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  American HistoryIndians of North AmericaGeneral History
Five Civilized Tribes

a term that came into use during the mid-nineteenth century to refer to the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chicasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations

emblems of each of the Five Civilized Tribes

Although the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chicasaw. Creek, and Seminole originally had quite different political, religious, and economic systems, they came to be collectively called "Civilized" because they seemed to adopt "civilized ways" much more readily than other tribes. The term indicated the adoption of horticulture and animal husbandry, European-style houses, Christianity, American-style government complete with written constitution, intermarriage with "whites," literacy, participation in a market economy, and even the owning of slaves. Although no single tribe embraced all of those "civilized" traits, the term served to distinguish those five nations from other tribes that still relied on hunting for survival.

Despite being considered civilized by "whites," all five of these tribes were forced to leave their native lands in the southeastern United States because they inhabited lands coveted by "white" settlers. Although some of the members of these tribes voluntarily exchanged their native lands for land in what is now Oklahoma, the majority were forcibly removed in the 1830's, leading to an era known as the "Trail of Tears."

Trail of Tears

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This page was last updated on 09/08/2015.

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