Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Make A Stand That Has Never Before Been Our Privilege To Make"

On This Day, November 15

For those of us who research Indian Territory and the Five Slave Holding Tribes this day in history was the turning point as we recognize the transition of Indian Territory into the state of Oklahoma.

November 15, 1907 meant that finally the former slaves held in bondage by Chickasaw Indians would have some sort of citizenship though not in the nation of their birth. The transition from slavery to citizen was filled with turmoil and political uncertainty for the Chickasaw freedmen especially.

Their identity as blacks had become more established because of the influx of blacks entering Indian Territory and intermarrying with freedmen. The freedmen in the Chickasaw nation understandably saw their political fortunes begin to turn towards how they were identified as non-Chickasaw and non-Indian.

Daily Ardmoreite June 19, 1906 p5c5-6
Indian Territory Freedmen during their years of enslavement had a sense of their identification within the nation of their birth. Those who resided and were citizens in the Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee nations held a different view of their relationship with the tribes than the view of the Chickasaw freedmen.

Freedmen enslaved in the Chickasaw nation were ostracized for the most part following their emancipation. It would be hard to see how they would continue to identify as Chickasaw’s once the “Twin Territories” became the state of Oklahoma.

Even in communities like the Creek freedmen the influx of blacks from outside of Indian Territory began to affect the manner in which they identified themselves and how they looked at their prospects in what would be the new state of Oklahoma.

In the Muskogee area one of the leading voices for black political and economic development was the Muskogee Cimeter. The publishers viewed statehood through the lens of “Afro-Americans” and not Creek Freedmen despite freedmen having established citizenship in the Creek Nation. 

The editor of the Muskogee Cimeter, W. H. Twine has to be considered a visionary. He clearly viewed the amount of land that was held by the freedmen through the Dawes allotment the foundation for establishing wealth and political power in the emerging new state.

Mr. Twine clearly was able to calculate the vast amount of wealth in the possession of the “Negroes” in the new state and how important is was for them to “make a stand that has never before been our privilege to make.”

The basis for his arriving at this conclusion was clear blacks, freedmen and “state Negroes” comprised at his estimate, two hundred and fifty thousand people in the new state. They possessed at the very least, four hundred thousand acres of land with a possible value of not less than one hundred million dollars.

Twine understood how important these factors were when it came to political and economic power for blacks in the new state. The other aspect of this story has to include the forces that were working to undermine any possibility for blacks to form a united front to combat the effects and introduction of Jim Crow laws that may have had the intended affect of preventing an economic and political block of freemen and "state Negroes" from achieving Twine’s desired agenda.

Perhaps there are lessons in this chapter of Indian Territory, Oklahoma history for today's descendants of the freedmen of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

Could issues of identity and citizenship been the crucial downfall for this many people with that much wealth from achieving equality in the new state as W.T. Twine envisioned?

Are freedmen today so hell bent on becoming citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes that they don’t see their connection to one another and how it is based on being black within the Five Slave Holding Tribes?

Can the descendant’s of freedmen and African-Native people see they are connected at the hip and should be working together to establish the institutions that will maintain and preserve their history as well as seek the citizenship in the nation’s of their ancestor’s birth?

Will the people of the Five Slave Holding Tribes understand they have a vested interest in reaching out to the descendants of Indian Territory Freedmen and develop ways to incorporate them into the nations they share history, culture and blood?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article Terry, one one which brings this question to mind: How do you propose that Indian Freedmen go about making these changes?

    Stefanie Colbert Stringfellow