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“An Indian Shall Not Spill An Indian’s Blood”

Between the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, and that of the Confederate Natives in Oklahoma, a remarkable council of tribes occurred near present Verden, deep in the Chickasaw country on the Washita River. As the flame of Southern independence dimmed in the Spring of 1865, leaders from Texas, the Confederate Indian republics, the Plains Indians, and the Confederate States all recognized the need for concord among themselves, as well as a cohesive front in negotiating with the United States following the surrender that loomed.

The Five Civilized Tribes wished for relief from the raiding and harassment still periodically occurring from the Plains tribes, as well as strength through unity in dealing with the tough-minded Yankees. The Plains tribes, meanwhile, had already perceived the mortal danger facing them once the U.S. government loosed American pioneers—and its own army—on the western Oklahoma prairies, which the Natives expected following the close of “the white man’s war.”

This Camp Napoleon compact failed to guide the destinies of its participants as they had hoped for many reasons, including the difficulty of consistent cooperation among the tribes and the tidal wave of white settlers. But it accomplished other things. It demonstrated the ability for 20 different tribes, rife with legendary leaders, to council as one, fellowship as friends, and craft a document of accord subscribed by all. It introduced and acquainted enemies and would-be enemies with one another. And it left yet another in a long line of eloquent, haunting, and powerful documents penned by those with Indigenous blood running through their veins who have forged so indelible a part of the history, character, and heritage of Oklahoma.

In 1931, the Oklahoma College for Women (now University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma) in Chickasha erected a monument to the Confederate and Plains Natives of Indian Territory who counseled together at Camp Napoleon, in order that the “Ancient Council Fires…shall be kept kindled and blazing.”

At forgotten, long-ago Camp Napoleon, Vann and Downing and Adair of the Cherokees, Micco and Kennard and Harjo of the Creeks, the Folsoms of the Choctaws, Colbert and Harris of the Chickasaws, Jumper and Brown of the Seminoles, as well as leaders from the Caddos, Osages, Comanches, Kiowas, Arapahos, Cheyenne, and Apaches, left this shining vision of prose for all Oklahomans:

“Whereas the history of the past admonishes the Red Man that his once great powerful race is rapidly passing away as snow before the summer sun. Our people of the mighty nations of our forefathers many years ago having been as numerous as the leaves of the forest or the stars of the heavens, but now by the vicissitudes of time and change and misfortune and the evils of disunion, discord, and war among themselves are but a wreck of their former greatness. Their vast and lovely country and beautiful hunting grounds abounding in all the luxuries and necessaries of life and happiness given to them by the Great Spirit having known no limits but the shores of the great waters and the horizon of the heavens, is now on account of our weakness, being reduced, and hemmed in to a small and precarious country that we can scarcely call our own, and in which we c