Camp Napoleon Council

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The Camp Napoleon Council was a meeting of a number of indigenous tribes in Oklahoma that resulted in an intertribal compact. The council was held at Cottonwood Camp on May 24, 1865 near present-day Verden in Grady County, Oklahoma.[1]

Background[edit]

By 1865, the Civil War had turned decisively against the Confederate States of America (CSA). Until then the CSA had promised military support in order to maintain Indian Territory as a buffer between Texas and the United States. However, after 1864, the CSA had withdrawn its military forces and supplies to defend its land east of the Mississippi River. Except for the Native American troops serving the Confederate Army under General Stand Watie, the shooting war was over in Indian Territory. Pro-Confederate Indians agreed that a council of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Prairie Indians and the Plains Indians should be held to end intertribal hostilities[a] and to negotiate terms for their return to the United States.[2] The government of Texas was concerned about security along its northern border, and wanted the tribes living in Indian Territory to help protect against Union incursions. Accordingly, they wanted their own representatives (either Albert Pike or Douglas H. Cooper) to attend the meeting.[1][b]

The council was originally scheduled to meet on May 14, 1865, at Council Grove (near present-day Oklahoma City). [c] The council was rescheduled to May 26, 1865 and relocated to Camp Napoleon. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the site of Camp Napoleon was on the Washita River, and covered the whole area of the present day city of Verden,[1][d] after rumors of an impending Union attack on the original meeting.[1]

Purpose of the council[edit]

The fortunes of war had turned irretrievably against the Confederate States of America. The Native American tribes in Indian Territory that the Confederates were either unwilling or unable to fulfill the commitments they had made to the tribes earlier in the war. The purpose of the Camp Napoleon Council was to draft an agreement that would present a united front of the participating tribes as they negotiated their return to the United States.[4]

Camp Napoleon Compact[edit]

More than a dozen tribes in Indian Territory agreed to discontinue fighting with each other and agreed to form a confederation to maintain the integrity of Indian Territory. They also elected delegates to go to Washington to work out the details with the government. The result of the meeting included the preparation of a document (compact) that described the basic principles the tribes wanted incorporated in any post-war treaties with the United States government. Signers of the Compact included representatives of the following nations: Cherokee Nation, Creek Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickashaw Nation, Seminole Nation, Reserve Caddo Nation, Osage Nation, Reserve Comanche Band, Kiowa Nation, Arapahoe Nation, Cheyenne Nation, Lapan Band of Opaches, Noconee Band of Comanche Nation, Cochahkah Band Comanches, Tinnawith Band Comanches, Yampucka Band of Comanches, Nooches Band of Commanches, Nooches Band of Commanches.[1]

Aftermath[edit]

At the end of the meeting, the council appointed commissioners (no more than five for each tribe) to attend a conference with the U.S. government at Washington D. C., at which the results of the Camp Napoleon Council would be presented and discussed. However, the U.S. government refused to treat with such a large group representing so many tribes. Furthermore the government regarded the Camp Napoleon meeting as unofficial and unauthorized. The President later called for a meeting at Fort Smith (called the Fort Smith Council), which was held in September, 1865.[5]

From the standpoint of the Indians, the Camp Napoleon Council and its compact was a significant step, because this action mitigated intertribal warfare after the Civil War. However, it had no effect on ameliorating the U.S. government policy to punish all those tribes who were considered hostile for having supported the cause of the Confederacy.

In 1931, the Oklahoma College for Women erected a commemorative marker at the Camp Napoleon site, on the school ground at State Highway 62. The inscription reads:[1]

CAMP NAPOLEON COUNCIL

"Here on May 26, 1865 a compact was entered into between the Confederate Indian Tribes and the Prairie Indian Tribes
That the ancient council fires shall be kept kindled and blazing."

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ One of the most egregious examples of inter-tribal warfare in Indian Territory during the Civil War was the Tonkawa Massacre of 1862.[1]
  2. ^ Lewis reported that Texas representatives did attend the meeting, but took no active role.[1]
  3. ^ However, the council organizers learned that Union troops in the vicinity planned to disrupt the meeting.[3]
  4. ^ Lewis wrote that the reason Camp Napoleon received its name was unknown.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lewis, Anna (December 1931). "Camp Napoleon". Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 9 No. 4. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved January 4, 2016. 
  2. ^ La Vere, David. Contrary Neighbors:Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory. 2000. University of Oklahoma Press. Available on Google Books. Accessed January 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Gibson, Arrell Morgan (1981). Oklahoma, a History of Five Centuries (2nd ed.). p. 127. ISBN 978-0-8061-1758-4. Retrieved November 12, 2016. 
  4. ^ Alan C. Downs. ""Camp Napoleon Council," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed August 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Perry, Dan W. "A Foreordained Commonwealth", Chronicles of Oklahoma 14:1 (March 1936) 22-48 (retrieved February 5, 2017)

External links[edit]