March 24th, 1832

Besieged Creek Indians Seeking Federal Protection Sign Treaty that Later Leads to Land Loss and Forcible Removal

On March 24, 1832, the Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Cusseta with the United States, giving up all 5.2 million acres of their tribal lands in Alabama. Following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, this treaty was yet another step in the federal government’s plan to remove Indian tribes to west of the Mississippi River and acquire tribal lands for white settlement. Creek leaders had negotiated the treaty with the federal government in hopes of gaining security and protection from growing pressures and threats, as Alabama extended its laws over Creek territory and authorized white encroachment into Creek land.

Under the terms of the treaty, the federal government would survey the land, complete a census of the Creeks remaining in the region, and redistribute 2.1 million acres to Creek chiefs and male heads of household, leaving the remaining land available for white settlers. The treaty gave Creek landholders five years to decide whether to maintain ownership of their land or sell to white settlers and emigrate to the Western territory at the United States’ expense. Although the treaty stipulated that the provision regarding Creek emigration “shall not be construed so as to compel any Creek Indian to emigrate, but they shall be free to go or stay, as they please,” the federal government made clear it was “desirous that the Creeks should remove to the country west of the Mississippi, and join their countrymen there.”

The treaty purported to guarantee protection against intruders during the five-year decision period. However, intruders persisted and the United States succumbed to pressures to cease blocking and removing them. In addition to unlawful intruders overtaking Creek land, speculators defrauded, threatened, and undersold Creek landholders to deprive them of the land guaranteed under the Treaty. Growing resentment and hostility led to violent outbreaks and eventually erupted into the Second Creek War, leading the United States to forcibly remove the remaining Creeks on March 3, 1837.