The federal government made numerous attempts to induce the Choctaw of Mississippi to trade their eastern land holdings for land west of the Mississippi River. 

As early as 1820 the Choctaw had signed the Treaty of Doak’s Stand, agreeing to accept western lands. Moving west, however, was voluntary and few Choctaw made that choice. They used their land south of the Canadian River for hunting, but only a few chose to live there.

After Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828, both the southeastern states and the federal government began to put more pressure on the Five Tribes to remove to western lands. The president gave his tacit approval of this and used his 1829 State of the Union Address to signal this push for removal as well. The result was the Indian Removal Act, passed by Congress in 1830.

Almost before the ink was dry on his signature, Jackson dispatched negotiators to Mississippi to meet once again with the Choctaw. He sent Secretary of War John Eaton and Col. John Coffee to a gathering of the Choctaw in a beautiful woodland setting along Dancing Rabbit Creek.  

More than 6,000 Choctaw gathered for the meeting. Three chiefs – Greenwood LeFlore, Moshulitubbee, and Nittakechi – led the negotiations. John Pitchlynn acted as an interpreter during the meeting.

The three leaders represented the Choctaw Nation’s three districts, and they also reflected the different political factions. LeFlore, a mixed-blood leader, was dressed in American-style clothing. Moshulitubbee wore his blue military uniform, perhaps as a reminder to the Secretary of War that he had served with President Jackson. Nittakechi, a full-blood leader, was dressed in traditional Choctaw garb adorned with silver and beadwork.

The seven oldest women present were given seats of honor in the circle of chiefs and government negotiators. Though these women did not engage in the sometimes heated debate about treaty terms, they had a great deal of influence over the vote. The first offers made by Eaton and Coffee were voted down — most of the Choctaw simply did not want to leave their ancestral homelands.

After several days of negotiation LeFlore brought forth a proposal that would allow any Choctaw who wanted to remain in Mississippi. They would be given a generous allotment of land and would be made citizens of the United States but would no longer be citizens of the Choctaw Nation, which would move west.

Eaton and Coffee agreed to this new proposal, perhaps with the belief that few Choctaw would choose to remain in Mississippi, where they faced so much harassment and prejudice. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed and later ratified by Congress. To the surprise of the federal government and chagrin of the Mississippi government many Choctaw, including LeFlore, chose to remain.

From 1831 to 1833, three groups of Choctaw moved west to the lands lying to the south of the Cherokee and Creek. During the allotment period in the early 1900s, the Choctaw in Mississippi were pressured again to take land in Oklahoma. Some did, but many Choctaw still remain in their ancestral homeland near Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Reach Jonita Mullins at jonita.mullins@gmail.com.

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