The Stokes Treaty Commission

The Osage who left their old home and removed to the Verdigris, were known as the Arkansas Osage. They had no agent until 1822 when Nathaniel Philbrook was appointed sub-agent for them. He was drowned at the mouth of Grand River the latter part of March, 1824 as related by Colonel Chouteau. David Barbour was then appointed in his place at a salary of five hundred dollars yearly. Governor Alexander McNair 1 of Missouri had been appointed agent for the Great and Little Osage on the Missouri and Upper Grand rivers. The difficulties caused by the Arkansas Osage were so frequent and continuous, and interposed such obstacles to the policy of the Government of locating the eastern Indians peaceably in the western country, that it was determined to remove them to a region farther north, where they would be less in the way. Clermont and his people, however, would not consent to leave, and it required many years to bring about their removal. The conferences to provide compensation for losses occasioned by the Osage and for the adjustment of ever-recurring difficulties became almost annual affairs.

In 1831 it became necessary to have another conference and treaty between the Osage, Creek, and Cherokee. By the efforts of Colonel Arbuckle, Captain Pryor, Captain Vashon, Cherokee Agent, Mr. McNair, and Major P. L. Chouteau, representatives of the three tribes met at Fort Gibson to adjust claims of Creeks and Cherokee for depredations committed by the Osage. The conference lasted two weeks, and resulted in two treaties: 2 one between the Osage and Creeks, dated the tenth of May, and the other between the Osage and Cherokee, dated May 18.

Osage Woman with child

A large part of the work of securing the attendance of the Osage devolved upon Captain Pryor, who devoted himself industriously to the task; though his efforts were delayed by serious illness that confined him for several weeks in Fort Gibson during January and February, and prevented his return home until the latter part of February, where he remained a convalescent for some time before he could resume his duties. June 10, within a month after the adjournment of the conference at Fort Gibson, Pryor died at his post seven miles from Union Mission. It is a singular fact that a few days before occurred the deaths of two other men who had taken part in the conference; D. D. McNair, Osage Sub-agent, and his horse were killed June 2 by lightning on the prairie near Union Mission, as he was riding home from Fort Gibson; and May 27, Louis P. Chouteau, 3 Sub-agent for the Creeks, died at the western Creek Agency on the Verdigris.

Governor Stokes gives us a picture of the MacNairs in a letter he wrote to the Secretary of War, July 20, 1833: 4

“The late Governor McNair was a reputable man who had frequently been employed by the United States. He died leaving a reputable family in moderate circumstances. His son (Dunning D. McNair) was employed as a sub-agent with the Osages, and set apart a portion of his Salary for the support of his mother and sisters now residing at St. Louis. This son was killed by lightning in the Prairie above Fort Gibson, and his younger brother [Alexander] was appointed sub-agent in his place. He also dedicates a part of his small salary to the support of his mother and sisters. When we held the conference with the Osages at Fort Gibson in March last, the Osages to the number of eight or nine hundred were encamped on the Neosho River opposite to the Fort. It was the wish of Paul L. Chouteau, the Osage Agent, that the Indians should be prevented from crossing the river of nights, and mixing with the soldiers of the Garrison, and he ordered young McNair his sub-agent, to encamp with the Osages for that purpose. – By means (which no Gentleman would be guilty of using) it was discovered that young McNair had slept some nights in his tent with an Osage squaw. For this offense I am told he has been reported to your Department for removal. I cannot believe, Sir, that you will be influenced by the charges of these Hypocritical informers. However meritorious some of the Missionaries may be, it is a fact that others will never be satisfied unless they get the management of the Indian affairs West, into their own hands.”

Immediately on the arrival of Governor Stokes at Fort Gibson early in February, 1833 me commission organized, and with the Governor as chairman set itself to one of the most important tasks responsible for its creation – the adjustment of the boundary line between the Creeks and Cherokee.

Boundary Line Between the Cherokee & Creek Tribes

Cherokee Lands in the West
Cherokee Lands in the West

The blunder of the officials at Washington in giving the Cherokee tribe in the treaty of 1828, land on the Verdigris and Arkansas rivers occupied and claimed by the Creek Indians had occasioned contention and bitter feeling between the tribes, for the Creeks were then enjoying some of the richest river bottom land, had built their homes and farms, and were profitably engaged in raising corn, cotton, and other crops and they were selling their surplus of corn to the Government for use at the garrison.

Through tactful negotiations the commissioners and the tribes reached an agreement, and the boundary line between the tribes was established, starting twenty-five miles north from where the old territorial line of 1824 crossed the Verdigris, thence south on that line to the Verdigris, thence down the Verdigris and Arkansas to the mouth of Grand River, and thence southwest to the mouth of the North Fork of the Canadian; this latter line lies just east of the corporate limits of the city of Muskogee. Two separate treaties 5 were enacted between the United States and the Cherokee, and between the United States and the Creeks, both bearing date of the fourteenth of February, 1833 (Creek Treaty, Cherokee Treaty). Captain Nathan Boone was stationed at Fort Gibson, where he had recently arrived in command of his company of rangers, and he was employed by the commissioners to survey the line agreed upon between the two tribes; he performed the work over a period of twenty-five days in March and April.

The commission then met the representatives of the Seminole Tribe and made a treaty with them; by authority of the treaty just completed with the Creek Indians, the Commissioners assigned to the Seminole for their future residence the tract of Creek country lying between the Canadian River and the North Fork and extending west to the forks of Little River. This treaty was signed March 28, 1833. 6

Negotiations with the Osage

The commissioners next took up the perennial task of negotiating with the Osage, who were in a destitute condition. In February 1833, members of this tribe had made a raid on some white people in Miller County, Arkansas, in the vicinity of Red River, and returned to the Verdigris loaded with clothing, bed quilts, spoons, knives, and merchandise; in addition to these thefts they had killed much livestock. Notice was given that the conference would be held February 25, at the home of Colonel Chouteau on Grand River; but as the weather was more than usually inclement, the Osage did not appear, and an adjournment was taken to Fort Gibson for March 11. On this occasion eight hundred Osage came to Fort Gibson accompanied by their chiefs.

A contract was made with Colonel A. P. Chouteau to furnish the rations for the Indians attending the conference. His cousin, Augustus Aristide Chouteau, son of Auguste Chouteau, was selected to interpret from English to French; and the United States interpreter, Baptiste, rendered the French into the Osage language.

The meetings continued from day to day over a period of nearly three weeks, and the efforts of the commissioners would probably have been successful but for the stubborn opposition of Clermont to the Government’s purpose to remove them. As if to show their contempt for the efforts of the Government to control their actions Clermont’s warriors immediately set out to renew their warfare against their enemies in the West.

In their report to the Secretary of War dated April 2, 1833, 7 the Commission said: “In conformity with our instructions, we consulted Col. A. P. Chouteau (as well as his brother the Agent) as to the course to be pursued to obtain the object of the Government, and requested Col. Chouteau to aid the Commissioners in effecting a treaty. Col. Chouteau has long been the great friend and counsellor of the Osage Nation, and the unlimited influence the Chouteaus seem to possess over the nation together with the assurance of a belief that a treaty could be made, induced the Commissioners to intrust the management of the nation principally to them. Indeed, such is their influence that it would be difficult if not impracticable to make a treaty against their opinion.” The commission reported that the large attendance of Osage at Fort Gibson was due to the fact that they were nearly naked, destitute and hungry, and came to the meeting for the food that would be given them. In fact, all of the six thousand members of the Osage Tribe were suffering for food except the members of Requa’s band who had been taught by the missionaries to raise food from the soil.Citations:

  1. Alexander McNair was born in Derry, Pa., in 1774; served in the Whiskey Insurrection as a lieutenant in 1794; appointed a lieutenant in the regular army April 23, 1799; removed to Missouri in 1804 where he was appointed United States Commissioner, and in 1812 Adjutant and Inspector-general. He was the first governor of Missouri, serving from 1820 to 1824. On May 18, Congress passed an act providing for an agent (in the place of sub-agent) for the Osage living west of Missouri and Arkansas territory, and Governor McNair was appointed to that post, at a salary of fifteen hundred dollars per year. While in that service he died on May 9, 1826, and he was succeeded by Captain Hamtramck, sub-agent for the Arkansas Osage.[]
  2. U.S. Senate. Documents, 23d congress, first session, no. 512, vol. ii, 499.[]
  3. Louis Pharamond Chouteau, half-brother of Colonel A. P. Chouteau, born August 18, 1806, and died May 27, 1831.[]
  4. Stokes to Secretary of War, July 20, 1833, Indian Office, Retired Classified Files; 1833 Western Superintendency, Missionaries.[]
  5. Kappler, op. cit., vol. ii, 283, 285.[]
  6. Kappler, op. cit., vol. ii, 290.[]
  7. U. S. Senate. Documents, 23d congress, first session, no. 512, vol. iv, p. 228.[]

Foreman, Grant. Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest. Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co. 1926.

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1 thought on “The Stokes Treaty Commission”

  1. Hi
    My Great Grandmother was of Cherokee descent her name was Doshie May Hartigrie, she married Van McCord and passed away in the 1960’s. My Grandfather was born in Tennessee. She lived in Phoenix Arizona at the end of her life. Would you be able to find any information about her.
    Thank you,

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