Editors: The Native American presence in
many African America family trees is well known, both through conventional
documentation and oral history. Less widely understood are the "Black
Indians," the African-descended people who were joined with
the "Five Civilized Tribes" of the southeastern U.S. under
a legal status that the U.S. government recognized as slavery -
but which many of their descendants view as tribal membership. These
Black Indians are reasserting their tribal rights in the face of
opposition from most of the councils of the Five Civilized Tribes.
Commentator Eleanor "Gypsy" Wyatt is of African-Choctaw-Chickasaw-Creek-Cherokee
descent. A press release announcing the Summer Conference of the
Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association follows
Ms. Wyatt's commentary.
can't recall who first said "history repeats itself,"
but I can subscribe to the theory. In 1830 the Congress of the United
States passed the Indian Removal Act, leading to one of the deadliest
episodes of history. Men, women, and children of African, Indian,
and a blood mixture of both were taken from their eastern lands
and forced into exile west of the Mississippi. The episode is remembered
as the "Trail of Tears" to what was commonly known as
Indian Territory - present day Oklahoma.
the beginning of the 20th Century this same group once again found
themselves faced with losing their homelands through Congressional
the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil war did not affect
African descendants of Indian Territory, the Treaty of 1866 between
the Five Civilized Tribes and the United States ended "slavery"
in the Indian Nations. I must note here that the term "slavery"
holds a completely different meaning for Indians than that of the
United States' term. Slavery by most accounts was an institution
that was forced upon the majority of the Indian population; it was
a "paper" term.
the instructions of the same Congress that took the southeastern
Indian lands, those with any African heritage, regardless of their
Indian heritage, could not move to Oklahoma as free people. The
choice would be to leave one's sons, daughters and grandchildren
behind or call them slaves. Most chose to call the African-descended
members "slaves," a "paper" term. Others stayed
behind. This does not negate the fact that there were true slaves
in the Indian Nations, most held by what were known as mixed bloods
3 of the Treaty of 1866 states the intention to "give all persons
of African descent, resident in the said nation at the date of the
treaty of Fort Smith, and their descendants, heretofore held in
slavery among said nations, all the rights, privileges, and immunities,
including the right of suffrage, of citizens of said nations...."
This was not done in its entirety. Therefore the Dawes Commission
was formed, March 3, 1893, as the first step to dissolve the Indian
Nations of their land. The original commissioners were Henry L.
Dawes, Meredith H. Kidd and Archibald S. McKennon.
the Freedmen (a term used for those that included African heritage)
were treated as aliens, without rights, in early 1894 a House bill
was introduced into congress to improve the condition of the Freedmen.
A commission was appointed to investigate and make a roll of all
Freedmen who were entitled to benefits under the treaty of 1866.
Chickasaw Freedmen established a Freedmen Association to protect
their status, rights, and interests in negotiations with the Dawes
Commission. They met in 1894 and chose Joseph P. Mullen of Ardmore
and Robert V. Belt of Washington as their attorneys. The Freedmen
Association presented the following claims to the Dawes Commission:
they asked for rights, privileges, and immunities equal to those
of the Chickasaw citizens, including suffrage, equal educational
privileges, equal protection under the law, and equal shares in
the moneys and public domain of the Nation. Second, they claimed
indemnification for damage, loss, and injury sustained since 1866
as a result of being denied their rights as citizens. Third, they
asked that, once their rights were secured, the Chickasaw lands
be surveyed and allotted in severalty, at least to the freedmen...."
F. Littlefield, Jr., The Chickasaw Freedmen, Greenwood Press,
Westport, Connecticut, London, England
authorized a survey of the lands of the Five Civilized Tribes in
the spring of 1895. On June 10, 1896 Congress authorized the Dawes
Commission to hear and determine the applications for all persons,
including freedmen, who might apply for citizenship in the Indian
Nations and to enroll the citizens.
June 7, 1897 Congress gave the United States courts exclusive jurisdiction
over all civil and criminal cases arising in Indian Territory after
January 1, 1898. The laws of Arkansas and the United States were
extended to all residents in the territory, irrespective of race.
Congress also clarified the "rolls of citizenship" to
mean the last authenticated rolls approved by the councils, the
courts or the Dawes Commission under the act of 1896. Any name that
had been stricken had the right to appeal to the United States courts.
took final control of affairs in the Indian Territory on June 28,
1898 with the Curtis Act, abolishing the enforcement of the laws
of the Indian tribes. On July 1, 1898 the tribal courts of the Cherokee
and Seminoles were abolished. The Chickasaw and Choctaw courts were
abolished October 1, 1898. All pending cases were transferred to
the United States courts. The Atoka Agreement was included. The
Curtis Act applied to the tribes only where they did not conflict
with the provisions of the Atoka Agreement. The Curtis Act provided
for allotment to the Chickasaw, but the Atoka Agreement excluded
April 13, 1907 EQUITY CASE 7071 was filed on behalf of more than
1600 persons of African/Native blood requesting their rightful place
in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nation. Many of these were descendants
of Black Indians who were what I term "Paper Slaves".
This case was bounced back and forth between the Indian Nations
Council and the United States, although "Congress took final
control of affairs in the Indian Territory on June 28, 1898...."
There has been no resolution to date.
August 4th and 5th, 1898 Charles Cohee, President of the Chickasaw
Freedmen's Association, called a convention of Chickasaw and Choctaw
Freedmen, living in the Chickasaw Nation. The meeting was held at
the Dawes Academy, near Berwyn.
issues that faced our ancestors, Black Indians, are just as prevalent
today. While there is no justice in time, there is No Injustice
in Eternity (Richard Oberg). We the Descendants of Freedmen
of the 5 Civilized Tribes will strive to eternity for the "Rights"
of our Ancestors. To recognize them defines our precedence today.
To recognize them acknowledges the rich history of our people, a
history that has been omitted from the pages of time.
will repeat itself once again. About 1900, at Lake Mohonk, New York,
former Massachusetts Senator and Commissioner to the 5 Civilized
Tribes the Hon. Henry L. Dawes LL.D. promised to bring the "Freedmen
Into Perfect Equality Of Citizenship." One hundred and three
years later, the Descendants of Freedmen of all 5 tribes will reconvene
May 29 - June 1, 2003 to complete the unfinished business of our
Ancestors. The Commission that bears his name set out and destroyed
this purpose. Thus, for the Hon. Henry L. Dawes we must also right
"Gypsy" Wyatt is a second generation Freedmen Descendant
of the Chickasaw/Choctaw Nations. She is a sixth generation by blood,
although not acknowledge by either the Chickasaw or Choctaw Nations.
She is a Degreed Registered Nurse who retired this year to work
fulltime to bring the Freedmen issues to the public's awareness.
She has been researching the Five Civilized Tribes since 1985 and
has for the past year developed a resource web site for Black Indians
particular to Indian Territory/Oklahoma.
For Immediate Release:
Indians To Convene In Historic Celebration!
Into Perfect Equality Of Citizenship"
Henry L. Dawes LL.D. Former Massachusetts Senator, Commissioner
to the 5 Civilized Tribes, circa 1900 Lake Mohonk, New York)
Conference Registration, For:
of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association
Annual Summer Conference
29-June 1, 2003
of the Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association,
have finalized plans for a huge Conference and Celebration Extravaganza,
to be held in Oklahoma, the final leg of the journey for their ancestors
whose lives intertwine inextricably with the infamous Trail of Tears.
Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association, a
non-profit service organization, registered in the State of Oklahoma,
whose members are largely Lineal Descendants of the more than 40,000
former Slaves of the Indian Territory that were freed with the negotiated
Treaties of 1866 between the U.S. Government and the Sovereign Nations
of the 5 Civilized Tribes, now announces the first ever grand-scale
undertaking since the days of the Freedmen's Bureau, to unite African
Ancestored Native American Descendants of Freedmen from all "5"
of the Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and
Seminole Nations of Indians) who are now scattered across the United
States and abroad.
Members are those having ancestor's that were enumerated upon the
Indian Census occurring between 1898 and 1907, formally known as
the "Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the 5 Civilized
Tribes In Indian Territory, Prepared by The Commission and Commissioners
To The 5 Civilized Tribes." The Rolls were approved by the
Secretary of the Interior On or Prior to 1907 (subsequently reopened
briefly in order to satisfy Supreme Court Orders in response to
litigation) and closed finally in 1914. The list was compiled and
printed Under Authority Conferred by the Act of Congress, Approved
June 21, 1906 (34 Stat. L.325). These Commission Census Documents
are more commonly referred to as the "Dawes Rolls", in
reference the Honorable Henry L. Dawes LL.D., former Massachusetts
Senator, the man appointed Commissioner To The Five Civilized Tribes
by the Government to carry out its purposes. He was a self proclaimed
"friend of the Indian".
undisputed goal of the Commission appointed by Congress "was
to persuade the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes to negotiate
themselves out of existence, an essential first step in implementing
a policy of allotting land to each individual Indian." Many
of the Lineal Descendants of the African Native Americans set to
attend the Conference can trace their lineage back to the families
of these land owning Indians and even more can trace their ancestry
back to Indians on the Dawes Blood Rolls.
the many issues to be considered at the gathering will be that despite
the presence of Freedmen Ancestors upon the Federally Compiled,
Completed and Approved Indian Rolls, Freedmen Descendants of the
Modern Era are finding the Dawes Rolls now being used in an even
more malevolent manner by the Current Tribal Governments of the
Indian Nations than originally intended, and that as recent as the
year 2002 Freedmen Descendants also find that they have been virtually
legislated out of the existence of all 5 Tribes by oppressive Tribal
Acts, Resolutions, Laws, Constitutions, Segregationist Practices
and Unevenly Applied Governmental Policies and Procedures, unchallenged
thus far (with the unusual exception of the Seminole Freedmen).
an unprecedented show of Unity and Solidarity, the Descendants of
Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association has challenged itself
to a commitment of making this Conference a wonderful learning opportunity
and a chance to bring African Ancestored Native American Descendants,
Members and Others, together with an impressive gathering of Genealogists,
Researchers, Socio-Economic Analysts, Politicians, Political Advocates,
Attorneys, Legal Authorities, Educators, Authors, Media Representatives,
Freedmen Activists, Museum Executives, Tribal Representatives, Anthropologists,
Health and Welfare Professionals, African Native American Indian
Representatives of other Nations, Interested Persons, Students,
Friends and Supporters, to affect an awareness of the Citizenship,
Enrollment, Land, Legal and other issues facing Modern Freedmen.
good time is sure to be had by all, as participants will partake
in the pleasures of our host city and facility, the NCED Marriott
Conference Center and Hotel, located in Norman, Oklahoma (a 30 minute
drive from Oklahoma City). An all-inclusive Conference Package will
be offered. Though it is hoped by The Descendants of Freedmen of
the 5 Civilized Tribes Association that everyone could arrange their
schedules to make full use of the offered facilities and planned
activities, we also recognize that not all persons can participate
in all 4 of the planned Conference Days, so a Day Use Registration
will also be be offered to those desiring to attend.
are Keynote Speakers, Lectures, Presentations and Town Hall Discussions
presented by Freedmen and Indian Territory Experts, Luminaries and
Black Indian Descendants. Participants will enjoy an Outdoor Bar-B-Que
Cookout, Banquet Gala and Award Presentations, Musical Guest Stars
and Cultural Entertainment, Interpretive Indian Slave Narrative
Re-enactments, Dance and Vendors and Sponsor Showcase.
you prefer, submit a written request for Conference Registration
of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association Conference P.O.
Box 3324, Enid, Oklahoma 73701
Miss Securing Your All-Inclusive Package To This Historic Event!
Board Member, Chair Bylaws-Conference Committees, Angela Molette
Descendants of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association
P.O. Box 42221
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73123
President-Marilyn Vann (Cherokee-Choctaw)
Association Vice President-Eleanor "Gypsy" Wyatt (Choctaw-Chickasaw-Creek-Cherokee)
Association Treasurer-Gail Jackson
Association Spiritual Advisor-Ronald Graham (Creek)
Association Secretary-Rose Mamaghanyzadeh (Cherokee-Choctaw)