Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South

Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South

Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South

Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South

Synopsis

At its height the Creek Nation comprised a collection of multiethnic towns and villages stretching across large parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. By the 1830s, however, the Creeks had lost almost all this territory through treaties and by the unchecked intrusion of white settlers who illegally expropriated Native soil. With the Jackson administration unwilling to aid the Creeks in removing the squatters, the Creek people suffered from dispossession, starvation, and indebtedness. Between the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs and the forced migrations beginning in 1836, nearly twenty-three thousand Creek Indians were relocated- voluntarily or involuntarily- to Indian Territory. Rivers of Sand fills a substantial gap in scholarship by capturing, for the first time, the full breadth and depth of the Creeks' collective tragedy during the marches westward, on the Creek home front, and during the first years of resettlement.

Unlike the Cherokee Trail of Tears, which was conducted largely at the end of a bayonet, most Creeks were removed through a combination of coercion and negotiation. Hopelessly outnumbered military personnel were forced to make concessions in order to gain the compliance of the headmen and their people. Christopher D. Haveman's meticulous study uses previously unexamined documents to weave narratives of resistance and survival, making Rivers of Sand an essential addition to the ethnohistory of American Indian removal.

Excerpt

The Creek Nation was one of the Native nations overwhelmed by the U.S. removal policy of the 1820s and 1830s. Living on lands claimed by Georgia and Alabama, the Creeks were subjected to the demands of both the states and the federal government to surrender ownership of their territory and migrate to a country west of the Mississippi River. Although the policy of removal affected dozens of Native nations and tens of thousands of Native people who lived east of the river, each story is unique.

For the Creeks, removal began not with the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, but with the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825, and it lasted into the 1840s. This extended removal crisis took a terrible toll on Creek society. Cheated and swindled before they left, harassed and intimidated on the way, the experience of the Creeks was terrible. They went west in several detachments, some composed of volunteers, some of prisoners in chains, most by heartbroken families. Everybody paid a heavy price.

But, as Chris Haveman argues in this book, religious and ceremonial life persisted and enabled the Creeks to rebuild their lives and institutions in Indian territory. Over the past several decades, many very good books have been written about Indian removal, but none have described this history with the kind of care and detail that we find here. The editors welcome Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South to this series.

Theda Perdue Michael D. Green

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