Four Mothers Society

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The Four Mothers Society or Four Mothers Nation is a religious, political, and traditionalist organization of Muscogee Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw people, as well as the Natchez people enrolled in these tribes, in Oklahoma. It was formed as an opposition movement to the allotment policies of the Dawes Commission and various US Congressional acts in the 1890s. The society is religious in nature and opposed allotment because dividing tribal lands broke up tribal communities and resulted in "surplus" lands being seized and made available to non-Natives.

The Cherokee are one of the indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands of the United States. Prior to the 18th century, they were concentrated in what is now southwestern North Carolina, southeastern Tennessee, and the tips of western South Carolina and northeastern Georgia.

Choctaw Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States

The Choctaw are a Native American people originally occupying what is now the Southeastern United States. Their Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean language family group. Hopewell and Mississippian cultures, who lived throughout the east of the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries. About 1,700 years ago, the Hopewell people built Nanih Waiya, a great earthwork mound located in what is central present-day Mississippi. It is still considered sacred by the Choctaw. The early Spanish explorers of the mid-16th century in the Southeast encountered Mississippian-culture villages and chiefs. The anthropologist John R. Swanton suggested that the Choctaw derived their name from an early leader. Henry Halbert, a historian, suggests that their name is derived from the Choctaw phrase Hacha hatak.

Chickasaw indigenous people of Southeastern Woodlands of the US

The Chickasaw are an indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands. Their traditional territory was in the Southeastern United States of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. They are of the Muskogean language family and are federally recognized as the Chickasaw Nation.

Contents

There were over 24,000 members at the organization's peak. [1]

Background

Portrait of Chitto Harjo, c. 1900 Chittoharjo.jpg
Portrait of Chitto Harjo, c. 1900

The Four Mothers Society, though it may have existing unrecognized for much of the 19th century, [2] was formally founded as a dues-collecting organization about 1895 in Sulphur Springs, and continued in this legal incarnation until 1915, and likely much later. The naming is significant as Cherokee mothers are believed to be descended from Selu, the Corn Mother; [3] it may also refer to the four directions. [2]

Sulphur Springs was a Choctaw Indian community formerly existing in the Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory. It was located 3/4 mile south-southeast of the highway intersection of OK 3 and OK 93 in present-day Rattan, in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma.

With the passage of the Curtis Act in 1898 and Dawes Act, allotment became US policy and the various tribal governments were forced to allot land. The fact that the existing governments broke up the land was considered an outrage by many of members of the Four Mothers Societies. Chitto Harjo set up a new Creek government in Henryetta, which was acknowledged as the legitimate government by many of the Creeks. In 1900 a meeting was held at Hickory ceremonial grounds in which Pleasant Porter and his government was declared to have violated the 1867 Creek Constitution. They declared Porter's government invalid and declared Harjo to be the new principal chief.

Dawes Act US legislative act regulating Native American tribal lands

The Dawes Act of 1887, authorized the President of the United States to survey Native American tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Native Americans. Those who accepted allotments and lived separately from the tribe would be granted United States citizenship. The Dawes Act was amended in 1891, in 1898 by the Curtis Act, and again in 1906 by the Burke Act.

Chitto Harjo Muscogee Creek traditionalist and leader, member of the Four Mothers Society in Indian Territory

Chitto Harjo was a leader and orator among the traditionalists in the Muscogee Creek Nation in Indian Territory at the turn of the 20th century. He resisted changes which the US government and local leaders wanted to impose to achieve statehood for what became Oklahoma. These included extinguishing tribal governments and civic institutions and breaking up communal lands into allotments to individual households, with United States sales of the "surplus" to European-American and other settlers. He was the leader of the Crazy Snake Rebellion on March 25, 1909 in Oklahoma. At the time this was called the last "Indian uprising".

Henryetta, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Henryetta is a city in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 5,510 at the 2010 census, down 9.6 percent from 6,096 at the 2000 census.

Redbird Smith also became involved in the Four Mothers Society. [3]

Redbird Smith Cherokee traditionalist and political activist, Chief of the Nighthawk Keetoowahs

Redbird Smith (1850–1918) was a Cherokee traditionalist and political activist. He helped found the Nighthawk Keetoowah Society, who revitalized traditional spirituality among Cherokees from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.

In 1906, the group submitted a petition of one hundred eighty-six signatures to Congress, so that a delegation could be sent to Washington, D.C. to discuss treaty violations and their concerns over official tribal leadership. [1] Harjo spoke before the Senate, supported by the Four Mothers Nation. [4]

The Four Mothers Society was associated with the movement for a State of Sequoyah. [2]

Besides openly opposing allotment, the Four Mothers Societies maintain ceremonial groups for stomp dances, stickball games, feasts, meetings, and ceremonies. In the late 1980s there was at least one dance ground left among the Chickasaw and another among the Cherokee. [5] Today there are several Four Mothers Society grounds throughout eastern Oklahoma.

As of 2015, there are still several Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial grounds active, and one remaining active among the Cherokee. [6]

The novels of LeAnne Howe speak of the Four Mothers Society in the context of traditional matriarchal culture, [7] and particularly deals with it in Miko Kings. [8]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Zissu, Erik March (2001-01-01). Blood Matters: The Five Civilized Tribes and the Search for Unity in the Twentieth Century. Psychology Press. pp. 28 – 29. ISBN   9780415930864.
  2. 1 2 3 Johansen, Bruce Elliott (1998-01-01). The Encyclopedia of Native American Legal Tradition. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 98 – 101. ISBN   9780313301674.
  3. 1 2 Johnston, Carolyn (2003-10-06). Cherokee Women In Crisis: Trail of Tears, Civil War, and Allotment, 1838-1907. University of Alabama Press. p. 133. ISBN   9780817350567.
  4. Chang, David A. (2010-01-01). The Color of the Land: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Landownership in Oklahoma, 1832-1929. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 102. ISBN   9780807833650.
  5. Thomas E. Malis. The Cherokee people: the story of the Cherokees from earliest origins to contemporary times. Council Oak Books, 1992. p. 308
  6. "Echota Ceremonial Ground has long history in area". Cherokee Phoenix. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  7. Anderson, Eric G.; Hagood, Taylor; Turner, Daniel Cross (2015-10-19). Undead Souths: The Gothic and Beyond in Southern Literature and Culture. LSU Press. p. 188. ISBN   9780807161081.
  8. Cox, James H.; Justice, Daniel Heath (2014-07-31). The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature. Oxford University Press. p. 404. ISBN   9780199914043.

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