History, like life, is complicated, and doesn't always fit neatly into discrete stories. The period after the Removal was like that. It was a time of tragedy and change for the Indians. The tribes from the east and the tribes from the west were trying to find a way to survive. There was constant conflict, even between divisions of individual tribes, and constantly changing alliances. The history of the period consists of hundreds of stories, many of which we will never hear. The following two stories will hopefully give some idea of what the situation was like in Indian Territory the year my great grandfather was born.
After their Removal in 1837, the Chickasaws lived for several years in the Choctaw domain, mainly in camps near the supply depots established to distribute their first year's rations. It wasn't safe to move into their own land to the west because the plains Indian tribes who lived and hunted there weren't willing to give up their home without a fight. The closest fort, Ft. Towson, was 70 miles to the east, so it offered little protection for the Chickasaws.
My great great grandmother, Ela Teecha, "Ellen," and her first husband Jason McClure (see post of Dec 22, 2011) were among 12 Chickasaw families who moved into the Chickasaw domain in 1839. They settled on the Blue River just east of the Washita. There was a settlement of Kickapoo Indians nearby, and soldiers were sent down from Fort Gibson to evict them, but the Kickapoos moved right back. In 1842 construction was begun on Fort Washita, just five miles west of the McClure farm. The fort was built to provide protection for the Chickasaws from raids by the plains tribes, but it wasn't completed until 1844. In the meantime the Chickasaw families were on their own. According to stories handed down in the family, Ellen advised her husband not to fight or barricade the doors when those "horse riding Indians" came, but just to "go out and offer to feed them, because they are always hungry and they will eat and if they eat there will be no trouble."
As near as I can tell, Jason McClure died in 1842, and in 1844, the year that Fort Washita opened, Ellen married my great great grandfather, Smith Paul. The trouble with the plains Indians continued. In 1845, the year my great grandfather, Sam Paul, was born, there were several raids on Chickasaw settlements in the area in spite of the fort. One of these raids was on a settlement six miles from Fort Washita, almost surely my great great grand parents' farm. After these attacks, Chickasaw leaders called a meeting to plan for the defense of their settlements, and Major Beall, the commander of Ft. Washita, having sent out all his available units to search for the marauders, asked for reinforcements from Ft. Towson.
In the mean time the Chickasaw agent, Col. A. M. M. Upshaw, sent some Delaware warriors to the Wichita village to retrieve the horses. The Delawares found the Wichita Village burned, with dead bodies lying everywhere. A band of Pani Maha, an indigenous tribe which wreaked havoc on the plains for several years, had attacked the village while the Wichita warriors were away on a hunt.
The Creek immigrants were also having problems. In February of 1845 a group of Creek Indians surprised some Pani Maha near Edwards Trading Post. The Pani Maha shot arrows at the Creeks, who replied with gun fire, killing four Pani Maha. Word of the incident spread like wild fire. It was followed by a rumor that 500 Pani Maha were massacring Creeks settled along the Verdigris River. A war party was sent out under Jim Boy, the famous Creek war chief, to rescue the settlers. The next news was that Jim Boy's warriors had been repulsed. Principal Chief McIntosh then sent out reinforcements, and requested troops from Fort Gibson. A company of Dragoons under Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone, was sent out from the fort. Meanwhile Creek farmers living along the Verdigris began to flee for the safety of the fort.
The situation was described by the Creek agent James Logan, who also fled to Fort Gibson:
I should not previously have believed the Creeks to be so excitable a people. In extenuation, however, it may be said that they knew no mercy would be shown by the invaders. Everything was in the greatest possible confusion. Here was to be seen a crowd of the poorer class of women on foot, loaded down with their children and bundles containing their valuables; here a line of wagons laden with the property of the richer class … and their families on horse back; there a warrior begrimed with paint, rifle and tomahawk in hand, making the welkin ring with the discordant war whoop! The rivers were literally covered with canoes laden with women, children, etc., all wending their way to Fort Gibson; here they all congregated, conceiving themselves secure under its protection.
As Captain Boone rode out to assist the Creek war parties, he met Chief McIntosh who was coming back. McIntosh reported that the settlements were safe, and that there had been no attack. The whole incident was a product of the imagination of the frightened settlers.
The Pani Maha attack was indeed a false alarm, but the plans of the plains tribes to attack the immigrant tribes was not. When the Creeks sent out an invitation to the Comanche to attend a peace council later that summer, the Comanche replied that they were already planning to meet with the other plains tribes at the next full moon. The purpose of that meeting was to plan a coordinated attack on the Creeks and on the Chickasaws, the two immigrant tribes whose settlements extended furthest west. The Creek messengers were seized and would have been put to death had it not been for the brave intervention of Echo Harjo, a Creek warrior who spoke Comanche. Harjo went to the Comanche camp and successfully pled for the messengers' release.
The Creeks sent a message to the council of plains tribes by their neighbors the Osage, who had been invited to attend. The message, delivered by Black Dog, the great Osage chief, was that the Creeks wanted peace but they would fight if needed. Black Dog went on to advise the western tribes against arousing the Creeks, the most powerful of the immigrant tribes.
The Creeks hosted their own council that summer, which was also attended by the Chickasaws. Peace with the plains tribes was not won in a single council, but at least the Five Civilized Tribes were earning respect. Not only were they formidable foes, they were also better able to deal with the white man.