Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

The descendants of Indian Territory Freedmen, the former slaves of the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Indians have an enormous task in preserving the known and unknown burial sites of their ancestors. What I'm puzzled by is the eargerness these descendants have for asserting their rights as citizens in these nations but show no such energy when it comes to preserving these sacred sites.

When you couple the fact that none of the five slave holding tribes have a program to help preserve these sacred sites with the clear possibility that there are "Indians" interred in these "burial grounds" is perplexing!

If their sole aim is to become citizens of these five tribes based on their rights obtained through adoption and treaty, why is there no program organized to preserve this history?

If the tribes one day have an attack of honesty and somehow realize their history is part of the "Freedmen" history will they establish a program to clean up and preserve these sites?

If the tribes never adopt the descendants of their former slaves as citizens in accordance with the Fort Smith Treaty of 1866 following the Civil War, will the freedmen descendants totally abandon the gravesites of their ancestors?

We need to address these issues now and begin to establish what is important.

1 comment:

  1. You have made some valid points. It is true th at some only want a tribal card and they will walk into the sunset feeling good that they have won their "treaty rights". But overlooking the care of the final resting places of the Ancestors is such an insult to their honor.

    I am not certain if any groups outside of the group working with the Choctaw Nation are working to preserve some of these neglected resting places.

    There was an initiative begun by a non Freedman, non-tribal person in Muskogee to work on Agency, but I have never seen the issues among Freedmen groups but one does not know.

    Hundreds of Creek Freedmen drive up and down Highway 69 every day entering Muskogee from the North. Do they glance to the left as they pass Old Agency where so many leaders are buried? Some old Cherokee Freedmen cemeteries are in areas near Vinita, and Nowata, some cared for and others not. Is there an effort to preserve them with the Freedmen band? Perhaps there are, but I don't know.

    Some folks may just want to get a card, make sure the tribe doesn't take it from them, and then they can ride happily into the sunset, treaty rights intact, and ancestors dishonored. But--hopefully this is not the case and historic preservation will become one of the goals of many.

    I recall years ago outlining certain committees and goals after we both had gone to Tulsa and participated in the founding meeting. I spent hours writing provisions for historic preservation to be among the goals. They were essentially not embraced at that time, as other issues arose, and to date such emphasis has long been discarded, like the bodies in Old Agency.

    BUT---that should not stop anyone from doing what must be done. So many tasks. The more one does, the more that must be done.

    So--we get to work on those issues that we hold close. That is all that one can do.