During the antebellum years the United States government "relocated" many eastern Indian tribes to an area west of the Mississippi River designated the Indian Territory. This vast tract initially included parts of Arkansas and Kansas, but by the middle of the nineteenth century it had been reduced to roughly present-day Oklahoma. When the Civil War erupted the United States withdrew its Indian agents and military forces from Fort Smith, Fort Washita, and other posts inside the Indian Territory. The Confederacy moved quickly to fill this vacuum and establish diplomatic and military relations with the Indians.
Albert Pike, Confederate Commissioner of Indian Affairs, negotiated treaties of alliance with the so-called Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles. The treaties required the Indians to support Confederate war aims and raise military forces for their own defense. The Confederacy pledged to arm, equip, and pay these forces and provide reinforcements as needed. The Confederacy also promised that the Indians would not be called upon to operate outside the boundaries of the Indian Territory. From the Confederate perspective, the treaties secured the western boundary of the new nation and allowed the government in Richmond to concentrate on other fronts.
Support for the treaties in the Indian Territory was far from unanimous because it was not clear how the Indians would benefit from an alliance with the Confederacy. The vast majority of Indians had no ideological or emotional attachment to either the United States or the Confederacy and simply wanted to be left alone. Many were wary, and rightfully so, of being dragged into a conflict not of their own making. Public opinion was complicated by the tangle of politics and personal allegiances within each tribe. The Cherokees, for example, were still bitterly divided over the decision to abandon their traditional lands in the east decades earlier. The two feuding factions disagreed violently about everything, including which side to support in the Civil War.