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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Caesar COLBERT Choctaw FreedmanCitizenship-Rights?

Caddo, Ind.T., May 27, 1885.
CAESAR COLBERT sworn and examined.

Q. Are you a Choctaw freedman?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Were you born with Choctaws?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Were you a slave at the time of the treaty?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have you been living upon land set apart by you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What trouble have you now about the registration?
A. We want to have our names registered as citizens of the Choctaw Nation, and they want to register it in such a way that I donít think it is legal. The trouble is, they want to register us under the third article of the treaty and give us only forty acre of land.
Q. If you take the forty acres you have to leave the places where you now live?
A. Yes, sir; we think so. They say the Choctaws have the first selection, the Chickasaws next, and the Kansas Indians next.
Q. Have they not all made their selections?
A. Not that I know of.
Q. Is there any other trouble?
A. We feel that it is not just for us to live under the third article of the treaty and get only forty acres.
Q. What have you made up your minds to do?
A. We want to ask that question of you to-dayóas to what is best.
Q. I think the Government of the United States intends to do right, and means to make the Choctaw Nation do right by you. We want to find out the condition of your people and report it to Congress. We have no authority to say to the Choctaws, ďYou must do so and so.Ē We are only here to get at the facts, and if Congress doesnít think you are treated right, Congress will set it right. If you desire to state any facts we will be glad to take them down and report them to Congress.
Mr. MAXEY. I think, Mr. Chairman, that our duty in endeavoring to inquire into the questions between the freedmen and the Choctaws and Chickasaws is circumscribed by the treaty. That is the law of the land under the Constitution, and is binding upon the United States and upon these nations, and whatever hardships there may be, I donít think that is our business to inquire into. It is our duty to report whether the treaty has been violated, and outside of that I donít think we have any thing to do with it.
Mr. MORGAN. I donít; think we should go outside of the treaty.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you gentlemen suggest any particular course? I see that the treaty is our guide, and that we are circumscribed by the treaty. I have always understood that the treaty must be strictly construed, whatever equity the court might look into which would throw aside the written law, that donít apply to the treaty. All we could report would be violations of the treaty rights anywhere. The question now is, what shall we do with these people who want to make statements?
Mr. MAXEY. We know that the Choctaws have made provisions to settle the difficulty between the freedmen and the Choctaws, and that a commission is to meet shortly. We know the reason for the delay. We know that the treaty between the United States and these nations was a joint treaty, and the difficulty is the two nations have not been able to cooperate. We have managed that s as to authorize the Choctaws to act for themselves and the Chickasaws for themselves. We can report to Congress that the Choctaws have acted and that the Chickasaws have not.
Mr. MORGAN. I donít think we could alter the treaty in any respect. I know the committee has no power to settle anything. We are sent to gain information, and to report to the Senate of the United States in regard to the condition of these people, and I suppose it is within the inquiry to hear their claims so that Congress can examine into the statements.

Q. Mr. Colbert, make any statement you desire. State your complaints again. State what you think is wrong.
A. Well, we learn that the registration now will take place very soon, and we were under the impression that it was not legal, arid we feel now that it is legal, but we donít feel that they are giving us the right by adopting us under the third article of the treaty and confining us to the forty acres.
Q. What ought they to do?
A. We being their citizens, we canít make good citizens under the third article. I think we ought to have equal rights as citizens in any of the States.
Q. In what particular do they fail to give you the same rights that the Choctaws enjoy?
A. We donít get an equal portion of the land. They donít let us hold the office of chief or of circuit judge or any of their offices.
Q. They have repealed that portion of the law, so the Secretary of the Interior says. The Choctaws have repealed that provision that prohibits the election to the office the principal chief from the freedmen. What other complaints have you?
A. They have agreed to give us the same rights with them, and if they do that I have no objection.
Q. The treaty allows you forty acres of land?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is there any apprehension that you will not get the forty acres?
A. No, sir; I believe we will get that, but we think we ought to be allowed as much as any other citizen.
Q. You think you ought to be allowed to take up more land?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have they passed any law stating that you shall not take up more land?
A. No, sir; but we are afraid they will not let us do it if they adopt us. We think we will get what we want until the land is cut up into sections; then they will give us only forty acres.
Q. If they fail to give you your rights, you should report your grievances to Washington, and the Secretary of the Interior and the Com missioner will see that you have your full rights under the treaty. They are both good men, and mean to do right by the Indians and the freed men. You donít know what the Choctaws will do, and if they have not done it yet, I would not be much frightened beforehand. My own opinion isóI have not asked the opinion of the committee; my own opinion isóthat you go right along and do what the law requires, and if you donít get your rights according to the treaty, you represent that to the Secretary of the Interior, and you will get your rights. Is there anything else you want to say?
A. No, sir.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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