Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Word Up Wednesday, Slavery Among the Five Slave Holding Tribes

It is interesting to note the little known history of slavery among the Five Slave Holding Tribes as there is generally little written about it. However, in the Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 4, Number 3 dated September 1926 an article appears to give a view of the institution.

The article is written by William Penn Adair, "a Cherokee noted citizen" begins his discussion "reviewing" the history of the "Five Civilized Tribes" which "was published in the Indian Journal of Eufaula, in its issues of October 9th and 16th, 1878.

When Adair begins to discuss the "slave trade" and "slave traffic" among the so called civilized tribes it begins to reveal some important issues regarding slavery and citizenship for former slaves in the five nations.

History tells us that at an early day the Spaniards engaged in the slave trade on this continent and in so doing kidnapped hundreds and thousands of the Indians from the Atlantic and Gulf Coast to work their mines in the West India Islands. It is also stated that our civilized Indians embarked to a considerable degree in the same unholy cause so that they traded to the Spaniards their captives taken in war and obtained in exchange other property including live stock and doubtless in the course of time purchased colored slaves as such were introduced into the country in 1620.

This slave traffic became so lucrative that the Cherokees and Creeks, being more enterprising than the rest, began to kidnap each other’s citizens into slavery to the Spaniards and were about to go to war on account of the affair when the proprietary government of Carolina, about the year 1650, interfered and by negotiations established peace among them. 

In these negotiations the slave trade was abolished and the protection of the property including live stock and homes of these Indians was emphatically provided for which shows that at that early day they lived like other civilized people and owned personal as well as real estate property like the whites. 

I mention these facts merely to show that the Seminoles, Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Delawares and Shawnees, when first discovered, were at least as much civilized as the Spaniards and I might add in this connection that as regards the matter of slavery these Indians have since the late war of the rebellion proved themselves to be more civilized than the people of the United States because, owning as they did at the beginning of the war some 20,000 slaves, they, by their treaty of 1866, voluntarily emancipated their slaves and made them a part of their citizen population with an interest in their lands and public funds, especially the school funds, which is far more than the government of the United States has done for the slaves of its citizens.

Indeed the chief of the Cherokees issued his emancipation proclamation freeing our slaves before the President of the United States issued his proclamation for the same purpose. 

William Adair provides further insight about the culture and community regarding the Cherokee Nation that should put to rest the notion that the Five Slave Holding Tribes were a poor downtrodden tribe. Among their citizens were some of the most affluent and prosperous people in North America, which was based on their acceptance of enslaving people of African and African-Native descent.

Two things William Penn Adair,  this noted citizen of the Cherokee Nation makes perfectly clear; the former slaves of the Cherokee Nation were emancipated PRIOR to Lincoln "freeing" the slaves in the United States. He goes further in stressing the "freedmen" were GIVEN citizenship in the nation of their birth!

Just more evidence the resistance we see by the tribes today is contrary to the Treaties of 1866 and contrary to the "ethical" nature of Native people.

In 1839 another written constitution, republican in form like that of the United States, was adopted by the people of the Cherokee Nation and their National Council soon afterwards enacted a code of written laws for the protection of person and property; and twenty-two years after their removal at the beginning of the late Rebellion, the people of the Cherokee Nation were among the most wealthy and prosperous people, according to population, on the Globe. 

The St. Louis Report September 28, 1902 p43c3
At that time the people of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations must have owned some twenty thousand slaves and cultivated large fields of corn, wheat, tobacco, cotton, rice, etc., while it was common for heads of families to mark and brand six hundred calves each year. 

In an article that illustrates just how the Five Slave Holding Tribes became a nation of people who vaguely resembled the stereotypical "Native American" an article appeared in the St. Louis Republic in 1902 that discusses the "Cherokee Indians Becoming Extinct."

I point this article out because today we see the emphasis on "Blood Quantum" as the basis for citizenship and it would be very interesting to see who actually can demonstrate their Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole blood today?

This article was written in 1902 and it states at least for the Cherokee Nation how the "constant amalgamation with whites for more than a century has had the result of obliterating the full-bloods." 

Clearly two, three generations or more later has had a similar dilution of "Blood Quantum" today?

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