At the same time as the Trail of Tears, another group of Cherokee was being forcibly removed to Oklahoma ...from Texas. In 1807, after the Louisiana Purchase, the Spanish government was nervously watching the American expansion towards Texas and requested a number of tribes to resettle in eastern Texas as a buffer against the Americans. The first Cherokee settlement in the region was at Lost Prairie in 1819, and it received a land grant in 1822. After the successful revolt by the Texans in 1835, a treaty confirming the Cherokee title failed ratification in the Texas legislature during 1836 despite the strong support of President Sam Houston. White Texans pressed for the removal, and in July of 1839 three Texas regiments attacked the Cherokee of Chief Bowl and forced them across the Red River into Oklahoma. The irony of the Cherokee situation in Oklahoma in 1839 should not be lost. No matter what course chosen: war, accommodation, surrender, or flight; their fate had been the same.
Of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Creek, Choctaw and Seminole received similar treatment during removal, although the Chickasaw had foreseen what was coming and prepared better. Following removal, all had major problems, but the Cherokee had the most bitter internal divisions. Gathered together for the first time in 50 years, the Cherokee in Oklahoma were ready for civil war during the spring of 1839. 6,000 Western Cherokee (Old Settlers) from Arkansas and Texas had been living there since 1828 and defending themselves from the Osage, Kiowa, Wichita, and Comanche. They had maintained their traditional government of three chiefs without written laws. Suddenly 14,000 Eastern Cherokee (New Settlers) arrived in their midst with an elaborate government, court system, and a written constitution, but the newcomers were bitterly divided between 2,000 Ridgites (Treaty Party) and 12,000 Rossites who had just lost 4,000 of their people on the Trail of Tears.
Violence was not long in coming. On June 22, Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot were murdered. Stand Watie, Boudinot's brother and Major Ridge's nephew, was the only leader of the Treaty Party to escape. The assassinations effectively silenced the Treaty Party, but the hatreds endured. This left only two contending groups: west and east. The Western Cherokee refused to accept any of the new changes, while the more numerous Eastern Cherokee considered themselves superior and would not compromise. The first meeting of these factions failed to reach agreement. At a second meeting, Ross could only obtain the signature of one western chief but proceeded anyway to organize a government. However, the majority of the western Cherokee and the Treaty Party refused to recognize it. For the next six years there was civil war over borders and jurisdiction.
The situation became so bad that Congress proposed dividing the Cherokee into two tribes. This was incentive enough for the Cherokee to set aside their differences and unite under the Cherokee Nation, an accomplishment recognized by treaty with the United States in 1846. The wounds from removal and reunification never healed completely, but the Cherokee adjusted well enough to enjoy what they consider to have been their golden age during the 1850s.
On the eve of the Civil War in 1861, the Cherokee Nation was controlled by a wealthy, mixed-blood minority which owned black slaves and favored the South. The vast majority of the Cherokee did not have slaves, lived simple lives and could have cared less about the white man's war, especially the Old Settlers. John Ross leaned towards the South, but mindful of the divisions within the Cherokee, refused the early offers by Albert Pike to join the Confederacy. When Union soldiers withdrew during the summer of 1861, the Confederate army occupied the Indian Territory. The Cherokee Nation voted to secede from the United States in August, 1861, and a formal treaty was signed at the Park Hill home of John Ross between the Cherokee Nation and the new Confederate government. Four years later, this agreement was to cost them very dearly.