Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sallie Walton & Legacy - Women's History Month


Sallie Walton (b. 1863  d. 1968)
Choctaw Freedwoman

Born during the turbulent years of the Civil War, Sallie was born in 1863 the old Skullyville district. Her mother was Amanda Perry who was enslaved by Emeline Perry.  Amanda was the daughter of Kitty, who came to Indian Territory along with the Perry clan from Yalobusha Mississippi, during the Indian Removal in 1831.

Sallie's young years were spent in the post Civil War years in Indian Territory. Her home was in the Skullyville community where she lived the first half of her life. Immersed in Choctaw culture and language she adapted to the life that surrounded her. As a young woman she  had a child with John Williams and daughter Louisa was born.  In 1883, she married Samuel Walton in the Choctaw Nation.

Samuel & Sallie Walton

Sallie's life before that unfolded in the  Skullyville area. Her immediate family was not a large one. Her grandmother Kitty Perry Crow, was the head of the family and during those years they maintained a relationship to the Perry's who had brought them to Indian Territory in the 1830s. Sallie was close to her mother Amanda as well as to her uncle Jackson Crow. During t he years of post Civil War Indian Territory, the family lived in the Choctaw community around Oak Lodge.

Family Saga Jackson Crow
Sallie's mother Amanda Crow had a brother Jackson Crow. Often called Jack by the family, he came of age in the small Skullyville and Sugar Loaf communities in the Choctaw Nation. Her uncle Jackson Crow spent time with other young men in the same area. They were the closest neighbors, and he was the only Freedman in his circle of friends. It was his group of associates who encountered local Choctaw Charlie Wilson on a road in the same area. Wilson was running for a tribal office at the time. During the encounter with Wilson a confrontation unfolded, and Charlie Wilson was left dead. Although there were several of them in the group, Wilson's death lead to the arrest of Sallie's uncle Jackson Crow, who was the only one in the group arrested and later tried for the death of Charlie Wilson.

Although it is said that the gun that killed Jackson Crow was not his, he was still the only one tried for Wilson's death. He was also the only "Choctaw Negro" in the group, he was convicted and executed in Judge Parker's court. The impact of the capture execution of Sallie's uncle left a dramatic impact on the lives of the Perry women, so much that Sallie often resisted ever speaking about it, when asked, and the few times she was known to raise her voice came when she adamantly refused to revisit the trauma, which occurred when he was captured.

The capture involved setting a fire to the family cabin. Three women were inside the small cabin at the time. Sallie's mother, grandmother, and Crow's wife were the likely three women, terrorized by the blaze, and in fear of being burned alive, the three women were said to have fled the cabin in tears and terror. Sallie, living nearby with husband Samuel Walton had to have been equally shaken by the sheer experienced by her mother and grandmother.

Attending the trial Sallie and her family would only be present to claim the body of Uncle Jackson Crow after his execution. Sallie retreated to a quiet life in the Territory. The notoriety of being related to "the outlaw" who was her dear uncle left an imprint on the Perry women.

Life in Skullyville
Sallie who had married in 1883 lived quietly in the nation with husband, Samuel Walton who was a well known preacher in the Skullyville community. In the years after her uncle died and the notoriety had subsided in the area life continued for the family amid their heartbreak but she had the comfort of her husband Samuel. 
Sallie's grandmother Kitty died in the late 1880s and her mother passed away in 1898. By the early 1900s they'd had two sons Houston and Samuel Jr. Sadly, Houston, her oldest son would perish in a train accident in 1904. A few years later in 1912, her husband Samuel passed away, and was buried in the Hontubby area of Le Flore County.

In her younger years, Sallie had not had access to primary education, but both she and her husband Samuel who was a literate man, both emphasized education for their children. Settling in the Ft. Coffee area for a few  years, their son Samuel attended the Fort Coffee neighborhood school for Choctaw Freedmen children. In later  years, when Samuel married a woman from nearby Arkansas, they would move across the state line so that the Walton children would have access to schools for black children, in nearby Fort Smith. Sallie would eventually join them in nearby Fort Smith, right across the state line, in Arkansas.

Sallie continued her life in Fort Smith for the next 40 years as a widow, nurturing her grandsons, choosing to become a member of the First Baptist Church. It was a coincidence that she joined this church, because her husband Samuel had contributed to building that church, in the early years after the Civil War, and helping to establish the first "Sabbath" school for freed blacks in the city.  
Sallie became a beloved grandmother and great grandmother to the Walton family of Fort Smith, and the Sanders family in Le Flore County Oklahoma. She was an active member of First Baptist where she attended until latter years when her health required her to slow down. The pastor however, frequented her home in Fort Smith giving her communion and praying with her.

She maintained a strong identity to Choctaws in the Howe Oklahoma area, and also made inquiries in the early 1920s about her own history and past by communicating with locals in Le Flore County area, in Howe. W. B. Billy and Loman Jack in the Howe area communicated with her in the 1920s. 

Lands that were allotted to the Walton family, were now long lost to the family and she now lived with her son and his family. But both Billy and Jack communicated with her from nearby Oklahoma. Both of these Choctaw men, had known her parents and shared much of her family history with her. Her interest in history, land and culture were pervasive throughout her life. 

After locating to Fort Smith, Sallie's to live with son Samuel and his family, she insured that the Walton children would have easier access to education.  She became a lifetime member of the Baptist church, and spent the remainder of her life there. Her lifestyle was a simple one, where she tended to a large garden, working on her long treasured quilts, and prepared simple food dishes or drinks from her Choctaw life---Pashofa, Tom Fuller and "kvfi". 

Sallie was always the matriarch of the family instilling a strong sense of family, emphasizing both education and independence to her children. 
Her meager funds were often used to buy books as needed for the grandchildren, who attended local parochial school for black children.

One of her older grandchildren, Ethel Sanders, who later migrated west to California, remembered how her grandmother Sallie was frequently teaching her words and phrases in her native Choctaw language. During the 1950s Sallie's younger brother Joe Perry came to visit, and an uncle reminded me, of how he was in awe listening to the two of them talking on the back porch in their native Choctaw to each other. Before her health declined, Sallie was an avid walker, often walking for miles, especially when items were needed for her garden and property. 

Her grandchildren and great grandchildren in both Le Flore County Oklahoma and Sebastian County Arkansas would frequent her home well into the 1950s  In 1961 her health declined and she passed away peacefully in July 1961 in her home in Fort Smith.

She left behind her a the treasured Bible, several of her handmade quilts, and a few images of family and loved ones. She is buried in Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith, near her son, Samuel Walton Jr.

This gentle Choctaw woman was my great grandmother and she was my heart. May she ever rest in peace. I honor her during Women's History Month.


Monday, January 4, 2021

Choctaw Freedmen at the Dawes Comission

When and where did Freedmen go to have their families interviewed in front of the Dawes Commission? 

Many people assume that everyone was interviewed in the same place. And in many cases it si assumed that Muskogee was the site. However, that is not the case. There were specific places where the interviews were held in each of the Five Nations.  In some cases the site was near the family's home, but in other cases people had to travel by horse, or wagon to get to the enrollment site and camp there for several days before appearing before the Dawes commissioners.  

In early 1899 notices were put up throughout the Choctaw Nation to inform the public of the plan to accept applications for through the Dawes Commission. Choctaw Freedmen were included in the registration process. And in many Dawes files the interview site is mentioned as it was often mentioned in the transcription of the family official interview.

A document recent found in the Congressional record refers to the schedule for citizens of the Choctaw Nation. Here is the schedule as shown in the record:

Excerpt from 
60th Congress 1st Session, Senate Document No. 505 p. 14

Enrollment Sites:
Alikchi  April 18-May 4, 1899
Goodland May 8-May 12, 1899
Antlers May 15-May 19, 1899
Tuskahoma  May 22- May 26, 1899
Talihinia  May 29-June 2, 1899
Wister June 5-June 9, 1899
Oak Lodge June 12-June 16, 1899
Red Oak June 19-June 30, 1899
Hartshorne  July 3-July 7, 1899
Calvin July 10-July 14, 1899
Durant  July 17-July 21, 1899
Caddo  July 24-July 28, 1899
Atoka July 31-Aug 11, 1899
South McAlester  Aug 14-Aug 25, 1899
South Canadian  Aug 28-Aug 31

This information can illustrate how the enrollment process must have caused much excitement as well as anxiety for the enrollees. Some had to travel while others who lived nearby saw a large influx pouring into their communities.  Some of the images that are reflected are quite indicative of the activity this had to have caused for families.

Hundreds of people filed into the places established in the local communities over a 4-5 days period. It was not clear the order in which people were taken once they arrived at the enrollment site, but many did await their turn to enter the tents outside on the enrollment camp site. One photo, familiar to many shows a group of Choctaw Freedmen awaiting the process to extend to them.

Choctaw Freedmen Awaiting Ernollment
Courtesy of the Archives & Manuscript Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society

The many hundreds of people awaiting their turn to enroll had to have brought about an atmosphere of excitement and energy. Some took advantage of the many people pouring into the communities by selling products and wares to the oncoming crowds. One image captured Freedmen setting up a small make shift stand to sell clothing to passers by.

Freedmen Camped at Ft. Gibson
     Aylesworth Album Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society

The entire enrollment process took more than ten years to complete. The rolls first closed in 1907, but then reopened to add a few more that had not been on the original roll. They were finally closed in 1914. There were over 20 thousand freedmen enrolled after the process had ended. 

When the final roll was closed, in 1906, there were 91,637 from all of the categories of the Five Tribes.
The total number of Freedmen in Indian Territory in 1906 was 20,766. (Cherokee Freedmen numbered 3982. Creek Freedmen numbered 5585. Chickasaw Freedmen numbered 4995. Seminole Freedmen numbered 857 (with 93 added later). Choctaw Freedmen numbered 5254.)

Freedmen from the Territory made up more than 20% of the Dawes Enrollees. Their presences and multigenerational presence in the nations, has them not only firmly planted on the soil of Indian Territory, but also strongly attached to the nations of their birth. Choctaw Freedmen. From Alikchi to Atoka, from Tuskahoma to Talihina, they were there. Their presence through their having been brought there, toiled there, and died there earned them the right to the citizenship long denied. The struggles of their descendants continue to this day.

The Story of Nancy Ishcomer-Shields

Community, Culture & Identity: Nancy ISHCOMER-SHIELDS, Choctaw by Blood-African Indian


Terry Ligon, Guest Author

I can’t help but notice discussions by some Native Americans concerning concepts on “culture, community and identity. Included in those discussion are the “traditional” ways of life within their tribes. While conducting my latest research these issues became part of my back story as I attempted to locate the “numerous Indian Negroes” on the Dawes “Choctaw by blood” roll.

As I went through the Dawes cards and identified about twenty individuals and then their subsidiary genealogical lines, I wondered what their census information was and how they identified themselves to the census enumerators. Certainly this could not tell me about their culture but it might give me insight into how they view themselves (identity) and determine the people that made up their “community.”

Tams BIXBY acknowledge there were children of “mixed” black and Indian parents on a Dawes card that identified them as Choctaw Indian. I have questions about what happens a few years later when the first Oklahoma federal census is taken and how “Indian-Negroes” identified themselves?

What was the community like in which they lived? Was it mixed freedmen, white and Indian? Did they reside in a strictly Native community practicing their “traditional” customs and culture or did they begin to identify themselves as black, colored, or mulato? There were Indian Census Schedules that were used to identify Native Americans, would I find them enumerated on one of these schedules?

If you will recall, Tams BIXBY gave two examples of “mixed Indian Negroes” placed on the blood citizenship rolls. In my first blog on the subject I discussed Beulah MARSTON and his children.

In the second example given by BIXBY was a family by the name of SHIELD(S). This family as the other appear to be a great example of how complex the issues of identity and family have evolved among the members of the Five Slave Holding Tribes.

The common factor with all of these “mixed blood families” was their father was considered a black, colored or freedman and their mother a Choctaw blood Indian. I began to question what did they consider themselves after being enrolled as a Choctaw by blood? Did they intermarry with other Choctaw’s or did their children continue to develop relationships with blacks? Another important issue would be how were they treated by other Choctaw blood citizens? The other factor that had to be critical to their relationships was the laws enacted in the nations that forbade “intermarriage with anyone of African descent.”

Nancy seems to make a conscious choice of marrying a freedman and her some of her children seem to have made a similar decision when you look at additional records.

You will note the Dawes allotment card for Nancy indicates her husband and the father of her children was a “colored man.” Utilizing the notes on Nancy’s card I am able to locate “New Born” cards for another child of Nancy’s, as well as two children of her eldest daughter Sarah. These cards are important because they provide information on the names of the children but also information on their father’s.

In terms of identity, it is interesting that in the 1900 census Nancy and everyone in her family were enumerated as being black. However, Nancy and her daughter enrolled their children in the Choctaw tribe as Choctaw by blood as a minor or new born in 1904, ’05 and ‘06.

Clearly they understood the importance of enrolling and documenting their children as Choctaw by blood. I would assume they did so in their efforts to secure more land the children would be entitled?

Without personally knowing any descendants of the SHIELDS it is difficult to say if they have maintained their Choctaw identity or become black as a result of their marriages to other blacks. Ten years later the 1910 census provides us with additional clues as to how they were perceived or identified themselves.

In the 1910 census we see the older children grown with families of their own. Despite the fact there are “Indian Population Schedules” for the 1900 and 1910 census, none of the SHIELDS family is enumerated on them. The assumption here would be they are not looked at as being Indians but now mulato.

What relationship they had to other tribal members is not known but now they lived in the state of Oklahoma and racial categories were an integral part of the life that being black brought about issues that you think the SHIELDS’ would avoid if possible?

I thought this would be the end of this little research on identity, culture and community but this family got a lot more interesting the more I followed the extended family and ancestors of Nancy ISHCOMER-SHIELDS.

I will post that in the second part of this fascinating research exercise on the ISHCOMER & SHIELDS family!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Still in Bondage After the Civil War in Choctaw & Chickasaw Nations

 "But to our sad disappointment the war is now apparently ceased and a general peace among the white and red man is agreed upon, and generally adhered to, by those two races, and yet our dear ones are still held and and tyrannized ever in a most cruel manner, by their former masters. Since the right of property in our race has been abolished by the US Government, the master have become brutal in their treatment of our color...."

   -Excerpt from letter written to the Freedmen's Bureau by former slave from Indian Territory-

* * * * *

In October 1865 a full six months after the end of the Civil War, men who served in the Union Army and who fought for their freedom, found life to be challenging in those times.  Several turned to the Freedmen's Bureau Office in Washington DC for assistance.  Their goal was to get to their families and to begin their new lives as free people. But the letter which was eventually sent to Washington DC headquarters explained the problems that they encountered in Indian Territory.

The letter was a poignant and a sobering one, and clearly the basic desire for freedom and to make choices that affected one's life burned in the chest of all men, and women. The letter is a touching one and a true reminder that slavery, no matter where it occurred, was a horrific condition to impost upon others.  And after the conflict that brought slavery to an end, the lesson is that clearly slave holders tried to hold on to their free labor force as long as possible. This letter from Indian Territory reflects that time.

The letter was followed by the list of names of the men and their families still held in bondage. This list of names, is possibly the first list of names of enslaved people from Indian Territory, and because these families were still being held in bondage, it is a rare letter listing the names of people prior to their release from bondage among the  five slaveholding tribes.

 Most of the letter spoke of Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, but one of the signers was also from the Cherokee Nation as well. The men had served in the Union Army, including the Indian Home Guards, and the US Colored Troops.

State of Arkansas
City of Ft. Smith

                                                   October 12th, A.D. 1865
To the Honorable O. Howard 
Superintendant of the Freedmen's Bureau
Washington D.C.


We the petitioners would respectfully represent to your honor as follows: That at the commencement of the late rebellion, we resided in the Indian Country, and were held as slaves by the Chocktaw (sic) and Chickasaw Indians, In different locations in the Territory and during the progress of the War we made our respective escapes from bondage to the Freedom of the Federal lines, but left our wives and children, fathers and mothers and sisters behind still to endure the severity of their savage masters or "till sometimes as the fortunes of war should bring them relief" as we had hoped.

"But to our sad disappointment and regret, the war is now apparently the war is now apparently ceased and a general peace among the white and red man is agreed upon, and generally adhered to, by those two races, and yet our dear ones are still held and and tyrannized ever in a most cruel manner, by their former masters. Since the right of property in our race has been abolished by the US Government, the master have become brutal in their treatment of our color...."

Under the leadership of Daniel Loman from the Choctaw Nation their letter was directed to the Bureau headquarters. It should be pointed out that six months after the war ended, those once enslaved found themselves still in the struggle for freedom. It was apparent that slave holders were not too anxious to allow their former human chattel to have their hard earned and long desired for freedom. This letter penned in October--half a year after the war ended, it clearly illustrates that some were still being held in bondage.

The letter was followed with lists of the families of the men requesting assistance:

Signers of the Letter to the Bureau for Assistance

Signers of the letter: Buck Bushyhead, Watson Brown, Grundy Thompson, Wilson Thompson Isaac Kemp, Andres Chief Watkins, Ben Colbert, Randolph Gardner, Jerry Kemp, Henry Kemp, John Fisher


Families needing release from bondage:

Family of Watson Brown (Interpreter) Wife Harriet Brown, Child Minny Brown
Family of Daniel Loman (Farmer) Wife Sophia, one child, Robert Loman. Also sister and four children. (Sister's name  Nancy Harrison, children's names Isaiah & Sary and Lisa & Buck
Family of Ben Colbert  Has mother and two brothers. Mother's name Rachel Colbert. Bors names July & Mobeal (sic) Colbert. One sister Nancy Colbert.
Family of Grundy Thompson (Blacksmith) Wife Rachael Thompson
Family of Hanson Thompson (Blacksmith) Five Children Mahaly, Henry Angeline, James and Rachel
Family of Wilson Thompson (Farmer) Wife Elizabeth, one child (Infant) Mother jane Thompson and two brothers William and Pompey Thompson
Family of Randolph Gardner (Boarding House Keeper) Mother 3, nieces, 1 nephew. Mother's name Tennessee Gardner. Nieces names Laury, Missa & Jane Gardner. Nephew's name John Gardner
Family of Isaac Kemp. Wife and one child. Wife's Name Susan. Child's name Elizabeth. Also a mother Frances Kemp and her children, 4 in number. Frances, Mary, Charles & Elijah Also a mother in law named Lucy Colbert, all reside in Chickasaw country, Chickasaw Nation.
Family of Jerry Kemp, (Blacksmith) Wife and 4 children. Wife's name Frances Kemp. Children's names Francis, Mary, Charles and Elijah
Family of Henry Kemp. Wife and 3 children. Wife's name Caledona. Children's names, Leroy and Leander and Infant
Family of John Fisher. Wife Ellen and child names Alexander. One sister named Emily Fisher. Two nieces named Isabella and Perly(?)  Fisher. Also Father and Mother names John & Nancy Kemp and their children Moses, Dickson, Betty Adeline. (?) and Francis Kemp. And a sister and her child Frances Kemp and her children Mariah and Iverson and Ben and Thomas and Johnny Kemp and infant.

Close up of  letter listing Indian Territory Still Being Held

It is not known when the families were finally released from bondage. But it is clear that similar to the lives of freed people in the deep south, those who were once enslaved in Indian Territory clearly had many challenges facing them. The act of reuniting with families was denied for many months after the war.

The following year, the five slave-holding tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Nations) each signed the Treaty of 1866, which officially abolished slavery in Indian Territory. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Treaty was signed in July 1866.


Recent claims from the Chickasaw Nation today have stated that their enslaved people were freed right after the Civil War, however, the institution clearly continued for many months. Their own leaders did not abolish the peculiar institution until July of 1866 a full 15 months after the Civil War ended. However, their website states that slavery came to a "full and formal end" at the end of the Civil War. 

In 1866, the Chickasaw Nation signed the treaty that "fully and formally" abolished slavery, a year after the war ended, And, the nation also agreed to give citizenship to their former slaves. But they did not honor the treaty, and felt justified in denying citizenship to former slaves---yet they had no problem with holding them as human property. They signed a treaty in 1861 with the Confederate states, and fought for the south, and like many in the deep south, they were not eager to abide by the 13th amendment in the US that abolished slavery in the states. A since they were not in the United States, clearly slavery continued.  

Slavery was abolished by the signing of the Treaty of 1866, and it did not end in 1865 as stated on the website on 

Sadly for the Freedmen, once freedom came, their place in the nation of their birth was discarded, and the position against this newly freed population who toiled for generations, was one of disdain, mistreatment and disenfranchisement. This anti-black policy holds till this day against the descendants of African Chickasaw people. They welcomed Africans as slaves with no rights, and once freed after generations of bondage---the same nation extended no rights of any kind nor assistance of any kind, to them when they were forced to abolish this institution of horror.

No voting rights,  no citizenship, no schools, no amenities, no assistance. This is their history and the stain upon their narrative.

The Freedmen in the Chickasaw nation  were, as scholar Daniel F. Littlefield pointed out, "a people without a country". They remained without a country until Oklahoma statehood in 1907.  

As slaves, they were never "forced" upon the Chickasaws, but clearly as freed people these African Chickasaws were discarded and ignored, while they practiced the Chickasaw culture, spoke the Chickasaw language and lived in the Chickasaw Nation---the land that was the only world that they knew.

And sadly this anti-black sentiment continues, towards the descendants of these African-Chickasaw people, while an effort is made to "soften" their history with mis-statements.

The claims of "blood" are often made to somehow justify their policies.

But if holding the slave holder's "blood" was the ticket to citizenship then 4 million African slaves in the US would have also been without a country. Citizenship should never be based on having the oppressor's blood. Such policy establishes a caste system, and places the stain on slavery upon the victims of the oppressors and banishes their descendants into a state of non-existence and alienation in perpetuity. 

Today one finds on the following:

From the website of

The statements above reflect incorrect facts about slavery in Indian Territory and in particular the Chickasaw Nation. Douglas Johnston, related to Cheadles on his mother's side, who were slave owners, would address the status of Freed African-Chickasaw more than 30 years after the post Civil War mistreatment began. The post-Civil War practice of keeping the Freedmen locked out of everything, from education, and rights had, in fact, become a Chickasaw tradition. Many struggle to analyze this practice of disdain, and many have chosen to study the history in many circles today.

In addition, there is a larger story, including telling the history of African tribal Freedmen from all of the slave-holding tribes. There is a rich history that deserves to be told. All of us are encouraged to seek and find and share these long forgotten stories and study their history and put it back on the historical landscape from which it comes.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Some Elected to Leave. More Chose to Remain

During the process of the official adoption of Freedmen into the Choctaw Nation, an option was presented to some Freedmen to leave the nation. The incentive was to pay $100 per person who chose to relinquish rights to citizenship, and to agree to be relocated. Much discussion had occurred about removing the Freedmen to an area of Indian Territory known as "The Leased District".  However, there was also the decision to compile a list of those choosing to remain and the said promise that they were to receive $100 per anum, The larger number of Freedmen chose to remain in the land that they knew as their home.

Many did elect to leave but as time would have it, the funds were not distributed and as a result they remained in the Territory. The act of adoption of Choctaw Freedmen into the nation made the news in many places, and the press in neighboring states told some of the story. The following article from "The Leavenworth Tims, November 1885" was one such story that described the story of Freedmen adoption and the enticement for them to leave the place they called home.

Years later a list of those eligible to receive land allotments was constructed and became part of the numerous Dawes records. Today, they used widely today to determine eligibility for citizenship and also to exclude Freedmen descendants from citizenship among three of the former slave holding tribes. The presence however of the Freedmen, and their elders, who once lived enslaved in the Choctaw Nation, cannot be disputed, and the descending population is encouraged to study these records to glean more of the narrative of not only the family, but also of the community.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Documenting Slavery In Chickasaw and Choctaw Country

Chickasaw Choctaw Herald 1859 Ad Requesting
Desire to purchase young black boys and girls

Those interested in not only the institution of slavery in Indian Territory but also the less studied institution in Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, need not look any further than the publications from the two nations themselves.

From the Chickasaw Choctaw Herald, published in Tishomingo, one can see requests for slaves even in the late 1850s. For example, there is an ad placed by "A. Harlan". The ad was requesting young people "Negro boys and girls" to purchase as slaves in 1859. Specifically Mr. A Harlan appears to have been successful in his request, because the 1860 slave schedule from the Tishomingo District of the Chickasaw Nation shows a slave holder called Aaron Harlan and the record reflects the people that he held 11 people enslaved. Of the people he held in bondage were 3 adults, and the remainder of the enslaved were all under 20. And and as the slave document indicates they lived in three small slave cabins.

1860 Slave Schedule of Tishomingo Districts of the Chickasaw Nation

* * * * *

In the Choctaw Nation, as early as 1851 as slavery occurred, so did the act of resistance of the enslaved. An ad from the Choctaw Intelligencer reflects the effort of H. N. Folsom to have a young boy seeking freedom returned to him. And by the language in the ad, if the young man could not be taken alive, the slave catcher would still be paid, for his scalp.

Choctaw Intelligencer 1850 Runaway Slave Ad

Other publications in Indian Territory also reflected acts of resistance among the enslaved, such as the freedom seekers of 1842 who fled the Cherokee Nation from the estate of Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann. Publications such as the Cherokee Phoenix also reflected the efforts of enslaved people who sought nothing more than the right to live their lives as free people.

The most understudied however, are the stories and struggles of those held in bondage in the  Choctaw Nation and the Chickasaw Nations. Though hard to find in scholarly works, it was the efforts of the enslaved who sought freedom who did leave a small trail in the press and on some official records of their presence and of their acts seeking freedom and the mere chance to live.

Early newspapers from Indian Territory reflect their presence and use of these publications as well as official records is encouraged. They story is larger than one single family, and larger than one single community. This is part of the larger untold narrative of the land that became Oklahoma. It is hoped that the story from these two nations will become part of the greater Oklahoma story.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

They Also Died on the Trail - Africans in the Indian Removal

"A Negro Boy died on the 24th of November"

"A Negro Girl died on the 17th of December" 

National Archives Publication M234
Image accessed on Family Search Roll Number 144 Image #140

I always appreciate seeing what other researchers have to share. Recently I spoke with
Terry Ligon, whom many know as a researcher of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen. He shared a document about the removal of Chickasaws to the west. This document comes from National Archives publication M234 which is a large collection of multiple records from multiple tribes. Among those many records are some that reflect the removal of Chickasaws, and Terry Ligon found one such document that illustrated that Chickasaws removed slaves with them during their removal to the west. This record in fact is one of the earliest records reflecting Chickasaw slave ownership. He shared that document on his blog The Black and Red Journal.

Upon looking at the record, it is almost easy not to see the words. But----there is the heading on the document, reflecting the numbers of slaves both male and female traveling with each Chickasaw slave holder.  And now, looking more closely at the notes--
they stand out on the page. Two children whose name will never be known are mentioned on this emigration roll of Chickasaws. These two black children died on the Trail of tears and are mentioned on this page. There are many more pages at the National Archives reflecting the removal from Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations as well and many of those pages also reflect the fact that slaves were also taken westward on the same trail. 

On this Chickasaw record, the familiar names are there---the  names of some of the major Chickasaw slave holders. These Chickasaws of wealth were those who even when relocating to the west--were not going to leave without their slaves who would travel with Thm, to provide free labor and live in bondage under them.  Names like Kemp, Colbert, Perry, Turnbull, Sheco, and others.

Terry Ligon mentioned in a conversation how there was a black child who died, traveling with Jackson Kemp. Many researchers know that the legacy of the Kemps is still one that is strong in Oklahoma today. But likewise, there are just as many descendants of former slaves held by Jackson Kemp, who still live in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and beyond. *

The Kemp held child was not the only one who perished. Further down on the same document was a young girl who also died. Her slave holder was Tom She Co. Today that surname is well known as Sheco and also Chico. Descendants of the Shecos live in places from Oklahoma to California today.

The significance of those document must be stated. As many people speak of the westward migration on the Trail of Tears, it is important that the stories of the enslaved are also told. 

Many who don't know the story will quickly claim that these tribes "took them in" and protected them. Even some from the nations themselves have attempted to change the narrative of their own history, to distance themselves from the horrors of chattel black chattel slavery. But the records tell the story and it is one that must be told to prevent apologists from erasing this chapter of history.

The slave census reflects the status of hundreds of people in bondage held in Indian Territory. This page shows  how Jackson Kemps holdings of people in bondage had increased from the time of removal till 1860.

National Archives Federal Census 1860 Slave Schedule, Tishomingo, Chickasaw Nation
But by studying records such as this---of two children who were freed only by death from the slavery they were destined to have---the deaths of these two children whose names are not known tell us so much more. There must be a commitment to tell the entire story. The commitment to tell the entire story avoids a lie of omission---because they and many others, also died on the trail.

* One of the more well known descendants of Kemp-held slaves is actor Don Cheadle, whose ancestor  is Mary Kemp, a Chickasaw Freedwoman, whose father was enslaved by Jackson Kemp mentioned on both documents shown above.