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Slavery, race, and nation in Indian Territory, 1830-1866

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Title: Slavery, race, and nation in Indian Territory, 1830-1866
Author(s): Smith, Troy D.
Director of Research: Hoxie, Frederick E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Hoxie, Frederick E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Burton, Orville V.; Roediger, David R.; Levine, Bruce
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Race Nationalism Slavery Five Civilized Tribes Cherokee Choctaw Chickasaw Creek Seminole Muscogee Civil War
Abstract: This dissertation focuses upon the rapid changes that the southeastern American Indian groups sometimes referred to as “The Five Civilized Tribes” experienced in the nineteenth century, especially the middle third of that century; in other words, the time period between Indian Removal and the end of the U. S. Civil War. Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws and Seminoles moved in the nineteenth century from the kinship-based tribal political structures they had utilized for centuries to modern polities who employed the language of nation and citizenship. At the same time, each also adopted the plantation slavery system, and instituted unprecedented racialized social hierarchies. These three significant shifts —national identity, chattel slavery, and the adoption of a legally defined racial hierarchy—combined to make the Five Tribes’ experience a project of modernity, and part of a larger historical process that involved, not just the United States, but the world. After the Revolutionary War, the Five Tribes faced a single American government rather than the multiple colonial powers they had previously encountered. This meant they could no longer situate themselves among rival European groups, thereby maintaining political traction; neither were they able to successfully oppose the United States militarily. In order to maintain their territory and their autonomy, leaders of the Five Tribes initiated a new approach. They arranged marriages between their daughters and white traders, creating political alliances in the process, and invited missionaries into their lands to educate their children. That long-range plan resulted in a cohort of individuals, many of them biracial, who considered themselves Indian and were often well-educated and adapted to the courtroom rather than the battlefield. This new cohort of leaders was well-informed on national and world events, and embarked on an intentional endeavor to establish themselves as modern nation-states, their identities defined by national citizenship and refined by race. The process intensified after Removal. Strict racial hierarchies, with blacks on the bottom, were strictly imposed. Traditionalist elements among the tribes were encouraged by their governments to adopt new racial attitudes. The relative success of each indigenous nation in their efforts to bring their citizens aboard with their modernizing plans was revealed in the Civil War, in which all five governments allied with the Confederacy but many private, usually traditionalist, citizens sided with the Union. Underneath those political events lay the story of political modernization at the intersection of Indian identity, racial politics, modernity, and nationalism, a story whose individual components have been thoroughly examined but which has not been drawn together on the same canvas in an academic study.
Issue Date: 2011-08-26
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/26377
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Troy D. Smith
Date Available in IDEALS: 2013-08-27
Date Deposited: 2011-08
 

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