African-Native American Genealogy Forum
Re: Freedmen Roll DOES indicate "Indian blood"
In Response To: Freedmen Roll DOES indicate "Indian blood" ()
Since early 2002, I have reviewed hundreds of census cards and interviews of Freedmen dawes enrollees which were made by the Dawes Commission. There is far more than 1 or two cards and interviews documenting Indian parentage for Freedmen Dawes enrollees. Besides this Dawes Commission evidence, other documents made by the tribes prior to Dawes and documents made by the US government subsequent to the Dawes Rolls confirm Indian ancestry for many many Freedmen Dawes enrollees. The research that I have personally done and the knowledge that I have , however, pails to that done by Ron Graham and Gail Jackson, both professional genealogists and board members of the Descendants of freedmen Association who have reviewed thousands of Freedmen and "by blood" census cards. The Descendants of Freedmen Association has hosted several genealogy workshops in central and Eastern Oklahoma which has focused on the Dawes Rolls and we have been instrumental in assisting many persons in obtaining Certificates of Indian blood cards (CDIB) and tribal memberships in various nations.
Some of the Cherokee Freedmen Dawes enrollees who the Dawes Commission records document Indian ancestry are:
Rachel Walker - Census Card 1046 - Cherokee Indian Father - Jim Martin
This is just a small sample of persons whom former Deputy Chief John Ketcher and Chief Smith appear to be publically stating have no documented Indian ancestry and whose descendants are merely talking about having "Indian princess" ancestors. (Mr Ketcher was deputy Chief under Wilma Mankiller who told the Baltimore Sun in July 1984 that Freedmen had no Indian blood and should not be members of the Cherokee nation). I personally have never met a Descendant of a freedmen tribal member of any Indian nation who claimed their grandmother was an "Indian princess". Indeed, earlier this year, I was looking at historical documents along with members of the Baldridge family who not only could show their ancestor listed on the 1871 roll of Loyal Shawnee immigrants to the Cherokee nation but had information on their Indian ancestors prior to immigration to the Cherokee nation. I also sat several months ago and personally reviewed documents with a member of the freedmen association who is a descendant of Cherokee Indian Nancy Ward and a member of that society, and her Nancy Ward Society certification showed her Indian ancestry back to the 18th century, prior to the birth of Stephen Hilldebrand, the Cherokee Indian who is listed by the Dawes Commission as the father of Freedmen Francis Hildebrand McNac. No part of that discussion dealt with talk of an "Indian princess grandmother" either. The Tulsa World in November 2006 ran a story regarding one descendant of Nancy Ward, Mrs Havanna Vann who is facing tribal disenrollment due to "lack of proof of Indian ancestry" - at least that is what is claimed by current or former tribal officials leading the freedmen dis-enrollment movement:
There are many more documents which I could have listed, including freedmen with Delaware, Osage parents, etc. However, this is enough documentation to get the point across that mere presence on the Freedmen roll does not in itself establish that a tribal member had no Indian ancestry. Most of the freedmen listed above had dead parents at the time of the Dawes Commission enrollment and no "by blood" roll number from their Indian parent to allow their descendants to register now as tribal members "by blood". (Cynthia Lynch was still alive as of September 1 1902 which allowed her freedmen childrens descendants to later receive "citizenship by blood" tribal enrollment and CDIB cards using her roll number). The only thing established by the Dawes Commission in putting a person on the freedmen roll was that the person had some African ancestry, was a member of the tribe, and that they preferred that his allotment be unrestricted in 1904 so that it could be stolen by settlers as quickly as possible since those tribal members listed with degrees of blood had restricted allotments until at least 1908.
I dont believe that anyone is saying that every single freedmen in every single tribe had an Indian parent or grandparent or made such claim to the government or tribal officials. I dont know of any freedmen descendant who is saying that those who dont have Indian ancestry should not have their treaty rights to tribal membership honored.
I do know that the main argument used by tribal officials to exclude from tribal membership those whose ancestors were listed as freedmen is that such people have no documents to prove Indian ancestry. The Dawes rolls were made to destroy the tribal unity, the tribal government, and the federal government was successful in that some individuals began to believe (or pretended to believe) that the actual "blood quantum fraction" listed, or what section of the dawes roll a person was placed on should determine whether that tribal member or their descendants should retain tribal membership or be a second class tribal member so far as benefits, holding office, etc. (1/4 blood quantum is required in the Creek nation currently to hold office.)
The good thing about the Dawes rolls was that for the most part, they did establish who the tribal officials recognized as members of the tribes around 1900. Although I have in various emails pointed out the presense of adopted whites on the Cherokee by blood roll and the Delaware roll of the Cherokee nation and that the proposed constitutional amendment will retain their citizenship by no means do I call for the disenrollment of these people from the Cherokee nation. The adopted whites ancestors such as the Sears, Bennetts, or the Jones gave service or investment to the tribe historically and their descendants registered as tribal members during the 1970s just as did the freedmen descendants. They received their tribal membership rights back thanks to the efforts of others. See:
But I would challenge anyone who would say that the historic investment of adopted whites ancestors was more than that of the freedmen descendants ancestors and for that reason they should retain tribal membership while the freedmen descendants- whether their ancestor listed as a freedmen by the Dawes Commission was a completely African born slave or a recognized citizen of mixed African-Indian ancestry such as freedmen Perry Ross whose tribal citizenship prior to 1866 was due to his having a Cherokee Indian mother, should be disenrolled.
Since the Dawes rolls cannot be divided into "those with Indian ancestry and "those with no Indian ancestry", and were not made to do that in the first place no citizen should be disenrolled based on what section of the Dawes rolls he or his ancestor was placed , or amount of blood quantum or lack of blood quantum listed on the Dawes rolls for that DAwes enrollee or their descendant.
Marilyn Vann - President - Descendants of Freedmen Association
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