single instance; therefore their admiration and confidence for and in him had no limits.
The morn of the southern Indians Christian era, as professed by the Protestant world, dawned, according to ancient Choctaw tradition, at the advent of Oglethorpe to this, continent and the establishment of his colony on the banks of the Savannah; and was heralded by the two brothers who so justly rank among earth s illustrious modern great as preachers of the Gospel of the Son of God; viz: John and Charles Wesley, who came with Oglethorpe in 1733, and ac companied him to his councils with the Indians, and there preached the glad tidings of “Peace and Good will toward men.” Shortly after, John Wesley influenced the renowned preacher, George Whitfield, to also come to America. In a letter to Whitfield, John Wesley thus wrote: “Do you ask what you shall have? Food to eat, raiment to wear, a house in which to lay your head such as your Lord had not, and a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Upon the reception of which, Whitfield said his heart echoed to the call, and to which he at once responded; and upon the return of the Wesleys to England, he says in his journal. “I must labor most heartily since I came after such worthy predecessors.”
In 1734, Tumoahchi, with his wife and son and seven Muscogee warriors accompanied Oglethorpe to George II and before whom Tumoahchi made a speech in that shrewd and captivating manner so characteristic of the North American Indians; which so pleased the king that he caused the American chief and warriors to be loaded with presents and even sent him and his wife and son in one of the royal carriages to Grovesend when he embarked to return to his native forest home. Shortly after his return home, the noble old chief was taken sick, and was at once visited by Whitfield, who says: “He now lay on a Blanket, thin and meager, little else but skin and bones. Senanki, his wife, sat by fanning him with Indian feathers. There was no one who could talk English, so I could only shake hands with him and leave him.” In a few days after, Whitfield returned to the couch of the dying chief and was rejoiced to find Tooanoowe, a nephew of Tumoahchi present, who could speak English. “I requested him,” says Whitfield, “to ask his uncle whether he thought he should die? He answered I cannot tell. I then asked where he thought he would go after death? He replied, to heaven. But, alas, how can drunkard’s enter-there? I then exhorted Tooanoowe, who is a tall, proper youth, not to get drunk, telling him that he understood English, and therefore would be punished the more if he did not live better. I then asked him whether he believed in a heaven, yes, said he. I then asked whether he believed in a hell, and described it by pointing to the fire He replied, No. From whence we may easily gather how natural it is to all man-kind to believe there is a place of happiness, because they wish it to be so; and on the contrary, how averse they are to believe in a place of torment because they wish it not to be so.” But if the poor, unlettered, yet, generous and noble hearted Tumoahchi, who knew nothing of the sin of drunkenness, was unfit for heaven because “how can a drunkard enter there”? How unfit must be he who made him such, by making the whiskey, then taking it thousands of miles to the before temperate Indian and teaching him to drink it and how inconsistent with reason and common sense, and how insulting to the God of justice it must be, for us to call our selves Christians and the Indians savages! And if Tooanoo we “would be, punished the more if he did not live better,” since “he understood English” a little, what will be the fate of us whose native tongue in English, and who, with all our boasted attainments, led, influenced and taught them to adopt and practice, by precept and example, our “civilized” vices, but seldom instructed them in the virtues of the religion of the Bible! Does not the just and merciful Redeemer of the world of man-kind regard with much less approbation all external professions and appearances, than do thousands of his professed followers found among our own White Race? Did he not prefer the despised but charitable Samaritan to the uncharitable but professed orthodox priest? And does He not declare that those who gave food to the hungry, entertainment to the stranger, relief to the sick, and had charity (all of which are today, and ever have been, from their earliest known history, the noted characteristics of the North American Indians, though they never heard of the name of Jesus) shall in the last day be accepted? When those who boisterously shout Lord! Lord, valuing themselves upon, their professed faith, though sufficient to perform miracles, but have neglected good works shall be rejected. And though we have scarcely permitted the Indians, though starving and pleading for moral, intellectual and spiritual food, to pick up the crumbs that fell from our tables loaded with professed virtues, yet we have displayed a wonderful talent introducing them and manifest a strange desire that they should be falsely handed down to posterity as creatures not embraced in the fiat of him who said “Let us make man.”
Never did a North American Indian acknowledge that he recognized in the white man a master; nor was ever an emotion of inferiority to the white man experienced by an Indian. Nearly four centuries of unceasing effort by the White Race have utterly failed to make the Indian even feel, much less acknowledge, the white man as master.
In 1741, Bienville was superseded by Marquis de Vandreuil, to whom the Chickasaws sent a delegation to New Orleans to treat for peace. But Vandreuil refused to treat unless the Choctaws, allies of the French, were made parties to the treaty. The Chickasaws then made an effort to induce the Choctaws to form an alliance with them, supported by the English, against the French. But their design was discovered and thwarted by the secret intriguing of Vandreuil with Shulush Humma, (Red Shoe), then a noted Choctaw chief and shrewd diplomatist, and belonging to the clan called Okla Hunnali, (Six People and living in the present Jasper county, Mississippi, who had been favorably disposed toward the English for several years; and finally, in 1745, through personal interest alone it was thought, he went over to the English; and, at the same time, influencing a chief of the Mobelans (properly, Moma Binah, or Mobinah, a clan of the ancient Choctaws) to do the same with his warriors, and also some of the Muscogees, all of whom were, at that time, allies of the French. Shortly after, Vandreuil went from New Orleans to Mobile, and there met twelve hundred Choctaw warriors in council assembled, with whom he made renewed pledges of friendship bestowing upon them many presents of various kinds. But Shulush Humma stood “aloof and refused to participate in any of the proceedings; and to place beyond all doubt the position he occupied, he, a few weeks after, slew a French officer and two French traders, who unfortunate ventured into his village.
Thus the Choctaws were divided into two factions; at first peaceable, but which finally culminated into actual civil war through the instigations and machinations of both the French and English. And thus the Chickasaws and the Choctaws, blinded to their own national interests, were led to destroy each other, the one in behalf of the English and the other of the French; while both the English and French under an assumed friendship, used them as instruments alone to forward their own selfish designs and self interests, though to the destruction of both the misguided Choctaws and Chickasaws. Truly misfortune seems to have set her fatal seal upon the North American Indians, and doomed them to eternal misery while upon earth, in contending with the White Race for the right to live and enjoy life with the rest of mankind. Unhappy race! What heart so lost to every emotion of sympathy but weeps at the rehearsal of your woes!
In 1750, still infatuated with the belief that the White Race sought their interests, the Choctaws still remained in two hostile factions, thirty of their villages adhering to the French, and only two to the English, who, in a terrible battle which ensued, had one hundred and thirty of their warriors slain, and soon after, were again defeated by the French, with a party of Choctaws, and compelled to sue for peace, while the English stood aloof and left them to fight alone against fearful odds, though their accepted friends.
Three years after (1753), De Vandreuil was succeeded by Kerleree, who, in one of his dispatches, thus spoke of the Choctaws: “I am satisfied with them. They are true to their plighted faith. But we must be the same in our trans actions with them. They are men who reflect, and who have more logic and precision in their reasoning than is supposed.”
How true it is, that the above assertion of Kerleree, in regard to the Choctaws, may be as truthfully affirmed of the entire North American Indian race. And had that truth been admitted and acted upon by the White Race in all their dealings with the Red Race from first to last, the bloody charges that to-day stand recorded against us in the volume of truth would not have been written.
November 3rd, 1762, the King of France ceded to the King of Spain his entire possessions in North America known under the name of Louisiana; and at which time, a treaty of peace was signed between the Kings of Spain and France of the one party, and the King of England of the other, by which France was stripped of all her vast landed possessions to which she had so long and tenaciously laid claim at the useless and cruel destruction of thousands of helpless Indians who alone held the only true and just claim. When the Indians learned of this treaty of cession, and were told that they had been transferred from the jurisdiction of the French to that of the English, whom they feared and dreaded ten fold more than they did the French, they were greatly excited at the outrage, as they rightly termed it; and justly affirmed that the French possessed no authority over them by which to transfer them over to the English, as if they were but so many horses and cattle. Truly, as human beings, as a free and independent people and as reasoning men, how could they but feel the degradation of being thus bartered away as common chattels, and feel the deep humiliation that followed the loss of their national character and national rights. Yet, how little did they imagine the still deeper humiliation, degradation and woe that were in store for their race! How little did they believe that they were soon to be driven away by merciless intruders, from their ancient and justly owned possessions and the cherished graves of their Ancestors, to wander, they knew not where, in the vain search of a pity and commiseration, never to be found among their heartless oppressors and conquerors! Alas! How else but broken-hearted can the surviving little remnant be, when no words of consolation and hope ever greet their ears! How can they be industrious when that industry but brings them in contact with the authors of all their misfortunes and woes! How can they forget their wrongs and sow, unless it be to sow dragon s teeth with the hope that warriors might spring up to avenge their blood, that vengeance justly claimed! Did they not in all sincerity believe themselves wrongfully oppressed? Which they truly were; and in resisting that oppression, did they do more than any other Nation, under similar circumstances, has done and will ever do, that claims the right to exist as a Nation? They contended for that which they honestly believed to be their birthright, and it was, both by the laws of God and man. Could they have done otherwise, when they desired and sought our civilization and Christianity; but we would grant it to them only upon the terms of yielding up to us their country, their nationality, their freedom, their honor, their all that makes life worth living? Have we not treated them from first to last as inferior beings, and in our bigoted egotism scorned them and pushed them from us as creatures below our notice? Can we establish a just plea upon the broad foundation of truth to sustain the right to treat them as we have treated them, take their country from them by the strength of arbitrary power, and call it honor able purchase, and then annoy them by reiterated extortions and oppress them to extermination?
In November, 1763, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Muscogees were, through their representative chiefs, assembled in council at Augusta, Georgia, with the representative Governors of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. But two years later, August, 1765, the Choctaws and Muscogees inveterate enemies commenced a fearful and devastating war, which, according to their traditions, continued six years with unabated hostility; and during which many battles were fought and heavy losses sustained on both sides, yet each displaying the most undaunted and heroic bravery. But as they had no native historians, the cause, the progress, the successes, the defeats, as Dame Fortune alternately bestowed her favors upon the one and the other, will never be known; for the long period of those six years of bloody strife is wrapt in the silence of the unknown past, and all that now may be written is contained in “They lived; they fought.” Nor has much more been recorded concerning the vicissitudes of the North American Indian race, by their white historians; though “they killed, they robbed” is but a counterpart of the mutations of the White Race also.
Be it as it may, we find the Choctaw people, amid all their vicissitudes and misfortunes, occupying-, all along the line of their known history, a prominent place as one of the five great southern tribes, who have been justly regarded as being the most to be dreaded in war of all the North American Indians, for their skill and invincible bravery; and the most to be admired in peace for the purity of their friendship and fidelity to truth. And to compare the present enfeebled, oppressed”, broken-hearted, down trodden, the still surviving little remnant, to their heroic, free, independent, and justly proud ancestors of two centuries ago, or even less than one century ago, is to compare the feeble light of the crescent moon lingering upon the western horizon to the blaze of the sun in the zenith of its power and glory. But what has wrought the fearful change? Who hurled them from their once high and happy state down to this low and wretched state of humiliation and slavery? Truth points its unerring finger to these United States, and says as he to Israel’s ancient king, “Thou art the man.” What the difference? None in principle. The one, Israel’s king, a murderer, to gratify a beastly lust; the other, America people, tyrant, to gratify a beastly avarice. And yet we claim to advocate the right of freedom and self government to all nations of people; and boldly hurl our anathemas against the iron heel of England’s oppression of Ireland, and curse the greedy avarice of a heartless and grasping landlordism that for years has sapped the vitals of that unfortunate country and broken the spirit of its noble people; while we are guilty of the same greedy avarice that has broken the spirit of as noble a people as ever lived; and against whom we have exercised the aggressive tyranny, and made it a point to preserve towards them an attitude the most commanding and supercilious, and against whom we have long cherished and still cherish the basest and most unjust prejudice. Alas, how inconsistent are we.
Many other tribes living in the same regions are mentioned by the early writers, but who, in comparison to numbers and prominence as a people, fell far below the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Muscogees, Seminoles and Natchez; though it is reasonable to conclude that many of them were offshoots of the above mentioned. But the cruel and bloody scenes that marked the conflicts of the whites with the brave warriors of these five nations of the North American Indians, before they overpowered them by superiority in numbers, skill and weapons of warfare and drove them from their ancient homes under the false plea of “fair and honorable purchase,” scattering along the whole line of their known history, fraud, dissimulation, oppression, destruction and death, clothe the character of this wonderful people in the wildest romance and truly render them worthy heroes “of fable and song; of whom it may truly be said that, in point of numbers; in the magnitude and grandeur of their territories abounding in every variety of game that could render them truly the paradise of the Indian hunter; in their far sighted sagacity; in their peculiar native eloquence; in their legends and traditions handed down from generation to generation through cycles of ages unknown; in their strange and mysterious religious rites and ceremonies; in all that strange and peculiar phenomena, that stamp the true Native Americans as the independent and fearless sons of the forest, un surpassed in daring and heroic deeds in defense of their country, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Muscogees, Seminoles and Natchez stand unsurpassed by any other of the North American Indians, or any other unlettered race of people on earth.