Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bettie LOVE-LIGON Happy 146th Birthday!

Today would be the 146th birthday of Bettie LOVE the daughter of an enslaved woman named Margaret Ann ALEXANDER in Burneyville, Indian Territory; Bettie’s father was an influential man with large land and slave holdings by the name of Robert Howard LOVE.

Graphic by Terry Ligon © 2011 Photo of Supreme Court Building by Terry Ligon

It was the circumstances of Bettie’s birth and thousands of men, women and children like her that challenged the system of determining a person’s race by the perceived race of their mother.

Headstone of Robert Howard Love, Love Cemetery, Love County, OK photo by Stone Seeker

Bettie became the lead litigant in what began as a $15,000,000 (fifteen million dollar) lawsuit that sought a transfer of approximately two thousand people from the Dawes Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen rolls to the “citizen by blood” rolls of their respective nation. This suit became better known as “Equity Case 7071.”

Bettie Ligon Choctaw Freedmen Card#106 front Terry Ligon © 2011

Bettie Ligon Choctaw Freedmen Card#106 rear

This lawsuit meant more than the millions of dollars to the litigants and the three hundred and twenty acres of land they would receive if the could demonstrate they had "Choctaw or Chickasaw blood," it meant ALL of their descendants would enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship in the nation of their ancestors birth should they choose that path.

Indian Citizen April 18, 1907 p1c1

When the suit was filed it was said that Bettie stood in front of the county courthouse doors and demanded that they remain open so people who “lived in the country” could have time to sign their names to the list of complainants. Bettie with this action became one of the unsung heroes in the list of Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen leaders in communities known as Milo, Berwyn, Newport, and Springer.

Cover page brief of Equity Case 7071

On April 13, 1907 at 2:00 PM the lawsuit that would involve ultimately more than 2,000 people, twenty million dollars and what could eventually be more than six hundred thousand acres of land became a part of Oklahoma history and American History.

Terry Ligon © 2011

This year will mark the 100th year since Equity Case 7071 was dismissed from the United States Supreme Court and was never heard on its merits because an attorney failed to print a brief and submit it to the court! It is hard to image with that much money riding on a simple question of paternity, someone failed to file a brief.

Which also means the question truly has never been answered; does the child of an Indian man, possess his blood and is that child considered to be an Indian?

Surpreme Court Memorandum December 12, 1911

There is a great deal more to tell about this story and it is my hope to write exclusively on the subject, it is a story and subject that deserves to be told!

BTW! Who is going to be my 50th & 100th subscriber? I'll have to think of something special for the occassion?????

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