The Plan of Civilization Was Nothing but a Land Grab 

The Plan of Civilization was created in the early 1790’s to help the Native Americans located in the Southern States, to assimilate into the European white lifestyle.

Or was it?

This plan, while heralded by numerous whites at the time as a way to deal with the “Indian Problem”, would later be discovered for what it truly was.

No matter how you see the history of the Native Americans and the history that surrounded them in this time frame, the full truth about this plan is irrefutable.

It was a land grab plain and simple when you look at it objectively.

The History of the Plan of Civilization

Corn Shucking By Native AmericansCorn Shucking By Native Americans

The history of the Plan of Civilization is very interesting, and if you are truly objective and look at all of the facts, it is actually quite embarrassing.

The reason for this is quite simple; this plan ignored its own basic premise.

Established in the early 1790’s, this plans main objective was to “re-educate” the Native Americas located in the Southeastern United States, in order to open up the land they controlled.

Its major focus was on what is today known as the states of Alabama and Georgia, and the man leading this charge was Benjamin Hawkins.

Mr. Hawkins was the areas Federal Indian agent, and he actually lived with the Creek Indians for several years.

The task assigned to him by the Federal Government was to “train” the Creek nation in the ways of the white European settlers.

This included the skills needed to ranch, farm, as well as basics the white settlers were very good at which, was making clothes for themselves.

The Government wanted the settlers to believe that by adopting the “Plan of Civilization”, the Native Americans, especially the Creeks, would become self-sufficient.

They also believed that by being “trained” in these skills by the whites, they could master them and not need to rely on “hunting” as their main money source.

By implementing this plan, they also believed that Creek nation would adapt to living on small farms like the whites.

By living on small farms and being self-sufficient, they would then be a lot more willing to give up their massive land areas.

Once these massive areas were opened up, it would open the flood gates for white settlers and allow these two soon to be states to grow.

However, their biggest mistake was the belief that in doing this, they could peacefully make “land treaties” with the Creeks for these much-needed lands.

Mr. Hawkins, again who lived with the Creeks from the mid 1790’s until his death in 1816, used money the Creeks had acquired from annuities.

These annuities had been given to the Creeks by some land they had already ceded to the whites, and Mr. Hawkins used this money to make several purchases for the Plan of Civilization. 

These purchases included plows for farming, basic blacksmith tools, cotton gins, spinning wheels, and other basic needed to implement this plan.

However, because the Plan of Civilization was all based-on agriculture, he made the mistake of working with the Creek women, instead of the men.

In the Creek culture at the time, men were in charge of hunting that provided not only meat for their families, it also provided “skins”.

These skins were in turn used to trade with the whites, and the money made from these trades helped with other necessities.

The women in the Creek culture were in charge of farming, and he knew that if he was going to “sell” this plan to the Creek Nation, he had to win over the women.

While women in the Creek culture were not involved in providing for their families, they were in total control of their farming interests.

The Failure of the Plan of Civilization

The Three Sisters Of Native AmericansThe Three Sisters Of Native Americans

The Plan of Civilization was doomed to fail from the beginning, for several reasons, but the main reason was ignoring the basic knowledge of the Creeks.

The Federal Government and those not familiar with Native Americas forgot one very simple but basic tenet when drafting the Plan of Civilization. 

These Native Americans were more than capable of clothing and feeding themselves and had done so for thousands of years with no help from the white man.

However, more important to this discussion, was the fact that they were also becoming quite good at farming on their own.

The Creek nation, like a lot of the tribes located in the southeastern part of the United States, had already begun using and mastering cash crops.

They had also branched out to ranching, and in some areas were raising cattle, horses, as well as hogs.

They had already “learned” these skills from the settlers from the early colonial era and were growing several different types of crops.

This included indigenous corn that helped them survive, as well as sweet potatoes, rice, beans, and squash.

They had also entered into the “commercial” crops such as cotton, which was the major crop in both the areas at the time.

The Creek nation was also very capable and good at finger –weaving to make cloth garments and had been buying “European-manufactured cloth” for years.

They were able to buy these goods from the whites, because of their hunting skills, and their knowledge of hides and hide making from the skin of deer.

Mr. Hawkins knew all of these facts, as he had witnessed them firsthand since his arrival in the area in 1796.

It would later become well documented that almost without exception, every Creek family-owned cattle, horses, and hogs.

In fact, what is not well known or is very seldom talked about is that some of these Creek families owned very large horse and cattle herds.

The Creeks had become so successful at this type of ranching, that they would drive and sell their cattle and hogs in markets located in Pensacola and Mobile.

They then used this money to enhance their skin sales, and some Creek ranchers became quite successful.

Because of this, the Creek nation had developed class divisions like the whites, and some factions of the Creek nation resented this.

While the Plan of Civilization seemed like a good idea to the white politicians at the time, they ignored these glaring facts that already existed among the Creeks.

Mr. Hawkins and the men who created this plan for him to implement, either did not understand or ignored one other very important aspect about the Creek nation.

Men in the Creek nation were born to be hunters, and the women were born tom be farmers.

While some factions of the Creeks could adjust to this, there were others that could not.

In fact, these factions were both embarrassed as well as offended by working in a field, instead of hunting like their ancestors.

These factions also saw that if they gave up hunting, it would mean giving up the land that they controlled, and they wanted nothing to do with this.

These factors firmly believed that they still need to hunt to survive, and these tensions eventually led to a Creek “Civil War”.

Most historians would suggest that it was this Plan of Civilization that led to this Civil War of 1813-1814 and was led by the Red Stick faction of the Creeks.

Also referred to as the Upper Towns faction, the Red Sticks attacked the Creeks that had adopted this plan and destroyed the tools they had been given to implement it.

They also attacked these Lower Towns Creeks that had participated in this plan and killed all of their ranching animals.

This included their cattle, horses, and hogs, as they saw it all as not improving their lives, but instead saw them as symbols of the “white man”.

This then led to the Creek wars, and while this warring faction of the Creek, the Red Sticks were defeated, the whites had had enough of the Creek Nation.

Instead of continuing to try to work with the factions that were friendly and allies with them, they decided to relocate them.

By relocating them to the Oklahoma territories in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, they ended their “Indian Problem’

However, there remains to this day a major problem with this entire process that occurred; the vast majority of the Creek nation was adapting to the Plan of Civilization. 

Instead of punishing the “bad factions’, they punished the entire Creek nation.


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