AfriGeneas Western Frontier Forum
Black and Native American Relations
I have recently read two very interesting books dealing with African and Native American relations and share them with readers because they seem to be appropriate for this forum.
Africans and Native relations have largely been overlooked by the academy until about two decades ago. Ownership of Black slaves by the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee,Choctaw,Chickasaw,Creek and Seminole) have been in the news lately since the expulsion of Cherokee and Seminole freedemen.Note: Freedmen being the descendants of slaves owned by the five civilized tribes before removal from the South to Indian territory to what is now Oklahoma. The history of the relations between the two people is complex and diabolical, which includes Black slaves escaping bondage and finding refuge among native people in the early 1700s. Tiya Miles' "The Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom"(2005) tells the story of Shoe Boots, the Cherokee war hero and successful farmer, in the South and Doll, an African slave he bought in the 1790s. After he separated from his White wife and two children Shoe Boots and Doll lived together as intimate partners. She had his five children and lived among the Cherokees, adopting their language and way of life. The two of them witnessed the social changes that occurred among the Cherokees,including the spread of southern White racism in the tribe,increased Cherokee and White marriage and increase of ownership of Black slaves by Cherokees and other tribes. By 1824 the Cherokees were one of the first tribes to pass laws that prohibited "intermarriage between negro slaves and indians and whites." Although, Shoe Boots had died Doll went to Indian Territory during the "Trail of Tears" where she lived to an old age. Shoe Boots had petitioned the Cherokee Council to accept Doll and their childrfen as free members of the tribe. Although, Doll, now known as Dolly Shoe Boots was a member of the tribe she was left on the margins of Cherokee society. She was a Black woman in an increasing hostile society where people of African descent were still held in slavery. A society that sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War and supplied military units to the Confederate Army. The story of the Shoe Boots family is indeed a sensitive one and tells the historical realities of Black slavery among the Cherokees.
Claudio Sant's saga, "Black,White and Indian:Race and the UnMaking of An American Family"(2005) is the story of a family with African, Creek and White roots in eighteenth century Creek territory in North central Alabama. The author traces G.W. Grayson, a Creek patriarch with a daughter, Katy and a son ,William, who both have children with Black partners. Katy Grayson abandons the father of her two chidren and marries a Creek-Scot from the Creek nation. William refuses to abandon his Black wife, Judah, who accompanies him on the "Trail of Tears". Saunt follows the Graysons for five generations telling about the hardships of removal to Indian Territory,intermarriage with Whites and adoption of southern culture. Adopting southern White culture meant accepting the region's racial hierarchy. The Creeks, like the Cherokees, supported the Civil War and fought the Union forces alongside the Confederate Army. Judah and her children were effected by the many laws passed by the Creeks to restrict the lives of Creek slaves and those who were free,but residing in the Creek nation. To complicate matters for Blacks living in Indian territory were Oklahoma's strict Jim Crow laws. Saunt's book is based on the forty-four volume diary of G.W. Grayson, one time principal Chief of the Creek Nation.
William Loren Katz, Black Indians(1986)
Thanks for reading.
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