Prior to 1823, the Seminoles did not negotiate any official agreements with the U.S. government. The Creek Indians of Alabama and Georgia signed treaties with the U.S. in the 1790s-1830s that impacted the Seminoles, but the Seminoles were not principal parties in these deliberations.
The three treaties included here represent the most important agreements between the U.S. and the Seminoles in Florida. The impetuses for all three agreements were ongoing conflicts over land, slavery, and trade.
The Treaty of Camp Moultrie (1823), also known as Moultrie Creek, came on the heels of the cession of Florida to the U.S. from Spain in 1821. The primary goal of this treaty was to obtain Seminole lands in North Florida desired for the spread of plantation slavery. The treaty created a reservation in Central Florida and provided goods, tools, and an annuity to help relocate the Seminoles.
Other issues addressed in the treaty included escaped slaves and Seminole trade with Cuba and the Bahamas. The U.S. hoped to use the treaty to force the Seminoles to turn over escaped slaves and curb British and Spanish commerce along the extensive Florida coast.
In an article added to the treaty, bands known as the Apalachicola Indians were allowed to remain on their lands near the Apalachicola River. This group had previously served the U.S. government during the First Seminole War; the additional article was a reward for their loyalty.
Many Seminoles opposed this and later treaties. The U.S. government failed to adequately provide for Seminole welfare and could not secure the boundaries of the reservation. The condition of the land in Central Florida created problems for Seminole herding and planting; drought conditions in the late 1820s exacerbated these problems.
The Treaty of Payne’s Landing (1832, ratified 1834) resulted from the Indian Removal Act passed by Congress in 1830. The Act required all Native Americans living in the east to migrate west of the Mississippi River. Each group would negotiate the terms of their removal and receive lands in the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). The Seminole removal treaty, negotiated at Payne’s Landing, allowed for a delegation of leaders to travel west and survey the assigned lands prior to agreeing on removal.
The delegation of Seminole leaders reached the Indian Territory in 1832. They surveyed the lands assigned to them and met with U.S. government officials at Fort Gibson, Arkansas territory. There, at Fort Gibson, the Americans coerced the Seminole delegation into affirming the terms of removal discussed at Payne’s Landing. These strong-arm tactics resulted in the Treaty of Fort Gibson (ratified 1834). This treaty set 1835 as the date for Seminole emigration. When news of the treaty reached Florida, many Seminoles opposed the agreement and made plans to resist removal. Seminole leaders who supposedly signed the treaty claimed that they were tricked.
In late 1835, Seminole warriors began a series of attacks designed to let the Americans know how they felt about these treaties. Seminole opposition to removal ignited the Second and Third Seminole Wars.
Document analysis is the first step in working with primary sources. Teach your students to think through primary source documents for contextual understanding and to extract information to make informed judgments. The document analysis worksheets created by the National Archives and Records Administration are in the public domain.