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  • Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South by Christopher D. Haveman
  • Steven J. Peach (bio)
Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South. By Christopher D. Haveman. ( Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. Pp. 414. Cloth, $65.00.)

In his first book, Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South, Christopher D. Haveman [End Page 580] examines Creek Indian emigration and relocation in the nineteenth century. Beginning in the late 1820s and accelerating in the 1830s, thousands of white settlers invaded Creek country. With state and federal backing, settlers squatted on Creek lands that Alabama and Georgia claimed for their citizens. Land speculators subsequently defrauded Creeks out of their remaining lands with an arsenal of legal tactics. Altogether, Haveman contends that federal, state, local, and private interests implemented a "systematic program of ethnic cleansing" to remove Creeks from the South (3). Although some scholars suggest that President Andrew Jackson promoted removal to save Indians from "annihilation" by whites, Haveman exposes removal for what it was: a "land grab" (4). Still, the Creeks were not powerless victims. While military authorities forced the Cherokees west "at the end of a bayonet," the vast majority of Creeks "moved west through a combination of coercion and negotiation" (9).

Rivers of Sand tells the story of Creek removal based upon government correspondence, southern newspapers, oral traditions, and the records of private emigration companies, such as Sanford & Company, which won contracts from the federal government to remove Creeks to Indian Territory. Joining other scholars of nineteenth-century Creek history, such as Duane Champagne, Mary Jane Warde, Claudio Saunt, Gary Zellar, and David A. Chang, Haveman seeks to understand how Creeks adapted to wrenching change. To a degree, he probes the oral traditions gathered by the Works Progress Administration to exhume Creek understandings of emigration, coercion, and culture change. His method provides a good example of how written documentation and oral traditions can complement one another in Native American history. Unfortunately, Haveman's analysis of the dissolution of the Creek economy, society, and government following the 1832 Treaty of Cusseta covers the same ground as John T. Ellisor's The Second Creek War: Interethnic Conflict and Collusion on a Collapsing Frontier (Lincoln, NE, 2010). Still, Have-man makes several original contributions to the southern Indian removal scholarship.

First, Haveman devotes his study to the twenty-three thousand Creeks who emigrated to Indian Territory in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. By moving beyond studies that center solely on the sixteen thousand Creeks who were coerced west in 1836 and 1837, he complicates the seemingly straightforward term "removal." To do so, he argues that Creeks trekked west as "voluntary," "forced," or "coerced" migrants (xv, 200). In 1825, [End Page 581] for instance, the U.S.–Creek Treaty of Indian Springs inaugurated a federal voluntary migration program. Since the treaty also ceded Creek lands east of the Chattahoochee River to Georgia, the Lower Creeks who lived there migrated to the Upper Creek lands claimed by the state of Alabama. The Upper Creeks struggled to incorporate the refugees, prompting about 3,500 Creeks to voluntarily move west by 1836. Facing hunger and dislocation, the remaining Lower Creeks launched an armed rebellion known as the "Second Creek War" in the spring of 1836. The conflict fizzled out by summer, in part because the Upper Creeks assisted federal and state forces in apprehending about 2,500 of the Lower Creek rebels. Imprisoned, the defeated rebels were led to Indian Territory by Sanford & Company. These prisoners were the only Creeks to experience what scholars normally call "forced removal" (185). In late 1836 and early 1837, the U.S. "coerced" sixteen thousand Creeks to migrate west (200). The stream of voluntary migrants continued into the early 1840s when one thousand Creeks left the Southeast to "rejoin family members" in Indian Territory (265).

Additionally, Haveman compares federal reports, private contractors' records, and oral traditions to show the endurance of Creek culture. For one, the Creeks continued to listen to their headmen, not white authorities. During the coerced relocations of 1836 and 1837, headmen "deliberately stalled...


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