Chief George Washington Harkins of the Choctaw Nation

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George Washington Harkins, Chief to the Choctaw Nation

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Mississippi, United States
Death: Died in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, United States
Place of Burial: Fort Towson, Choctaw County, Oklahoma, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Harkins and Louisa Harkins
Husband of Selina Harkins and Lily Harkins
Father of Susan Harkins; Louise Ellen Harkins; Sarah A. Harkins; Cornelia Harkins; Catherine Harkins and 10 others
Brother of Willis John Harkins; Richard Harkins; Louisa Harkins and James William Harkins

Managed by: Erin Spiceland
Last Updated:

About Chief George Washington Harkins of the Choctaw Nation

Chief George W. Harkins (1810-1861) was born at or near Frenchman's Camp on the Pearl river in the old Choctaw Nation, Mississippi. The date and other circumstances around his death are unknown. It is known he was deceased by October 1861 when his heirs were awarded 1/3 of a claim that he was entitled to.

His father John Harkins an Irish American. His mother Louisa Leflore, half sister to Chief Greenwood Leflore.

         

Chief George was educated at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky. Shortly after the signing of the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Soon to be Chief George and his brother-in-law Robert Folsom departed with a party to explore the new country. In 1830 While on this journey George was elected by the Nation to replace his uncle Greenwoon Leflore as Chief. The US government simply refused to recognize the election and continued to deal only with the old chiefs.

         

Chief George lead a party of about 600 Choctaws along with Joel H. Nail and his party of 564 Choctaw on the steamships Talma and Cleopatra This is now known as the trail of Tears. When they reached Natchez, Miss. Chief George wrote the now famous Farewell letter to the American people denouncing the removel of the Choctaws.

They finally reached Fort Towson on Feb 11, 1832. Their journey covered about 600 miles taking about 13 weeks through one of the worst winters in the 19th century.

All of this took place before his 23 birthday. In 1850 after Thomas Leflore retired, George was again elected Chief of the Apuckshunnbbee Dristrict. He served two terms, 1850 and 1854.

When the Skullyville Constitution was adopted in 1856 , he argued there actions were basically unconstitutional, this challenge set the stage for a major crisis both within the Choctaw Nation and the U.S. government. This lead to the forming of what was called the Doaksville Constitution headed up by Harkins and was approved by the voters in 1860.

He lived at Doaksville and it is presumed that he died there. Chief George dissapears from history in 1861 in a cloak of mystery. It is not known where, when or how he died. No Grave site has been found.

Chief George's 1st marriage was to Lily Folsom, daughter of Col David Folsom Chief to the Choctaw in Mississippi and Rhoda Nail. His 2nd marriage was to Salina Gardner. There were a total of 11 children between the two marriages.

It is also said he married Laris Narcissy Leflore and had two children. No evidence of this marriage has been found.

As to his birth date we have this information recorded in the Chronicles of Oklahoma.

The deposition of George W. Harkins, taken on May 16, 1854, stated: I am 44 years old and I reside 6 miles from Doaksville in Apuckshunubbi District of the Choctaw Nation. I am well acquainted with the parties to this suit. As I have been born and raised among the Choctaws, I think my opportunities have been pretty good to know what are the customs and laws of the Choctaws. I am at this time holding the office of Chief.

The Choctaws in Oklahoma from tribe to Nation ,1855-1970 chapter 4

Chronicles of OK vol 17 no.1 page 14

Susan M. Arkeketa Collection

May issue 2010 Bishinik ,Bill Saint

http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v033/v033p541.pdf

The following biographical information about my 2nd great, grandfather is found in Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Harkins

George Washington Harkins

Born: 1810, Choctaw Nation (Mississippi) Died: 1861, Ft Towson, Choctaw Nation (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: 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: 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]


CAREER: 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 Chicksaw 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]


INFLUENCE: 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: "It is with considerable diffidence that I attempt to address the American people, knowing and feeling sensibly my incompetency; and believing that your highly and well improved minds would not be well entertained by the address of a Choctaw ... We were hedged in by two evils, and we chose that which we thought the least. Yet we could not recognize the right that the state of Mississippi had assumed, to legislate for us. Although the legislature of the state were qualified to make laws for their own citizens, that did not qualify them to become law makers to a people that were so dissimilar in manners and customs as the Choctaws are to the Mississippians. Admitting that they understood the people, could they remove that mountain of prejudice that has ever obstructed the streams of justice, and prevent their salutary influence from reaching my devoted countrymen. We as Choctaws rather chose to suffer and be free, than live under the degrading influence of laws, which our voice could not be heard in their formation. Much as the state of Mississippi has wronged us, I cannot find in my heart any other sentiment than an ardent wish for her prosperity and happiness. I could cheerfully hope, that those of another age and generation may not feel the effects of those oppressive measures that have been so illiberally dealt out to us; and that peace and happiness may be their reward. Amid the gloom and horrors of the present separation, we are cheered with a hope that ere long we shall reach our destined land, and that nothing short of the basest acts of treachery will ever be able to wrest it from us, and that we may live free. Although your ancestors won freedom on the field of danger and glory, our ancestors owned it as their birthright, and we have had to purchase it from you as the vilest slaves buy their freedom." --George W. Harkins, George W. Harkins to the American People[6]

==

1831 - December - George W. Harkins to the American People Back to ANPA Trail of Tears Research homepage.

Back to ANPA Letters - Indian Removal through Arkansas, 1830-1849 homepage

George W. Harkins to the American People

         It is with considerable diffidence that I attempt to address the American people, knowing and feeling sensibly my incompetency; and believing that your highly and well improved minds would not be well entertained by the address of a Choctaw.  But having determined to emigrate west of the Mississippi river this fall, I have thought proper in bidding you farewell to make a few remarks expressive of my views, and the feelings that actuate me on the subject of our removal.  Believing that our all is at stake and knowing that you readily sympathize with the distressed of every country, I confidently throw myself upon your indulgence and ask you to listen patiently.  I do not arrogate to myself the prerogative of deciding upon the expediency of the late treaty, yet I feel bound as a Choctaw, to give a distinct expression of my feelings on that interesting, (and to the Choctaws), all important subject.  We were hedged in by two evils, and we chose that which we thought the least.  Yet we could not recognize the right that the state of Mississippi had assumed, to legislate for us.-Although the legislature of the state were qualified to make laws for their own citizens, that did not qualify them to become law makers to a people that were so dissimilar in manners and customs as the Choctaws are to the Mississippians.  Admitting that they understood the people, could they remove that mountain of prejudice that has ever obstructed the streams of justice, and prevent their salutary influence from reaching my devoted countrymen.  We as Choctaws rather chose to suffer and be free, than live under the degrading influence of laws, which our voice could not be heard in their formation.
         Much as the state of Mississippi has wronged us, I cannot find in my heart any other sentiment than an ardent wish for her prosperity and happiness.
         I could cheerfully hope, that those of another age and generation may not feel the effects of those oppressive measures that have been so illiberally dealt out to us; and that peace and happiness may be their reward.  Amid the gloom and horrors of the present separation, we are cheered with a hope that ere long we shall reach our destined land, and that nothing short of the basest acts of treachery will ever be able to wrest it from us, and that we may live free.  Although your ancestors won freedom on the field of danger and glory, our ancestors owned it as their birthright, and we have had to purchase it from you as the vilest slaves buy their freedom.
         Yet it is said that our present movements are our own voluntary acts-such is not the case.  We found ourselves like a benighted stranger, following false guides, until he was surrounded on every side, with fire and water.  The fire was certain destruction, and a feeble hope was left him of escaping by water.  A distant view of the opposite shore encourages the hope; to remain would be inevitable annihilation.  Who would hesitate, or who would say that his plunging into the water was his own voluntary act?  Painful in the extreme is the mandate of our expulsion.  We regret that it should proceed from the mouth of our professed friend, for whom our blood was co-mingled with that of his bravest warriors, on the field of danger and death.
         But such is the instability of professions.  The man who said that he would plant a stake and draw a line around us, that never should be passed, was the first to say he could not guard the lines, and drew up the stake and wiped out all traces of the line.  I will not conceal from you my fears, that the present grounds may be removed.  I have my foreboding; who of us can tell after witnessing what has already been done, what the next force may be.  I ask you in the name of justice, for repose for myself and for my injured people.  Let us alone-we will not harm you, we want rest.  We hope, in the name of justice, that another outrage may never be committed against us, and that we may for the future be cared for as children, and not driven about as beasts, which are benefited by a change of pasture.
         Taking an example from the American government, and knowing the happiness which its citizens enjoy under the influence of mild republican institutions, it is the intention of our countrymen to form a government assimilated to that of our white brethren in the United States, as nearly as their condition will permit.  We know that in order to protect the rights and secure the liberties of the people, no government approximates so nearly to perfection as the one to which we have alluded.  As east of the Mississippi we have been friends, so west we will cherish the same feelings with additional fervour; and although we may be removed to the desert, still we shall look with fond regard, upon those who have promised us their protection.  Let that feeling be reciprocated.
         Friends, my attachment to my native land was strong-that cord is now broken; and we must go forth as wanderers in a strange land!  I must go-Let me entreat you to regard us with feelings of kindness, and when the hand of oppression is stretched against us, let me hope that a warning voice may be heard from every part of the United States, filling the mountains and valleys will echo, and say stop, you have no power, we are the sovereign people, and our friends shall no more be disturbed.  We ask you for nothing, that is incompatible with your other duties.
         We go forth sorrowful, knowing that wrong has been done.  Will you extend to us your sympathizing regards until all traces of disagreeable oppositions are obliterated, and we again shall have confidence in the professions of our white brethren.  Here is the land of our progenitors, and here are their bones; they left them as a sacred deposit, and we have been compelled to venerate its trust; it dear to us,  yet we cannot stay, my people is dear to me, with them I must go.  Could I stay and forget them and leave them to struggle alone, unaided, unfriended, and forgotten, by our great father?  I should then be unworthy the name of a Choctaw, and be a disgrace to my blood.  I must go with them; my destiny is cast among the Choctaw people.  If they suffer, so will I; if they prosper, then will I rejoice.  Let me again ask you to regard us with feelings of kindness.  Yours , with respect, GEORGE W. HARKINS.

Source: Niles’ Register, February 25, 1832, 41:480.

Note: Harkins’ letter was reprinted from a paper in Natchez, Mississippi. Preceding it was a prefatory statement from that paper, titled “The Choctaw’s Lament,” as follows:

“In our paper today, will be found an address to the American people, by George W. Harkins, the present chief of the Choctaw nation. Capt. Harkins, is the nephew, and successor in office of Greenwood Laflour [sic]; and is now on his way with a large body of people, to their new residence in the west. The address was hastily written with a pencil, on board of the steam boat Huron, the day before his arrival at our landing. The time was so short as to afford Capt. Harkins no opportunity to send us a revised sheet.

“To the speculators and land jobbers, whose grasping avarice force this people from their homes and the graves of their forefathers, the language of this address will be unintelligible; but there are others, who, we presume, are not entirely devoid of shame, and to whom some allusion is made, who will feel the full force of its mild, but pointed rebuke.”
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Chief George Washington Harkins of the Choctaw Nation's Timeline

1810
1810
Mississippi, United States
1820
1820
Age 10
1830
1830
Age 20
__
1831
September 4, 1831
Age 21
Mississippi, United States
1833
December 1833
Age 23
1835
1835
Age 25
1842
1842
Age 32
1850
1850
Age 40
1850
Age 40
1851
1851
Age 41
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