It has always been a curious argument heard over the years that “race” was not a part of citizenship among the so called Five Civilized Tribes of Southeastern Indians known as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole nations. It is curious because most of the documentation flies in the face of that argument.
The citizens in the nation will speak of their history of adopting people into the nation and will give some isolated example of how an individual was embraced by their tribe to demonstrate they were adhering to some ancient practice that is a part of their culture. The practice appears to be rare for black folk when you look at the record of the five slave holding tribes. Understandably, being southern, plantation slave owning tribes, race was every bit of their makeup.
Take for example the 1896 Applications for citizenship in the four “mother tribes” Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek. This little used record set also known as M1650 at the National Archives contains many applications of people attempting to become citizens in the nation of their birth but as one should expect, race was a factor when the Department of the Interior and its employee’s began the process of “racial” categorization at least in the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes. Their attorneys included language that spoke emphatically on the subject of racial prejudice in each file where someone with mixed African-Native ancestry applied for citizenship.
The records were separated into distinct categories of citizenship; intermarried white, freedmen and “by blood.” Even the applications that were submitted for “by blood” citizenship would receive a notation on them that ensured the applicant would be classified by race and in the case of the Chickasaw nation, not entitled to citizenship if the individual had a mother who was of “African” descent.
During the Dawes enrollment and land allotment process in which the Dawes Commission was mandated to construct rolls of individuals in distinct categories according to their “racial classification” a sordid and convoluted process was utilized in my opinion to minimize the amount of land that would be granted to anyone of “discernable” African dissent.
As genealogist we recognize the fact that a child is the product of both parents and two sets of grandparents and so on… What is so unarguably ridiculous is the method the Dawes Commission and the Five Slave Holding Tribes contrived to establish that a person is considered the race of their mother and their father’s contribution should not be used to determine whether an individuals possessed “Indian blood.”
In my next installment I will illustrate my point with additional documenatation too illustrate how the science of genealogy was corrupted to prevent thousands of people from being "correctly and legally" described as possessing "Indian blood."