Re: Free-Colored v. Slaves in Indian Territory
The Free Colored designation, a John points out, did have more meaning in the slave states of the American South than it did in the Indian Nations. In the Creek Nation there were (according to an 1860 Census)277 "Free Colored" people living in the Creek Nation. According to Creek law, any manumitted (emancipated)slaves were suppossed to move out of the nation. But as the 1860 figures indicate, Free Blacks continued to live there. They were also subject to a special tax levied on their livestock, wagons, tools, etc. But the taxes and other special laws intended to regulate their behavior were seldom enforced until the eve of the Civil War. Some of the "Free Blacks" were enrolled as citizens in Creek tribal towns and received payments distributed in the late 1850s. Some of the Free Blacks in the Creek Nation also owned considerable estates (livestock, tools, merchantile establishments, etc.), Cow Tom, William Nero, Sarah Davis and others serve as examples of that. But Creek slaves also owned property (mostly livestock, tools, etc) even though it was contrary to the Creek Slave code--which, like the laws intended to regulate Free Blacks were seldom enforced. And yes, it was true that some Free Blacks shared kinship ties with Creek Indians--but it was also the case that since Creek slaves were allowed to accumulate property (even though it was against the Slave Code) some Creek slaves were able to "buy themselves out" and become Free Blacks.
But as far as the Treaty of 1866 is concerned, there was no distinction between former slaves and free blacks--all were adopted as citizens with full and equal rights of other Creek citizens. The Creek Courts did attempt to interpret the treaty provisions more strictly in the 1890s--claiming that the free blacks residing in the Creek nation before the war were there in contravention of Creek Laws passed by Council that forbade emancipated slaves to live in the Nation. But,as stated above, that law was never enforced and free blacks continued to live in the Creek country, accumulate property, open businesses, etc. The blood degree test was an invention of ther Dawes Commission, as was the placing of Freedmen and Indians by blood on seperate rolls. Under the terms of the 1866 Treaty ALL were considered equal citizens of the Creek Nation entitled to all rights and privileges without regard to blood degree and without regard to whether they had been held as slaves or were considered "Free Colored."