The term “Five Civilized Tribes” came into use during the mid-nineteenth century to refer to the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations. Although these Indian tribes had various cultural, political, and economic connections before removal in the 1820s and 1830s, the phrase was most widely used in Indian Territory and Oklahoma. The term was also used to distinguish these five nations from other so-called “wild” Indians who continued to rely on hunting for survival.
Americans, and sometimes American Indians, called the five Southeastern nations “civilized” because they seemed to be assimilating to Anglo-American norms with farming and ranching, centralized governments, literacy, written constitutions, intermarriage with white Americans and widespread acceptance of Christianity. None of these attributes characterized all of the nations or all of the citizens that they encompassed. The Cherokee, for example, established a written language in 1821, a national supreme court in 1822, and a written constitution in 1827. The other four nations had similar, if less noted, developments.
Creek Choctaw Cherokee Seminole Chickasaw
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Grant Foreman, The Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934). Charles Hudson, The Southeastern Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).