Sunday, July 3, 2011

Choctaw Freedmen Descendants ARE Citizens...

In 1904 an election was held for Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation; in that election the Tuskahoma Party led by Green McCurtain was seeking the position.  On behalf of the Tuskahoma Party several members of the Executive Committee wrote an open letter to the Choctaw Freedmen seeking their vote for Green McCurtain.

This document illustrates quite clearly just how much the Choctaw Freedmen were integral to keeping that nation together.

We know the Choctaw Nation officially adopted the former slaves of that nation and their descendants in 1885.

This action was done in compliance with the Treaty of Fort Smith in 1866 and gave the former slaves AND THEIR descendants full rights, the same as Choctaw “citizens by blood.”

With that as the background there evidently was some concern that the children of the Choctaw Freedmen born between 1902 and 1906 would have the same rights to citizenship including receiving a land allotment.

These became issues during the campaign for Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation in 1904. It was the aim of the Tuskahoma Party then led by Green McCurtain to campaign for the votes of the Choctaw Freedmen citizens and this is why the Tuskahoma Party included a platform to appeal specifically to the Freedmen.

The method of campaigning for votes used by the Tuskahoma Party seem to be instructive for today’s Choctaw Freedmen descendants as they consider the idea that those rights and privileges given to their ancestors should be in full force today?

Document after document supports the historical fact that Choctaw Freedmen AND THEIR descendants were granted citizenship by the Treaty of 1866 and as late as 1904, they were actively involved with the politics, culture and society of the Choctaw Nation. 

Looking at all of the documentation on the Choctaw Freedmen it is curious how their descendants have been marginalized and ostensibly disenfranchised from citizenship today when everything points to their legal rights to citizenship?

Green McCurtain went on to become Principal Chief in August of 1904 and all the evidence we have indicates the Choctaw Freedmen Minors and Newborns did become citizens and received land allotments.

One can only conclude the Tuskahoma Party fulfilled it’s campaign pledge to the Choctaw Freedmen based on all the available evidence; so why isn’t the Choctaw Nation and it’s people actively seeking out Choctaw Freedmen descendant’s as citizens of the nation?

Green McCurtain from the
Chronicles of Oklahoma
Clearly there were people among the Choctaw who did not share the idea that the former slaves of the Choctaw Nation were entitled to citizenship and clearly they disagreed with the idea that the children of the Choctaw Freedmen should receive land allotments.

The platform of the so called Choctaw Protective Party was silent on this issue as the flyer for the Tuskahoma Party “plainly” pointed out. Perhaps the sentiments of the Choctaw Protective Party have survived and taken root in the Choctaw Nation today?

I can’t recall hearing anyone from the nation today advocating for the inclusion of the Choctaw Freedmen descendants to be citizens.

This is somewhat disturbing when you think about it. Tribal historians rarely if ever discuss the nation’s unfortunate connections to the oppression and enslavement of African and African-Native people but will consistently give voice to their oppression from the United States.

In many respects much of what the so called Five Civilized Tribes receive in entitlements from the United States government is based on “their” oppression; it may be just a matter of time when the descendant’s of the Choctaw Freedmen begin to question why the Choctaw Nation doesn’t start compensating the descendant’s of the people they have oppressed and disenfranchised?

It could be easy to be cynical and look at this as a ploy by the Tuskahoma Party to get the Freedmen votes but looking at the evidence, the leaders of that party honored their agreement with the Choctaw Freedmen.

That may be the last time the Choctaw Nation honored an agreement with the former slaves and their descendant’s?

From Western History Collection Oklahoma University


  1. Wow.. really good findings here, Terry. Thanks for posting this!

    I guess I'll go ahead and ask the $64 question.. What needs to be done, and how do we leverage this, as well as the goings on in the Cherokee Nation to get the Choctaw Nation to see the light? It is obvious that the Freedmen were citizens before, but the big difference here is that

    1) we have a Chief who is running unopposed,

    2) a lot of time has passed between the Freedmen's disenfranchisement and now, making this out to be "just the way it is" after 28 years and just 'accepted', and

    3) we've lost a rather big voice in Congress, with Rep. Watson retiring a few years ago (Last I talked to the Choctaw Nation about this, I was told that it would take 'an Act of Congress' to allow this; not mentioning if it is the US Congress, or the Choctaw Nation's congress).

    I don't know what the right answers are, but I'm also tired being told to accept it, because that's just how things are, when our ancestors lived and struggled just as long and hard as the rest of the FCT has.

  2. Greetings Brad,

    I guess the first place you start is WHY! Why would you or any other Freedmen descendant WANT to become a citizen of any one of the Five Slave Holding Tribes?

    We know there is the historical right you have to do so but the question remains WHY?

    The Seminole Freedmen are citizens of that nation and they appear to be only second class citizens at best, what has been gained for them?

    Some Cherokee Freedmen descendants have been enrolled as citizens, what has been gained for them?

    Certainly the evidence is overwhelming that the freedmen descendants of the Seminole, Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek nations should be citizens of those nations but why should they? What is to be gained?

    Brad, I have a great deal that I could say on this subject but I’m not prepared to post my thoughts on the internet because tribal officials have been reading my blog and monitoring my every word.

    I’ve been playing with the idea of creating a Facebook page for discussion and quite frankly think I should offer my services as a speaker for fee to discuss the history and politics of Indian Territory Freedmen and their descendants.

    The $1000.00 question is who would pay to hear me speak? Not the tribes for sure!

  3. To answer why Terry, the reason is simply because Freedmen like all OTHER Indians desire to have full fellowship and Citizen status within their respective Tribes. WHY?! Because it is their BIRTHRIGHT! WHY does anyone want to be American? Because they are American. Do Freedmen want second class Citizenship status? NO! WHY not? Because they are no less Citizens than any other Indian. Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes have been illegally disenfranchised, it is wrong and should be rectified. J.D. Colbert wrote an *excellent* article about Citizenship, and stated that Citizenship should be about blood quantum and cultural fluency. It's an idea...

    1. To piggy-back on the that, It's a horrible part of our legacy,but it is OUR legacy. I'm a descendant of the slaves they held AND the slaveowners themselves. I want to enroll with full citizenship because that bloodine is a part of me. I will not deny one over the other.

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