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Keetoowah Society Laws

I. Keetoowah Laws- April 29, 1859 - Jan. 9, 1866


On April 15, 1858, a small number of leading members of Keetoowahs got together and discussed the affairs of the Cherokees, the purpose and objectives for which they had always stood. They discussed what the final result probably would be caused by the existing state of affairs in the United States. The people of the United States were divided and it was clear they were about to fight. The Cherokees were situated too far in the South and the men were becoming reckless and seemed to be taking sides with the South, but the leading cause was those who owned Negro slaves. It was plain to be seen that Cherokee people without a full understanding were taking sides with the South. It was plain the teachers from the North were objected to and were being forced out of the Cherokee Nation. They believed if the Missionaries were gone all the Cherokee people would go to the side of the South, but they were mistaken. These matters were already understood by the Keetoowahs, and the Keetoowahs felt sure what the final result would be. They knew the relative members of the several states. It seems certain that the states of the South were entering into a conspiracy to abandon the union of states to set up a separate government. Keetoowahs had already studied their means of defense and knew the business followed by them.

We had already studied all about them; we decided best to affiliate with the North. I was then and there appointed to devise some plan that would be best for the Cherokee people and should place us in control of the Cherokee government. We fixed for the next meeting April 20, 1858. On that day I submitted my report or draft of a paper I had written. Also I made some remarks of explanation, an of which was in the dark of night and in the woods. The report was approved and declared to be the law.

We felt confident it would be acceptable to the Cherokee people and we in- formed them and it was accepted allover the Cherokee Nation by confidential lodges.

The following year there was a general convention of the several districts and it was adopted there April 29, 1859, and it appears on the opposite page.

I Budd Gritts

Head Captain Keetoowah




Cherokee Convention

As lovers of the government of the Cherokees, loyal members of Keetoowah society, in the name of the mass of the people, we began to study and investigate the way our Nation was going on, so much different from the long past history of our Keetoowah forefathers who loved and lived as free people and had never surrendered to anybody: They loved one another for they were just like one family, just as if they had been raised from one family. They all came as a unit to their fire to smoke, to aid one another and to protect their government with what little powder and lead they had to use in protecting it.


Now let us Cherokees study the condition of our government. We are separated into two parts and cannot agree and they have taken lead of us. It is clear to see that the Federal Government has two political parties, North and South. South are the people who took our lands away from us which lands the Creator had given to us, where our forefathers were raised. Their greed was the worst kind; they had no love and they are still following us to put their feet on us to get the last land we have. It is plain that they have come in on us secretly, different organizations are with them and they have agreed to help one another in everything. They control our political offices because our masses of the people are not organized.


We therefore now declare and bind ourselves together the same as under our oaths to abide by our laws and assist one another. There must be a confidential captain and lodges in numerous places and confidential meetings, the time and place to be designated by the captains. But we shall continue on making more laws. If any member divulges any secret to any other organization it shall be considered that he gave up thereby his life. But every time they meet they must fully explain what their society stands for. They must have a membership roll in order to reorganize one another.

Cherokee Convention. April 29, 1859.

Approved by the National Convention, April 29, 1859


Vice President

Bud Gritts


National Convention.


It shall be sacred where the brothers hold their meeting; lovers of their government, it shall not be a trifle matter, but they must have happiness, like our forefathers in the olden times that brought joy to anyone that would make a speech to them. When anyone finished his speech they all responded as one voice at once without any hesitancy to anyone. We will revive this practice, and when anyone speaks to us and discusses our laws and when he finishes and says "this is all you shall hear from me," we shall all speak at once without anybody hesitating, with joy, and say "woa."

This law approved September 11, 1860.



We declare this way in our Keetoowah Council. When we have funds in our society there shall be money provided out of our funds to buy medicine for our sick brother.

Be it further resolved that the local captain shall receive benefits from our funds, if anyone of them should not own a horse and have to borrow.


Be it further resolved, that the Head Captains shall be the only ones authorized to appoint anyone to contact any candidates for new membership. Only full blood Cherokees uneducated, and no mixed blood friends, shall be allowed to become a member.



Under the Cherokee Constitution, after confidential conference a number of honored men began to discuss and deliberate and decide to organize secretly among friends whom they love, to help each other in everything. The intention is, first, their constitution and laws are to be most sacred. Second, Federal and Indian Treaties, will be abided by. Third, in the division between North and South, we should not take sides with either. Fourth, we should not become citizens of the United States. Now since these decisions have been made we will from now follow our forefathers' traditions just as they met around their fire and smoked tobacco with joy and loyalty to one another. They had never surrendered. We will also approve same. Our secret society shall be named "Keetoowah." All of the members of our Keetoowah Society shall be like one family. It should be the intention that we must abide with each other in love. Anything which may derive from English or white, such as secret organizations, that the Keetoowahs shall not accept or recognize. Now all above described must be adopted same as under oath to be abided by. We must not surrender under any circumstances until we shall "fall to the ground united." We must lead one another by the hand with all our strength. Our government is being destroyed. We must resort to our bravery to stop it.


We must have Head Captains chosen by members of Keetoowah.


There must be Captains in each district to supervise the district.


And every small lodge must have a captain.


Be it further resolved, the national organization of Keetoowah shall have a right to pass the laws in their confidential Council Meeting if it is for the benefit of the Keetoowah Society and if it does not conflict the constitution. Now if anyone takes our confidence lightly and divulges the work we must relinquish his life.

Tahlequah Cherokee Nation,

September 20, 1860



Few members of men of the society met secretly and discussed the condition of the country where they lived. The name Cherokee was in danger. The Cherokee Nation were about to disintegrate. It seemed intended to drown our Cherokee Nation and destroy it. For that reason we resolve to stop from scattering or forever lose the name of Cherokee. We must love each other and abide by treaties made with the Federal government. We must cherish them in our hearts. Second, we must also abide by the treaties made with other races of people. Third, we must abide by our constitution and laws and uphold the name of the Cherokee Nation. Right here we must endeavor to strengthen our society. Our society must be called Keetoowah. There must be three Head Captains, First, Second, and Third.


The Head Captains shall have the authority to appoint the secretary, also to select district captains who shall hold meetings twice a year in their districts, and they shall hold meetings of their lodges four times a year.


When the head captains meet they shall have the authority to enact laws of the Keetoowah society. District head captains shall have right to enact law when they deem it to be the best which does not conflict their constitution, but they shall not have a right to change this above law,-which was made at the head office. Any new applicants for membership of the society shall be investigated thoroughly by the society as to their habits, dependability, upright character and loyalty to our nation, before he can be admitted to be a member of a strong united Keetoowah society-to assist each other until they fail. But if any of them should join through fraud and divulges the secret works of Keetoowah and is convicted as such shall not reside or live among all of those Keetoowahs who live in the Cherokee Nations.


They must assist in upbuilding to carryon this great declaration. It must not be taken as a trivial matter. It was declared by honored men who live in Cherokee nation. Do you accept it? We the presidents approye it-

Keetoowah Cherokee Convention.

March 5, 1860.



Keetoowah Society shall extend an opportunity to take in new members when they are worthy and approved. The Head Captain shall have authority to administer an obligation, or someone he may authorize, by saying" society is of high standing, we are defender of our nation with our confidential society of Keetoowahs. You are joining a large group of Keetoowahs. You are promising to abide by the laws of this Society during all your life as we have taken our obligation. We are friends. Is it your wish to take obligation?" If the answer is yes, the Head Captain then must announce they be accepted.


Be it resolved further by the Keetoowah Convention, we all had the authority to contact any applicant for membership. This practice will be stopped from now on-Captains shall have authority, or whoever they may authorize, to contact any applicants for membership and they must contact only a full blood Cherokee.

March 5, 1860.



We hereby resolve by our Keetoowah Convention in paying dues to our lodge the script will be acceptable according to its value.

June 20, 1860.



Be it resolved, upon any death of our members, the district captains shall have charge and made a record of it and they shall report same to Keetoowah headquarters every six months.

June 20, 1860.

Chairman--District Convention



Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention that any important record pertaining to Keetoowah society must be written only in Cherokee.

September 20, 1860.

Chairman Convention




Be it resolved by Keetoowah Convention that the Head Captains who are elected by the Keetoowah Members shall not have a right to discuss or divulge the secrets of Keetoowah Society to any who are not members of our Society. The Head Captains must comply with this law. It shall be their duty to discuss and explain what Keetoowah stands for to the district captains who live in Cherokee Nation. If the district Captains are making any mistake upon their duties they shall take pains to explain to them in the most courteous way, and if any lodge should be weak they shall go visit the lodge and if it is impossible for them to go they should authorize someone to go who could explain thoroughly-

Chairman Convention




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention that the Head Captain of the society elected by the Keetoowah Cherokees and district captains and small captains who reside in different parts shall be captains continued during good behavior and good works, but if they should fail to do their duty could be expelled. If there shall be a vacancy caused by death or otherwise, the captains shall have the authority to fill the vacancy.

September 20, 1860.

Chairman Convention




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, if any Keetoowah should get sick, or unable to take care of himself, all members of Keetoowah society who live nearby, shall look after him and visit him. And in case of the death of any Keetoowah they immediately must notify those that live afar and those that receive the message, it shall be their duty to come. All brother Keetoowahs shall march in line to the grave following the dead. And each shall take a shovel full of dirt and put it into the grave.

September 20, 1860.

Chairman Convention




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, from now on the small captains shall have charge of the laws and shall take care of them as securely as they are able to. If some person who is a member of any other lodge should want to borrow the laws, they should refuse to lend it. When the small captains hold meetings of their lodges they shall read all the laws and they shall explain fully to all the members of Keetoowah. Be it further resolved that the Head Captains shall have the authority to furnish laws to small captains, if they do not have them in their district.

December 18, 1860.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, when the small captains shall hold meetings it shall be the duty of the members to bring tobacco to smoke, so all of the Keetoowah members may smoke of them, but will not require just what size of tobacco they should bring.

December 18, 1860.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention from now on that there shall be a treasurer in each district and the district captain shall have authority to appoint a treasurer in his district. The district treasurer shall make reports or turn over the money to the district captain often.

December 18,1860.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah convention, that the secretary of the convention shall be paid one dollar for all of the services rendered by him during the meeting and the money shall be paid out of the Keetoowah fund.

December 18, 1860.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, when the district captains are in convention if over half of the members are present they shall notify the head captain that they are ready to transact business, and it shall be the duty of the head captains to deliver a message setting forth the necessary laws to be enacted by the district captains. When the district captains have enacted the laws they must report back to the head captains their acts, then the head captains shall study and examine the laws enacted by the law making body.

March 15, 1860.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, if any Keetoowah member shall remove from one district to another district he shall report to his small captain and show that he is an active member of the district; He shall ask a recommendation from his captain to any other lodge in another district. If he has not shown active interest he shall be given a sealed letter reporting his personal standing and reputation to the district captains in the other district. When the report is received by the other district captains and if they are satisfied with the report they may accept him just like he was a new member of their lodge.

March 5, 1861.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, if any urgent and important message from the chief of the Cherokee Nation should be received by Head Captains to be looked into, it shall be duty of the head captains to send out the message to all parts of the Cherokee Nation. If anyone, or anyone of us Keetoowah is called upon or chosen to take a message for them he shall will- ingly without hesitancy respond to the responsibility. We shall abide by the wishes of our head captains and remember our obligations as Keetoowahs and to do our part to the best of our ability.

July 15, 1861.

Chairman of the Meeting




Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, when the meeting begins they shall appoint a water carrier during the meeting and he shall be paid one dollar for his services.

January 8, 1866.

Chairman of the Meeting


I Approve



Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, as soon as this law is enacted and shall become a law it will be their duty according to law to visit all the lodges in their respective districts and explain the Keetoowah laws.

Be it further resolved by the Keetoowah convention, that each district captain shall name a small lodge and make up a roll of names of the members of that lodge and report same to the head captains at first meeting held by Keetoowah Convention. The District Captain, or the Secretary, shall call the names on the roll.

Tahlequah Cherokee Nation

January 9, 1866.



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