George W. Harkins

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Main article: Choctaw
George W. Harkins
George Washington Harkins
Born 1810
Choctaw Nation (Mississippi)
Died 1861
Ft Towson, Oklahoma
Residence Pre-removal: Choctaw Nation (Mississippi): Post-removal: Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma)
Nationality Choctaw
Education Cumberland University, Law
Occupation Statesman, Tribal chief
Predecessor Greenwood LeFlore

George W. Harkins (1810–1861) was an attorney and prominent chief of the Choctaw tribe during the Indian removals.[1] Elected as principal chief after the national council deposed his maternal uncle, Greenwood LeFlore, in 1834 Harkins was elected judge of the Red River District in Indian Territory. In 1850, he was chosen as chief of the Apukshunnubbee District (one of three) of the Choctaw Nation, where he served until 1857.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

George Washington Harkins was born into a high-status Choctaw clan through his mother, Louisa "Lusony" LeFlore. His father was John Harkins, a European American. His oldest maternal uncle, traditionally the most important mentor to a boy child, was Greenwood LeFlore, chief of the Choctaw. Harkins learned from both his cultures, but identified as Choctaw first and foremost.

Harkins was educated at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He earned a law degree from Cumberland University.

Marriage and family[edit]

Harkins married a total of three women: Lilly Spring, Mary Wilson and Lily Folsom, whose mother was part-Choctaw and from a prominent clan. He had several children with them who survived to adulthood: Richard, Sarah, Catherine, Ellen, David Folsom "Dave" Harkins (1828 - 1879), Susan (b. 1830- ), Cornelia, Henry Clay Harkins (1833-1886), Loren (b. 1835- ), and Mary Jane Harkins (b. 1837- ). All belonged to their mother's clans and gained status in the tribe through them.[3]


In October 1830, the national council deposed Greenwood LeFlore as chief because of his having signed the treaty for removal. They elected George Harkins, who belonged to the same clan and was a nephew of LeFlore through his mother; in the Choctaw matrilineal system, the mother's clan was most important to a person's status. To proceed with Indian Removal, President Jackson refused to recognize Harkins’s authority with the tribe.[4]

After Indian Removal, Harkins rose in influence in the tribe. In 1834, he was elected judge of the Red River District in Indian Territory. The council of chiefs of the Indian District elected him as principal chief of the District (which was one of three in the Nation), where he served from 1850–1857.[2] The districts represented the longstanding geographic and political divisions that had existed in the tribe in the Southeast. Gradually, in Indian Territory, they became less important.

After the Chickasaw achieved independence as a nation in Indian Territory, separating from the Choctaw in 1856, Harkins lived in the Chickasaw Nation. A well-known speaker, he was called the “Rawhide Orator.”[2]


Harkins' 1831 "Farewell Letter to the American People," denouncing the removal of the Choctaw, was widely published in American newspapers. To this day it is widely regarded as one of the most important documents of Native American history.[5]

Harkins wrote in part:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oklahoma Historical Society, Archives Division, Choctaw – Principal Chief, No. 19457
  2. ^ a b c Leaders and Leading Men of the Indian Territory (Chicago: American Publishers’ Association, 1891).
  3. ^ "Descendants of John Harkins", Family TreeMaker,
  4. ^ The Choctaw of Oklahoma (Durant, OK: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, 2003)
  5. ^ "Farewell Letter to the American People," 1832, The American Indian, December 1926. Reprinted in Great Documents in American Indian History, edited by Wayne Moquin with Charles Van Doren. New York: DaCapo Press. 1995; 151.
  6. ^ George W. Harkins (February 25, 1832). "George W. Harkins to the American People". Independence Hall Association. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 

External links[edit]