Recently I was viewing a message on the Chickasaw Nation website I was struck how the historical narrative concerning the Chickasaws treatment of their enslaved population was benign and embracing; it is not lost on me this is just one side of that “story.”
Today the Chickasaw tribe seems to be doing a great deal of revisionist history on their involvement with chattel slavery but rarely is the voice of those enslaved included in that narrative, especially voices describing their enslavement and subsequent emancipation. It is hard to imagine that after enslaving thousands of people that it was an act of altruism that those enslaved people would be accepted in the nation when the record demonstrates otherwise.
As I was going through some Congressional records and indexing them for a presentation I will be giving later this year at the Midwest African American Genealogy Institutes (first ever) Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Track #5 the narrative of those formerly enslaved Chickasaw and Choctaw “freedmen” illustrated another point of view that is not representing in the stories told by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians.
There are many records among the Congressional Record Serial Set that are pertinent to Indian Territory Freedmen in general but one I found germane to the “story” that Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen were taken in and treated more kindly than those people enslaved in the south. The voices of the freedmen and the actions of their former enslavers spoke volumes about the condition of the African and African-Native people of Indian Territory.
On March 16, 1870 approximately four years following their emancipation and two years from the time limit for the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to adopt their formerly enslaved people, the two nations still refused to comply with the Treaty of 1866. First-hand accounts in the congressional records demonstrates the relationship with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians did not want to accept their former slaves as citizens in their nation and that contradicts the argument of how much they cared.
|Senate Miscellaneous Document #106 41st Congress, 2nd Session page 1|
The Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen were constantly advocating for their adoption but just four years after emancipation it was clear to them that the people that enslaved them were determined not to accept them as citizens; and sometimes their disdain for their former slaves rose to the level of violence and intimidation. The freedmen formed a group of men to represent their views and they expressed those views in the form of a memorial to the United States Senate in 1870.
|SMD #106, (41-2) pg 2|
The freedmen (colored people of Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes) said in their own words, “although freed from slavery by the result of the late war, we enjoy few, if any, of the benefits of freedom.” Clearly the freedmen were not under any illusions they were not embraced by their former enslavers. They continued their concerns by stating, “Being deprived as yet of every political right, we are still wholly in the power of our late masters, who were almost a unit on the side of the rebellion against the government and who, from having been compelled to relinquish their ownership in us, regard our presence among them with no favorable eye.”
|SMD #106 (41-2) pg 3|
Nothing in those were suggest the freedmen were being treated in the manner that the Chickasaw nation is attempting to demonstrate of their good relationship with those people they enslaved. The conditions in the Chickasaw Nation became so intense the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen living in eastern part of the Choctaw nation sought to hold a convention on September 25, 1869 at Scullyville ; to address their grievances.
|SMD #106 (41-2) pg 6|
As Black History Month comes to a close, we are reminded that history is often told by those who are the victors; fortunately in this case we have a record that can refute an incorrect and misleading narrative concerning the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen.
It’s time for the descendants of those formerly enslaved men and women and the descendants of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians discover what is true about their shared history and be guided by correcting the historical record from a full review of the record.
Senate Miscellaneous Document #106 was a Memorial by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, the former slaves of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation in an attempt to address their grievances regarding their equal rights in the same manner that white "citizens" were given. Let that sink in, the people who were treated as property continued to not have rights or citizenship in the nation of their birth.
The treaty of 1866 could not be enforced to secure their rights but today the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations would have the public believe they had a soft spot for people of African descent; "what a web we weave when we practice to deceive."
|SMD #106, (41-2) pg 7|