Saturday, April 9, 2011

“Equal Justice Under Law” The Children of Fletcher Frazier

In 1868 almost four dozen leading men among the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen met to send a message to the Congress of the United States. Among the early leaders fighting for the citizenship rights of the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen was someone that appears to be possibly the most unlikely of individuals. His name was Fletcher Frazier and he was a Chickasaw citizen by blood.

Of all of the men who placed their X on Senate Document 82 (40th Congress, 2nd Session,) it appears only Fletcher Frazier could write his name in 1868. The fact that he was listed as the secretary of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen’s Association probably attest to the fact the freedmen wanted to make sure there was a record of their actions.

What intrigues me most about Fletcher Frazier is the fact he was a recognized citizen of the Chickasaw Nation! To my knowledge there are no records that indicate an abolitionist movement among the Chickasaw Nation. Clearly in 1868 when this document was presented before the Congress of the United States there was one man who supported the idea of citizenship for the former slaves of Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians.

Here is a man who knew Richard “Dick” Brashears and Watson Brown two notable freedmen leaders and former slaves. There had to be a risk for what Fletcher Frazier was doing because we know when Richard Brashears spearheaded a conference of freedmen in Skullyville one year he was arrested for his actions; a fate that could have easily been visited upon Frazier.

What is more intriguing about Fletcher Frazier is he was supposedly in direct violation of Chickasaw Nation laws which “forbid the intermarriage of any negro with a Chickasaw Indian by blood.”

I have not discovered a document in the Choctaw Nation that stated the same law, but the practice of defining people by the race of their mother while excluding the paternity of their father was used to justify enrolling African-Choctaw children on the Choctaw freedmen roll by the Dawes Commission.

M1650 1896 Application for Citizenship Caldonia NEWBERRY # 111

If there was such a prohibition on intermarriage Fletcher Frazier was in violation for years as were others in the nation but apparently there were no penalties other than the penalty affecting the children from such a union. This penalty took the form of “non-Indian” status; without the benefits of citizenship.

Fletcher Frazier was indeed married to a Chickasaw Freedwoman by the name of Sookey and together they had at least two children I’ve identified. To my knowledge all of their children and descendants have been identified as Chickasaw Freedmen; not as Chickasaw citizens as was their patriarch, Fletcher Frazier.

1890 Census Chickasaw Nation

One of the most remarkable trends I’ve noticed in the issue of citizenship and identity regarding someone with African-Native descent was the manner in which children of similar circumstances would somehow become citizens while children like those of Fletcher and Sookey Frazier remained on the Freedmen Roll.

In every case I’ve seen to this point, when a child has an Indian father and “freedmen mother” if that father was alive during the Dawes enrollment process, his children would make it to the “citizen by blood” roll. If that child’s father happened to be deceased, the children would be placed on the freedmen roll; again maintaining the ridiculous concept that “a child’s race is determined by the “race” of the mother!”

As we see in the case of Jesse and Dora McGee’s children, all of “their” children became citizens by blood in the Chickasaw Nation because Jesse was alive to fight for his children to become citizens. In the Choctaw Nation, Morris Impson fathered children by a Chickasaw freedwoman named Lucy who was married to Morris. She was not given the privilege of an intermarried spouse like “white women” and she was not placed on the “citizen by blood” roll like so many whites with only the designation they were “I.W.”

In the Dawes Jacket of Randies Frazier is in my opinion one of the rarest documents to survive the Dawes Commission. Not many of the cases where an individual had a Choctaw or Chickasaw father was there actual testimony to support it other than the rear of a Dawes Card (M1186.) 

Despite the cards clearly indicating someone had a Choctaw or Chickasaw father with the designation; Chick. Ind.  or Choc. Ind. there are no oral testimonies to support that information in the record. However, remarkably in Randies file there is some corroboration that his father was a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and Fletcher Frazier was indeed a Chickasaw Indian!

M1301 Randies FRAZIER Chickasaw Freedman card# 1343
In contrast, the children of Morris and Lucy Impson became citizens by blood of the Choctaw Nation because Morris was alive to fight for his children’s right to citizenship. 

The same thing happened in the Chickasaw Nation for the children of Dora and Jesse McGee; they received citizenship ONLY because their father was alive to fight for their rights as “citizens by blood.” Remember, this is the tribe that specifically forbade the intermarriage of anyone of negro descent with a Chickasaw by blood!

These are just a few examples that illustrate how the laws of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation were not equal. They illustrate how the United States through the Dawes Commission did not fulfill it’s fiduciary responsibility and provide “equal justice under law” as is written over the entrance to the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately we don’t have an image of Fletcher Frazier, he died before 1898 evidently and with his death other details of his life remain a mystery. He does leave a legacy of being a leader among his people, which included the men and women who were enslaved among the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians. 

His descendants should be very proud of what he attempted to accomplish during his life. Fletcher Frazier like the other leading men of his time simply wanted his wife and children to live in a nation that provided them the protection of their rights and privileges in the nation of their birth. Sadly it appears the citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes have buried these ideals with their ancestors?

Photo of Supreme Court
Property of Terry Ligon 


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  2. Terry,

    I appreciate this article, and what it means to Freedmen descendants of all of the Five Civilized Tribes. It is unfathomable to me, as an Indian, and as an American, that this situation persists to this day. That the Leadership within the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Muskogee Creek and yes even the Cherokee Nation would allow themselves to be TAINTED with such a repressionistic and indeed racist policy WHICH EXISTS TO THIS DAY. I believe that were it not so, they would MAKE haste and repeal these policies, at the very LEAST as pertaining to Freedmen who are Indian by blood. To not do so, is the ultimate proof that racism is alive and well within the Five Civilized Tribes today. Fortunately, it does appear that the tables will turn, one day, at least for those who are Cherokee Freedmen, but will the other Five Civilized Tribes follow suit??? The fact is, that according to the Law of THIS land, Freedmen are INDIANS!!!!!

    proud to be a Choctaw by Blood AND Freedmen descendant!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Terry,

    Wow.. Very powerful article! Thank you for posting this. Without knowing, you have answered a question of mine that I've had for the past few months regarding my ancestry, with why the mother and grandmother of my great-grandfather had enrolled him in the Choctaw Freedmen roll, while they themselves transferred over to the Choctaw Freedmen Roll from the Chicasaw Freedmen roll. I now have some very good insight into why, and makes me want to further my research even more.

    Furthermore, I do have to agree with Stefanie, that it is preposterous that this type of policy and the racial ideas behind it still exist today, when all are supposed to be equal. Hopefully, this will happen one day, even with Congress getting involved. Freedmen most definitely are Indians and duly deserve to be recognized as such.

    Choctaw Freedmen descendant