Friday, September 30, 2011

Deny Their Indian Blood

Present day officials in the Five Slave Holding Tribes have expressed their willingness to enroll as citizens anyone who has demonstrated they have “Indian blood” with an ancestor on the Dawes Roll.

I have always found this statement disingenuous.  It is clear the history of the Dawes Commission demonstrates how the enrollment process was steeped in controversy over the issue of mixed African-Native people being included on the citizens by blood rolls.

Most, if not all genealogists understand the issue of "lineal descent" and how that should have dictated anyone, ANYONE with Indian blood being placed on the "citizen by roll." However the Dawes Commission and the Five Slave Holding Tribes established a roll that willfully omitted thousands of people who possessed Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Muskogee and in some rare cases Seminole blood.

Senate Document 5013 (59th Congress, 2nd Session Vol. 1) p938
"As for these persons the most that can be contended for them and the most that is contended, is that they are the children of slave women, illegitimately begotten by Indian men.”

It was this statement that guided the Dawes Commission to omit people who they knew had Indian blood but chose to ignore.

Evidently in 1907 the Five Slave Holding Tribes could not conceive that the children of Indian men possessed the blood of their father’s so they could be included on the citizenship rolls.

Actually when you read the excuses the Dawes Commission used based on the "Indian laws, customs, and usages they must take the status of their mother" it in no way eliminates the fact these children possessed Indian blood. Their actions only meant the United States government and the Five Slave Holding Tribes continued the stigma (badges) of slavery.

It would appear those in control of the Five Slave Holding Tribes are continuing this immoral and wrong headed practice in the twenty first century.

"While Assistant Attorney General Campbell commented on this fact, he based his decision upon the alleged fact that they were the children of an Indian man and thus made his decision applicable to this entire class of persons numbering some 1,500 people"

This was one of many decisions by the United States Attorney General's office that flipped back and forth on the issue of mixed blood African-Native people. The Joe and Dillard Perry citizenship case became the benchmark for all the cases that followed of mixed African-Native citizenship.

This passage above illustrates to what lengths the Dawes Commission and Five Slave Holding Tribes would go to deny the citizenship of people who they clearly knew had "Indian blood." It also shows to what lengths the Commission, the tribes and their lawyers went to deny these 1500 people their rightful citizenship. 

All of these actions were clearly an exercise in denial and is the reason today thousands of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen descendants are considered non-Indian. When tribal officials pay lip service to the notion the way to citizenship is to demonstrate you have Indian blood and an ancestor on the "Dawes Roll" these people will always be denied citizenship based on the false premise "race" is determined by your mother.

Here we are over one hundred years later and the Five Slave Holding Tribes arrogantly state that to be a citizen in their nation you have to possess “Indian blood.” I wonder if they understand or care just how they are continuing the sad legacy of slavery that denied thousands of people as citizens because their ancestors had an enslaved mother and an Indian father?

1 comment:

  1. EXCELLENT article Terry. You so rightly get to the core of this issue...racism is alive and well in the Five Civilized Tribes. It was so 200 years ago, 100 years ago and is TRUE TO THIS DAY-and many, both Citizens and non-Citizens are ignorant of this fact. The United States knows it, her Citizens know it, the GOVERNMENT knows it, the WORLD is disgusted by it. And yet in Indian Country people just sit idly by, acting as if Jim Crow era laws where the most natural thing in the world. Are we truly no better than that?!

    I am a dreamer, but I what I dream is this...the day when ONE of these Tribes has leaders that are big enough to say: "This was wrong, and this IS wrong! We know that there are those out there who belong among us. Who because of the prejudices that existed in the past were and are excluded from our numbers. But we know better than this, and we are grieved that there exists a separation in our Tribe, among those who are wrongfully disenfranchised Citizens and WE WILL NOT REST UNTIL WE MAKE THIS RIGHT!"