Saturday, December 24, 2011

This Week in Indian Territory December 25-31

 “How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!” 
Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

December 31, 1905 p7c4
December 28, 1889
Negro families from near Kingfisher are returning to Topeka, Kansas. It is estimated that less than half of the original colonies will prove up on their claims.

December 25, 1891
An article given the history of Negro Creek and how it got its name.

December 29, 1893
There is not a colored man in Blackwell.

December 27, 1894
An article relative to the condition of the freedmen in the Choctaw and Cherokee tribes and what the Choctaw freedmen have to say about it.

December 31, 1897
The colored people of Edmond will celebrate their emancipation proclamation Saturday, January 01, further details given.

December 27, 1901
Muskogee: Seventy –five Negro women and babies have arrived from Alabama as a result of literature sent to them by colored people of the territory, picturing the possibilities of getting lands from the Indian tribes at their own terms. They will be followed by others.

December 31, 1902
Stigers, a well known white man was murdered in cold blood by a Negro, one more incident like it and there will be a race war that will wipe out the Negro population in Wagoner.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

This Week in Indian Territory December 18-24

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!”
Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Indian Chieftain December 22, 1898
December 19, 1902
 Vinita: Relative to the first decision in freedmen cases in which the Cherokee Nation scores by the decision of the Dawes Commission, rejecting the applications of Henry C. Hayden, George B. Buckner et al, Ella Huddleston and Andy Rider for enrollment as freedmen citizens of the Cherokee Nation which was affirmed by the Secretary of the Interior.

December 24, 1902
 Ardmore, I. T.: Attorney General Knox has filed in the court of claims at Washington a bill of interpleader against the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations and the Chickasaw freedmen, to determine the rights of 60,000 Chickasaw freedmen.

December 21, 1912
 The right of 7,000 Cherokee Freedmen to participate in the distribution of the lands and funds belonging to the Cherokee Indian nation was sustained today by Judge Anderson of the District of Columbia Supreme Court. The freedmen are the descendants of slaves of the Cherokees and are mixed Indian and Negro blood.

It continues to amaze me just how wrong the Cherokee Nation is in 2011; there is and always will be substantial evidence to the legal status of the Cherokee Freedmen descendants and their legitimate claims of citizenship.

The Indian Chieftain in this editorial was quite clear on their interpretation of the Treaty of 1866;

 "for some years past both the United States and the Cherokee Nation have been struggling with the census of the colored people in the Cherokee nation who were adopted by the treaty of 1866."

This statement makes if clear the freedmen not as "colorfully" as it was stated in the article had been adopted into the nation based on a treaty! For any chief, or Cherokee nation or court to offer any explanation other than that would be ignoring the facts.

Indian Chieftain December 23, 1897 
The article goes on to cement the status of the freedmen and their descendants in more clear language that can only be understood that the Cherokee descendants today are entitled to the same citizenship their ancestor's enjoyed based on the Treaty of 1866.

"the only question that remains to be settle is the number of them who are entitled to citizenship under the treaty."

All of the money and angst over the past ten years could have been spent embracing people who share a history and in some cases blood of the Cherokee Nation. It is the small minded people who continue to use "race" and "blood quantum" as the measurement of citizenship in the Cherokee Nation as well as the other members who comprise the "Five Slave Holding Tribes."

At some point reasonable people will have to sit down and discuss their history together and come up with ways to repair a broken house.

The evidence is overwhelmingly in support of citizenship for the Cherokee freedmen and their descendants. My question is where are the Cherokee citizens who are speaking up for what is right? 

Where are the voices of reason within the "Five Slave Holding Tribes" who understand this history will not go away nor will the descendants of the people held in bondage by those nations?

When will the Five Slave Holding Tribes do for the freedmen what they ask the United States to do for them?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Week in Indian Territory December 11-17

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!”
Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Daily Ardmoreite Dec. 18, 1902 p1c1
December 16, 1905
A bill is pending providing for payment for lands allotted to the freedmen. The Supreme Court held that freedmen were not citizens of the Chickasaw Nation and the payment for their land will fall on the Federal Government. Therefore an immediate settlement of about $5,000,000 is asked.

Many of the topics generated in this weekly feature are culled from newspaper articles appearing in various newspapers in Indian Territory prior to Oklahoma statehood.

About ten years ago several concerned freedmen descendants were meeting for the first time in Tulsa, Oklahoma and on my way to the meeting I stopped at the Oklahoma Historical Society just to get a little research time in before heading to Tulsa later that day for dinner with the group.

I made numerous trips to Oklahoma before and always wanted to look through the newspaper collection based on some discussions I had with other researchers. The problem was every time I tried to access the collection; something or someone would distract me from my purpose and I never got around to checking out the the newspaper index.

One time I remember was probably a year or two earlier on another trip I was to give a presentation in Ardmore. The first day there I was distracted from my research when I overheard one of the clerks giving a researcher a hard time in locating his ancestor’s because he wasn’t sure how to locate them and they were to his knowledge, Cherokee by blood citizens.

After I heard the clerk give him the run around I waited until he was alone and approached him about who he was looking for which he gladly shared with me. It irritated me that the clerk probably should have known better and could have been more helpful because of one little thing that was sitting on the very counter behind which she worked.

I was familiar with a product sold by the society known as the Native American Collection. It is a CD with an index of the final Dawes Rolls for each tribe and is quite useful if you are trying to get a bead on an ancestor.

The CD was available for everyone in the library to use and since I had my laptop with me I popped that bad boy in. With the information he was able to give me we had no trouble locating the ancestor he was looking for. I then took him over to the microfilm that had the image of the Dawes Card and the film that contained the M1301 jacket of the “oral interview” for his ancestor.

Indian Chieftain Aug. 29, 1901 p3c4
Together we discovered his ancestor’s in fact had been documented as Cherokee by blood and the gentleman was so excited to locate them he took down my contact information and later sent me a board game he produced to show his gratitude for helping him.

But I digress.

I finally had an opportunity to take a peak at the index for the newspaper collection and discovered there were over seven hundred index cards that noted a newspaper article that included either Negro or Freedmen as a heading topic.

I was so excited to make the discovery I knew I had to copy every card in the collection before I left Oklahoma that weekend! Since I had to be in Tulsa that evening and the society was going to close about 4:00pm I could only get a hundred or so cards copied so I had to come up with a plan to copy the rest. I could either pay the society to do it for me or come back and do it myself; self won out…

All the while I was burning up miles on the toll road to Tulsa I had those index cards on my mind! What I decided was to make the dinner and meet the folks I only knew by our online communications and EARLY the next day make a beeline back to Oklahoma City, copy the rest of the cards and make a beeline BACK to Tulsa and give my little presentation at 1:00 pm.

From that little trip I've been able to put all of those index cards in a collection so they have now become an invaluable resource as I locate each newspaper article that becomes available online. 

Perhaps it's time I put them in a book or on a CD and share the index?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Week in Indian Territory December 4-10

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma?
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!”
Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Daily Ardmoreite Dec. 8, 1907
December 08, 1875
The Negro school house at Boggy Depot is to be rebuilt at Uncle Sam’s expense.

December 09, 1898
Eighteen Negroes in Logan County recently set out for Liberia, in Africa.

December 09, 1898
The fractional land in Texas, along the north line known as homestead strip, is now called the “Black Strip”, as it was set aside for the benefit of the Negro schools.

December 06, 1900
The Dawes Commission will return to Muskogee from Tahlequah, December 15, to begin enrollment of the Cherokee freedmen. It is the policy of the Cherokees to prevent as many freedmen from being enrolled as possible.

December 08, 1904
There is no such person in the Cherokee Nation as an adopted freedman citizen by blood. This important question was decided by the Assistant Attorney General in a test case, the decision having just been received by the Dawes Commission. 

The attorney general says that though the freedmen were adopted by the Cherokee Indians and these freedmen thus entitled to allotments they did not go so far as to include their wives and husbands. This decision will directly effect about…

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"White Indians?"

The term to many people could very well be offensive but I suggest it may be part of the reason we see so much resistance from today’s citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes to the inclusion of the descendants of freedmen based on the Treaty of 1866.

Indian Chieftain Dec.2, 1897 p2c3
In an article found in “The Indian Chieftain” a newspaper, published ostensibly as the mouthpiece for the Cherokee Nation is where I discovered an interesting article taken from a Washington D.C. paper called the Globe Democrat. There was no title for the article that would indicate the topic, so if you weren’t paying attention you more than likely would have missed it.

It is amazing, almost one hundred and fifteen years ago the issues of race (blood) and benefits (advantages) were the issue of the day; just as we see today with the Cherokee Freedmen seeking to enforce the Treaty of 1866 and their citizenship in the nation.

This article discussing the “blue eyed, fair-haired little Indians receiving living, clothing and education at the cost of the government” again appears to be a repeating of history.

Was it not a few months ago the Cherokee Nation had millions of dollars frozen by the United States Congress because the leaders would not admit the descendants of former slaves as citizens according to the Treaty of 1866?

This article sheds some much needed light on a situation that seems to be a problem that all of the Five Slave Holding Tribes have, “thin blood” Indians reaping  the rewards as “Indians” based on their ancestry.

Today we see the effects of “squaw men” on the Five Slave Holding Tribes and I reminded again of the Storyteller Conference I attended over a year ago. During the conference I was struck by how many speakers would preface their remarks by saying something about their “white” ancestor as if to deflect possible comments on their legitimacy as an Indian. 

I still have not figured out why they found it necessary to go there other than some deep seated insecurity on what is an Indian?

When you put the article in perspective of what we see in the Five Slave Holding Tribes today it could open some uncomfortable wounds.

While there is a concerted effort to prevent “freedmen descendants” from being considered as citizens of the nations, the question of “blood quantum” or having an ancestor on the “Dawes Roll” is used as the determinant factor.

Yet as anyone who takes the time to research will find, the issue of a baseline blood quantum could cause a removal process that would make the various nations lose a large portion of their population.

Heaven forbid the tribes begin to establish citizenship by way of DNA testing!  I can hear Bob Marley singing now; “exodus…movement of the people!”

This article demonstrates, once again, how race is a political construct and can be used in various ways to include and especially to exclude people when it comes to gaining benefits and advantages based on that “race.”

Unfortunately in the case of the former slaves and even those former slaves that were the children of Indian men, no amount of Indian blood was or is sufficient to be considered Native American.

Could it be the author of this article had some insight into the future when it came to describing the “fancied superiority of race” and the “privileges” it would have provided those with “white blood” in their veins?

Is it true that over the one hundred and fourteen years since this article was written have the descendants of the “squaw men” benefitted from the government programs that earmarked programs for Native Americans?

Is it true that the leading men and women, who now receive educational entitlement funds, owe it to their “white ancestors” who were given access to programs solely based on a minute trace of Indian blood?
This article states “on technical grounds, all this may be correct, but in equity it seems to hold elements of unfairness both to the real Indians and the white citizens of the United States…”

As usual the one group left out of the equation is the former slaves of these tribes and their descendants. When they discuss equity and fairness it is the freedmen and their descendants that seem to always be missing in the analysis. 

It would appear the major factor as to why; seems to come down to the construction and perception of race?

Amazingly in 1897, the author suggest and it may be the major reason we see the problems between the tribes and freedmen descendants today; “congress should at an early date indicate by stature what degree of blood shall constitute an Indian.”

It was and is clear, freedmen were fighting to maintain their citizenship from day one and those mixed blood freedmen of the Five Slave Holding Tribes were never truly considered to be Indian or have Indian blood.

Here we are one hundred and fourteen years later with very little progress…

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Week in Indian Territory November 27-December 03

“How much Negro wealth went into the building of Oklahoma
It is only exceeded by the sweat, toil, and tears of … slaves’ free labor of more than 250 years!”

Buck Franklin COLBERT, “My Life and an Era”

Indian Chieftain Dec.2, 1902 p2c3 (Excerpt)
November 30, 1905
The Secretary of the Interior has reversed the decision of the commission to the Five Civilized Tribes and ordered Henry Rider, Josie Alberty and others enrolled as Cherokee freedmen. The Cherokee Nation has made a vigorous fight against the enrollment of these freedmen.

December 02, 1908
Guthrie, Dec. 01. The Oklahoma Supreme Court took another rap at the Interior Department, when it decided that a lease given by a Creek freedman subsequent the act of April 21, 1904, which removed the restrictions from the alienation of lands of allottees not of Indian blood.

November 29, 1891
The Choctaws are driving the Negroes out of that nation any one employing a colored servant is subject to a $50.00 fine.

November 29, 1900
The “Wellston News” says it is not true that a colony of Negroes purchased a large tract of land near Wellston for cotton raising.

November 29, 1906
The Secretary of Interior department decides that all Negroes of the Choctaw Nation who are known as freedmen, under 21 years and who were living on Nov. 04, 1906 are entitled to a place on rolls.

November 28, 1909
An article on slavery and the congress of the United States is given. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday Jim Crow Oklahoma

Daily Ardmoreite February 27, 1907 p1

 On this day, Oklahoma became the 46th state in the union. Prior to their admission as a new state the Constitutional Convention of 1907 was unfortunately prepared to enact as one of the first laws in the new state Jim Crow statutes.

Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society

Daily Oklahoman September 11, 1904
Courtesy of Doug Loudenback

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Make A Stand That Has Never Before Been Our Privilege To Make"

On This Day, November 15

For those of us who research Indian Territory and the Five Slave Holding Tribes this day in history was the turning point as we recognize the transition of Indian Territory into the state of Oklahoma.

November 15, 1907 meant that finally the former slaves held in bondage by Chickasaw Indians would have some sort of citizenship though not in the nation of their birth. The transition from slavery to citizen was filled with turmoil and political uncertainty for the Chickasaw freedmen especially.

Their identity as blacks had become more established because of the influx of blacks entering Indian Territory and intermarrying with freedmen. The freedmen in the Chickasaw nation understandably saw their political fortunes begin to turn towards how they were identified as non-Chickasaw and non-Indian.

Daily Ardmoreite June 19, 1906 p5c5-6
Indian Territory Freedmen during their years of enslavement had a sense of their identification within the nation of their birth. Those who resided and were citizens in the Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee nations held a different view of their relationship with the tribes than the view of the Chickasaw freedmen.

Freedmen enslaved in the Chickasaw nation were ostracized for the most part following their emancipation. It would be hard to see how they would continue to identify as Chickasaw’s once the “Twin Territories” became the state of Oklahoma.

Even in communities like the Creek freedmen the influx of blacks from outside of Indian Territory began to affect the manner in which they identified themselves and how they looked at their prospects in what would be the new state of Oklahoma.

In the Muskogee area one of the leading voices for black political and economic development was the Muskogee Cimeter. The publishers viewed statehood through the lens of “Afro-Americans” and not Creek Freedmen despite freedmen having established citizenship in the Creek Nation. 

The editor of the Muskogee Cimeter, W. H. Twine has to be considered a visionary. He clearly viewed the amount of land that was held by the freedmen through the Dawes allotment the foundation for establishing wealth and political power in the emerging new state.

Mr. Twine clearly was able to calculate the vast amount of wealth in the possession of the “Negroes” in the new state and how important is was for them to “make a stand that has never before been our privilege to make.”

The basis for his arriving at this conclusion was clear blacks, freedmen and “state Negroes” comprised at his estimate, two hundred and fifty thousand people in the new state. They possessed at the very least, four hundred thousand acres of land with a possible value of not less than one hundred million dollars.

Twine understood how important these factors were when it came to political and economic power for blacks in the new state. The other aspect of this story has to include the forces that were working to undermine any possibility for blacks to form a united front to combat the effects and introduction of Jim Crow laws that may have had the intended affect of preventing an economic and political block of freemen and "state Negroes" from achieving Twine’s desired agenda.

Perhaps there are lessons in this chapter of Indian Territory, Oklahoma history for today's descendants of the freedmen of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

Could issues of identity and citizenship been the crucial downfall for this many people with that much wealth from achieving equality in the new state as W.T. Twine envisioned?

Are freedmen today so hell bent on becoming citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes that they don’t see their connection to one another and how it is based on being black within the Five Slave Holding Tribes?

Can the descendant’s of freedmen and African-Native people see they are connected at the hip and should be working together to establish the institutions that will maintain and preserve their history as well as seek the citizenship in the nation’s of their ancestor’s birth?

Will the people of the Five Slave Holding Tribes understand they have a vested interest in reaching out to the descendants of Indian Territory Freedmen and develop ways to incorporate them into the nations they share history, culture and blood?