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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Re: Caesar COLBERT Choctaw FreedmanCitizenship-Rig


You have pointed out some excellent points that are often forgotten.

You have referred to the two most "disloyal" nations (Choctaw and Chickasaw) during the Civil War, and stated that they were hardly "going to accept on an equal basis the people they blamed for their demise." It should also be noted, however, that in addition to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles---both of which were Southern Confederate units there were also confederate regiments from the Cherokee Nation, and the confederate sympathies in these nations remained in the tribes after the war.

Also the surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox, in April 1865, did not end slavery in Indian Territory. It was the Treaty of '66 that brought about an official end to enslavement. As much as it is argued by many in the tribes that "the treaty was forced upon the tribes," the unheard voices of the enslaved are the ones who can certainly ask the question----"then what was going to make them release their slaves from bondage?"

Your one remark is notable...."When are the nations going to accept their responsibility in this mess?" If the nations cannot even teach their young that slavery was a part of their history-----black chattel slavery----the purchase and sale of human beings----then your question will remain unanswered.

"When are the nations going to accept their responsibility in this mess?"

Years ago, when Wilma Mankiller was chief, she had been advised that freedmen had never had a place in the Cherokee Nation, as voters, nor held office. If this kind of misinformation, is passed to the leaders of the nations today, and the leaders know no other history than the misinformation passed to them, then your question will remain unanswered. They will not learn about Stick Ross, a Freedmen AND a leader within their nation who served in the Cherokee Government. (A road in the Cherokee Nation bears his name today, but the Cherokee children will never hear his name. Why?)

"When are the nations going to accept their responsibility in this mess?"

To teach U.S. history without mention of slavery is not complete. To teach Cherokee history, to honor those forced west on the Trail of Tears, without mention of the 1200 slaves on the same trail and to ignore those whose labor supported the leaders from John Ross, to Joseph Vann, to the Ridge, to Stand Watie----to ignore their enslavement of human beings and the lack of any abolitionist movement from inside the nations inculpates the nations themselves.

The struggle after the war however, brings about some other discoveries, from Congressional records, to a mryiad of other documents yet uncovered. The cases such as the Perrys, and others reveal another chapter in the story as well. The former slaves, refused to leave the nation of their birth and the soil that they had worked as slaves and later as free people, and rightfully so. In addition, many had been parents who were of the tribes, (by blood) and the one culture that so many of them knew, was the one into which they were born. Yet somehow, speaking the language, eating the same food, using the same burial customs, did not make them acceptable, as people. That did not qualify them as citizens. As slaves they were indeed acceptable. As free people, the first effort from Chickasaw country to was try to rid the land of their ex slaves as they no longer served a purpose.

"When are the nations going to accept their responsibility in this mess?"

We, also, as researchers have a responsibility to bring forth this hidden history. The records abound from 1867 to the years following Oklahoma statehood and many are still hidden in obscure buildings in Muskogee, and some on shelves in Archival repositories. When some of the challenges to the tribes have arisen in the past few decades, the response has simply been to delay, until the plaintiffs mostly elderly, have passed away.

There is a need for others to begin to truly study the records, and to pursue this history with vigor. Not from an aspect of tribal enrollment, but also from a perspective of telling the entire history of a nation. These hidden chapters, are not small bullets that are insignificant in the greater story of the tribes. The issue of the Freedmen was a very big part of governmental affairs of the Choctaw and Chickasaws up until statehood. For example, the $300,000 given to the Chickasaws after the War for the Freedmen never reached the Freedmen--which was brought out in so many of the letters to Congress from the 1880s onward. Not only, were the nations not going to "accept on an equal basis the people they blamed for their demise" but even when Congress sent funds for the benefit of the ex-slaves, it was unrealistic to even believe that it would take place. And of course, the nations were never held accountable.

As the research continues, it does appear that some other interesting history has come out, through the high number of activists that emerged from these two nations in particular.

So, "when are the nations going to accept their responsibility in this mess?"

You have asked an excellent question, Terry.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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