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Intertribalism in the Ozarks, 1800-1865.

The Ozark Mountains occupy a large area within the state boundaries of southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and northeastern Oklahoma as well as the southeasternmost tip of Kansas. Missouri and Arkansas make up the bulk of the Ozarks, while Oklahoma and Kansas straddle their outer rim. Rivers such as the Mississippi, Missouri, White, Neosho, and Arkansas encircle the region. Tributaries and springs from the Osage, Gasconade, and Niangua create an expanse of navigable waterways into the interior. The Missouri portion of the Ozarks is referred to as the highlands, whereas the southerly portions are deemed the lowlands. These terms geographically divide the region but have little to do with the topography. The lowlands contain a chain of mountains called the Boston Mountains, and to the north the Ozark Mountains are segmented by grasslands.

From 1800 to 1865 the Ozarks region was in constant flux, as migrations of different and distinct nationalities transformed the area. Previous migrations into the Ozarks date back to the Osage, who arrived in the early 1600s from the Great Lakes. The Osage Nation came to dominate the vast area's economy, trade, and community, although in Arkansas the Quapaw controlled the southern border of the Ozarks. The French extended their settlements into St. Louis and along the fringes of the mighty Mississippi and accelerated their trading empire into the West. St. Louis remained prominent as an epicenter of trade, linking the mighty Missouri with the great Mississippi River. Eventually, Spain took control of the French trade until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Afterward the United States became the fifth great empire to push its borders westward into the Ozarks. (1)

In the early nineteenth century the Ozarks were still remote, since most of the French and Spanish immigrants had established settlements that stretched east to west on the Missouri River and north to south along the Mississippi River. However, during the next few years the Ozarks would be a region of constant flux as migration to the area increased. During the late 1700s the Old Settler Cherokee migrated into the Ozarks, followed by the Kickapoo, Delaware, Shawnee, and eventually the Scotch-Irish. Each nation brought different worldviews that openly strove for an interconnection to achieve prosperity and survival.

Historians of the region have often explained the exchange of cultures typically as a one-way street, seeking to exploit a dichotomy between dominant and inferior, civilized and uncivilized, savage and exceptional, white and Indian. Yet the term exchange implies something much more complex. The Cherokee Nation did not become less Cherokee with the adoption of printing presses, large-scale agricultural production, and log cabins; in fact, it became something more. Even further, the Scotch-Irish who migrated into the Ozarks did not become less Scotch-Irish when they adopted Native clothing, trade, and cultural customs. Each of these cultures became something greater; it transformed into an intertribal community by adapting to its region while simultaneously absorbing cultural traits or tools from other nations for its own political and cultural survival. Therefore, Ozarkians did not forsake their culture; they adopted intertribal perspectives that preserved and accentuated their own autonomy. The modification and process of intertribalism created a unique borderlands region in the west--the Ozarks. (2)


After arriving in the Ozarks in the 1600s, the Osage became the major powerhouse of the region. To the north they competed with the Iowa, Missouri, Oto, and Kaw and to the west with the Caddo, Kiowa, Comanche, Pawnee, Ponca, and Omaha. On the eastern side the Osage warred with the Kickapoo, Sac, and Fox as well as the powerful Illini Confederacy. The Ozarks was an epicenter of warfare and trade. The French established powerful ties with the Osage through trade and intermarriage. A highly successful connection, it provided each nation with significant profits during the fur trade.

The French preferred to settle along the outer rim of the Ozarks, and they established the successful trade ports of St. Louis and Cape Girardeau along the Mississippi. Within this region the French practiced "frontier inclusion" choosing to create trade ties with Native people but refusing to establish settlements within Native communities. This relationship continued until the Spaniards inherited French political dominance over the Louisiana Territory. The Osage never recognized Spain as their political sovereign and directed their military strength into disrupting Spanish trade. Spanish and subsequently French rule would be short-lived in the region, but their influence would be felt forever.

Trade of fur and bear fat established economic ties between the Osage and these European powers. Consequently, trade also reinforced political and military boundaries as Ozark tribes competed for dwindling resources. Each nation reached farther and farther into the Ozarks to trap, hunt, and deplete the region of its wildlife. Warfare emerged as a constant means of conflict resolution, and deep-seated resentment quickly emerged among Native nations and peoples. The trade of Native slaves only heightened and sustained these intense rivalries. As warfare intensified and the fur trade bottomed out, Native slaves became a currency of exchange and an exploitable labor force for each empire. (3) The Osage, largely unscathed by epidemics, flourished in population and military might. Clearly, by the late 1700s they had grown to become the dominant political and military force in the region. (4)


By the late 1700s one of the first migrant tribes to relocate to the Ozarks was the Old Settler Cherokee under Chief Toquo, or Turkey. (5) Some of these Cherokee represented a particular band called the Chickamauga, who had allied with the British during the American Revolution. They established settlements between the St. Francis and White rivers in the Arkansas Ozarks. By the early 1800s they were officially recognized through treaty with the United States as the Western Cherokee Nation and supported a population between fifteen hundred and three thousand. Despite their formal treaty with the U.S. government, the Western Cherokee established their nation in the heart of Osage Territory. The U.S. government never compensated the Osage for this land, and the Osage remained furious over this breach of trust. It was not long before a series of wars between the Cherokee and Osage ravaged the Ozarks. (6)

Complicating political and economic issues even more was the migration of Delaware and Shawnee into the eastern Ozarks. Both the Delaware and the Shawnee had been encouraged by the Spaniards to relocate to Missouri and create a buffer zone. It was advantageous for the Spaniards to detour American settlement into the region and to enlist the tribes as protection against Osage raids on supplies and trade routes. The Osage were quickly losing land to new immigrant tribes who had signed treaties with foreign empires. The Shawnee and Delaware rapidly made an intertribal alliance with the Western Cherokee and Quapaw to war against the Osage. Violence quickly became a way by which the Ozark nations protected their territory and influenced politics within the region. (7)

Making matters worse for the Osage was the migration of a segment of the Kickapoo Nation from Illinois into the western Missouri Ozarks. The Spaniards relied on the Kickapoo, like the Delaware and Shawnee, to war on the Osage. The Kickapoo were long-standing enemies with the Osage and had hunted along the Arkansas and Red rivers for years. Kickapoo settlements appeared in the region as early as 1763. As a nation they proved quite adept at creating intertribal compacts. Tecumseh's movement sought to unite indigenous nations in a military and political pact to halt America's westward expansion. The movement was short-lived after the defeat of the Creek Red-Sticks and the death of Tecumseh in 1813. Yet the message that Tecumseh carried was forever ingrained in the Kickapoo worldview. (8)

Throughout the War of 1812 the Osage and Kickapoo were at war. John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company sent agents to live with the Missouri Kickapoo and established trade depots within the confines of the Ozark Kickapoo. From 1811 to 1814 the Kickapoo raided and captured $33,000 worth of property; horse stealing was their specialty. This led to further competition with the Osage and full-scale war from 1821 to 1826. The Kickapoo relied on intertribalism to bring together Western Cherokee, Delaware, Shawnee, and Quapaw for a full assault against the Osage. (9)

Caught in the middle of these wars and varied intertribal alliances were frontiersmen who settled sparsely within the backcountry of the Ozarks. Due to constant warfare and raiding, only the toughest remained. Many of the settlers fled north or farther west to avoid the violent Ozarks. Most of those pioneers who chose to stay came from Appalachian stock and settled individually throughout the area. Log cabins with dirt floors, a small garden for corn, and supplies for trapping and hunting were all they needed to scratch out a life in the hills. One of the first explorers to the region, Henry R. Schoolcraft, a geographer, geologist, and ethnologist, investigated the inner regions of the Ozarks in 1818 and 1819. Schoolcraft created a booster account of the region, documenting the flora and fauna, wildlife, and rivers in the area. He was the first to tribalize the frontiersmen in an account that later would contribute to stereotyping a particular class of people as "savages":
   In manners, morals, customs, dress, contempt of labor and
   hospitality, the state of society is not essentially different from
   that which exists among the savages. Schools, religion, and
   learning are alike unknown. Hunting is the principal, the most
   honorable and the most profitable employment.... They are,
   consequently, a hardy, brave, independent people, rude in
   appearance, frank and generous, travel without baggage, and can
   subsist any where in the woods. (10)

Cut off from major trade centers, the frontiersman assumed a Native style of dress, learned multiple Native languages in order to trade, and subsisted at times in total isolation. A distinct minority, the hillfolk in this region assumed an intertribal identity for survival and prosperity. It was a heritage and kinship that separated them from other Americans by class, formal education, race, and culture. This identity was constantly shaped by tribal politics, warfare, and economy as the population of the Ozarks continued to grow into the 1820s.


Back east, during the 1820s the Cherokee Nation, under the leadership of Principal Chief John Ross, was facing many new challenges. The Cherokee Nation territory originally extended through the present states of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina. As a nation of over twenty thousand people, the Cherokee were a political and economic powerhouse among southeastern tribes. Unfortunately, as a bustling empire the Cherokee Nation was an increasing threat to the economic desires of its neighboring states. Economic competition among plantations, planters, and speculators to expand "king cotton" forced southern states, particularly Georgia, to advocate for Indian removal.
   The expansion of cotton plantation agriculture led to the admission
   to the Union of Mississippi and Alabama in 1817 and 1819. Their
   total population jumped from 40,000 in 1810 to 445,000 in 1830. And
   the older states of Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia, all with land
   within their borders that belonged to Indians, filled up. Their
   population rose from 745,000 in 1810 to over two million in 1830.
   Such enormous growth, occurring in just two decades, vastly
   increased pressure on the tribes to sell more land.... The
   Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws held thousands of
   square miles, much of it astonishingly fertile, within the borders
   of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. (11)

Discussions of a removal policy had circulated throughout Washington since Jefferson's administration. Cherokee people were divided over the issue of removal. A certain faction, known as the Treaty Party and led by Major Ridge and Elias Boudinot, sought to sell traditional lands. In opposition, Principal Chief John Ross worked to merge both traditional and progressive elements of the nation. The anti-Treaty Party, or Ross faction, led a political campaign to thwart all prospects of removal west.

The Ross coalition eventually took their fight against the state of Georgia to the U.S. Supreme Court. In two ground-breaking decisions, Cherokee v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the Cherokee Nation was declared an independent sovereign nation. Despite Justice Marshal's opinion and legal interpretations of these cases, removal proved inevitable. The removal of the Cherokee Nation would always be a dark spot on the conscience of America. By 1838-39 the Cherokee had been forcibly removed along the Trail of Tears to the Ozarks, home of the Western Cherokee. The removal occurred in thirteen different waves and took the lives of over four thousand Cherokee. The removal ended with a tremendous loss of property and lives, which eventually would launch a civil war within the Cherokee Nation.

To complicate matters further, two leaders assumed jurisdiction for the immigrant Cherokee--Chief John Jolly of the Western Cherokee and Chief Ross. The overall population for the Cherokee in the Ozarks grew into the tens of thousands. Years earlier, under the direction of Chief Duwali, or Bowles, and the promise of Sam Houston, a sizable portion of the Western Cherokee had fled to Texas. The Texas Cherokee were truly an intertribal nation comprised of Delaware, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Quapaw, and the adopted Scotch-Irish. Despite hardship and loss, the Cherokee Nation would reshape the Ozarks into their new homeland. (12)

The Delaware faced a similar challenge as the Missouri Delaware reestablished their nation along the James Fork River near present-day Springfield, Missouri. Thousands of families had to wait years just to cross the Mississippi River because only one ferry boat was available to make the crossing. The newly organized Delaware Nation held prime grasslands for agricultural production. However, many of the removal nations soon realized that resources were not only scant but rare. The Delaware eventually took up the horse culture of the Great Plains and began competing with the Osage for buffalo. Their culture and lifeways were drastically altered by the experience.

The Delaware split into multiple factions, from the Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Delaware to the James Fork Delaware, the Absentee Delaware in what is now Oklahoma, and the Delaware of Texas, Canada, and Wisconsin. Tribal members had spread all over the United States and Canada. Eventually, by the 1830s, after eight years in the state of Missouri, the Delaware ceded all their lands for a new territory in Kansas. Before the treaty with the Delaware was drawn up, their chief, William Anderson, pressured the federal government to provide clear deed and title for these new lands that would exclusively retain them for the Delaware. Federal officials declined Anderson's offer and maintained the protocol of federal ownership of Indian lands. (13)

The remaining Illinois Kickapoo, under the leadership of Black Hawk, fought a quick and decisive battle against the United States, but to no avail. The forces of removal forever split the Kickapoo into three different factions. One faction was led by Kennekuk, who relied on passive resistance, abandoning most of the traditions, avoiding alcohol, and obeying American law. While some Kickapoo fled south to Texas, still others agreed to establish a new independent Kickapoo Nation in Mexico. The Missouri Kickapoo were divided between the progressive teachings of Kennekuk and the traditionalists, who sought to protect their cultural autonomy. (14)

The Shawnee faced a similar challenge to hold their nation together during the onslaught of removal policy. The Cape Girardeau Shawnee had entrenched themselves in the economy of the Ozarks. By the 1820s the Shawnee had petitioned the federal government for permission to establish their own mining venture in the lead and iron belt of Missouri.

Their influence on trade and close kinship with the Delaware made them a powerful nation. When Missouri petitioned for statehood in the 1820s, the government began making treaties with tribes in the Ozarks. The Shawnee, like the Delaware, signed over their lands to establish a new nation in Kansas. Many of their relations in Ohio had been forcibly removed to present-day Oklahoma, while other members had joined the Texas Cherokee and other nations in what was then Mexico.

After years of warfare and treaty negotiations, the Osage sold off the vast expanse of their lands in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to reestablish their nation in Indian Territory, later Oklahoma. Until 1906, the lands that the U.S. government set aside for the Osage escaped the provisions of allotment. Likewise, the Quapaw were divided between Oklahoma and Texas.

Essentially, the policy of Indian removal succeeded in dividing cultures, peoples, and nations. Removal split the Delaware into six different nations, separating the population and altering their political influence. Removal also split the Cherokee Nation into multiple groups, ranging from the Eastern Cherokee (holdouts from the Trail of Tears) to those in Texas, the Western Cherokee, and the Old Settlers. The remaining Cherokee in Arkansas would establish a new government in Indian Territory and remain a central player within the Ozarks. Within a period of ten years the Ozarks, already an intertribal epicenter, opened to a new flood of migrants.

From the 1820s to the 1840s the Ozarks were slowly but steadily being settled by the Scotch-Irish, people of largely Presbyterian Celtic ancestry who had emigrated during the seventeenth century largely from the western lowlands of Scotland to the Ulster counties of Ireland. Eventually, economic, religious, and class issues forced a mass exodus to America during the eighteenth century.
   Ulster emigrants sought not upward mobility but an "independence"
   defined as the security enjoyed by the self-sufficient yeoman
   farmer or self-employed artisan--a security which was becoming
   increasingly elusive in Ulster. Thus, they departed to escape
   economic processes and demographic pressures which threatened to
   reduce them or their children to "slavery"--perhaps landlessness,
   certainly a greater degree of dependence on market forces
   manipulated by rack-renting landlords, parasitical middlemen, and
   exploitative employers. (15)

After immigrating to America, the Scotch-Irish pushed quickly into the backcountry of the continent. Tennessee, Kentucky, and the bulk of Appalachia soon swarmed with a people who were predominantly Scotch-Irish. By the 1820s the landed gentry were buying up huge tracts of land throughout Tennessee. As the population grew, smaller subsistence farmers found themselves pushed out of their landholdings. With fewer and fewer opportunities for economic gain, many Scotch-Irish were forced to migrate to the Ozarks.

The first wave of immigrants settled in the region after the War of 1812. Many of them had fought in the war, and they were promised land west of the Mississippi for their service in the military. Next came the migrants who followed Indian removal; many of them had intermarried and established close personal and economic ties with the Cherokee, Delaware, Kickapoo, and Shawnee. Such individuals included Sam Houston, who rose to prominence as governor of Tennessee and later Texas. Of Scotch-Irish descent, Houston married the daughter of Chief John Jolly's brother, John Rogers of the Western Cherokee. Houston learned to speak fluent Cherokee, and he was adopted into the tribe.
   This form of adoption was common among the Cherokees, and as an
   adoptee, Houston would be able to participate in clan activities,
   assume kinship obligations, and take a Cherokee marriage partner.
   In 1829 he moved to Arkansas, joining his adoptive father, John
   Jolly.... In Arkansas Houston made his living as a lawyer,
   merchant, and citizen of the Western Cherokee Nation. Furthermore,
   he had married a Cherokee woman, Talihina (also known as Diana)
   Rogers, daughter of John Jolly's brother, John Rogers. (16)

In 1831 Houston ran for a legislative seat in the Cherokee National Council in order to employ his full rights as a Cherokee citizen. (17) Yet another example is the Ohio legend of Shawnee leader Blue Jacket as well as the Shawnee adoption of Sheltowee, Daniel Boone. (18)

The idea of intertribalism or the adoption of ethnic Americans into separate and distinct nations could have been one of the greatest threats to the young American Republic. If the Cherokee Nation of twenty thousand could open citizenship to the Scotch-Irish, their numbers could have doubled, and their political strength might have tripled. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 had another effect--it divided the backcountry settlers from any chance of a unified alliance.

By the 1840s a mass exodus from Appalachia brought thousands of Scotch-Irish immigrants into the Ozarks. Many reestablished old connections and alliances with the Cherokee and Shawnee, and they created a unique culture that separated them from the rest of Missouri. Most were subsistence farmers, with the choice crops being tobacco and hemp. Cattle and hogs emerged as the other major industry within the Ozarks. The hills, like the Scottish highlands, were too rocky and steep for large agricultural production. However, with pockets of open glades and some grassland, most farmers could scratch out a modest living. (19)

Although Missouri entered the Union as a slave state, the Ozarks were not a sustainable place for a plantation economy or slavery. The average Ozarkian had little money or resources to own slaves. Slavery in the state of Missouri centered around the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Yet slavery as an institution would be the ultimate dividing line for the state of Missouri. (20)


The Civil War began much earlier in the Ozarks than in the rest of the United States. Since Missouri was the most northern of the southern slaveholding states, it faced a growing onslaught of violence and border warfare with the proabolitionist population of Kansas. Warfare encircled the region as Jayhawkers waged a campaign of terror against the citizens of Missouri. In opposition to the Jayhawkers, Missourians retaliated with violence by employing bands of raiding militia called bushwhackers. The Ozarkians were not a slaveholding elite, and the bulk of the Ozark economy lacked large plantation agriculture, but the issue of slavery would fuel a greater controversy that was bound in regionalism and the cultural divides of America.

Missouri was as divided as the rest of the nation. New immigrants to the area forged a more northern association. Sixty percent of the population of St. Louis was composed of newly arrived immigrants. The largest contingents of St. Louis's urban population were Irish and German. Slavery as an institution was entrenched along the banks of the Missouri River. Ideas of nativism encapsulated many of the fears of the older immigrant population of the Ozarks. In the West, where populations were smaller, people feared that this new immigrant base would take political control away from older migrant groups. In many ways the Scotch-Irish faced a dilemma similar to that of the Osage. Their reaction was also similar; they relied on violence and force to protect their political and cultural boundaries.

The use of violence in the Ozarks and throughout Missouri was like a revolving door. Despite the Scotch-Irish protection of their status as original settlers, Kansans redefined them as "savages," a term first used by Henry R. Schoolcraft. Missourians were seen by Kansans as being uncivilized, uneducated, violent, rude, and backward. The label Kansans provided for them was "Pukes;' lower than dirt. In their eyes Missourians lacked salvation. In the eyes of abolitionists, they needed to be wiped from the planet--exterminated.
   It seemed clear that the Pukes were indeed savages, beasts who had
   to be expunged if free white civilization were to be implanted....
   Pukes were defined as children of an earlier stage of civilization
   or as atavistic throwbacks ... as dirt-wallowing, elemental brutes,
   suspended in a comatose state between bouts of primitive
   violence.... Regression to a frontier stage of civilization would
   mean accepting Puke-like values; one had always to fight against
   any appearances of such degeneracy.... To be morally sound, taking
   up the land and pushing off the Pukes (and Indians) had to be tied
   to a higher set of moral purposes, to serve God and to establish
   progressive civilization. (21)

Historian Michael Fellman, in his book Inside War, describes the process by which Missourians and, more specifically, Ozarkians became tribalized by outsiders. The concept of Pukes echoed other insults, from hillbilly, redneck, and cracker to poor white trash. Coincidently, these stereotypes tribalized the Scots in Scotland and eventually the Scotch-Irish in the Ozarks. More specifically, these labels identified seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Scots who remained on their native land. The word "hillbilly" is derived from the "Billy Boys," or supporters of William of Orange--a word that also identified Scots in Northern Ireland. "Redneck" comes from a sect of Scottish rebels who wore red scarves and signed documents in their own blood; red scarves became rednecks. The word "cracker" referred to "craic," an Irish word that relates to bar talk or the type of conversation that happens in an Irish bar. All of these terms labeled an entire population and confined them to varying degrees of "less than" because of their indigenous resistance to English rule.

By the time of the Civil War, Missourians in the Northeast had sided with the Union, leaving the Missouri River plantations and the Ozarks for the Confederacy. It was not long before the battlefront of the Civil War reached Missouri. Some of the first battles of Wilson's Creek (Springfield, Missouri) and Carthage (Carthage, Missouri) occurred just days before and after Bull Run (1861). (22) The Ozarks quickly became a powder keg of battlefields and guerrilla warfare. No one was safe from the terror: bushwhackers wore Union uniforms, and Union troops dressed like bushwhackers. Civilians caught in the crossfire did not know whom to trust as the Ozarks became entrenched in a violent inferno of anarchy. (23)

During the entire Civil War era the Cherokee also divided into Union and Confederate camps. Stand Watie, a former supporter of the Ridge faction, rose to prominence as the first Native Confederate general during the war. Raids by Jayhawkers pillaged Cherokee towns as well. The Choctaw and Creek also divided along Union and Confederate loyalties. Throughout the Confederacy the Scotch-Irish relied on an old intertribal alliance to wage war against northerners.

By the war's end the Ozarks had been constantly linked to their earlier intertribal past. The association of the Cherokee and Scotch-Irish pulled together by the Confederacy would continue after the war. Trade between the Cherokee Nation and the Ozarks flourished, and entrepreneurs such as Elias Cornelius Boudinot emerged as prime examples of capitalism. Boudinot took on the powerful St. Louis machine by cornering the tobacco market in the Ozarks. In the past all tobacco grown in the Ozarks was sent to St. Louis for processing. Production plants in St. Louis paid meager prices to Ozarkian farmers. Boudinot was creative enough to open his own processing plant in the Cherokee Nation. Not only would Ozarkian farmers get a fair price, but Boudinot would get around state taxes and actually compete with St. Louis futures. His victory was short-lived, as St. Louis merchants pulled political strings to put Boudinot out of business.

In the postwar years Boudinot wrote columns for a local paper in the Arkansas Ozarks. The paper not only ran columns on Ozarkian news but also informed Ozark residents about Cherokee nationalism and worthy news topics. (24) Clearly, the intertribal alliance that had begun to form in the early 1800s persisted after the Civil War. Ozarkians continued to battle stereotypes, but they also spawned a new identity rooted in intertribal connections. The Scotch-Irish infused and adopted aspects of Native culture that set Ozark culture apart from other regions of the country. Evidence of this can be seen in stories, song, and dance (for more information, see appendix 1).

As a region, the Ozarks constitute a unique arena for historical study. By focusing on the exchange of culture through intertribalism, the student of the Ozarks can present a new image of the Scotch-Irish or Ozarkian. Through political, economic, and military alliance with Native peoples, the Scotch-Irish become tribalized by their experience. I chose to investigate the period from 1800 to 1865 because it represents a complex story of how these relationships work. It suggests how a multitude of cultures are transformed into a regional identity. The Ozarkian is not just Scotch-Irish but also Cherokee, Shawnee, Delaware, Kickapoo, Osage, and Quapaw. Each nationality has left a footprint within these hills, and each nationality continues to this day to influence culture and politics in the region.


Within the Ozarks cultural exchange drastically transformed the Scotch-Irish customs of song, dance, and story. I have often defined story and storytelling as the cultural and emotional core for a people. This is most evident in the intertribal realities of the Ozarks. For southeastern tribes and the Shawnee and Delaware, the stomp dance lies at the religious and cultural core of their people. The stomp dance brings men and women together around a central fire, and as the caller calls out verses, the audience responds. The women wear calico dresses with shakers that sound like rattlers, signaling fertility. The men, with staffs and cowboy hats, typify the dress of the hunter. The call-response pattern unifies the collective through gender, song, story, and action. The symbiotic relationship born out of this dance contains the keys that help unlock the power of life and creation for the region.

In the Ozarks the Scotch-Irish combined the jig and call-response forms of stomp dancing to create the art of square dancing. Using the shrill sound of the fiddle notes, the caller signals the crowd of men and women to the next dance move. The dancers respond and repeat the caller's directions through movement. Although most of these songs and dances do not employ spiritual overtones, the action itself is symbolic of stomp dance rhetoric. Two other similarities link the stomp dance and the square dance--timing and title. Square dances traditionally last from sundown till sunrise, as do stomp dances. Additionally, the square dance derives its name from the southeastern square grounds, a place constructed for the sole purpose of stomp dance culture. The blending of song (call and response) with dance has emerged from the intertribal realities of Ozark culture and lifeways. (25)

Story also serves as another lasting remnant of this intertribal construct. Many of the stories that follow were collected by folklorist Vance Randolph, who traveled throughout the Ozarks during the 1920s collecting tales from local residents. Each story has a connection to the intertribal roots of Ozarkian life and symbolizes these shared realities.

The following stories represent a random sampling of Ozark stories collected by ethnographers in the early twentieth century. While Native American scholarship is largely affixed to Native oral traditions, this article seeks to reverse the paradigms of research to focus on how Native peoples have acculturated nonindigenous peoples. These oral stories reflect varied and diverse views that provide agency and speak to the influence of acculturation on tribal worldviews held by Ozarkians. By focusing historical attention to isolated and controversial regions like the Ozarks, scholars may begin to forge a new theoretic that dismantles whiteness as a fixed identity. This article's purpose is to encourage another narrative that exposes the roots of how other races were tribalized or acculturated by their experience with Native peoples.

Book-Learning in Oklahoma

One time there was a Choctaw named John Bacon, and he could talk English just as good as you or me. But he just learned it by ear, and he couldn't read or write. When John was about twenty years old he took up with a schoolmarm from Kansas, and she says it is funny a grown man can't read the newspaper. So John made her learn him the ABC's with marks in the dirt floor, as they didn't have no slate. That's how he learned to read the Primer, and he could write pretty good, too.

Even after the schoolmarm went back to Kansas, John Bacon kept a-studying, and he sure was proud of it. Pretty soon he could read the Weekly Star plumb through, only a few big words, and he wrote letters to people all over the country. He says book-learning is good stuff, and he is going to see that his children gets the best education money can buy.

Everything was going fine till he went to the courthouse at Sallisaw, where the court reporter wrote down everything the witness said. John says he don't see how anybody could write so fast as all that, and they told him the fellow done it shorthand. But John Bacon hadn't never heard about shorthand, so he got the court reporter to show him some, and explain how it worked. Soon as he got it through his head, John was considerable upset.

"It beats anything l ever seen," says he. "If this here short writing is quicker, why don't everybody write that way? Why don't they learn the kids in school to write like that, instead of sweating over them goddam ABC's? And why ain't the newspaper printed in shorthand?" The boys around the courthouse tried to explain how it is, but they didn't do no good, and neither did the principal of the high school. John says it looks to him like the white people are all goddam fools, and don't know their own mind.

You got a good education, ain't you? Well, how would you answer John Bacon's question? (26)

Wolves Are My Brothers

One time there was a girl named Jenny, and she married a fellow that was part Indian. They lived away back in the woods, as he says the wolves are my brothers, and we don't need no neighbors. Her friends thought Jenny had her ducks to a poor puddle, because that Indian was wild as a mink. So finally Jenny made up her mind to run off, and go back to her folks. Soon as the fellow went a-hunting, she put on her best clothes and started for the settlement.

She walked through the woods a ways, and here come a big wolf. The wolf was going to eat Jenny up, but she throwed down her bonnet. So the wolf picked up the bonnet and away he run.

She just walked on through the woods, and here come another big wolf. The wolf was going to eat Jenny up, but she throwed down her coat. So the wolf picked up the coat and away he run.

Jenny just kept a-walking, and here come another big wolf. The wolf was going to eat Jenny up, but she pulled off her dress and throwed it down. So the wolf picked up the dress and away he run.

She was feeling mighty funny, but Jenny walked right on anyhow. When the next wolf come along she throwed down her petticoat. So the wolf picked up the petticoat and away he run.

Poor Jenny was considerable slowed down now, but here come another wolf, and she had to pull off her drawers. It wasn't no time at all till the next wolf showed up, and took her undershirt.

So there was Jenny a-standing out in the woods, without a stitch on but her moccasins. "I sure can't go into town like this," she says, "and it's too cold for me to be walking around naked as a jaybird, anyhow." So then she started back toward her old man's house. Jenny was worried about what might happen, when he seen her clothes was gone. "If I tell him about them wolves, he'll think it is a lie," she says to herself.

Pretty soon here come a big wolf with the undershirt, and he throwed it down. So Jenny put on the undershirt and walked towards home. And here come another wolf with the drawers, and he throwed them down. So Jenny put on the drawers and walked towards home. Then here come another big wolf with the petticoat, and soon as Jenny put the petticoat on she began to feel better. Pretty soon another wolf brought her dress, and another wolf brought her coat, and finally here come the last big wolf a-carrying the bonnet.

When she got back to the cabin Jenny was all dressed, and the old man didn't say a word. He just looked at her, and grinned kind of wolfish. And she says to herself, "Maybe them wolves are his brothers, sure enough." So after that Jenny didn't run off no more, but stayed home and took care of the house, like she ought to have done in the first place. The folks all say that him and her raised a fine family, and lived happy ever after. (27)

The Old Tanner

One time there was an old man come to this town, and he was part Cherokee. The folks let him batch in an old shanty down by the blacksmith shop, and he run a tannery. People used a lot of leather in them days, and that old man could make the prettiest buckskin you ever seen. He took the hair off with ash-hopper lye, and then soaked the hide in oak-bark and stuff like that.

Some of the town smart-backs used to make fun of the old tanner, because they figured he didn't know much. A bunch of the boys was standing around the stove one day, and Tom Gilmore come a-walkin in. "Can you tan hide with the hair on it?" says he. The old man just nodded his head. "Well," says Tom, "I got a piece of skin at home, that ain't no bigger than your hand. I've been a-working on it for twenty years, and it still ain't what you could call leather."

The boys all grinned, but the old man just stared at Tom Gilmore. "You fetch that skin down here," says he, "and leave it all night. I'll tan it, easy enough. And I won't charge you a cent." Tom looked kind of set back when he heard that, but the old man never cracked a smile. Pretty soon Tom Gilmore walked out, and the boys all laughed like fools. It was kind of a joke around town for a long time, and everybody would laugh when they thought about what the old tanner said to Tom Gilmore.

(In this instance, the clever response of the old tanner puts Tom Gilmore out of countenance by implying that the old man could achieve overnight what Tom has been unable to attain in twenty years: the sexual mastery of Tom's wife.) (28)
   The Cat's Foot

   fellow over in the Territory
   being robbed of meat from the smoke house
   thieving was frowned on

   cat as big as a panther
   came into the smoke house

   he cut off a cat's foot with a bowie knife twelve
   inches long
   next morning a peckerwood rode by
   he was going for the doctor

   the wife died; she had cut off her hand with an axe.
   They said she died spitting like a cat. (29)

   The Marshal in the Barrel

   Outlaws in Cookson Hill country, Okla.
   Oklahoma called the Territory then
   Rough there, many outlaws
   No sheriffs, only deputy marshals
   All gun-fighting men
   Outlaws caught the marshal
   Put him in an old salt barrel
   Left the marshal in the barrel on the prairie
   Wild cattle licked the salt barrel
   He pulled a tail through the bung hole
   Is dragged to the Kickapoo Prairie
   Buffalo hunters rescue him
   He identifies himself as a white man (30)


Portions of this article were presented at the 2008 Northern Great Plains Conference in Manitoba, Canada.

(1.) Louis Burns, A History of the Osage People (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004), 101-4. See also William H. Rollings, The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study on the Prairie-Plains (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992), 161-78.

(2.) See also Stephen Aron, American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 158-66. Building upon historian Stephen Aron's research, this article challenges scholars to investigate how intertribalism, Native nationalism, culture, and regionalism have each defined place. Aron's book clearly reveals how competing imperial policies, economies, and federal and state politics defined the state of Missouri as a trans-Appalachian borderland. Despite the rich complexities that emerge in American Confluence, only a very limited portion of this study directly addresses the Ozarks region. The term intertribal has been adopted throughout Indian Country to explain shared cultural traits. Often we see the term used in the construct of the modern-day powwow. These gatherings are often transnational spaces where dances and songs are shared. The cultural, religious, and intellectual properties of these ceremonial acts originate from multiple tribes. This article explores how tribal identity in the nineteenth century was formed and pays close attention to a new theoretical concept of what I term intertribalism. Identity for Native Ozarkian nations was formed out of interdependence, trade, violence, warfare, and a host of influences that both absorbed and deflected acculturation. Cultural exchange, therefore, did not take place in a vacuum; more specifically, it was shaped by the reciprocity of intertribal exchange. This process of intertribalism was so powerful that it "tribalized" the Scotch-Irish and constructed a unique cultural region of the United States--the Ozarks. As a theoretical tool, intertribalism affords a new historical lens in which to analyze region, identity, culture, empire, and colonization as evolutionary themes in American history.

(3.) For more on the commodification of slavery and its transformation on Native communities, see Victoria Smith, Captive Arizona, 1851-1900 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009); Ned Blackhawk, Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the American West (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006); and James Brooks, Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002). A more in-depth study of slavery and intertribalism in the Ozarks is needed. For the purpose of this article Native slave networks are mentioned, but further historical explorations are needed.

(4.) Burns, A History, 104-7.

(5.) According to Dianna Everett, "In 1778 a Cherokee headman named Toquo, or Turkey, petitioned Don Manuel Perez, residing in St. Louis as governor of Spanish Illinois, to '... grant him the favor of giving refuge to his whole nation in the territory of the great king of Spain.' Although Spanish officials feared a mass movement of Indians to the west, Esteban Miro, commandant general of Louisiana, nevertheless approved the emigration of up to six villages" (The Texas Cherokees: A People Between Two Fires, 1819-1840 [Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990], 9). "The Red Divisions of the Ani-gi-du-wah-gi began moving west, to what is now Arkansas, as early as the conclusion of the Seven Years War in 1763.... These groups formed the nucleus of the Western Cherokees, or Old Settlers. In 1817 the United States government officially recognized the Western Cherokees and precisely defined their territory. A stream of emigrants joined them and in 1819 the group numbered around 6,000" (Georgia Rae Leeds, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma [New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1996], 5). Leeds's research implies that the Western Cherokee were comprised of Cherokee who migrated in three waves that consisted of French allies from the Seven Years' War, British supporters during the Revolutionary War, and portions of the Chickamauga Cherokee.

(6.) Robert J. Conley, The Cherokee Nation: A History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006), 159-63.

(7.) C. A. Weslager, The Delaware Indians: A History (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1980), 359-65. See also William E. Foley, The Genesis of Missouri: From Wilderness Outpost to Statehood (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989), 64-65.

(8.) A. M. Gibson, The Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 71-92.

(9.) Gibson, The Kickapoos, 96-101.

(10.) Henry R. Schoolcraft, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, from Potosi, or Mine a Burton, in Missouri Territory, in a South-West Direction, toward the Rocky Mountains; Performed in the Years 1818 and 1819, ed. E Thornton Miller (London, 1821), online version, 2010, Schoolcraft/briefschcrftjourn.htm.

(11.) Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, eds., The Cherokee Removal: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995), 15. See also Theda Perdue, Slavery and the Evolution of Cherokee Society 1540-1866 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979), 97; David Williams, The Georgia Gold Rush: Twenty-Niners, Cherokees, and Gold Fever (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993), 13; Maureen Konkle, Writing Indian Nations: Native Intellectuals and the Politics of Historiography, 1827-1863 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 46; Dale Van Every, Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian (New York: William Morrow, 1966), 96, 106-7; Thurman Wilkins, Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), 191; John R. Finger, The Eastern Band of Cherokees 1819-1900 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984), 8-9; and Tiya Miles, Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 164-65. Each of these works asserts that competition over the control and trade of cotton was a primary economic motivation behind southern state support for federal Indian removal policy. See also Claudio Saunt, Black, White, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

(12.) Conley, The Cherokee Nation, 131-57. See also Everett, The Texas Cherokees, 67.

(13.) C. A. Weslager, The Delaware Indian Westward Migration (Wallingford: Middle Atlantic Press, 1978), 216-17.

(14.) Gibson, The Kickapoos, 86-111.

(15.) Kerby A. Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 157.

(16.) Everett, The Texas Cherokees, 69. For a more detailed account, consult Jack Gregory and Rennard Strickland, Sam Houston with the Cherokees, 1829-1833 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), 33. See also James L. Hale),, Sam Houston (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004); and Marquis James, The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988).

(17.) Gregory and Strickland, Sam Houston with the Cherokees, 28.

(18.) The legend of Blue Jacket as an adopted white was first popularized by late nineteenth-century journalist Thomas Jefferson Larsh and sensationalized how a white man named Marmaduke van Sweringen had become through adoption the famed Shawnee leader Blue Jacket. This story, while false, complicates how Americans viewed Native citizenship and assimilation. For a complete history of the legend, see John Sugden, Blue Jacket: Warrior of the Shawnees (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 1-4; John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), 165-66.

(19.) For more information on Appalachian history, see Dwight B. Billings, Mary Beth Pudup, and Altina L. Waller, eds., Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995).

(20.) Gordon D. Morgan and Peter Kunkel, "Arkansas Ozark Mountain Blacks: An Introduction," Phylon 34, no. 3 (1973): 283-88.

(21.) Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 13-17.

(22.) The Battle of Carthage, Missouri, took place on July 5,1861, and the Battle of Wilson's Creek occurred on August 10, 1861. Bull Run, often regarded as the first battle of the Civil War, took place on July 21, 1861. Shortly after Carthage and Wilson's Creek was the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 8, 1862. Clearly, the intensity and quantity of battles in this region identify the tremendous effect the Civil War had upon the Ozarks.

(23.) Steve Cottrell and Phillip W. Steele, Civil War in the Ozarks (Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 1994), 17-50. For more information on the Civil War, consult James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). See also Annie Heloise Abel, The American Indian in the Civil War, 1862-1865 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992); Annie Heloise Abel, The American Indian and the End of the Confederacy, 1863-1866 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Laurence M. Hauptman, Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War (New York: Free Press, 1995); Steve Cottrell, Civil War in the Indian Territory (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 1995); and Clarissa W. Confer, The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007).

(24.) James W. Parins, Elias Cornelius Boudinot: A Life on the Cherokee Border (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 33-35, 87-103.

(25.) Michael Patrick, "Traditional Ozark Entertainment," Missouri Folklore Society Journal 3 (1981): 55. See also Elmo Igenthron, Indians of the Ozark Plateau (Point Lookout, MO: School of the Ozarks Press, 1970), 153.

(26.) Vance Randolph, Sticks in the Knapsack and Other Ozark Folktales (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), 76-77.

(27.) Vance Randolph, The Talking Turtle and Other Ozark Folktales (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957), 166-69.

(28.) Vance Randolph, Pissing in the Snow and Other Ozark Folktales (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1976), 17-18.

(29.) E. Joan Wilson Miller, "The Ozark Culture Region as Revealed by Traditional Materials," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 58, no. 1 (1968): 61.

(30.) Miller, "The Ozark Culture Region," 59.
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Author:Blansett, Kent
Publication:The American Indian Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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