Children Follow the Status of Their Mother?
In the past week or two an interesting discussion took place online between freedmen descendants and the descendant of someone who is a citizen by blood in one of the nations of the Five Slave Holding Tribes. In the course of that discussion the concept and rationale for the Dawes Commission, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes enrolled children of freedmen women as freedmen.
Having conducted years of research I was keenly aware that this was not a practice that was written in stone but I did not want to challenge the post because it is rare we get an opportunity to have exchanges with citizens who are on the blood rolls concerning subjects like this.
Since there was no other follow-up to the statement I wanted to wait and let some time pass before I responded to the idea that a person’s race, identity or political status is based on the so called race of their mother. This custom has a direct link to the antebellum system of enslavers enriching themselves by increasing their slave holdings even if the child is a result of that enslaver fathering the child.
The Five Slave Holding Tribes appear to have accepted this practice with their enslaved population and when the Dawes Commission began enrolling individuals for land allotments, they attempted to use this holdover from the era of chattel slavery to place hundreds of men, women and children on Choctaw or Chickasaw Freedmen rolls despite some clear evidence these people possessed and claimed to have blood of their fathers.
|Chickasaw Freedman Card #1071 Front IMPSON, Lucy|
Such was the case with the children of Morris and Lucy IMPSON. Morris was a recognized citizen in the Choctaw nation and though he was married to another woman, Morris fathered three children with Lucy BURRIS a Chickasaw freedwoman. Strange as it may sound Morris’ wife was aware of the children and at one time before her death, she met them and advised them to always listen to their father and do what he says.
|Choctaw by Blood Card #1829 IMPSON, Morris|
It wasn’t until the death of his wife that Morris brought Lucy and their three children to live with him in his home that he shared with his previous wife. It was known throughout their community that Morris was the father of Joshua, Lillie and Frank IMPSON and with Lucy they were known as husband and wife.
When it was time to enroll with the Dawes Commission for their land Morris traveled to Tuscahoma (sic) and because he did not speak a word of English he required the services of an interpreter, Watson BROWN an elderly and respected Choctaw freedman who was working with the commission.
It was at this time Morris was informed his children had already been enrolled by their mother Lucy on her Chickasaw Freedman Card #1071. For reasons known only to Morris, he petition to have his children transferred from the Chickasaw Freedman roll to the Choctaw by Blood roll. Of course the Dawes Commission tried to hold fast to the idea that perhaps like today, children “follow the status of their mother.”
Fortunately Morris was not one to give up and he continued to battle the Dawes Commission, the Choctaw Nation and despite his inability to speak English he challenged this system and demonstrated that his children had every right to be considered Choctaw by blood as he did.
Now that’s not to say it was easy for Morris, the Dawes Commissioners tried every trick in the book to deny Morris and his children a transfer. While interviewing Morris and Lucy they determined that Morris was not married to Lucy at the time of the children’s birth. As stated before Morris was already married making Joshua, Lillie and Frank “illegitimate.”
Figure 3-Applications to Change from Freedmen
to Citizens by Blood (Joe and Dillard Perry cases)
1905-1907 Entry 90C NAID 650073
NARA Fort Worth F—033 page 56
The commissioner at one point implied the children where another man’s children when they discovered Lucy had been living with a man named Jimmie DOCTOR. Lucy through an interpreter herself informed the commissioner that Jimmie DOCTOR was not the father of her children but of course it took another witness to confirm this. That is when the commissioner was informed Jimmie was Lucy’s brother and she was staying at his home with Jimmie and his wife.
Another ploy the commissioner used was the action of “drawing leased district money” as a way of establishing citizenship in the nation. As a citizen Morris was entitled to receive his payment and but Lucy was asked if Morris’ children “draw money” in 1893 and they didn’t. Morris testified he never attempted to draw money for his children in 1893 and this was a method used by the commission to deny an individual’s claim of Choctaw or Chickasaw blood if the record did not reflect them receiving tribal leased district money.
Morris was not to be denied! To the credit of their attorney Chilean RILEY, he demonstrated how the records maintained by the commission provided proof that Joshua, Lillie and Frank should be transferred from the Chickasaw Freedmen Roll to the Choctaw by Blood Roll.
RILEY pointed out on Morris’ field (Dawes) card #1829 it listed him with his daughter Susie Burris IMPSON and there is a notation that states, “No. 1 is the husband of Lucy IMPSON and father of her children on Chickasaw Freedmen card No. 1071” Made on December 9, 1902
The attorney went on to state, on the rear of Chickasaw Freedmen card #1071 it is shown that the father of the three children on the front are the children of Morris IMPSON, Choctaw Indian.
This is very important because in the majority of cases where someone is claiming to have Chickasaw or Choctaw blood there is an indication that whatever the father’s name is, it is followed up with the phrase; Choctaw or Chickasaw Indian.
This is problematic for the Dawes Commission, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations because it is an admission that the person in question has a Choctaw or Chickasaw male parent and therefore possesses “Indian blood.” Clearly Morris was determined to have his children enrolled as Choctaw citizens by blood and with this evidence that in the majority of cases would fail to persuade the commission to transfer these individuals; Morris and Lucy were able to establish their children were the product of a citizen by blood and a freedwoman and still entitled to be placed on the Choctaw by Blood roll.
And yet, here we are in 2019 and for whatever reason, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations are maintaining the antebellum system of racial identification based on the so called race of the mother. They disguise it as the children's status is based on the mother’s clan but if that was the case they need to explain all of those white women who were not Choctaw or Chickasaw who had children by men like Morris and their children were listed as “citizens by blood?”What clan did they belong to?
One thing that has to be mentioned; when you look at the rear of Chickasaw Freedman card #1071, the father of Lucy was noted as a Chickasaw Indian but she was not transferred to the Chickasaw by blood roll, just another tragic example of how these Native American nations held on to the belief that this woman was undeserving of being considered a “Chickasaw.”
|Chickasaw Freedman Card #1071 Rear IMPSON, Lucy|