“How much Negro wealth went into the building of
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”
The newspapers in Indian Territory give a fuller picture of the life for blacks who lived there; the majority of the papers were published with a bias based on who the publisher was and their connection if any to the tribes.
In the case of the Muskogee Cimeter we have the point of view of a black newspaper that provides a snapshot of black life from their perspective.
This is very important because in the majority of the articles published by people associated with the Five Slave Holding Tribes the news about blacks tends to be heavy on the negative stereotypes without a balanced approach to reporting the news.
However, all of these papers provide some background on what life was like for those formerly enslaved by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations and this is why it is important we continue to study these important publications to provide the voice of Indian Territory Freedmen.
The articles illustrates over and over how little as changed in the attitudes of the citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes when it involves the history of blacks among them. There continues to be a resistance to the basic knowledge and history that these tribes engaged in chattel slavery that is the basis of present day freedmen descendant's advocacy for inclusion in the tribes their ancestor's were enslaved and subsequently received citizenship, with the arguable exception of the Chickasaw Nation.
We see in the Dawes Commission census numbers giving in 1906 how much the former slaves had become a part of the five tribes and this along with the race based biases of full-bloods, intermarried whites and mixed blood Indians proved to be the obstacle to full citizenship then and perhaps today?
In the case of the Chickasaw freedmen it was made clear before a congressional committee that based on the numbers of freedmen that almost equaled the number of Chickasaw's; including the freedmen could jeopardize the political and economic leadership in the nation.
I suspect this was not lost on the other tribes as they gave one excuse after another similar to what we see in the Cherokee nation today when they say the freedmen descendants are non-Indian and therefore not entitled to the citizenship given them as written in the Treaty of 1866.
These newspaper articles clearly bring to light the idea that the descendants on both sides of these issues have more common ground than some would like to admit.
The sins of the fathers of the Five Slave Holding Tribes have been brought to light and it is time their son's and daughter's look at the history of their nation's with clear eyes and address some lingering issues that are not going away any time soon.