Sunday, October 31, 2010

History Culture Tradition...

A friend forwarded a link to this video and I was struck by a few things that spoke to me on so many levels. In the video there is a discussion on the importance of language to "Cherokee" culture and how this is something that the Cherokee's in this area of North Carolina are trying to preserve.

The video goes to great lengths to explain how the "European" influences and boarding schools became a detriment to the way of life and destruction of the Cherokee culture. These influences we see in abundance among the Cherokee Nation today.

Indian Pioneer Papers Lydia Keys Taylor # 12079

I reflect on the inconsistency of this sentiment when you look at the same "European" and "Native American" influences that destroyed the language and culture of African descendant people . Blacks enslaved among the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole Nations lost their culture and language also!

Right or wrong, the Native Americans concerns about history, culture and tradition ignores their complicity in the destruction of the same thing as it affected the blacks who lived among them.

Indian Pioneer Paper (Elizabeth Ross #13051 "Old African Joe")

How ironic, the issues being discussed in this video could be voiced by the Indian Territory Freedmen descendants. Many of the freedmen and their descendants were bi-lingual and for a period of time their culture was the culture of their enslaver. The fact that their/our mother-tongue was lost, is completely lost contemporary "citizens" of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

When you consider the issue of boarding schools, it seems every tribe in the country has a story on boarding schools, but you hardly ever read about the story of how the Chickasaw nation flat out denied helping the children of their former slaves from receiving an education in the nation of their birth.

Senate Report 166 (50-1)

You know, if you stopped and thought about it for a moment, the Choctaw's and Chickasaw's were willing to forceably remove their former slaves to a land not of the former slaves choosing. Isn't this similar to the infamous "Trail of Tears" removal? Force people from the only land they knew and where their ancetor's were buried clearly something is wrong with this kind of behavior.

The Five Slave Holding Tribes became acculturated with European culture and language; they now attribute this for their loss of culture and tradition. It is clear the same can be said of what the tribes did to African and African-Natives who lived among them. Interesting, very interesting!

The former slaves in Indian Territory had to fight just to get a school for their children in the "nation of their birth." Among the leaders of the Five Slave Holding Tribes, their children had the luxury of attending some of the best schools in the nation at the time.

Indian Pioneer Papers Lydia Keys Taylor # 12059
 The Five Slave Holding Tribes today ignore the destruction of their culture, language and most importantly their history by not giving a full account on the institution of chattel slavery. If losing language is losing culture, what can we say about the losses of African and African-Native descendant people who lived in Indian Territory?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mighty Mo Rodgers...Happy As a Runaway Slave!

Mighty Mo Rodgers is a teacher, songwriter and historian with a "trickster's" personality. His music is delightful, funny but more importantly an educational experience.

I am so happy to have finally put a name on a song that has been in my head for more than two years with out knowing who wrote or sang it.

The message in this particular song hit home for me and as I now learn more about his music, philosophy and attitude, I am even more impressed with what this man has to offer; musically, spiritually and educationally!

To learn more about Mighty Mo Rodgers I have placed a link to his website and urge my readers to support him by purchasing a CD, write him a note and turn someone else on to this remarkably talented "trickster."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trail of Tears, Slave Schedules & Chickasaw Freedmen

Martin Beasley wrote:

“Could make out some names on that list; Sad, so sad that some had perished. Go figure!”

I appreciate comments that come from readers because in most cases they make me think deeper about issues concerning the research of Indian Territory Freedmen. This is another case that I immediately took a different position regarding how "sad" the information on the document might be?

I take the view we are fortunate as Indian Territory researchers, to have documents like this so readily available. When I look at this document, I see other possibilities!

Because we know the enslaver we can utilize certain information to possibly identify the “slaves” on the emigration roll.

Using Jackson KEMP as an example, we may be able to utilize the Chickasaw Freedmen Dawes Roll and the 1860 Arkansas Slave Schedule to identify any of the thirty slaves associated with Jackson KEMP.

Figure 1 M234 Frame #134 Chickasaw Emigration Roll 1842

From the time of the removal; circa 1842 to the enumeration of the slave schedule in 1860, a time frame that would allow us to speculate about someone and their age at the time of the Dawes enrollment.

Fortunately, there are about thirty slaves enumerated on the 1860 slave census that fit the profile of people we want to identify. This should allow me to name some of these men and women approximately forty years later when they began to enroll as Chickasaw Freedmen.

There may be two more pieces of information that can help us determine who they are that is part of this document.

Logically the first thing to deduce from the schedule is that a sizable portion of the individuals may have the surname of KEMP when they enroll as freedmen. The other aspect of this document may give us a clue to where these individuals eventually resided once they were emancipated in 1866.

We know there were only four counties at the time of the 1860 enumeration; Pickens, Panola, Tishomingo and Pontotoc. Tishomingo and Pickens were adjacent to Panola so again we may be able to infer that former slaves of Jackson KEMP may have settled somewhere nearby following their emancipation.

With this supporting documentation I feel fairly confident that once I began looking for Freedmen with the surname of KEMP who fit the age range and residency criterion, I would then be able to identify the men and women of Chickasaw emigration roll of the 1840’s.

The items I will look for are anyone who survived the Chickasaw Trail of Tears as a slave; they should be from the age of approximately forty six to ninety eight and reside in or near Panola County, Chickasaw Nation.

This is why I love researching this history; there are occasions when an idea or theory pans out and additional information begins to emerge that puts a little meat on the bones.

If you look at the 1860 Slave Schedule for Panola County there appears to be approximately six individuals owned by Jackson KEMP. We can speculate they were also enumerated on the Chickasaw emigration roll back in the 1840’s. One person in my opinion overwhelmingly fits the description, his name was Zack KEMP; Chickasaw Freedman # 1467.

At the tender age of 84 Zack KEMP would have been approximately 28 years old at the time of the Chickasaw removal to Indian Territory. This also means by 1860 Zack was somewhere between 45 – 50 years old. All I have to do now is see if there are any people on the 1860 Arkansas Slave Schedule that fit these parameters.

Clearly there are six individuals who meet the criterion of Zack KEMP; allowing me to say with some authority Zack KEMP was present when the Chickasaw’s settled in Indian Territory as a slave of Jackson KEMP.

I would also like to introduce one other individual who may have been on the "Trail of Tears" as a slave of Jackson KEMP, but it will take more research to confirm him. John KEMP was 98 years old when he enrolled in 1898 and lived to the tender age of 102!!!

It is unfortunate he doesn't discuss being part of the "removal" in the "summary" of his oral testimony. Ninety eight year old John KEMP does gives pertinent genealogical information that is useful to KEMP researchers.

Yes, it is sad some perished during this period but look at how many survived!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jimmy McMillan for New York Governor

I just had to show this brother some love. His passion for his position is equal too, if not surpasses that idiot representing the "Tea Party" Paladino!

The Rent Is Too Damn High!

If Paladino is a serious candidate for the position and people are actually thinking of voting for him, then Jimmy McMillan deserves to be taken just as serious. I'm just sayin'

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Truth is Not Absolute"

Martin wrote:

"To shun one part of a person's being leaves one not whole. I experienced this (sensation) my whole life. Meeting and getting to know my Chickasaw family has taken me to heights I never imagined. Yet I now want to expand beyond the Native enslavement and seek the peace of union in the duality. I know Terry that peace comes rarely. And these so called true Bloods, with their false sense of Nation are "whack" But as you keep toughing through the muck and mire of Freedman despair, you and I and so many more seek the truth. It boils down to the sense of belonging. When nobody loves you back is the problem. Enlighten me brother!"

These comments come from a private conversation I’m having and with the author's permission I am making part of it public. Martin in my opinion is like a lot of us who have become aware of our ancestry and its connection to the Native American cultures of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.
Chickasaw Council House-Ada, Oklahoma

As we discover our ancestors and their history a sense of empowerment and enlightenment seems to be part of the experience that many of us have as we learn more about ourselves through the knowledge of our history.

The idea that Native Americans have been a friend to blacks in this country gives way to the reality that among the five tribes known as Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muskogee) and Seminole; that notion has little to do with the reality of enslaving humans as chattel.

Our amazement becomes more profound when we discover that there exists in our own families the “blood lineage” connected to Native Americans. Even that connection comes with some bittersweet acknowledgement that some of us were reluctantly accepted in the body of the tribe while others with similar familial attachments have been shunned for dubious reasons.
The Great Grandmother of Martin Beasley-Hattie TAYLOR-BROWN

Hattie TAYLOR-BROWN & Grandson Tigger WILLIAMS Chickasaw by blood

I wanted to say to Martin and by extension to others who have taken the time to read my posts, that my greatest joy in discovering this history of my family is not my connection to Native Americans. My joy is the knowledge of so many ancestors and additional family ties that gives me a better sense of myself.

The idea that I am somehow validated by being connected to Native Americans is ridiculous! That idea would invoke some sense of low self esteem. Which I'm glad to say is NOT an issue with Martin, he is entitled to his connections to the tribe while he has a good sense of who he is as an "African-Native American."

Truth, it is said, is not absolute, and clearly the truth about blacks and Native Americans is not an absolute history. Some did develop loving relationships with blacks during the antebellum period up to and including statehood.

Perhaps there is another truth that should be considered; it is not the Native Americans we need to reconnect with! We need to connect to the rest of the family that has been lost duie to circumstances that WE did not cause.

What about the collateral lines of family that have been dispersed all over the country and all over the globe?  They are dispersed because our parents and grandparents chose to leave Indian Territory and Oklahoma because of the racist attitudes of the tribes and also the state leaders who enacted state Senate Bill number 1--- Jim Crow.

In many cases the Native Americans were given status as whites, so they did not suffer the same fate under that Senate Bill.

Jesse McGEE Chickasaw by blood ~ Uncle of Hattie TAYLOR-BROWN

John TAYLOR Chickasaw Freedman ~ Father of Hattie TAYLOR-BROWN

Martha TAYLOR-CHRISTIAN Choctaw Freedwoman sister of Hattie TAYLOR-BROWN
& daughter of John TAYLOR (Great grandmother of Terry Ligon)

Frankly, the tribes will have to come to grips with their history and their legacy of slavery.

This also means the descendants of the former slaves have a responsibility to research, educate and publish the history of their ancestors without the myth and fabrications that would see this history cleansed of the "truth."

I’ve seen glimpses of it recently when the keynote speaker of the 5 Tribes Story Conference made a remarkable and correct statement with respect to the relationship of “African descendant” people and “Native” people; “meet them halfway on the bridge they have built.”

Over the years the “freedmen” and their descendants have been building bridges back to the tribes of their ancestors; perhaps it is time for the tribes and their leaders to meet them halfway?

Until and if that happens, we need to build some bridges among ourselves!

Clearly there are issues of identity on both sides but until we recognize who we are in totality it is not healthy to think we will be transformed into something else whether there is Native American blood coursing through our veins or not!

Having this knowledge of self is gratifying enough for some of us. Others will choose to identify themselves as “Native American” to achieve some peace?

Some will require serious reflection about what it is to be African American and African Native American or just human. That is the lesson I’ve learned in my research.

As I began to locate one ancestor after the other, I recognized through their struggles for justice, citizenship and equality they wanted to be considered human.

Our ancestor's knew a "human" could be Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole AND "BLACK."

They recognized their worth was MORE than just chattel slaves and they fought tooth and nail demonstrating their desire to be recognized as HUMANS.

It was the inhumane treatment they received at the hands of the tribes, tribal citizens, the U.S. government and state of Oklahoma that tried in every way imaginable to take their humanity away from them.

We don’t need to play into that game by marginalizing ourselves today and become something less!

As we "build a bridge" to the son’s and daughter’s of those who tried to take the humanity from our ancestors, we would disparage ourselves and our ancestor's legacy by defining ourselves according to someone's inconsistant standards of "identity."

Senate Document 82 (40th Congress, 2nd Session)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What an Indian Is, to Them and to Me

Throughout the 5 Tribes Story Conference held at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma an underlying theme pervaded the event. Many of the speakers were there to articulate the process and procedure of the written and oral non-fiction stories of Native American myth and lore, they somehow continually dovetailed into discussions of “Indian or racial identity.”

I found the intersection intriguing and perplexing at the same time. On one hand you had many of the speakers like the former Historic Preservation Officer of the Creek nation as she talked about her “green-eyed, half breed” mother as well as others who seemed to have a need to preface their discussion with the admission that a parent or ancestor was “white” or “mixed blood.”
Panel on Fictional Depictions of Removal, Boarding Schools & Land Thefts

Joyce Bear, Linda Hogan & Diane Glancy

This became a continuing thread that was quite noticeable and when I looked back at the talk given by professor Pete Cosar, I had to ask myself why there was such an emphasis on identity and what is an Indian?
Panel on Stories for Cultural Preservation and Awareness

Choogie Kingfisher, Laurie Robins, Dr. Pete Cosar & Philip Harjo

I couldn’t help but consider the issues in contemporary times with issues of Indian Territory freedmen descendants seeking recognition and inclusion in the tribes as citizens based on their history of ancestors being enslaved in the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee) and Seminole tribes and now seeking citizenship in the tribe of their ancestor’s birth.

This theme of “identity” was probably being addressed to the audience which was a mixture of what appeared to be white and “Indian” people. The purpose of the conference was supposedly about storytelling and Native American fiction so I could cynically say that this notion of an Indian identity as was promoted by several speakers was part of that fiction.

When listening to the presentation of Dr. Cosar and others I couldn’t help but wonder how they arrived at their theories on identity and the most I could make out is that a more in depth definition can only be told to “Indians” behind closed doors.

Dr. Cosar began with the notion that “allegedly” a case for “Indian identity” could be made from “documentation” but there was more to being an “Indian” than mere paper. On the surface I’m inclined to agree with that position but when you look at the history of the so called Five Civilized Tribes you would be hard pressed to include logic to a determination of “who is an Indian.”

The history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes demonstrates clearly that the documentation that is used for establishing citizenship (the Dawes Rolls) is a flawed system. The segregated rolls that ignored the Indian ancestry of children of slave owners denied them not only their "heritage" as Native American people based on their "paternity and genealogy." It also denied them a sizable amount of land wealth in the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations that should not be so easily dismissed.

It would appear that back in the day the quest for land and natural resources denied many people with Indian ancestry from receiving their full rights and privileges as an “Indian.” Now it seems that very document that was used to deny thousands of people thousands of acres of land is now being coyly dismissed for the proposition that Indian identity is determined by “community, mother and the beginning of time.”

The freedmen and their descendants were every bit a part of the community of the five tribes despite the adversity of Jim Crow, the marginalization by the whites of Oklahoma and the tribes in which they share a unique history. Clearly we have evolved as a people with many of the freedmen descendants having little contact with the tribes of their ancestors.

One of the other themes of the conference was the reclaiming of “Indian identity” by the participants but it is unclear if they rediscover what makes them an Indian will also help today’s citizens discover their connection to the descendants of the people who were enslaved by their ancestors?

Perhaps that is something else that needs to be discussed behind closed doors?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Present Company Excepted...

Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield Jr.
Speaking with a descendant of  Cherokee "Rich" Joe Vann

A respected teacher, author and historian spoke at the recent 5 Tribes Story Conference, and what a surprise to see the disrespect he experienced from a member of the teaching community at Bacone College and from speakers on the panel with him.

I’m sure Dr. Littlefield attended the event at the request of the organizers for his knowledge and expertise on the “history” of the so called Five Civilized Tribes known as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. It is also safe to assume he accepted their invitation with the full knowledge his contribution to a conference with the theme of "fiction" writing and story telling" was not exactly his area of work but he attended despite these difference for what I believe is his never ending support for the Native American community as it wrestles with the issues of history, culture and identity. Dr. Littlefield has contributed mightily to the body of work that now exist so citizens in all the five tribes have his ground breaking work to lean on.

What I observed on the last day of the conference was enlightening and sad only because I watched how this fine man was rudely treated by fellow panelist and a “speaker in the audience” who described himself as an educator at Bacone College. I would think if he were not directly addressing Dr. Littlefield as someone who was “non-Indian” incapable of writing about “Indians” because he was not Indian or traditional or someone who “lived an Indian” lifestyle, the phrase “present company excepted” should have been used to qualify his remarks.

The constant interruption of Dr. Littlefield when HE was asked a question smacks of the kind of disruptive behavior one might expect from children but these were grown men who each time the professor began to speak in my opinion deliberately and rudely responded to the question that was intended for Dr. Littlefield. It was incredible to watch! When the co-panelist finally allowing Dr. Littlefield to speak; one pulled his hat over his face I suspect to conceal his laughter while the other “flopped” in his chair as if to demonstrate his impatience with whatever it was Dr. Littlefield was going say.

How Dr. Littlefield could graciously and calmly allow the two participants on the stage to go on with their response and not object would have been beyond my patience so I have learned a great deal from his cool demeanor in dealing with the childish behavior that was unbecoming of people who are educators. Quite frankly, it was a sad day for the faculty of Bacone and truly unfortunate for a man of Dr. Littlefield’s reputation.

Dr. Littlefield has done more by publishing the history, culture and preservation of the Five Civilized Tribes, their history of enslaving people of African and African-Native descent, while maintaining academic excellence these gentleman may want to emulate.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Removal Was Harsh For All Of Us...

The first 5 Tribes Story Conference brought out many authors, storytellers and historians from the so called Five Civilized Tribes. The event was held on the beautiful campus of Bacone College and was sponsored by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

This particular video seeks to illustrate the history that was not readily apparent at the conference but is clearly a part of the history of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole nations.

As Joyce Bear tells her story of hardship and pain experienced by the little boys and girls of the Muskogee people we must never forget that others along the infamous trail suffered in bondage.