Descendants Of Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes

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 Historical Background of the 5 nations Indian Freedmen:


    The 5 nations  prior to  European invasions were located in what is now the Southeastern United States. Common Histories  were  Matrilineal societies, with tribal citizenship coming through the mother, through marriage to a tribal member,  and through the adoption of captives  into the tribe. The tribal members fished, had small farms  and hunted  small game . The tribes were forcibly removed during the 1830s to present day Oklahoma, due to the defiance of President Andrew Jackson of orders of the US Supreme Court forbidding the forced removals.  The increasing number of Europeans being adopted into the  5 nations  through marriage to Indian women brought significant changes to the old tribal ways. These "Indians" brought enslaved individuals of African descent into the tribes, and  eventually brought about the enacting of tribal constitutions and tribal acts restricting the rights of people of African descent to  obtain citizenship in the tribes and  to marry other tribal citizens,  even though eventually,  many of the individuals of African descent had Indian fathers who were tribal citizens.   Eventually most  of the tribes also had some restrictions against Free blacks living in the tribe.  The tribe which treated the blacks with the greatest equality prior to the Civil War were the Seminoles.  The vast majority of the slaves were owned by people who were whites adopted into the tribe or their children who were known as "mixed blood" tribal members.  It  must be pointed out that some of the "slaves" were only slaves on paper, since the US government had tried to stop large numbers of Free blacks from moving to the Indian territory with the Indian tribal members.  Also, Free blacks, living in the tribes were often  stolen by whites intruders and carried off to slaveholding states; some were recovered with great difficulty by the Indians, who were often the relatives of the stolen Free black.

     At the time of the Civil War, except for the Chickasaw nation, only a very small minority of  tribal citizens owned slaves. When the Civil war broke out in 1861, each of the 5 nations governments signed treaties with the Confederacy, although only in the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations were the majority of the tribal citizens united behind the Confederacy. During the Civil war,  only the Cherokee nation repudiated the treaty with the Confederacy,  all slaves owned by Cherokee were freed  in 1863, and  the Cherokee nation ended discriminatory statues against people of African descent.  At the end of the Civil War, the Us government took vast amounts of land in order to punish the 5 nations for entering into agreements with the Confederacy.  In 1866,  Each of the 5 nations entered into an agreement with the United States where they agreed to end slavery forever and to treat their former slaves  (and Free blacks) equally.  The Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole nations immediately adopted  the "Freedmen"  in order to give them tribal citizenship, while the Choctaw nation did not adopt the Freedmen as citizens until the 1880s. The Chickasaw nation, at one point adopted the Freedmen as citizens, but then rescinded the adoption.    After the Civil War,  until Oklahoma Statehood, the Freedmen tribal members obtained education, held positions in tribal government, and shared in the tribal resources in the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations. During this time, the 5 nations were steadily invaded by whites, especially from the Southern United States who placed extreme pressure on the US government to disband the tribal governments and to confiscate the majority of the  lands and minerals of the 5 nations to give to whites. 

     Eventually, the 5 nations were forced to sell vast amounts of land to the US government for minimal payment.  Prior to the land sale, the US government  empowered the Dawes Commission to set up rolls of tribal citizens so that each tribal citizen would receive a share of the tribal resources in accordance to agreements with the tribe and the US government.  The Dawes commission used the  earlier citizenship rolls of the tribes in order to determine who would be placed on the US government roll as a citizen of the various tribes.  It must be noted that tribal rolls did not list degrees of Indian blood for tribal citizens; there was no concept prior to the turn of the century of "blood quantum" in the 5 nations, only a concept of  tribal citizenship or non-citizenship. The Dawes Commission, when encountering a tribal citizen who they believed to have African descent almost always categorized such an individual as a "Freedmen", with no degree of Indian blood listed on his Dawes application , although the "Freedmen" often listed an Indian Father  on his application for enrollment; and gave testimony of  having an Indian Father or grandfather.  The Final Rolls of the 5 tribes had separate roll numbers for "Freedmen", in no instances were degrees of Indian blood recorded on these final rolls for "freedmen", or contained in the applications for enrollment. However, those with  mixtures of white and Indian ancestry were enrolled by the Dawes commission as "Indians", with varying degrees of Indian blood. Although many black Indians protested their categorization as Freedmen, most were unsuccessful  in persuading the Dawes Commission or  later the Federal courts in being reclassified  by  them as tribal citizens by blood.  Each "Freedmen" received between 40 acres and 160 acres, depending on the tribe, as his share of the tribal assets. (Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen received 40 acres although Choctaw and Chickasaw by blood received 320 acres. In the other 3 nations, all tribal citizens received the same amount of tribal land).  The original intent of  Congress in recording the blood quantums was to determine which tribal citizens would  have land restrictions as to whether or not  the tribal member would be allowed to sell his allotted land and minerals  without permission from the Indian Bureau (now the Department of the Interior).  ("Restricted Indians" have blood quantum's of greater than 1/2 Indian blood). 

     After Oklahoma Statehood, the Freedmen were subject to "Jim Crow" laws as people of African descent, and were forced to join the black non-tribal members ("state Negros") in fighting the Jim Crow laws, Ku Klux Clan, lynchings, and grandfather clause (which was enacted to stop non-white voting), which they had not been subjected to as tribal citizens, prior to statehood.  After Oklahoma  Statehood, tribal leaders worked tirelessly to reestablish tribal governments. At first, after Oklahoma Statehood,  the Freedmen tribal citizens received the same tribal payments for minerals, etc.  and educational benefits as other tribal members from the Indian Bureau. However, the US government, through the Department of Interior  began issuing "Certificate Of Indian Blood cards" (CDIB) cards as a prerequisite for participation in Federal Government  programs set up for Indians.  These CDIB cards were based on the blood quantums listed on the final rolls made by the Dawes commission about 1900.   The CDIB card program has resulted in the exclusion of black Indian people from participation in such programs  as Indian Health Service (I H S ) since  degrees of Indian blood were generally   not recorded for Indian people with black ancestry by the Dawes Commission.  Additionally, when the 5 nations reestablished tribal governments, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek nations enacted constitutions which restricted membership to those who had an ancestor on the "blood rolls". Although the Cherokee nation constitution allows the  Freedmen descendants the right to apply for membership in the Cherokee nation, in actuality, Freedmen descendants are not enrolled because the tribal counsel passed a tribal act requiring that the applicant for enrollment receive a CDIB card as part of the enrollment process for tribal membership.  Until recently, the Seminole nation did enroll Seminole Freedmen tribal members, however, a constitutional change was enacted in which  Freedmen tribal members would be removed from the tribe.  The revised constitution was not recognized by the BIA; the tribal council in late 2002 seated Freedmen representatives on the tribal council in an effort to regain federal recognition. 

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