Monday, September 22, 2014

Segregated History Day in Oklahoma

I was having a wonderful discussion with a colleague this morning concerning an upcoming event presented by the Oklahoma Genealogical Society. On the surface this would appear to be a nice event that is being supported by the state institution known as the Oklahoma Historical Society and the federal institution we know as the National Archives and Record Administration located in Dallas Ft. Worth, Texas.  

You throw in a little as a supporter an active participant with some special emphasis on the so called Five Civilized Tribes and one would have a feeling that the history of Oklahoma and Native Americans has some significant to these institutions and deserve to have their unique history represented with tours, storytelling and some actual cultural events that represent the true history of Indian Territory as well the state of Oklahoma.

Clearly the events planned seem well thought out and with fees for the events, tours and various learning sessions; it is not an unusual undertaking unless you are a descendant of a Indian Territory Freedman.

As hard as I looked there was not one mention of the freedmen in the history of Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory or the state of Oklahoma in any of the syllabuses for the weekends programming.

If the event is by a genealogical society for “Oklahoma” and they are using taxpayer institutions to conduct these events, why are not all of the state’s citizens being represented in this program and to the point, why not the genealogy and history of the former slaves of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Indians who seem to have a major role in the event?

It is almost like the Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma Genealogical Society, and the National Archives are participating in the perpetuation of a segregated history of the “Twin Territories” and the state of Oklahoma.

Clearly the freedmen have a genealogy and history that runs parallel to the five tribes because they were an integral part of the tribes from the infamous “Trail of Tears” to the Civil War, through the period before statehood and up to today, yet there is no mention of this history to the point that makes you wonder if the history of the freedmen is being ignored, marginalized or segregated from the true history and genealogy of Indian Territory, the Five Civilized Tribes and the state of Oklahoma.

Truly remarkable when you stop and think about it, when you see there is a session on the Dawes Commission records, it is a fact that a good portion of those records pertain to people of African and African-Native descent. How in good conscientious can these institutions and fail to specifically include this portion of the population in this program?

What, do we have to do, conduct our own segregated program of bus tours and genealogy sessions to become a part of the history of Indian Territory and state of Oklahoma? Instead of calling it Ancestry Day in Oklahoma they should call it Segregated History Day in Oklahoma. 

At some point the tribes, NARA, OHS, and Ancestry will have to come to the conclusion, there were people of African and African-Native descent involved in this history and their story deserves as much attention as everyone else!

...or do we have to do it ourselves?


  1. It is a bit disheartening to see little to NO representation of African American history/culture/ancestry on the program for this event. Makes me want to ask---whose ancestry is relevant on Ancestry Day?

    But to be fair---where is there any activity displayed that features African American history---being conducted by the African American population itself?


    1. I've started a division of history that presents the unique and hidden history of African American people among Natives to the public. My office is based in Ada. I am a Black Chickasaw by blood member as well as a descendant of slaves owned by the Colberts.