Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Week in Indian Territory December 11-17

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!”
Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Daily Ardmoreite Dec. 18, 1902 p1c1
December 16, 1905
A bill is pending providing for payment for lands allotted to the freedmen. The Supreme Court held that freedmen were not citizens of the Chickasaw Nation and the payment for their land will fall on the Federal Government. Therefore an immediate settlement of about $5,000,000 is asked.

Many of the topics generated in this weekly feature are culled from newspaper articles appearing in various newspapers in Indian Territory prior to Oklahoma statehood.

About ten years ago several concerned freedmen descendants were meeting for the first time in Tulsa, Oklahoma and on my way to the meeting I stopped at the Oklahoma Historical Society just to get a little research time in before heading to Tulsa later that day for dinner with the group.

I made numerous trips to Oklahoma before and always wanted to look through the newspaper collection based on some discussions I had with other researchers. The problem was every time I tried to access the collection; something or someone would distract me from my purpose and I never got around to checking out the the newspaper index.

One time I remember was probably a year or two earlier on another trip I was to give a presentation in Ardmore. The first day there I was distracted from my research when I overheard one of the clerks giving a researcher a hard time in locating his ancestor’s because he wasn’t sure how to locate them and they were to his knowledge, Cherokee by blood citizens.

After I heard the clerk give him the run around I waited until he was alone and approached him about who he was looking for which he gladly shared with me. It irritated me that the clerk probably should have known better and could have been more helpful because of one little thing that was sitting on the very counter behind which she worked.

I was familiar with a product sold by the society known as the Native American Collection. It is a CD with an index of the final Dawes Rolls for each tribe and is quite useful if you are trying to get a bead on an ancestor.

The CD was available for everyone in the library to use and since I had my laptop with me I popped that bad boy in. With the information he was able to give me we had no trouble locating the ancestor he was looking for. I then took him over to the microfilm that had the image of the Dawes Card and the film that contained the M1301 jacket of the “oral interview” for his ancestor.

Indian Chieftain Aug. 29, 1901 p3c4
Together we discovered his ancestor’s in fact had been documented as Cherokee by blood and the gentleman was so excited to locate them he took down my contact information and later sent me a board game he produced to show his gratitude for helping him.

But I digress.

I finally had an opportunity to take a peak at the index for the newspaper collection and discovered there were over seven hundred index cards that noted a newspaper article that included either Negro or Freedmen as a heading topic.

I was so excited to make the discovery I knew I had to copy every card in the collection before I left Oklahoma that weekend! Since I had to be in Tulsa that evening and the society was going to close about 4:00pm I could only get a hundred or so cards copied so I had to come up with a plan to copy the rest. I could either pay the society to do it for me or come back and do it myself; self won out…

All the while I was burning up miles on the toll road to Tulsa I had those index cards on my mind! What I decided was to make the dinner and meet the folks I only knew by our online communications and EARLY the next day make a beeline back to Oklahoma City, copy the rest of the cards and make a beeline BACK to Tulsa and give my little presentation at 1:00 pm.

From that little trip I've been able to put all of those index cards in a collection so they have now become an invaluable resource as I locate each newspaper article that becomes available online. 

Perhaps it's time I put them in a book or on a CD and share the index?

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