Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Community, Culture & Identity: Nancy SHIELDS, Choctaw by Blood-African Indian…part 2

When I began this series on the “Choctaw by Blood African-Indians” on the Dawes Roll, I thought it would contradict the statement by Tams BIXBY that there were “numerous” cases on the roll in the Choctaw Nation. What I’m discovering is that in fact there may have been a lot more than meets the eye in regards to the classification of "Negro-Indian."

In my opinion Tams BIXBY was trying to justify the Five tribes and Dawes Commission excluding individuals who also possessed Choctaw or Indian blood from their father. He did this by affirming the "numerous" enrollment cases of individuals who possessed Choctaw or Indian blood through their mother and made the children "superior" to the children by a woman of African descent.

It was and is that attitude that ignores a basic principle of geneaolgy and science; we possess the "blood and DNA" of both parents! This practice was nothing more than continuing the "stigma" of slavery for the children of Indian men and Black women. Their decisions may have also had the effect of separating families literally and figuratively by blood.

You will recall my last subject Nancy ISHCOMER-SHIELDS was the product of an Indian mother and a “colored” man by the name of Nelson ISHCOMER.

It was unfortunate that both of Nancy’s parents were deceased at the time of the Dawes enrollment process but I was fortunate to have access to the 1885 Choctaw Census “Indians only” that provided some very important information on her parents.

Locating this information required some old fashion genealogy tricks to uncover the two but I’m fairly confident I have identified Nancy’s father in 1885. Again as a genealogist I had to proceed on the available information to narrow my search. The information on Nancy’s enrollment card provided many leads.

From the card I knew she resided in Jacks Fork County in Atoka, Indian Territory circa 1899. Her card states Nancy and her children received their 1893 tribal enrollment payment in Gaines County, Indian Territory. The card further informs me about Nancy’s mother Martha ISHCOMER, who resided in Blue County, Indian Territory Choctaw Nation. Information on the card tells me her husband was Jack SHIELDS, a “colored man” demonstrating Nancy may have begun to identify herself and her children both as Choctaw or “Negro-Indians” as Tams BIXBY would describe them.

Now oddly enough, there were other individuals enrolled by the Dawes Commission who had a father by the name of Nelson ISHCOMER but on their cards Nelson was “described” as a Choctaw Indian and these enrollee’s were listed as “full blood!”

You know my flag went up on this one but I had to dig to determine if there was more than one Nelson ISHCOMER and if these were Nancy’s siblings?

It is practically impossible for us today to say what the situation was for this family and we can only get a glimpse of their life through the documents available without some oral or written history that is in the hands of present day family members. However, a lot can be glean from what is available and this family was quite surprising in what information I was able to gather in an effort to determine how they navigated the complex social and cultural landscape that was Indian Territory and “Little Dixie” Oklahoma.

As I stated there were other individuals listed with the surname of ISHCOMER which amounted to only ten people on the final Dawes Roll. Clearly anyone with this name is highly likely to be related but I know better than to assume information that is not corroborated by documentation “as a genealogist” SIGH!

As you can see, I have some issues to resolve concerning these families but if I’m right about Nelson ISHCOMER, somebody has got some “‘splainin’ to do!”

I mentioned earlier how the 1885 Choctaw “Indian Only” Census could be useful in determining the family of ISH-COMER and SHIELDS. In order to identify family members as genealogist and family historians, we utilize the information we have and work backwards to locate family members. Utilizing that principle I took the names of everyone named ISH-COMER and looked for them approximately fifteen years earlier in the 1885 census.

Recall again when I discussed the area where Nancy and Jack SHIELDS lived being in Atoka, Indian Territory in Jack Forks county. Nancy was also shown to have been living in Gaines County in 1893. When you look at the four cards for the other ISHCOMER’S their cards have them living in areas known as Alikchi, Indian Territory in Nashoba County; as well as Lukfata, Indian Territory in Bok-tuklo County. The information required me to look in all of these counties in an effort to locate the parents of everyone and attempt to corroborate a connection to each other.

The fourteen year span between the 1885 census and the Dawes enrollment rolls meant that people though living a rural lifestyle were not tied to one location and in order to put these pieces together, this was going to take more work than I initially thought. However I believe the effort was rewarded!

My research efforts had me going from Gaines County to Blue County; from Atoka to Jacks Fork and making my way through the census information of Bok-tuklo to Nashoba, a lot of pages to turn just to see if Tams BIXBY’S assertion could be proven true.

What I discovered on pages 20 and 21 of the Nashoba County census offered some very interesting information!

Despite the fact these records were supposed to be the enumeration of “Indians only” there were several instances of “colored” individuals enumerated on them. One might assume an Indian is an Indian? I have come to recognize “Intermarried Whites” as Indian on the Dawes rolls. I’m increasingly discovering there are “Negro Indians” and they were considered citizens as well.

In the 1885 Census for Nashoba County, Choctaw Nation what you see is the clear indication that Nelson ISH-COMMAR was listed as colored. It also appears at one point he was noted as being an “Indian” but there appears attempts were made to remove that designation. Is this more segregation of the tribes along “racial” lines and could Nelson ISH-COMMAR have been mixed blood himself for the short and inadvertent inclusion of him as a Choctaw Indian?

So it would appear, the nine people enumerated in Nashoba County with the surname ISH-COMMAR except for Nelson’s wife Ish-toyapi were “African-Indians?” This is in direct conflict with the information on the Dawes Cards of every child of Nelson as they are listed as “full blood” Choctaw Indians!!!

You might be thinking, what about Nancy, what is her story in 1885? Nancy is a lot more elusive to find in the 1885 census but it was something else that got my attention and brought another major revelation to this story of Culture, Community and Identity!

Even if I could not tie Nancy ISH-COMAR-SHIELDS to the Nelson ISHCOMMAR in the 1885 census; that leaves open the question of how in 1899 the children of Nelson all became “full-blood” Choctaw Indians.

As I review the information and documentation on the ISH-COMMAR/SHIELDS family; it is becoming obvious that individual members began choosing how they identified themselves and who they identified with.
I'm of the opinion that in the subsequent years the SHIELDS' family became more entrenched in the culture of blacks whereas the ISHCOMMAR'S by claiming to be "full blood" Choctaw's removed the "taint" of Nelson ISH-COMMAR as a "colored man."

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