The aftermath of the American Civil War

At the end of the Civil War, the five southeastern tribes faced reparations for opposing the North. All were summoned to Washington and forced to sign a treaty renewing their compact with the U.S. government, agreeing to recognize the rights of freemen and provide railroad right-of-ways through their lands. This unleashed another flood of settlers.

The treaty, which the Chickasaw and the Choctaw signed on April 28, 1866, restored their treaty payments. But the tribe had to cede the leased district west of the 98th meridian to the U.S. government for the resettlement of 10,000 Kansas Indians. In addition, the Chickasaws and the Choctaws were to receive a nominal payment of $300,000 for that land, which was held in trust by the U.S., pending the granting of tribal citizenship to freedmen. Citizenship rights were never extended; however, freedmen were also never removed. Instead, many were granted allotments of Chickasaw lands, and the U.S. retained the money pledged for the ceded land.

Slavery came to a full and formal end in the Chickasaw Nation—and throughout the U.S.—with the close of the American Civil War. The citizenship and other legal and property rights of the Chickasaw freedmen were addressed in the 1866 treaty with the United States. Chickasaw Governor, Douglas Johnston, summarized the Chickasaw’s position and said: “Our people have no prejudice against the negro as such, and have always treated them, freedmen as well as slave, with kindness and forbearance, but we do object to his classification as a member of our tribe.” The descendants of intermarriage ultimately became full members of the tribe.

With the federal government’s restoration of Chickasaw removal treaty payments, the tribe’s prospects improved. Slowly they began to rebuild. Houses were reconstructed, farms replanted and ranch herds replenished. Coal, salt and asphalt mining industries began. Partnerships with the Choctaw were renewed.

Simultaneously, sharp differences emerged between the progressive and traditional Chickasaw citizens. These contrasting viewpoints resulted in the formation of new political parties, whose beliefs shaped the Chickasaw Nation well into the 20th century.

The federal government ended the practice of making treaties in the 1870s, weakening the tribe’s ability to protect their interests. Compounding this, the federal government wanted Chickasaw land opened to white ownership and failed to intervene and implement the tribe’s treaty guarantees against encroachment.