The Green Peach War
This installment is one of the most unusual events in Indian Territory history. This war was instigated by members of the tribe who wanted to go back to the old tribal ways. Isparhecher was a judge and a respected leader of the Creek Nation. He made a series of bad choices after the Dawes Commission was installed into the Indian Territory. Here is his story.
The Green Peach War also known as Isparhecher 's War was, in fact, the absurd result of an irrational secession movement started by some Creek leaders and centered around Isparhecher who became its guiding spirit. The standard of revolt was carried by members, many of whom had followed Opothleyahola into Kansas in 1861 and had been with Ok-tars-Bars-har-jo in 1871 when he dispersed the Creek National Council with armed force; they had rallied to the support of Lachar Harjo in 1876.
The Loyal Creeks were known as such because when they removed to Kansas in 1861, they sided with the Federal Government and the men joined the Union Army. The Loyal Creeks had supported the Union cause but when the Treaty of 1866 was revealed to the leaders of the Creek Nation they were stunned to find that they were required to give their former slaves forty acres each of their tribal lands.
The Loyal Creeks openly revolted against this treaty and their own tribal government. The constant turmoil caused by the Loyals got to the point where the Creek and United States Governments could no longer ignore their actions. Under the provisions of the peace treaty of 1866, the Creeks were required to cede to the United States the western portion of their nation.
This land, known as the Unassigned Lands, was to be used by the government for the location of "other Indians and freedmen." We have mentioned in other columns that the treaty of 1866 was disastrous to the old tribal culture, social structure and economics of the Five Nations.
With the creation of the Unassigned Lands, the U.S. Government also promised that the western portion of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations known as the Leased District would be used for relocation of the wild tribes and the Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen. This never happened.
The Creeks, at first were little disposed to look with favor upon any plan involving a change in their system of land tenure. It early became clear that further resistance to the allotment plans of the government was futile. The Treaty of 1866 specifically spelled out what the disposition of the freedmen would be.
But, as the leaders of the Five Nations read the lengthy and contrived wording of the Dawes Act, they were astonished to see that by now the government wanted to keep these special lands they had appropriated from the Nations and give forty acre allotments to each of the freedmen and their descendents from the remaining land of the various tribes.
The War had left the Creek people devastated and torn by dissension, their slaves had been freed and left to live among them with the rights of citizenship, their problems were similar to those of the defeated South, the status of the freedman was for a time their "bone of contention." Creek Chief Checote deplored the mixture of the Indian race with that of Negro blood.
He would have, if possible, given them separate lands so they might live apart; but in this and in other measures he proposed for the betterment of his people he met bitter opposition by a full-blood named Isparhecher, who was at that time Supreme Judge of the tribe. (As mentioned earlier separate lands for the freedmen were indeed ceded to the government.) He was a young man of ability and ambitious for Checote's place. He had been loyal to the North during the War and under his leadership, he gathered the "loyal" Indians and freedmen and bitterly opposed Checote in many of his reform movements, which finally culminated in civil strife which was called by the Indians "The Green Peach War," on account of its occurrence when the peaches were green.
Attention has been called to the fact that more than two-thirds of the Creek people have made selections of allotments of the use of the surface of the land, under the provisions of the Curtis Act and have received certificates from the Dawes Commission for such selections. As the Creeks took their allotments they were physically attacked, whipped, their livestock seized and they were often arrested by theLoyals and "tried for treason" and fined. Conditions became so bad that the U.S. Marshal in the Creek Nation at Eufaula was ordered to arrest the leaders of the uprising.
In 1882, Isparhecher, a judge in the Okmulgee District, was charged with seditious utterances, impeached and removed from office. He immediately allied himself with the holdover factions of the Sands and Harjo troubles and established a military camp with some three hundred and fifty of his followers at Nuyaka, twelve miles west of Okmulgee.
Here a pronouncement was made of the purpose to restore the Creek Indians to their primitive government and social status. A quasi government was set up and light horse companies formed and provided with arms and munitions. Pleasant Porter was absent in Washington at this time but was dispatched for, by Checote, who was again the Principal Chief. Porter returned and took the field in command of about seven hundred troops and began an offensive campaign.
Porter drove Isparhecher with his followers from Creek territory in February 1883, who marched into the Sac and Fox country. Isparhecher sought an asylum with his remnant among the Kiowas at Anadarko, but they were returned by United States troops to Ft. Gibson in the spring of 1883. There were perhaps seven or eight casualties during the "war," including the killing of a brother of Porter.
The insurrectionists were disarmed, released and sent home by the Ft. Gibson military authorities in July 1883. Porter was highly instrumental in promoting a final adjustment of this trouble and was largely the inspiration of the tolerant attitude assumed by the officers of the United States and the Creek Nation in making a final disposition of the belligerents.
The last insurrection against the organized government of the Creeks occurred in the spring of 1901 and is known as the Crazy Snake Uprising. Chitto Harjo (Crazy Snake) was a typical member of an expiring race of full blood Indians.
In October 1900, he and his full blood followers instituted a government of their own with Hickory Ground as their capital. Little significance was attached to this action in the begining but as the movement gathered strength among the full bloods who were opposing allotment, Chief Porter, on November 2, 1900, appealed to the United States Government for protection against the "snake" Indians.
In response to this appeal, a troop of United States Cavalry arrived from Ft. Reno in January 1901, and the leaders of the movement were placed under arrest. Several of them including Crazy Snake were indicted in the United States court for seditious conspiracy, to which, pleas of guilty were made. After an extended lecture from the judge, John R. Thomas, the passing of sentence was deferred during good behavior and the culprits sent home.
On November 23, 1906, a Special Senate Investigating Committee came to Tulsa to investigate and report upon general conditions. Chitto Harjo "Crazy Snake" and his followers occupied seats on the front row of the hearings and testified as to their understanding of conditions in the Creek Nation. Below are excerpts of Crazy Snakes testimony.
"Away back in that time-in 1492-there was man by the name of Columbus came from across the great ocean and he discovered this country for the white man-this country which was at that time the home of my people. What did he find when he first arrived here? Did he find a white man standing on this continent then or did he find a black man standing here? Did he find either a black man or a white man standing on this continent? I stood here first and Columbus first discovered me..
Now, coming down to 1832 and referring to the agreements between the Creek people and the Government of the United States..
I had always lived back yonder in what is now the State of Alabama. We had our homes back there; my people had their homes back there. We had our troubles back there and we had no one to defend us. At that time when I had these troubles, it was to take my country away from me. I had no other troubles. The troubles were always about taking my country from me. I could live in peace with all else, but they wanted my country and I was in trouble defending it. It was no use..
Then it was the overtures of the Government to my people to leave their land, the home of their fathers, the land that they loved. He said, 'It will be better for you to do as I want, for these old treaties cannot be kept any longer.' He said, 'You look away off to the West, away over backward and there you will see a great river called the Mississippi River and away over beyond that is another river called the Arkansas River.' And he said, 'You go way out there and you will find a land that is fair to look upon and is fertile, and you go there with your people and I will give that country to you and your people forever...
What took place in 1861? I had made my home here with my people and I was living well out here with my people. We were all prospering. We had a great deal of property here, all over this country. We had come here and taken possession of it under our treaty..
My white brothers divided into factions and went to war. When the white people raised in arms and tried to destroy one another, it was not for the purpose of destroying my people at all. It was not for the purpose of destroying treaties with the Indians. They did not think of that and the Indian was not the cause of that great war at all. The cause of that war was because there was a people that were black in skin and color who had always been in slavery.
In my old home in Alabama and all through the south part of the Nation and out in this country, these black people were held in slavery and up in the North there were no slaves. The people of that part of the United States determined to set the black man free and the people in the South determined that they should not and they went to war about it. In that war the Indians had not any part. It was not their war at all. The purpose of the war was to set these black people at liberty and I had nothing to do with it..
I left my home and my country and everything I had in the world and went rolling on toward the Federal Army. I left my laws and my government; I left my people and my country and my home; I left everything and went with the Federal Army for my father in Washington. I left them in order to stand by my treaties. I left everything and I arrived in Kansas..
When I took the oath, I raised my hand and called God to witness that I was ready to die in the cause that was right and to help my father defend his treaties. All this time the fire was going on and the war and the battles were going on, and today I have conquered all and regained these treaties that I have with the Government. I believe that everything wholly and fully came back to me on account of the position I took in that war. I think that..
I hear the Government is cutting up my land and is giving it away to black people. I want to know if this is so. It can't be so for it is not in the treaty. These black people, who are they? They are Negroes who came in here as slaves. They have no right to this land. It never was given to them. It was given to me and my people and we paid for it with our land back in Alabama. The black people have no right to it. Then can it be that the Government is giving it-my land-to the Negro?
I hear it is and they are selling it. This can't be so. It wouldn't be justice. I am informed and believe it to be true that some citizens of the United States have title to land that was given to my fathers and my people by the Government. If it was given to me, what right has the United States to take it from me without first asking my consent? That I would like to know..
All that I am begging of you, Honorable Senators, is that these ancient agreements and treaties wherein you promised to take care of me and my people, be fulfilled and that you will remove all the difficulties that have been raised in reference to my people and their country and I ask you to see that these promises are faithfully kept. I understand you are the representatives of the Government sent here to look into these things and I hope you will relieve us. That is all I desire to say."
Senator Teller of the Committee enquired of Mr. Hodge, the interpreter, "Do you believe that the old man is honest in his statements?" Mr. Hodge very readily and with emphasis answered, "Yes sir, he is as honest and straight forward and sincere in his statements as a living man can be."
After concluding his address, Harjo bowed low to the committee and retired from the hall with his followers.
For more information on this subject, consult the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 11, No.3, September 1933, pp. 899-911, from which this article is referenced.
© - Contributed by Dennis Muncrief - January, 2004.