Controversy surrounded the carving out of Comanche County in 1901 from the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, which was formed by treaty between the U.S. government and the tribal nations in 1867 at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas.
The fight for the Great Plains had officially been brewing since the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which was a land deal between the U.S. and France. For $15 million, the United States acquired about 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River. With the westward expansion that followed, the land wars intensified.
Actually, the transaction had caused concern for President Thomas Jefferson, as France and Spain fought for control of land on the North American continent for hundreds of years.
“This little event, of France possessing herself of Louisiana … is the embryo of a tornado which will burst on the countries on both shores of the Atlantic and involve in its effects their highest destinies,” Jefferson wrote in an April 1802 letter to a French-American government official. It was reported that Spain would retrocede the territory in question back to France.
Despite the question of ownership, the United States proceeded with the purchase. Within a week of Jefferson’s first letter, he wrote to the U.S. Minister of France, Robert Livingston, “… every eye in the U.S. is now fixed on this affair of Louisiana, perhaps nothing since the revolutionary war has produced more uneasy sensations through the body of the nation.”
Setting the stage for the Trail of Tears, which was forced Indian removal in the 1830s and 1840s from their ancestral lands in the southeastern part of the U.S., was the infamous Yazoo Land Act in the state of Georgia. A historical marker in Georgia simply calls it the “Yazoo Fraud.” It involved the Georgia legislature’s sale of 35,000,000 acres of land in the Yazoo River-area for $500,000 to four land companies. Many of the legislators owned shares in these companies.
The Yazoo Land Act bill authorized the sale of millions of acres that had been granted to the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes by the federal government. It was so controversial that the State of Georgia turned over the responsibility of settling the land claims to the federal government. This birthed the “Compact of 1802,” which enabled Georgia to cede all of its Mississippi and Alabama territories to the federal government in exchange for $1.25 million and a promise to extinguish all Indian land titles in Georgia.
“In order to remove every ground of difference possible with our Indian neighbors, I have proceeded in the work of settling with them and marking the boundaries between us,” President Jefferson said in his second inaugural address to the nation in 1802. “A prompt settlement, too, of all existing rights and claims within this territory presents itself as a preliminary operation."
In 1802, Indian lands were signed away in this region without any approval sought from the Cherokee Nation. A struggle ensued over the jurisdiction of this land until 1822, when a congressional committee called for Indian land titles in Georgia to be extinguished. President Jefferson supported the measure but said the Cherokees had the right to refuse and that he didn’t have the power to forcibly remove them.
The presidential opinion changed seven years later when Andrew Jackson took office in 1829, and plans were made to forcibly remove these tribes to the territory now known as Oklahoma.
Editor’s Note: This story will be continued next week, to include the Trail of Tears, Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, formation of KCA Reservation and designation of Comanche County. Sources for this article also include: The Oklahoma Historical Society, okhistory.org; britannica.com; monticello.org, “The Louisiana Purchase”; stateoftheunionhistory.com; and georgiahistory.com.