“The Tragedy of Broken Trust” recounts a side of American history that isn’t taught in schools, a story of broken promises, corruption and greed that has been veiled in our country’s history books as “Manifest Destiny” and “progress.” Most Americans are aware of the shared history of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations and the forced relocation the Five Civilized Tribes across the 600-mile Trail of Tears to new lands in what would become Oklahoma.
Less known are the betrayals and broken promises that occurred after these sovereign tribal nations started over in Indian Territory. When the Chickasaws and Choctaws were relocated, the United States government signed treaties with the tribes promising them land in perpetuity in the southern half of what is now Oklahoma. The treaty also assigned the U.S. Department of the Interior to handle the fiduciary trust responsibility for the tribes’ resources.
In 1906, the U.S. government dissolved the Chickasaw and Choctaws’ constitutional and democratically elected tribal governments and installed federally appointed tribal leadership with limited power. Eventually, Indian Territory was dissolved, as Oklahoma became the 46th state in 1906. The effects of this era of federal control over the tribal governments reverberate today.