Saturday, February 23, 2013

Enslaved in the Choctaw Nation. A Partial Look at the 1860 Slave Schedules

Image from Slave Schedule 1860. Boktuklo County, Choctaw Nation
( 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1,438 rolls.)

The first Federal census that recorded families enslaved in Choctaw communities was the Federal Slave Schedule of 1860. Like those who were enslaved in the United States, Choctaw slaves were record in the same manner, with only gender age, and complexion. Only the name of the Choctaw slave holder was captured in this records. Finding the records can be an effort because many of the Choctaw Nation pages, as well as other parts of Indian Territory, are actually embedded within the pages for Arkansas. They were considered to be simply "Lands West of Arkansas"  however, one will find slave schedules for each slave holding tribe to be intact and full of data.

Before dismissing this document as being of little genealogical value, it is important to note that the slaves schedule is truly worth studying, because a number of facts can be learned. The slave schedule captured data regarding age, gender, and complexion (black or mulatto) but it also recorded the number of slave houses on the premises, and whether or not there were any fugitives---runaway slaves.

Close up view of data captured on 1860 Slave Schedule

Two things stand out when looking at the larger page above. Clearly those who were prominent in the nation held slaves. William Durant and Peter Pitchlynn, noted Choctaw leaders appear above on that particular page in Boktuklo County. Leading chief Peter Pitchlynn held over 60 people enslaved. They ranged in age from 60, to several young children.  

Also there was clearly some resistance among the enslaved people. Of the 60 slaves held by Peter Pitchlynn,  a third of his slaves had escaped, seeking freedom. Such a large level of "fugitives" suggests that the enslaved, like all people had the burning desire for freedom. A majority of the fugitives were also young, who may have had the health to have made and escape worth taking.

In Blue County some very unusual is found. 

Emily Lucas is listed as a slave holder and she has 1 male slave. Note that an asterisk (*) appears in the margin next to her name. An asterisk at the bottom of the page contains more unique data about this slave, and one can only feel the anguish for this man.

"This slave, I am informed, was born free, but gave his half sister (who is a white woman & wife of a Choctaw) a Bill of Sale of himself for 99 years that he might remain in the Choctaw Nation.)"

This young man wanted to remain in the Choctaw nation and found a strategy that might prevent his being sold away from those familiar to him.  He sold himself to his own sister. Her ownership of her half brother might have given him some degree of protection from sale, especially since there was a term of 99 years stipulated in the agreement.

Likewise on the same document, it appeared that Israel Folsom was not enthusiastic about cooperating when the census enumerators made inquiries about his slaves. Apparently Asst. US Marshals obtained the data needed.

"Refused to answer and filed his objectives in writing which are herewith submitted. I however, obtained the accompaniing (sic) description of his slaves, from other persons which I have good reason to believe is in the mean correct and I trust will be satisfactory"
E.G. Corder
Asst.U.S. Marshal  

There is no question that one who has an interest in studying the lives of the enslaved population in the Choctaw Nation, will find the Slave Schedules will prove to be most enlightening.


  1. I did not know that slavery was practiced among the Choctaw Nation or other Native Americans. ( I wonder if those European whites corrupted them with the idea of slavery?) I have heard of other cases of black slaves who sold themselves to a relative in order to protect their right to stay home.

    Do you ever work with Kathleen Brandt? I notice some similarities in your research. You are both terrific.

  2. Native Americans practiced slavery before "white people" every came to America. They conquored other tribes and enslaved them, much like how Africans did to other tribes in Africa. How do you think African slaves came to America? They were sold by other Africans.