Monday, September 20, 2010

"Enrollment of Children Follow That of the Mother"

Note: I began this entry on identity about a week ago in response to some discussions on the internet with some colleagues but thought it was not a good time to post it knowing I was going to attend the Storytellers conference in Muskogee and concerned that it might be construed as "offensive" because of the nature of the topic. It is never my intention to be offensive because my goal is to reach out and build bridges so people with a shared history can find a way to meet each other midspan on a bridge to recognition based on our shared history.

I'm glad I listened to my inner voice and held back on publishing my thoughts on identity because as I listened to the speakers at the conference yesterday one theme that seem to resonate with me was the way many of the presenters and some in the audience had been struggling with their "Indian" identity. One audience member really got me thinking when he rose to speak about the idea of continuing to use the term "Five Civilized Tribes." He and others felt that it may be time to stop using the term to "identify" themselves and it was pointed out that the title of the conference had intentionally been worded to avoid using the term; Five Civilized Tribes.  One of the reasons aside from it being an European term and not indigenous many felt it was time to throw off the yoke of oppression and begin to redefine themselves. The other "provocative" (and I mean that in a good way) was the consensus that by the tribes identifying themselves as "civilized" that it would be an affront and offense to the
 Plains tribes by implying that other native nations were somehow.........not civilized.

So you see this concept of identity is not exclusive to freedmen descendants who, after discovering their connections to the "Five Slave Holding Tribes" go through a similar self analysis on identity.

Well the blog that is now over a week old seems to be appropriate for me to post. One of the other things that stuck with me from the first day of attendance at the "5 Tribes Storyteller Conference" is the need to tell our stories as African and African-Native people who traveled on the trail of tears with the tribes as slaves and how they must have considered their identity among people who they shared a language, a culture and in some cases shared their blood.

The tribes say that a child follows the status of the mother; this was a custom during slavery and the antebellum period to maintain a slave population and deny the "white " or "Native American" ancestry of black people. As genealogist we know a person is the totality of all of their ancestors, but perhaps not in the Native American community when it came to black women and native men.

You will note on this card the children of an enrolled Indian Jesse McGee are considered "freedmen" not Indian. Why? because their Indian ancestry attributable to their father is dismissed in favor of continuing the myth of your "race" is predicated on the "race" of your mother.

Family of Jesse & Dora McGEE Chickasaw Freedmen # 572

Jesse McGEE Chickasaw by blood # 551

It is this general belief along with other tribal policies that made marriage between citizens by blood and persons of African and Negro blood a felony. It followed that children from this particular mixed relationship were considered then and now as "non-Indian."

Indian Citizen April 18, 1907 p1, col.1

As a result of these types of antebellum policies we have thousands of people today who descend from an “Indian ancestor” but denied recognition and citizenship. So how is it that on many of the "by blood" cards there are "Intermarried Whites" listed who were "non-Indian but enumerated on a "Chickasaw by blood" card? If the practice or custom was consistent and they "followed the status of their non-Indian mothers" why are these children listed as some fraction of Chickasaw Indian but the children of Jesse McGee only follow the "race" of their African descended mother?
Roberson BROWN Chickasaw by blood # 525

William F. WARREN Chickaaw by blood # 569

Is it fair to say this policy was flexible in it's enforcement and was basically applied for the purpose of preventing numerous "mixed blood freedmen" from receiving citizenship despite having a parent or ancestor who was considered a "blood" citizen? The so called custom and tradition of following the mother was used to determine a persons race but it appears the actual custom was used to determine "mixed blood freedmen" as "non-Indian." This practice of a child following their mother was nothing more than a practice that provided more slaves but it was not genealogically sound for determining ancestral lineage.
Joe BROWN Chickasaw by blood # 576

Cyrus Harris BROWN Chickasaw by blood 652

Dudley Nail DOAK Chickasaw by blood 531

The Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes passed laws to "prohibit" intermarriage of "Chickasaw and Choctaw by blood" with anyone of African descent and determining the children of this relationship "non-Indian." Again, this in no way should have reflected on the paternity or maternity of an individual. One can only conclude the political and racial views of the time gave way to these practices and allowed many people without any Indian blood to be enrolled on the blood roll as a citizen while at the same time dismissing thousands who were Chiksa lusta or Chahta lusa.

M1650 # 111 Callie NEWBERRY

At the same time as stated before, this practice also prevented people of mixed African-Native American blood to be placed on the proper roll for purposes of land allotment of three hundred and twenty acres as opposed to the forty acres a person received if they were determined to be descended from a former slave. Clearly more research will have to be conducted to determine if the Intermarried Whites received a land allotment based on their appearance as a citizen on the Dawes Cards?

Caldonia NEWBERRY "Mixed Blood" Chiksa lusta # 235 (rear)

What is even more curious is today the Five Slave Holding Tribes continue this practice of determining citizenship by relying on the “Dawes by Blood Roll.” An emphasis is placed on being “descended from someone on the Dawes Blood Roll” but they exclude the Dawes Freedmen Roll in that consideration and adhere to an policy that appears to have been flawed from the beginning.

Chickasaw Nation: "This department provides CDIB, citizenship and information to Chickasaws who are direct descendants of enrollees on the Dawes Commission Rolls. An applicant must be able to trace his/her heritage through bloodlines to an original enrollee listed on the Dawes Commission Rolls in order to obtain a CDIB. Required forms are available at the above address."

If the idea is to have a tribe of “Indians” that are traced to an ancestor on the Dawes Roll, you have to ask the question what makes an Indian? The other question that should be asked is whether the Dawes Rolls accurately depicts “Indian blood?” Does the roll determine who was an Indian or non-Indian? Are the rolls merely a tool to determine who was entitled to citizenship in the nation? Do the rolls minimize the population of African and African-Native people within the nation?One thing is certain, it is difficult to describe the Chickasaw final Dawes Roll strictly and exclusively as Chickasaw by Blood!

Chickasaw Freedwoman Harriet TAYLOR
Grandmother of Joe and Dillard PERRY(mixed blod Chickasaws)# 61

It was the case of Joe and Dillard PERRY that set the stage for the lawsuit of approximately two thousand people of mixed African-Choctaw and African-Chickasaw people who were denied recognition as Native American; to this day their descendants are being referred to as "Non-Indian."

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