Number 18 - November 28, 2002
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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.
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
I 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.
At the beginning
of the 20th Century this same group once again found themselves faced
with losing their homelands through Congressional means.
Because 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.
On 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 (European/Indians).
Article 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.
Because 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.
The 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:
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...."
Daniel F. Littlefield,
Jr., The Chickasaw Freedmen, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut,
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
On 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.
Congress 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 them.
On 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.
On 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.
The 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.
History 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 this wrong.
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:
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
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
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.
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
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 Packet
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 (Choctaw-Chickasaw)
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)