British, French, and Spanish forces arriving in the Southeast encountered diverse sociopolitical groups with longstanding ties to the land. Yet the peoples of the region were not passive observers; among indigenous groups, there was a gradual shift in power relations that initially favored those groups able to manipulate European governments and pit them against each other. Indigenous communities also had longstanding alliances or disputes in the region, which colonists exploited to their advantage. This was the case especially when the British gained control of the region in 1760s. People were on the move and new alliances were formed.
In the early nineteenth century, encroaching colonial settlements and government designs on natural resources such as farmland and gold resulted in land loss for many groups who had survived earlier hardships. This period coincided with sustained Christian missionary efforts among groups throughout the Southeast. European American observers dubbed the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muskogee, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations the "Five Civilized Tribes," because they felt that these groups best approached the appropriate level of cultural development.
Even these nations eventually were targets for forced removal. Although many missionaries saw this as the only solution, a small number were actively involved in the efforts of nations to retain their homelands. In the 1830s the majority of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muskogee, and Chickasaw nations, who had for the most part preserved their homelands and remained relatively autonomous until that time, were forcibly marched to territories in Oklahoma. These involuntary emigrations resulted in great loss of life, and each has become known as a Trail of Tears, though frequently history texts focus only on the Cherokee Removal. The Seminole nation resisted such efforts, and the U.S. military ultimately succeeded only partially in removing them.
Source: North American Indians: Indians of the Southeast Woodlands
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