Treaty of Washington (1826)
The 1826 Treaty of Washington was a settlement between the United States government and the Creek National Council of Native Americans, led by their spokesman Opothleyahola. The Creeks ceded much of their land in the State of Georgia to the Federal government.
The Creeks were a loose confederation of tribes with diverse customs and histories. Over several decades, they had ceded small portions of their vast lands to the Federal government in a variety of treaties and agreements. They had been allies with the British in the War of 1812. The 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson which ended the Creek War stipulated that the Creeks would cede 23 million acres (93,000 km²) of prime land to the Southern states, leaving the Creeks a tract around the Chattahoochee River. The Creek Confederacy enacted a law that made further land cessions a capital offense. However, by mid-1820s, both political parties in Georgia favored the total removal of the Indians to the west. Democratic Governor George Troup aggressively moved to resolve the situation.
The Lower Creek Council, a small faction led by Troup’s first cousin, William McIntosh, signed the Treaty of Indian Springs on February 13, 1825, ceding a large amount of Creek territory to the United States. However, the other chiefs and warriors (particularly the Upper Creeks) protested this agreement, stating that the signatories did not have the authority to speak for the entire Creek Nation. They executed McIntosh on May 31 for violating their law banning land cessions.
New President John Quincy Adams did not consider the treaty to be valid, and pressured Troup to stop white incursions into Indian lands. Creek leaders were summoned to Washington, D.C. to negotiate a peaceful agreement. A new treaty was negotiated between the government and a widespread gathering of various Creek leaders, unified under their spokesman, Opothleyahola. It voided the Treaty of Indian Springs and ceded to the United States all the land belonging to the Creeks on the east side of the Chattahoochee River for a one-time payment of $217,600 and a yearly annuity of $20,000. The treaty stipulated that the signers of the Treaty of Indian Springs would have the same privileges as those who signed the new treaty, and made funding allowances for the Lower Creeks under the late William McIntosh to send a 5-person deputation to explore lands west of the Mississippi River for potential resettlement. The government would then fund the relocation, as well as providing for a full year’s subsistence, a full-time Federal Indian Agent, interpreter, blacksmith and wheelwright. The treaty provided financial remuneration for the damages caused by the infighting between McIntosh’s Lower Creeks and the rest of the Creek Nation. The Creeks legally retained possession of all their lands until January 1, 1827, after which they would retain a small portion on the Alabama-Georgia border.
The treaty was signed on January 24, 1826. A supplementary article signed on March 31, 1826, corrected some errors and stipulated the exact delineation of the boundary between Georgia and the Creek reserve. The Federal government agreed to pay the Creeks $30,000 for yet another piece of land (what became Carroll County).
Not pleased with the new treaty and under intense pressure from expansionists, Governor Troup ordered the land surveyed for a lottery, including the piece that was to remain in Creek hands. The president intervened with Federal troops, but Troup called out the state militia, and Adams, fearful of a civil war, conceded. The government allowed Troup to quickly renegotiate the agreement and seize all remaining Creek lands in the state. By 1827, the Creeks were gone from Georgia. Within eight years, most of them would be relocated from Alabama to the designated Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma).
- Prucha, Francis Paul (1997). American Indian Treatires: The History of a Political Anomaly, p. 150. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20895-1.
- Text of the 1826 Treaty of Washington
- Text of the Supplementary Article to the 1826 Treaty of Washington
- Brief history of the relations between Georgia and the Creeks[permanent dead link]