|Copyright 2016 Terry J. Ligon|
March 1, 2016 would have been the 151st birthday of Bettie LOVE the daughter of an enslaved woman named Margaret Ann ALEXANDER in Burneyville, Indian Territory; Bettie’s father was an influential Chickasaw Indian with large land and slave holdings by the name of Robert Howard LOVE.
It was the circumstances of Bettie’s birth and thousands of men, women and children of similar birth that challenged the system of determining a person’s race by simply classifying them by the perceived race of their mother.
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.”
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 so they could receive the 320 acres all Chickasaw by blood citizens were allotted.
With these actions Bettie LIGON became one of the unsung heroes in the list of Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen leaders that populated the rural communities outside of Ardmore, Oklahoma known as Milo, Berwyn, Newport, and Springer.
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.
|Daily Ardmoreite April 14, 1907|
Page 6, Columns 5 & 6
April 13th this year will mark the 109th year since Equity Case 7071 was filed for the proper classification of thousands of people who should have correctly been considered to be Chickasaw or Choctaw Indians as their birthright.
Imagine, after more than one hundred years later, we have DNA test that can provide more information as to the truth of these people like Bettie through their descendants if they actually possessed “Indian Blood.” Perhaps it is too late for the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations to correct the sins of their fathers and mothers and embraced the descendants of these men and women who have a legitimate claim to citizenship?
Certainly the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have no obligation to seek and embrace the descendants of Equity Case 7071 and allow them in the tribe.
Perhaps it is based on that lawsuit that sought millions of dollars based on the land lost because their ancestor was considered a Freedman and not a “citizen by blood?”
Perhaps there is still the fear that allowing the descendants into the nation would pose a threat to the numbers of people who might have a voice in the politics of the tribe?
Perhaps, the nations can’t admit that a massive wrong was perpetrated on their own people and to correct it at this time would bring unwanted attention to their tribes as they seek to portray themselves as an honorable people who have had undergone horrific oppression because they are Native American?
Perhaps, the attitudes on race have not significantly changed Native Americans so they can see the descendants of African-Natives as equals?
Bettie LIGON and all of the claimants on Equity Case 7071 just wanted what they thought was justifiably theirs because of their birth and for some reason 109 years later their cause remains to be settled.
The Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations have a debt to these people and their descendants that must be addressed, how long they will ignore something that in the 21st Century demonstrates how far they have to go to truly be considered a “Civilized Tribe?”
Wouldn't it be interesting to see how many of these descendants have Native American blood in their DNA test?