Monday, December 27, 2010

Community, Culture & Identity: Nancy ISHCOMER-SHIELDS, Choctaw by Blood-African Indian

I can’t help but notice discussions by some Native Americans concerning concepts on “culture, community and identity. Included in those discussion are the “traditional” ways of life within their tribes. While conducting my latest research these issues became part of my back story as I attempted to locate the “numerous Indian Negroes” on the Dawes “Choctaw by blood” roll.

As I went through the Dawes cards and identified about twenty individuals and then their subsidiary genealogical lines, I wondered what their census information was and how they identified themselves to the census enumerators. Certainly this could not tell me about their culture but it might give me insight into how they view themselves (identity) and determine the people that made up their “community.”

Tams BIXBY acknowledge there were children of “mixed” black and Indian parents on a Dawes card that identified them as Choctaw Indian. I have questions about what happens a few years later when the first Oklahoma federal census is taken and how “Indian-Negroes” identified themselves?

What was the community like in which they lived? Was it mixed freedmen, white and Indian? Did they reside in a strictly Native community practicing their “traditional” customs and culture or did they begin to identify themselves as black, colored, or mulato? There were Indian Census Schedules that were used to identify Native Americans, would I find them enumerated on one of these schedules?

If you will recall, Tams BIXBY gave two examples of “mixed Indian Negroes” placed on the blood citizenship rolls. In my first blog on the subject I discussed Beulah MARSTON and his children.

In the second example given by BIXBY was a family by the name of SHIELD(S). This family as the other appear to be a great example of how complex the issues of identity and family have evolved among the members of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

The common factor with all of these “mixed blood families” was their father was considered a black, colored or freedman and their mother a Choctaw blood Indian. I began to question what did they consider themselves after being enrolled as a Choctaw by blood? Did they intermarry with other Choctaw’s or did their children continue to develop relationships with blacks? Another important issue would be how were they treated by other Choctaw blood citizens? The other factor that had to be critical to their relationships was the laws enacted in the nations that forbade “intermarriage with anyone of African descent.”

Nancy seems to make a conscious choice of marrying a freedman and her some of her children seem to have made a similar decision when you look at additional records.

You will note the Dawes allotment card for Nancy indicates her husband and the father of her children was a “colored man.” Utilizing the notes on Nancy’s card I am able to locate “New Born” cards for another child of Nancy’s, as well as two children of her eldest daughter Sarah. These cards are important because they provide information on the names of the children but also information on their father’s.

In terms of identity, it is interesting that in the 1900 census Nancy and everyone in her family were enumerated as being black. However, Nancy and her daughter enrolled their children in the Choctaw tribe as Choctaw by blood as a minor or new born in 1904, ’05 and ‘06.

Clearly they understood the importance of enrolling and documenting their children as Choctaw by blood. I would assume they did so in their efforts to secure more land the children would be entitled?

Without personally knowing any descendants of the SHIELDS it is difficult to say if they have maintained their Choctaw identity or become black as a result of their marriages to other blacks. Ten years later the 1910 census provides us with additional clues as to how they were perceived or identified themselves.

In the 1910 census we see the older children grown with families of their own. Despite the fact there are “Indian Population Schedules” for the 1900 and 1910 census, none of the SHIELDS family is enumerated on them. The assumption here would be they are not looked at as being Indians but now mulato.

What relationship they had to other tribal members is not known but now they lived in the state of Oklahoma and racial categories were an integral part of the life that being black brought about issues that you think the SHIELDS’ would avoid if possible?

I thought this would be the end of this little research on identity, culture and community but this family got a lot more interesting the more I followed the extended family and ancestors of Nancy ISHCOMER-SHIELDS.

I will post that in the second part of this fascinating research exercise on the ISHCOMER & SHIELDS family!!!


  1. Interestingly, like many Choctaws by Blood, who had a parent who was also of African Ancestry----their Dawes interview---the interview itself---- is curiously "missing". Many of the Dawes packets will have birth or death affidavits and small memos, but few if any have interviews. A fellow researcher pointed this out to me, several months ago and I too have started to pay attention to the same thing.

    This is one of those things that make you go hmmmm..........

  2. I am so surprised to find this information as a part of someone's blog. I am a decedent of the Nancy Shield(s) in this blog. I would be quite interested to speak with the author on your inquiry about the family.

    Shanna D

  3. @nancys..., This article was a discovery I made by following up on a sentence I read in the Congressional Record by Tams Bixby.

    After I looked at every "by blood" card in the Choctaw Nation I discovered there were many similar families like the Ishcomer's and their story is just as fascinating.

    As you probably know by now, this family seems to be related to present day Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle. It would be interesting to know more about them and Chief Pyle.