According to Rosenberg (2011), the term ‘nations’ refers to the groups of people normally greater than a tribe or community with homogeneous cultural practices that are characterized by sharing a common language, religious practices, and institutions. On the other hand, she defines civilization as the refinement of intellectual, cultural and moral values among the people. According to her, the term ‘five civilized nations’ is a collective name of five Indian tribes namely the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and the Seminole who were able to adopt European cultures that included horticulture, institutions, and other cultural patterns like intermarriages with white Americans.  

Rosenberg (2011) points out that each of these tribes had a written constitution, effective judicial, legislative, and executive systems and an appropriate public education system that ensured integration of the intellectual, cultural, and moral standards and values. For instance, in 1821, Cherokee had established a written language with further establishment of national Supreme Court in 1822 thereby leading to the establishment of a written constitution in 1827. Even though the population of these tribes was characterized by freedmen who were previously African American slaves or the family members of the slaves who were living among them, slavery activities were still eminent among these tribes (Burton, 2005).  

According to Burton (2005), the removal of these five civilized nations from the United States under orders from the then U.S. President Andrew Jackson in 1830s and 1840s so as to create land for white settlers and developers, led to their migration and settlement in the Indian Territory which was West of the Mississippi river. On settling, he points out that these Five Civilized Tribes started engaging in slaver activities that they adopted from the American cultures. He notes that due to the well established systems in these Five Civilized nations, the population of black slaves had risen tremendously within these nations thereby leading to revolutionary war against slavery which in turn led to the fall of these nations. The write up highlights and discusses the slavery activities within the five civilized nations during 1700-1865.

Slavery in Choctaw from 1700 to 1865

According to McKee & Schlenker (2008), slavery was a common culture among the Choctaw people and the nation as whole. They point out that the Choctaw were active slaveholders who traded slaves and exchanged with American slaves who could work on various farms. They note that in the late 1700s, many of African slaves were being sold to the Choctaws by their European slave traders and settlers to work in their farms. According to them, the Choctaws motives towards the culture of slavery were based on their perception that the ownership of slaves signified superiority. They point out that, the Choctaw’s slave holders felt sense of kingship as their slaves not only served them on their preferences, but they also helped in activities that were scorned by Indians such as initiating farming practice in the wilderness by clearing of the existent bushes to pave way for cultivation.

McKee & Schlenker (2008) point out that the slavery was actively participated by the Choctaw nation which saw it being regulated by legislations. They note that the institutionalization of slavery in Choctaw was primarily based on adapting farming as an economic dependence which had replaced the hunting activities that were widely practiced by Indians. They point out that farming was traditionally regarded in Choctaws as the job for women that could equally be done by the slaves. According to them, the institutionalization of slavery in Choctaws undermined the Christian doctrines; since most of the Christian missionaries were afraid of losing their supporters, who were widely slave holders, in case they abandoned the institution of slavery. They point out that the Christian missionaries played an important role by providing education to the children of Choctaw nation. However, the Christian missionaries’ work was confronted by slavery institutions which made the children to weigh between slavery and education.

Despite of institutionalization of slavery in Choctaw nation, Kidwell (2008) notes that some Choctaws regarded slaves as their family members enabling them to contribute in their business activities. He points out that, many of the slaves were eloquent English speakers who were translators between the Choctaws and the whites during trade negotiations. Due to these important practices, these slaves were allowed to cultivate and farm their own livestock which could sustain their family and even the society. Kidwell (2008) notes that since most of these slaves were Christians, slavery led to the establishment of Christian missionary churches in the Choctaw. However, he points out that the Choctaw leaders were angered by the Christian doctrines that were being spread by these slaves as they argued that such doctrines instilled evil characteristics to their children. As a result, the General Council of the Choctaw established a law in 1836 that hindered the slaves from not only acquiring education but also conversing with their master at the same table (Kidwell, 2008).

According to Kidwell (2008), this law which covered even the American missionaries who were primarily depended on slaves to offer labor, resulted into the intervention of the American Board Missionaries who opted to buy more slaves so as to help them in their work. This resulted to more settlements of slaves in the Choctaw. Burton (2005) points out that in 1860 out of the 20,000 of the Choctaw population, the black slaves accounted for more than 6,000.

Slavery in Cherokee from 1700 to 1865

Just like the Choctaw nation, Cherokee nation was also characterized by slavery activities from the year 1700 to 1865. According to Burton (2005), during the 1830s some slaves ran from the southern slaves states and were received by the Indian Territory nations that include Cherokee. However, he notes that the warm welcome of these slaves in Cherokee did not go for a long time as the people of Cherokee established the usefulness of slaves especially in enhancing their economic wellbeing by using the slaves’ workforce in farming activities. He points out that this period, especially from 1830s to 1840s, was characterized by slaves buying among the Cherokee people that in turn resulted into a population of 1,500 slaves in Cherokee by the end of 1840s.

According to Ware (2005), the degree of institutionalization of slavery in Cherokee nation differed significantly from the other four civilized nations since most of the Cherokees were victims of the white slaveholders’ counterparts who at one point had worked with the African slaves. Such people had therefore developed proper understanding and usage of the slavery system. He points out that due to their experience and adoption of slavery culture from the United States, the slaveholding Indians became the primary body which was governing and organizing the Cherokee nation. He notes that unlike the United States, the Cherokee slavery was not characterized by harsh treatment of the slaves during the 1700s and 1800s as they hardly used them during those times. He points out that Cherokees were small scale farmers who grew cotton and other crops in small scales and therefore were able to sustain their activities hence did not establish the need for assistance.

However, Rodriguez (2008) points out that the settlement of Euro-American colonists in the United States resulted to evolution of racial and slavery activities among the Cherokees. He notes that the Cherokees were influenced by the British settlers’ attitude towards their slaves in making them their laborers. As a result, the Cherokees began discriminating their slaves, thereby selling them to the white settlers who demanded more laborers to work on their large scale tobacco, rice, and other crop farms. He points out that the racial characteristic became the most eminent among the Cherokees as they highly regarded the views of their white counterparts and disregarded those from the blacks terming them as inferior. According to him, the Cherokees’ attitudes towards racial characteristics led to their assimilation and adoption of white cultures that included owning their farms and holding black slaves to help them in farm activities. For instance, the adoption of black chattel slavery among the Cherokees clearly demonstrated how they really emulated the white slavery practiced on the basis of their racial interactions.

According to Ware (2009), the adoption of black chattel slavery practice among the Cherokees resulted to harsh slave codes that primarily undermined the dignity and undertakings of the black slaves. Unlike the previous years, now the harsh code enabled the Cherokees to ally with their authorities in tracking down and capturing black slaves so as to enforce the fugitive slave laws (Ware, 2009). He notes that this resulted into the capturing and owning of black slaves by the Cherokee slaveholders so as to help them in their farms. Such slaves therefore constituted a larger population among the Cherokee nation. He observes that that, as the number of Cherokee slaveholders continued to arise, the same was the case with the black slaves. For instance, in 1809 out of the 12,000 of Cherokee population, the black slaves accounted for 583 which were 4.85% and the figure continued with black slaves forming a population of 4,000 out of 17,000 of Cherokee population in 1860 accounting for 23.52% of the nation’s population. Ware (2009) notes that the emulation of the white European’s cultures and practices by the Cherokees due to the excessive powers of the white immigrants is what contributed to the increase of the black slaves’ population.

However, Ware (2009) points out that on November 15th, 1842 an incident resulted to the revolution of slavery in Cherokees. He observes that this incident was characterized by fleeing of almost twenty five slaves from a Cherokee slaveholder Joseph Vann as they attempted to run for freedom to other countries which were against slavery such as Mexico. However, some of the slaves were cornered and killed by the Cherokee slave hunters (Ware, 2009). He notes that this also led to the death of some fugitive slave hunter thereby leading to the passage of resolution by the Cherokee’s National Council that ordered the deployment of a hundred men who were able to capture and bring back the black fugitive slave to the Cherokees. However, he points out that Cherokees regarded the incident as having been influenced by foreign black people, and as they never wanted to engage into war with these black forces, they passed an act known as An Act in Regard to Free Negros on 2nd December, 1842 which stipulated freedom for the black slaves.

Slavery in Chickasaw and Creek from 1700 to 1865

According to Holland & Milles (2006), slavery activities were also evident in the Chickasaw nation. Even though, Chickasaws experienced difficulty in finding stable settlement lands after being removed from their land in Mississippi due to the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, their settlement was characterized by slavery activities (Holland & Milles, 2006). They point out that the Chickasaws leased land from the Choctaw where they settled as brothers and sisters. This was before they engaged into conflict which made them migrate to the south-central location of Oklahoma. He notes that, just like the Choctaw, the Chickasaw slavery activities were against the Christian missionaries’ doctrines which the Chickasaws leaders wanted to abolish.

Holland & Milles (2006) point out that the Chickasaw leaders closely monitored the interaction of slaves and the Christian missionaries. This was especially so where the slaves played the role of translators either in Christian preaching or business transactions. Moreover, they note that the slavery in Chickasaw was also characterized by racial influence similar to that of Choctaw. According to them, the Chickasaw enacted laws that were similar to the black code in 1865. The laws restricted the freedom of black people thereby compelling them to intense working. He notes that the law also undermined the movements of the black people. He points out that the freedmen and women black slaves who did not obey the law were arrested and auctioned to the highest bidders which included the whites and the Chickasaw’s slaveholders.

On the other hand, Ethridge (2007) points out that Creek nation was also characterized by slavery. However, he also notes that the slavery in Creek nation was lenient compared to the slavery in the United States. According to him, the slaves were taken as properties in the Creek nation which saw the Creek slave owners gaining little from them especially in farm laboring since these slaves acted as tenant farmers. He points out that the black slaves lived with their masters thereby attending farming activities from which they were being given small payments. Unlike the American slavery, the Creek slaveholders did not use violence to control their slaves as the black slaves were never regarded by their owners as burdens (Ethridge, 2007).

Ethridge (2007) points out that despite of the Creek’s restrictive slave codes, the Creeks allowed the black slaves to form groups of their own so as to enhance their religious practices. Additionally, the slaves were allowed to attend education services from which they were able to learn how to read and write. According to him, slaves who were able to speak and write well were used as translators for the Creeks who were not fluent in English. He points out that the freedom for slaves that were evident in Creek led to the immigration of slaves from other civilized nations as they were seeking refuge. He notes that these runaway slaves and black slaves were entitled to live in Creek as long as their conducts did not prove offensive to the Creeks.

Slavery in Seminole from 1700 to 1865

According to Burton (2005), slavery in Seminole was totally different from that practiced in other civilized nations. He points out that Seminole is the only civilized nation that did not adapt the black chattel slavery code which enabled them to take in the fugitive slaves as their own family members and even extended their services in protecting the black slaves. As a result, the black slaves formed a good relationship with the Seminoles that did not only allow them to intermarry, but also enabled them to form part of the military forces. Bird (2006) points out that the Seminoles were able to secure and protect from 500 to 1500 slaves who ran away from the white and Cherokee slaveholders.

Yarbrough (2011) points out that the Seminoles did not adapt the racial slavery which in turn helped them not only in improving their economy but also in building a strong defense forces. He notes that the black Seminoles who formed the military forces were able to defend the Seminole territory. This was especially seen when the Mexican who were anti slavery attempted to attack the nation. He points out that most of these black Seminoles continued to defend the Oklahoma Indian Territory as supporters of the Seminole Indians thereby becoming the Seminole freedmen.


 The write up has highlighted the primary role that was played by the five civilized nations in regard to slavery. It has made it clear that, even though most of these civilized nations had adopted various governing legislations and encouraged education in their nations, they still did not understand the moral character that is associated with slavery. The paper has pointed out the need for various nations to avoid slavery so as to embrace the human dignity. It has also noted the need to embrace the junior workers since they play a significant role in the determination of economic wellbeing like serving as security counterparts if effectively enhanced.

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