Conditions of the Five Civilized Tribes in 1890

It is only possible to estimate the agricultural and industrial products of The Five Civilized Tribes by the ‘observation of the special agents and enumerators. The Indians were very reluctant to give any information in regard to their land holdings, the area cultivated, products, or individual wealth. The whites, generally temporary residents, were as reluctant to furnish information as the Indians, not knowing but that the census ‘would lead to their expulsion from the Indian Territory.

The climate is equable, with little cold weather, and usually but little snow. February is considered a spring month. It is followed by a long and hot summer, with pleasant nights. About the latitude of northern Alabama, the whole region is calculated under proper cultivation to yield enormous crops of corn, cotton, and fruit. By careful estimates not less than 360,000 acres are under a kind of cultivation in The Five Civilized Tribes. Much of the cultivation is primitive and the acreage yield small. There is in The Five Tribes an estimated production of 4,350,000 bushels of corn, wheat, and oats; 421,000 bushels of vegetables of all kinds; 35,000 bales of cotton, and 168,000 tons of hay. The ‘total value of these productions is estimated at 85,756,000. The Five Civilized Tribes have many horses, mules, cattle, hogs, and sheep. Sheep are raised for food and the wool is used for clothing. There is a record of 20 carloads of sheep carried out of the territory in 1890. The surplus crops and productions, including cattle, are marketed in the states adjoining. The cotton crop generally finds its way to the seacoast by rail by the way of Ardmore, in the Chickasaw Nation, or by the Red river.. The manufactures of The Five Civilized tribes are nominal. Still they make many woolen blankets and shawls, a large number of willow baskets, some maple sugar, gather wild rice, and take fish from the river. Home weaving is a feature. The forests supply 8,000,000 feet of lumber per year, which is generally consumed by the people. At Waggoner, in the Creek Nation, there is a, sawmill engaged in cutting walnut timber, producing a large number of gunstocks, many of which are shipped for use in European armies. The forest also yields considerable hemlock bark, and large quantities of firewood are cut and sold.

Live Stock On Ranges

Indian Territory was included in the second range district for census purposes: The agents charged with the investigation of range stock report:

The Indian Territory has been extensively occupied as a maturing ground for cattle bred farther south by large companies and associations of cattlemen, who lease the lands or grazing privileges from the Indian tribes, and by fencing larger pastures with barbed wire dispense with herders. Each year nearly the entire stock is matured and sent to market and a new supply of young cattle from the south placed on the pastures; hence the percentage of sales is much larger from the Indian Territory than from any other area of like extent in the southern portion of the grazing regions. Range stock, as shown by the tables, is located in the Chickasaw, Creek, and Osage reservations and the Cherokee Outlet or Strip. The large proportion of 3 and 4 year olds in the Indian Territory indicates, that the business is conducted chiefly to mature rather than to breed cattle. In ordinary years, when prices are satisfactory, all dry cows and 4-year olds and most of the 3-year olds are sent forward to market, and the pastures are replenished from southern ranges. The cattle industry in the Indian Territory has been fairly satisfactory since 1880, excepting the year 1886, succeeding the great loss by the winter storms of 1885-1886. The business is controlled almost exclusively by the white men, who are not citizens of the territory or members of any Indian tribe, and the presence of the stock and the men in charge has been in some instances productive of dissatisfaction among the Indians. No sheep are held on the ranges in the Indian Territory.

Coal And Coal Mining

The census investigations develop the following regarding coal in the Indian Territory: 1

The western or fourth field, which comprises the only deposits of the carboniferous measures west of the Mississippi river, extends across the boundaries of Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas into the Indian Territory, underlying almost the entire eastern half of that territory. The present developments of importance are along the line of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railway, in the Choctaw Nation reservation, and are conducted by the Osage Coal and Mining Company at McAlester and the Atoka Mining Company at Lehigh.

The Choctaw Coal and Mining Company is constructing a line of railroad from the Arkansas state line, passing through Oklahoma to the western boundary of the territory, and southward to Denison, Texas, intersected by the St. Louis and Kansas Pacific, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroads. This company is engaged in developing a large area of excellent coal territory, lying along the route of the projected railroad, secured by lease from the Choctaw Nation. This enterprise will constitute one of the most important in the southwest.

The quality of the coal now being mined in this territory is excellent for steam and heating purposes, and is well suited for gas and coking. The beds from which the product is obtained range from 3 to 5 feet in thickness, and comprise the 2 lower veins, which are here found to be of much greater thickness and freer from bone and other impurities than in any other part of the field. Competent authorities assert that the coals now being mined in the Indian Territory are superior to any found west of the Appalachian field.

The total product in the territory during the calendar year 1889 was 752,832 short tons, valued at $1,323,807. The average number of persons employed during the year was 1,873; the total wages paid, $927,267. No report of mining operations in this territory was made for the Tenth Census.

The coal measure of Indian Territory is chiefly in the Choctaw Nation, covering an area of 13,600 square miles of bituminous coal. Iron, lead, copper, marble, sandstone, and limestone are found. Salt springs are also numerous.


The following is a statement of the railroads of the territory:

Miles Of Railroad, Single Track, Lying Within Indian Territory, June 30, 1890.

Total for territory 1,046.20

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (Southern Kansas) 155.56
Atlantic and Pacific 112.05
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific (Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska) 65.03
Choctaw Coal and Railway Company 39.80
Denison and Washita Valley 9.74
Missouri, Kansas and Texas 256.82
St. Louis and San Francisco 144.20
Kansas and Arkansas Valley 163.00
Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe 100.00


Para hands are paid about the same wages as in Texas, Arkansas, or Kansas. The trades are not well paid, except in the towns made up of intruders or non-citizens, or by the railroads or other corporations. Coal miners receive the wages current in Missouri.

Commodities Of Life

Provisions and clothing are about the same in price as in southern Kansas or western Arkansas. The people outside of the towns, as rule, live on plain fare and much in the open air.

The Professions

The professions are as a rule poorly paid. Lawyers are numerous, bat the business is of a petty character and not profitable.


There is one national bank at Muscogee, Creek Nation, and one at Ardmore, Chickasaw Nation; there are also some private banks.

Vital Statistics

The health of the people of the Indian Territory is good, the death rate small, and the local diseases are, those common to the states of Kansas, Arkansas, and northern Texas. No statistics of deaths, burials, or marriages could be obtained. The laws of the several nations regulate marriages and burials for the citizens, and the Arkansas laws govern noncitizens in these particulars. The poor and unfortunate of The Five Tribes are fairly well cared for. The non-citizen poor are cared for by their own people.


The houses of the citizens of The Five Tribes are built of stone, brick, and wood. By count 561 dwelling houses were found in the Seminole Nation and 3,33 in the Creek Nation. No complete returns were made of the houses in the other nations.

Native American Newspapers

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Advocate, national organ, published at Tahlequah, half in English and half in Cherokee.

Chickasaw Nation

There are 7 newspapers now published in the Chickasaw Nation, and they all claim to be independent in politics: the Chickasaw Chieftain, published at Ardmore; the Ardmore Courier, published at Ardmore; the Herald, published at Wynnewood; the Chickasaw Enterprise, published at Pauls Valley; Territorial Topics, published at Purcell; the Register, published at Purcell; the Minstrel, published at Minco. All of these papers are supported by the noncitizens and whites. There is no Indian paper published in the Chickasaw Nation.

Choctaw Nation

There are 3 newspapers published in the Choctaw Nation: the Indian Citizen, a weekly issue, published at Atoka, devoted to the Indian people and their interests, has liberal patronage, and a circulation of 1,320; the same may be said of the Twin City Topics, a weekly journal, published at McAlester; the Indian Missionary, published monthly at Atoka, in the interest of the Baptist denomination, the circulation being given as 1,000.

Creek Nation

There are 4 newspapers published in the Creek Nation: the Indian Journal (Creek), a weekly, published in Eufaula, has a circulation of 840; the Muskogee Phenix (republican and Creek), a weekly, published in Muscogee, has a circulation of 1,470; the Brother in lied (Methodist), a weekly, published in Muscogee, has a circulation of 1,300; the Brother in Black (Methodist), a weekly, published in Muscogee, has an estimated circulation of 500.

Seminole Nation

There is no paper published in the Seminole Nation.


Education receives much care and attention at the hands of the people and authorities of The Five Civilized Tribes. In some of them, as shown by the reports of the special agents, the freedmen and others of Negro descent are not properly considered in school matters. The schoolbooks used are in the English language.

Cherokee Nation

The schools of the Cherokee Nation are justly a source of pride to all of the citizens, One-half of the revenue derived from the funds in the hands of the United States, invested in 5 per cent government bonds, is devoted to their support. These schools are: the Cherokee orphan asylum, the national male and female seminaries, and 100 primary schools scattered throughout the different judicial districts of the nation in proportion to the population, the highest number in any district being 15 and the lowest 7. The expenditure of the nation for educational purposes among the primary schools is confined to books and tuition, each locality being- required to famish the house and keep it in repair as well as to furnish fuel and water. It is required also that the locality furnish a minimum number of pupils (13), and on failure of a school to show that average attendance per month, the school is discontinued and some other neighborhood has an. opportunity to furnish the required number of pupils.

The general management of the schools of the nation has heretofore been vested in a national board of education consisting of 3 members, who are appointed by the principal chief and confirmed by the senate. They serve for 3 years and get an annual salary of $600 each. They are entrusted with the duty of hiring the teachers, the law requiring them to give preference to natives and graduates of the seminaries, the purchase and distribution of books and other supplies, and the general supervision of the schools, each member having a separate part of the nation under his special care.

The orphan asylum, as well as each seminary, is under the charge of a. superintendent, and has a steward, matron, and the usual number of employees, in addition to the principal and a corps of teachers. The asylum and each of the seminaries is capable of accommodating from 150 to 200 pupils, and a provision is made for the board and clothing of a certain number of pupils, about 50, as well as the tuition and books of all. Those who are able to pay are charged $2 per week for board, lodging, laundry, and tuition.

The primary teachers are paid a minimum salary of $30 per month for an attendance of 15 pupils. This monthly salary may be increased $1 per month for each additional pupil that attends up to $50 per month, the maximum salary allowed for 35 pupils, but it can not be further increased, though if the number is large enough, in the opinion of the board, to justify it, 2 teachers may be allowed. In the latter case each teacher receives the same amount of salary, making the maximum cost of the school for tuition $100 per month.

Each teacher is required to render a monthly report to the board of education, as well as a term report at’ the end of each term. There are.2 terms during the year, the spring term continuing through February, March, April, May, and June, and the fall term running through September, October, November, and December. Each school has a board of directors, consisting of 3 members, appointed by the national board of education.

Schoolbooks are issued by the national board of education on a requisition signed by the teacher. There does not seem to be any limit or any responsibility in regard to this matter of issuing or drawing books and supplies. The first teacher applying is served first and the later ones go away many times with nothing. The next term or the next year is likely to find the wide-awake teacher on hand early again, while the slow-going teacher goes away with slate pencils and foolscap and whatever else happens to be left by the more fortunate and active ones.

Buildings for the male and female seminaries were erected in 1848. The male seminary was located about 2 miles from Tahlequah, while the female seminary was in another direction, about 4 miles from Tahlequah, and 2dd or 3 miles from the male seminary. The buildings were exactly alike, each room being furnished with a large fireplace and each building having a porch extending along 3 sides of it 2 stories high and supported by 25 circular brick columns. In 1871 a large addition was built to each, making them still precisely alike and probably doubling their capacity. The female seminary took fire and burned to the ground one Sunday afternoon in April 1887, during the spring term. While little was saved from the flames, no lives were lost. The pupils were sent to their homes, a special session of the national council was called, and an appropriation Made to erect another building: It was decided to put the new building near the town of Tahlequah, which it overlooks from an eminence in the suburbs. It is a beautiful structure, in modern style of architecture, with all the approved modern conveniences. It will accommodate over 200 pupils. The male seminary has been overhauled and put in good condition also, and with its large fireplaces, huge chimneys, great porches, and numerous columns, it offers a contrast to the modern building erected for the girls. A score of the columns of the old female seminary still stand as melancholy monuments of its former days.

The cost of the system of education as now carried ou aggregates about $80,000 per year.

The Cherokees have schools for their Negro children, including a high school.

In addition to the system of schools already described there are quite a number of schools carried on in the Cherokee Nation by the different mission school boards of the country. These are doing effective work in educating the young and are a great power in molding the nature of the youth as well as restraining the adult population, and go a great way in giving moral and religious tone to the Cherokees. Of these schools, those supported by the Presbyterians are the most numerous, though the Baptists, the Congregationalists, and the Southern Methodists are represented. Of those under the charge of the Presbyterians, one is located at Tahlequah, one at Park Hill, one at Elm Springs, and one at Pleasant Hill. The Baptists have a school at Tahlequah and the Congregationalists and Southern-Methodists each have one at Vinita.

Cherokee, Creek and Seminole School Children, Muskogee, Indian Territory, 1890

The pupils in the Cherokee public schools June 1, 1800, were, 4,439
Cherokee Children in mission schools June1, 1890, 445

Aggregate in all schools in the Cherokee Nation, 4,884

Chickasaw Nation

No provision is made in the Chickasaw Nation for the education of the children of the Negroes. The Chickasaw legislature provides for 5 boarding academies, as follows: male, at Tishomingo, 60 pupils; male, at Wapanucka, 60 pupils; female, at Stonewall, 40 pupils; female, at Bloomfield, 45 pupils; male and female orphan school, 60 pupils; total in boarding academies, 265 sent to school in the states, 35; aggregate in all boarding schools, 300. Besides the boarding pupils thus provided for, there are 15 schools known as neighborhood schools. Thirty-five students were sent to institutions in Texas for higher education in 1890. The superintendent of public instruction is elected by the legislature. He has the management and general control of all national schools and school buildings in the nation. His term of office is 4 years, unless sooner removed for misdemeanor in office. Section 3 of the act of October 9, 1876, provides that the standard of school books shall be of uniform character and of the southern series, and no other books shall be used or taught in the Chickasaw Nation. Any person decoying a scholar from school against the wishes of a parent or guardian is liable to a flue not exceeding $50, or imprisonment not exceeding 3 months, at the discretion of the court.

There are a number of denominational schools, including a large and prosperous Catholic school at Purcell, in Pontotoc County.

Choctaw Nation

The school property of the Choctaw Nation is valued at $200,000. There are 4 boarding schools, besides several mission or denominational schools, and 174 neighborhood or public schools. Their yearly expenditure for schools is $83,000. Some Negro schools are provided, estimated to be about 20 per cent of the whole number of neighborhood or public schools.

The academies and boarding schools are: Spencer academy, 120 pupils; New Hope seminary, 130 pupils; Wheelock orphan asylum, 60 pupils; Armstrong orphan asylum, 60 pupils.

Creek Nation

The Creek public school system consists of 36 neighborhood schools, for the support of which $76,488.40 is annually appropriated by the council out of the moneys received from the United States. The school year is divided into 2 terms of 4 months each. Both Indians and Negroes are educated. The schools bear evidence of a commendable effort on the part of the progressive element of the nation to elevate their people to a higher standard of knowledge and civilization, but either for want of intelligent management or proper support they are only indifferently successful. Against this is arrayed the combined influence of traditional superstition, ignorance, and conceit that are as yet deep seated in the minds of no inconsiderable portion of this tribe. This element takes little interest in the cause of education, and if their children spend the day in hunting instead of at school the parents are as well satisfied, particularly if the young sportsmen have been successful in quest of game.

Education with these Indians is purely optional, and statistics show that more than two-thirds of the children of school age do not attend school. The English language is not generally spoken, except among the educated people. The Indian youth is imitative and learns mechanically, and instances are common where they acquire the art of reading English fluently and at the same time do not understand a word they read. The council of 1890 created a board of public instruction composed of 3 progressive citizens of the nation; from whose management bettor results are expected. The mission and contract schools are well attended and as a rule are in a flourishing condition. There are 10 of these institutions located in the Creek Nation under the auspices of religious denominations.

Nuyaka mission, Nuyaka, Presbyterian board of home missions
Wealaka mission (a), Wealaka, Presbyterian board of home missions
Presbyterian school for girls, Muscogee, Presbyterian board of home missions
Presbyterian school, Red Fork, Presbyterian board of home missions
Presbyterian school, Tulsa, Presbyterian board of borne missions
Harrell Institute, Muscogee, Methodist Episcopal Church, South
Indian University, Bacome, American Baptist home missions
Levering Mission, Wetumka, American Baptist Home missions
Tallahassee Manual Labor School for Freedmen, Muscogee, American Baptist Home missions
Methodist Episcopal School, Tulsa, Methodist Episcopal Church

Of the several institutions scheduled above, the Nuyaka mission, Nuyaka, Presbyterian school for girls, and Harrell institute, Muscogee; Indian university, Bacome, and the denominational schools at Red Fork and Tulsa are equal in appointments and instruction to the standard of similar institutions in the states.

Seminole Nation

The public school system consists of 4 neighborhood schools, with an annual public school fund of $7,500. Two of these public schools are set apart for the education of Negro children, and have an average attendance of 47 pupils, as against 34 for the two Indian schools. About three-fourths of the children of school age do not attend school.

There are 2 denominational contract schools (missions) as follows: Wewoka mission, Wewoka, Presbyterian, capacity 50, average attendance 50, number who have been accommodated 58; Seminole female academy, Sasakwa, Baptist, capacity 50, average attendance 30, number who have been accommodated 39.

Revenues Of The Five Civilized Tribes

The interest on trust funds in the bands of the United States, receipts from licenses, permits, rents from leased lands, and intruder permits are the main sources of revenue of the governments of The Five Civilized Tribes. In some of The Five Tribes no publication is made of receipts and disbursements.

There are no taxes, director otherwise, paid by citizens of the nations, and there is no listing or appraising of real or personal property for taxation. It is a land without taxation. The citizens are thus content with almost any government, and power is easy to maintain. As lands are held in common, the improvements only and personal property being liable to levy and sale, an assessment would be valueless. No estimate, therefore, can be made of property values in these nations.

An idea of the methods prevailing in The Five Tribes in revenue matters can be had from the following from the fourth annual message of J. B, Mayes, principal chief of The Cherokee Nation, 1890: 2

An appointment of a revenue officer and a proper handling of our revenue would certainly procure funds sufficient to meet largely the expenses of our government. Our revenue system is a poor one and badly managed. A per cent is taken out of it by the clerks, sheriffs, and solicitors, and after it is turned in the treasurer takes out his10 per cent, which leaves the nation but little. A government with the resources of the Cherokee Nation is certainly poorly managed to get only the pitiful sum now received.

The total amount of trust funds arising from sales of lands under treaties with and the laws of the United States, the property of The Five Civilized Tribes, is $7,984,132.76 and the annual interest on this, paid by the United States, is $413,219.01, apportioned as follows:

Total, $7,984,132.75 Principal, $413,219.01 Interest
Cherokee, 2,625,842.37, Principal, $137,460.33 Interest
Chickasaw, $1,306,895.65 Principal, $68,404.95 Interest
Choctaw, $549,504.74 Principal, $32,344.73 95 Interest
Creek, $2,000,000.00 Principal, $100,000.00 Interest
Seminole, $1,500,000.00 Principal, $75,000.00

The interest on the principal of these funds is placed by the United States semiannually with the United States assistant treasurer at St. Louis, Missouri, to the credit of the treasurer of each nation, and the expenditure of these funds is entirely under the control of the nation and its council.

The above $413,219.01 received from the United States each year, together with fees from licenses and permits, enables the several tribes or nations to exist without levying a tax upon the people.Citations:

  1. Report on Mineral Industries in the United States’ at the Eleventh Census, 1890, pages 375, 376.[]
  2. The following extract from the message of Governor William L. Byrd, of the Chickasaw Nation, September 4, 1891, is an illustration of the method of reporting the finances of The Five Tribes: “The receipts of the treasury for the fiscal year are $221,508.90, and the disbursements have been $145,048.78, leaving balance in the treasury of $76,520.12.”
    Trust Funds Of The Five Civilized Tribes[]

Indian Territory,

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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