by Alex Posey (1873 – 1908)
Why do trees along the river
….Lean so far out o’er the tide?
Very wise men tell me why but
….I am never satisfied:
And so I keep my fancy still
….That trees lean out to save
The drowning from the clutches of
….the cold remorseless wave.
Alex Posey may have had a premonition of his own death when he wrote those lines ending in “the cold remorseless wave.” Posey drowned while trying to cross the North Canadian River in Oklahoma, his body washed down stream and wasn’t found until a week later. The lines equally fitting as metaphor to the cold remorseless wave of white settlers sweeping over the Oklahoma territory and stealing the land promised to the Creek Nation.
Posey had a fruitful if relatively short career as a writer. He was a poet, a journalist and a humorist. He founded the first daily Native American newspaper, the Eufaula Indian Journal in 1901. As editor, he published a satirical op/ed under the guise of a fictional elderly Muskogee Creek man, written in his native dialect that became known as the Fus Fixico Letters. The letters were a bitingly funny, satirical commentary about the Muscogee Nation, Indian Territory and the United States during a period of great turmoil and political conflict as both the Federal and State governments reneged on prior treaties with new legislation that stripped native people of their land and their human rights. Posey used poetry and satire to inspire, educate and fight against the tyranny of the Dawes Act, a political hammer to break up tribal lands. The Curtis Act of 1898 dismantled tribal governments and institutions at a time when politically savvy Native leaders were attempting to organize, to prevent the land grab that was occurring in preparation for Oklahoma statehood.
Chitto Harjo was a Muscogee leader who resisted the allotment process and privatizing of tribal lands. He fought on the side of the Union during the civil war, hoping that it would align Creek interests with the Federal government. The pressure of white settlers for state hood meant prior promises made in treaties were to be forgotten. From 1900 to 1909, Chitto Harjo led those Creek who opposed cultural assimilation and allotment. As the United States was trying to extinguish tribal government, Harjo and his followers set up a separate government. They were arrested and convicted in US court and imprisoned briefly. During the next five years, the majority of the tribe accepted the changes and were allotted individual plots of land. Chitto Harjo and other Snakes refused. Harjo remained defiant until his death and added to the lore of his legacy by eluding capture, despite several armed encounters with white militias. Harjo retreated deeper into the safety of what remained of native lands and remained free until his death in 1911.
Here is a short passage of Harjo’s speech to the Special Senate Investigative committee into why the Creek Nation objected to allotments.
“Now, coming down to 1832 and referring to the agreements between the Creek people and the Government of the United States; What has occurred since 1832 until today? It seems that some people forget what has occurred. After all, we are all one blood; we have the one God and we live in the same land. 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. They were bound to take my country away from me. It may have been that my country had to, be taken away from me, but it was not justice. I have always been asking for justice. I have never asked for anything else but justice. I never had justice.”
Chitto Harjo 1906 Senate Testimony
On the Capture and Imprisonment of Crazy Snakes
by Alex Posey
Down with him! chain him! bind him fast!
…..Slam to the iron door and turn the key.
The one true Creek, perhaps the last
…..To dare declare, “You have wronged me.”
Defiant, stoical, silent,
Such coarse black hair! such eagle eye!
….Such stately mien! —how arrow straight!
Such will! such courage to defy,
….The powerful makers of his fate!
A traitor outlaw, —what you will
….He is the noble red man still.
Condemn him and his kind to shame!
….I bow to him, exalt his name!