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 cannot remain in safety, and pursue our peaceful avocations—nor can we visit the bones and graves of our Kindred so dear to our hearts and sacred to our memories, to pay the tribute of respect unless we run the risk of being murdered by our more powerful enemies, and whereas there yet remains in the timbered countries on the plains and in the mountains many nations and Bands of our people which if united would afford sufficient strength to command respect and assert and maintain our rights—
Therefore we the Cherokees, Choctaws, Muskogees, Seminoles, Chickashaws, Reserve Caddoes, Reserve Osages, and Reserve Commanches, Composing the Confederate Indians Tribes, and Allies of the Confederate States, of the first part, and our Brothers of the plains, the Kiowas, Arrapahoes, Cheyennes, Lapan, and the several bands of the Commanches, the Nacones, Cochateks, Senawuts, Yameparckas, and Mootchas, and Jim Pockmark's Band of Caddoes, and Annadahkos of the second part; do for our peace happiness and the preservation of our race make and enter into the following league of compact, To wit—
1st. Peace and friendship shall forever exist between all the Tribes and Bands parties to this compact. The Ancient Council fires of our forefathers already kindled by our brothers of the timbered countries, shall be kept kindled and blazing by brotherly love until their smoke shall ascend to the Spirit Band to invoke the blessings of the Great Spirit in all our good works. The Tomahawk shall forever be buried, the Scalping Knife shall be forever broken. The War path heretofore leading from one tribe to another shall grow up and become as the wild wilderness. The path of peace shall be opened from one Tribe or Band to another and kept open, and traveled in friendship, so that it may become whiter and brighter as the time rolls on, and so that our children in all time to come shall travel no other road, and never shall it be stained with blood of our brothers.
2nd. The parties of this compact shall compose (as our undersigned brothers of the timbered countries have done) an Indian Confederacy, or a Band of Brothers having for its object the Peace, the Happiness, and the Protection of all alike and the preservation of our race. In no case shall the war path be opened to settle any difficulty or dispute that shall hereafter arise between any of the Bands or Tribes parties to this compact or individuals thereof. All difficulties shall be settled without the shedding of any blood and by the suggestions of the Chiefs and headmen of the Tribes, Band, or person interested.
The Motto or great principal of Confederate Indian tribes shall be “An Indian shall not spill an Indian's blood.”
In testimony of our sincerity and good faith in entering into this Compact, we have smoked the Pipe of Peace and extended to each other the hand of friendship and exchanged the tokens and emblems of Peace and friendship peculiar to our Race this the 26th day of May 1865.
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Oklahomans Vol 2 :
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