A Lauderdale County Web
Creek where the Rabbit Dances
On 15 September 1830, in Noxubee County, Mississippi, just a short distance from a small Indian trail that began in the Chickasaw nation and passed through what would soon become Lauderdale County, the Choctaw tribes began to gather. The trail, eventually passing near modern day Chunky on its meandering way to New Orleans, had been well known to the Indians and well traveled for hundreds of years. By the Indians, It was called "Six Town Trail". At this location, a ridge line between two creeks, an important meeting was about to take place.
The area had been a well used hunting ground for hundreds of years. The ridge lay between two creeks. The larger, eastern creek was known to residents as the Big Rabbit, the western rivulet was called Little Rabbit. In this location there was also a natural spring, popular with the Indians, perhaps a busy watering hole much of the time. The Choctaw called the nearby waters "Chukfi ahihla bok," Creek Where the Rabbit Dances. The name would go down in Mississippi history as "Dancing Rabbit Creek" and the treaty, soon to be signed there, would change the maps of the southeastern United States forever.
Attended by men whose names are well know in Lauderdale County history, this meeting would cumulate in the signing of a treaty that would open eighteen new counties in Eastern Mississippi to settlement. Colonel George S. Gaines was assigned to provide provisions for three thousand people. Colonel Gaines hired Sam Dale to assist in the gathering and transport of the provisions. Dale, a well known frontiersman, was living in Alabama at the time and drove cattle across to the meeting. He would soon become a Mississippi resident, among the earliest of Lauderdale County settlers and is know as the founder of Daleville.
The Six Town Trail was know to have been traveled by the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh in 1811, in his travels to incite the southern tribes to unite. Tecumseh met with both Mississippi Choctaw and Chickasaws tribes near this same location on Dancing Rabbit Creek. This meeting was attended by the great Indian Chief Pushmataha, chief of the Choctaw Indians at Koonsa Town in eastern Lauderdale County and all of the southern district. When Tecumseh had held similar meetings in Chunky Chitto in western Lauderdale County, Oklahoma, Pushmataha's nephew, threaten to attack him and drive him out of the territories.
Tecumseh next moved north to incite and divide the Upper Creek Indians. One of the resulting factions, a direct result of his activities in Alabama, were called the Red Sticks. They were held responsible for the massacre at Fort Mims, a disaster that caused the Secretary of War to direct General Andrew Jackson and his volunteer Tennessee Militia to put down the uprising. Jackson answered with the Militia including a Regiment lead by Colonel John Coffee. One of Coffee's most trusted officers was a young Major named James Lauderdale, in honor of whom Lauderdale County is named.
Some thirty years later another Chief also named Tecumseh, in honor of the Indian warrior, would again wreak havoc on Lauderdale County as General William Tecumseh Sherman's union armies would nearly completely destroy the small towns of Meridian and Marion, looting farms, destroying dozens of miles of railroad and burning civilian homes, and churches -- virtually anything standing in their path.
Now, in 1830, President Andrew Jackson designated two Commissioners from his most trusted men to negotiate the treaty, Secretary of War Major John H. Eaton and his former subordinate, Colonel Coffee. The men had only one instruction from the president -- "fail not to make a treaty."
On his arrival at Dancing Rabbit, Colonel Coffee established the camp ground for the tribes.
Each encampment was to be on one of the prongs of the creek. Chief Greenwood Leflore's band was located high up the ridge line with Mingo Mushulatubbee's people were next down the hill and Chief Nittakechi's group in the lowest position.
Nittakechi was a nephew of Pushmataha and had been selected to lead his tribe at Koonsa Town after his uncle's death in Washington, D.C. in 1824.
Absent at the arrival of the Commissioners was Chief Hopaii Iskitini, called Little Leader. Colonel Gaines knew Little leader well and sent a messenger for him.
On Saturday morning, 18 September at eleven o'clock the Commissioners met with the assembled Choctaw Nation. Major Eaton did all of the talking for the United States at Dancing Rabbit and among the statements he made at this opening session was that by the treaty of Doak's Stand1 in 1820 an "extensive and fertile country west of the Mississippi was ceded to them by the United States for the use of their people." Unfortunately the statement was patiently untrue. He also indicated that at the time of the Treaty of Doak's Stand that the Choctaw had agreed to remove their people to this land. This was, of course, also untrue.
In his final statement he said:
Shortly after this the meeting adjourned.
The commissioners were notified on Monday, 20 September that the Indians were ready to meet again. They meet at 11 o'clock. The meeting quickly broke down into an argument among the Indians over who should have the most representatives on the committees appointed to study the proposals. Major Eaton quieted the argument and this meeting adjourned.
Later, on 21 September, after the presentation of the terms, an Indian named Killihota was recognized. He gave a glowing recommendation, praising the terms of the treaty and offering to quit his lands with his group at once and proposed that others do the same. On hearing the translation of his speech one of the old women, sitting around the inner circle of interested parties rose and menaced Killihota with a large butchering knife, saying that he was a disgrace to the tribe for giving up his lands for the offered treaty.
After the disturbance was quieted, Little Leader spoke directly and at length denouncing the offered treaty and said:
At noon on 23 September the council again convened with the Commissioners and received a report that the Choctaw were annoyed and upset, and protesting the fact that they could not keep the lands secured by them in the treaty of 1820. They reported that the Indians had decided to reject the treaty.
Major Eaton politely rose and informed the Indians that they were compelled to sell their lands and move the other side of the Mississippi River -- that they had no choice in the matter. If they failed to accept the terms presented to them, the President of the United States within twenty days would send the army into their area to remove them. Those who did not go and chose to fight would be dealt with by the army. Those who remained, even though passive, would have their lands seized by United States' legally appointed Judges. They would be obliged to comply with the laws of the Unites States or they would be arrested by the Sheriffs and constables appointed for the territory.
He further indicated that "...it would be just as foolish as it would be for a baby to expect to overcome a giant." as it would for the Choctaw to make war on the government.
Many of the Indians were indignant at the severe and high-handed language chosen by Major Eaton and many left the council headed home, perhaps realizing the futility of reaching a reasonable settlement with the United States government.
However, of those remaining there was apparently a small group, lead by Greenwood Leflore who were in favor of making a treaty, perhaps, knowing from experiences past that they would be better with a written settlement than without. Leflore was not only in favor of the treaty but also favored a forced migration of the Choctaw people to the new lands in the west. It is interesting to note, at this point, that Leflore did not move with his people to the west, but, instead, remained in Mississippi and, by the time of the great struggle for Southern Independence, was a large plantation owner and slave holder in the Mississippi delta area.
The next formal meeting was held on Saturday Morning, 25 September at 11 o'clock. At this meeting, having considered the brief conferences held in the intervening few days, the Commissioners submitted a revised treaty. Major Eaton indicated that many of the Indians suggestions were "inadmissible" but a revised treaty was read and offered for ratification by the Indians.
In Major Eaton's opening remarks he stated:
This was, perhaps, a conciliatory carrot following the stick used in early rhetoric.
After at least one other meeting in which the Indians insisted on certain changes, 27 September became the actual day that the agreement for the treaty was reached. After convening the meeting at 12:00 o'clock, Major Eaton repeated his earlier rhetoric indicating the unfavorable conditions to which the Indians would be subjected if the treaty was not signed.
The Indians were alarmed and intimidated at the threats of the Major's message. They were especially concerned that the protection of the United States would be withdrawn and that they would be subjected to the law of the state of Mississippi. "Filled with fear and apprehension, the Chiefs and head-men of the tribes rushed forward and hastily signed the treaty."
After the signing, which occurred about 1 o'clock, the camp was filled with excitement and anger. Threats were directed toward both the Commissioners and the Chiefs that had signed the treaty. Colonel Gaines was appointed by the Commissioners to "pacify" the Indians and to lead them into the new lands. The Indians were advised that they would meet again the following day to discuss some addition articles and minor changes to be made in the treaty in the form of a supplement.
On 28 September, the meeting was once again convened, this time for the final changes. The Indians, finding terms set forth in the supplement to me favorable to them, signed the final agreement.
At these closing ceremonies Colonel Coffee buried a pine knot as was a tradition among the Indians and said that as long as the pine knot remained buried, the United States would never again ask more land of the Indians. To this an old Choctaw warrior, Tushka Mastubbee replied "Chi yimmi li keyu. Chisunlash at chulakoto kat akankiyi ohmi." I don't believe you. Your tongue is as forked as a chicken's foot.
After this, the Commissioners and Indians went their separate ways the Treating at Dancing Rabbit Creek having been accomplished. Colonel Eaton's final remarks in the Commissioner's Journal were that they left the Indians "quiet and peaceable."2
Quoting H. S. Halbert, "To sum up the whole matter, it can be safely placed on record that the seductive influence of the fourteenth article, fear, intimidation and coercion, and more or less combined, were the causes that prompted the Choctaw council men to sign the treaty..."
On the 24th of February, 1831 the treaty was ratified by the United States Senate. A new section of Mississippi was open for settlement.
1. In the Treaty of Doak's Stand, the Choctaw Nation, under Chief Pushmataha, ceded nearly 5.5 million acres of land in western Mississippi in return for land in Arkansas. The Indians were promised that they would be allowed to retain all other lands until such time that they had become sufficiently "enlightened" to become citizens of the United States.
2. This writer is indebted to the research of east Mississippi history writer Hewitt Clarke, who, on a chilly November morning in 1991, drove West from Macon to the community of Mashulaville where he asked for directions. "After winding around for a while, [he] found the treaty grounds on top of a hill a few miles down a narrow red clay road."
There he found a monument indicting that the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed there in 1830...
1. Halbert, H. S. "Story of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit." Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society Volume 6 (1902): 373-402
2. Clarke, Hewitt. Thunder at Meridian. Spring, Texas: Lone Star Press, 1995.
Page Last Updated: Sunday, 17 December 2017
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