Editors: The Native American presence in many African America family trees is well known, both through conventional documentation and oral history. Less widely understood are the "Black Indians," the African-descended people who were joined with the "Five Civilized Tribes" of the southeastern U.S. under a legal status that the U.S. government recognized as slavery - but which many of their descendants view as tribal membership. These Black Indians are reasserting their tribal rights in the face of opposition from most of the councils of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Guest Commentator Eleanor "Gypsy" Wyatt is of African-Choctaw-Chickasaw-Creek-Cherokee descent. A press release announcing the Summer Conference of the Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association follows Ms. Wyatt's commentary.

I can't recall who first said "history repeats itself," but I can subscribe to the theory. In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the Indian Removal Act, leading to one of the deadliest episodes of history. Men, women, and children of African, Indian, and a blood mixture of both were taken from their eastern lands and forced into exile west of the Mississippi. The episode is remembered as the "Trail of Tears" to what was commonly known as Indian Territory - present day Oklahoma.

At the beginning of the 20th Century this same group once again found themselves faced with losing their homelands through Congressional means.

Because the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil war did not affect African descendants of Indian Territory, the Treaty of 1866 between the Five Civilized Tribes and the United States ended "slavery" in the Indian Nations. I must note here that the term "slavery" holds a completely different meaning for Indians than that of the United States' term. Slavery by most accounts was an institution that was forced upon the majority of the Indian population; it was a "paper" term.

On the instructions of the same Congress that took the southeastern Indian lands, those with any African heritage, regardless of their Indian heritage, could not move to Oklahoma as free people. The choice would be to leave one's sons, daughters and grandchildren behind or call them slaves. Most chose to call the African-descended members "slaves," a "paper" term. Others stayed behind. This does not negate the fact that there were true slaves in the Indian Nations, most held by what were known as mixed bloods (European/Indians).

Article 3 of the Treaty of 1866 states the intention to "give all persons of African descent, resident in the said nation at the date of the treaty of Fort Smith, and their descendants, heretofore held in slavery among said nations, all the rights, privileges, and immunities, including the right of suffrage, of citizens of said nations...." This was not done in its entirety. Therefore the Dawes Commission was formed, March 3, 1893, as the first step to dissolve the Indian Nations of their land. The original commissioners were Henry L. Dawes, Meredith H. Kidd and Archibald S. McKennon.

Because the Freedmen (a term used for those that included African heritage) were treated as aliens, without rights, in early 1894 a House bill was introduced into congress to improve the condition of the Freedmen. A commission was appointed to investigate and make a roll of all Freedmen who were entitled to benefits under the treaty of 1866.

The Chickasaw Freedmen established a Freedmen Association to protect their status, rights, and interests in negotiations with the Dawes Commission. They met in 1894 and chose Joseph P. Mullen of Ardmore and Robert V. Belt of Washington as their attorneys. The Freedmen Association presented the following claims to the Dawes Commission:

"First, they asked for rights, privileges, and immunities equal to those of the Chickasaw citizens, including suffrage, equal educational privileges, equal protection under the law, and equal shares in the moneys and public domain of the Nation. Second, they claimed indemnification for damage, loss, and injury sustained since 1866 as a result of being denied their rights as citizens. Third, they asked that, once their rights were secured, the Chickasaw lands be surveyed and allotted in severalty, at least to the freedmen...."

Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., The Chickasaw Freedmen, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, London, England

Congress authorized a survey of the lands of the Five Civilized Tribes in the spring of 1895. On June 10, 1896 Congress authorized the Dawes Commission to hear and determine the applications for all persons, including freedmen, who might apply for citizenship in the Indian Nations and to enroll the citizens.

On June 7, 1897 Congress gave the United States courts exclusive jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases arising in Indian Territory after January 1, 1898. The laws of Arkansas and the United States were extended to all residents in the territory, irrespective of race. Congress also clarified the "rolls of citizenship" to mean the last authenticated rolls approved by the councils, the courts or the Dawes Commission under the act of 1896. Any name that had been stricken had the right to appeal to the United States courts.

Congress took final control of affairs in the Indian Territory on June 28, 1898 with the Curtis Act, abolishing the enforcement of the laws of the Indian tribes. On July 1, 1898 the tribal courts of the Cherokee and Seminoles were abolished. The Chickasaw and Choctaw courts were abolished October 1, 1898. All pending cases were transferred to the United States courts. The Atoka Agreement was included. The Curtis Act applied to the tribes only where they did not conflict with the provisions of the Atoka Agreement. The Curtis Act provided for allotment to the Chickasaw, but the Atoka Agreement excluded them.

On April 13, 1907 EQUITY CASE 7071 was filed on behalf of more than 1600 persons of African/Native blood requesting their rightful place in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nation. Many of these were descendants of Black Indians who were what I term "Paper Slaves". This case was bounced back and forth between the Indian Nations Council and the United States, although "Congress took final control of affairs in the Indian Territory on June 28, 1898...." There has been no resolution to date.

On August 4th and 5th, 1898 Charles Cohee, President of the Chickasaw Freedmen's Association, called a convention of Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen, living in the Chickasaw Nation. The meeting was held at the Dawes Academy, near Berwyn.

The issues that faced our ancestors, Black Indians, are just as prevalent today. While there is no justice in time, there is No Injustice in Eternity (Richard Oberg). We the Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes will strive to eternity for the "Rights" of our Ancestors. To recognize them defines our precedence today. To recognize them acknowledges the rich history of our people, a history that has been omitted from the pages of time.

History will repeat itself once again. About 1900, at Lake Mohonk, New York, former Massachusetts Senator and Commissioner to the 5 Civilized Tribes the Hon. Henry L. Dawes LL.D. promised to bring the "Freedmen Into Perfect Equality Of Citizenship." One hundred and three years later, the Descendants of Freedmen of all 5 tribes will reconvene May 29 - June 1, 2003 to complete the unfinished business of our Ancestors. The Commission that bears his name set out and destroyed this purpose. Thus, for the Hon. Henry L. Dawes we must also right this wrong.

Eleanor "Gypsy" Wyatt is a second generation Freedmen Descendant of the Chickasaw/Choctaw Nations. She is a sixth generation by blood, although not acknowledge by either the Chickasaw or Choctaw Nations. She is a Degreed Registered Nurse who retired this year to work fulltime to bring the Freedmen issues to the public's awareness. She has been researching the Five Civilized Tribes since 1985 and has for the past year developed a resource web site for Black Indians particular to Indian Territory/Oklahoma.

For Immediate Release:

Black Indians To Convene In Historic Celebration!

"Freedmen Into Perfect Equality Of Citizenship"

(Hon. Henry L. Dawes LL.D. Former Massachusetts Senator, Commissioner to the 5 Civilized Tribes, circa 1900 Lake Mohonk, New York)

Announces Conference Registration, For:

Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association

1st Annual Summer Conference

May 29-June 1, 2003

Members of the Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association, have finalized plans for a huge Conference and Celebration Extravaganza, to be held in Oklahoma, the final leg of the journey for their ancestors whose lives intertwine inextricably with the infamous Trail of Tears.

The Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association, a non-profit service organization, registered in the State of Oklahoma, whose members are largely Lineal Descendants of the more than 40,000 former Slaves of the Indian Territory that were freed with the negotiated Treaties of 1866 between the U.S. Government and the Sovereign Nations of the 5 Civilized Tribes, now announces the first ever grand-scale undertaking since the days of the Freedmen's Bureau, to unite African Ancestored Native American Descendants of Freedmen from all "5" of the Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations of Indians) who are now scattered across the United States and abroad.

Association Members are those having ancestor's that were enumerated upon the Indian Census occurring between 1898 and 1907, formally known as the "Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes In Indian Territory, Prepared by The Commission and Commissioners To The 5 Civilized Tribes." The Rolls were approved by the Secretary of the Interior On or Prior to 1907 (subsequently reopened briefly in order to satisfy Supreme Court Orders in response to litigation) and closed finally in 1914. The list was compiled and printed Under Authority Conferred by the Act of Congress, Approved June 21, 1906 (34 Stat. L.325). These Commission Census Documents are more commonly referred to as the "Dawes Rolls", in reference the Honorable Henry L. Dawes LL.D., former Massachusetts Senator, the man appointed Commissioner To The Five Civilized Tribes by the Government to carry out its purposes. He was a self proclaimed "friend of the Indian".

The undisputed goal of the Commission appointed by Congress "was to persuade the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes to negotiate themselves out of existence, an essential first step in implementing a policy of allotting land to each individual Indian." Many of the Lineal Descendants of the African Native Americans set to attend the Conference can trace their lineage back to the families of these land owning Indians and even more can trace their ancestry back to Indians on the Dawes Blood Rolls.

Among the many issues to be considered at the gathering will be that despite the presence of Freedmen Ancestors upon the Federally Compiled, Completed and Approved Indian Rolls, Freedmen Descendants of the Modern Era are finding the Dawes Rolls now being used in an even more malevolent manner by the Current Tribal Governments of the Indian Nations than originally intended, and that as recent as the year 2002 Freedmen Descendants also find that they have been virtually legislated out of the existence of all 5 Tribes by oppressive Tribal Acts, Resolutions, Laws, Constitutions, Segregationist Practices and Unevenly Applied Governmental Policies and Procedures, unchallenged thus far (with the unusual exception of the Seminole Freedmen).

In an unprecedented show of Unity and Solidarity, the Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association has challenged itself to a commitment of making this Conference a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to bring African Ancestored Native American Descendants, Members and Others, together with an impressive gathering of Genealogists, Researchers, Socio-Economic Analysts, Politicians, Political Advocates, Attorneys, Legal Authorities, Educators, Authors, Media Representatives, Freedmen Activists, Museum Executives, Tribal Representatives, Anthropologists, Health and Welfare Professionals, African Native American Indian Representatives of other Nations, Interested Persons, Students, Friends and Supporters, to affect an awareness of the Citizenship, Enrollment, Land, Legal and other issues facing Modern Freedmen.

A good time is sure to be had by all, as participants will partake in the pleasures of our host city and facility, the NCED Marriott Conference Center and Hotel, located in Norman, Oklahoma (a 30 minute drive from Oklahoma City). An all-inclusive Conference Package will be offered. Though it is hoped by The Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association that everyone could arrange their schedules to make full use of the offered facilities and planned activities, we also recognize that not all persons can participate in all 4 of the planned Conference Days, so a Day Use Registration will also be be offered to those desiring to attend.

Planned are Keynote Speakers, Lectures, Presentations and Town Hall Discussions presented by Freedmen and Indian Territory Experts, Luminaries and Black Indian Descendants. Participants will enjoy an Outdoor Bar-B-Que Cookout, Banquet Gala and Award Presentations, Musical Guest Stars and Cultural Entertainment, Interpretive Indian Slave Narrative Re-enactments, Dance and Vendors and Sponsor Showcase.

Contact: [email protected]

If you prefer, submit a written request for Conference Registration Packet to:

Descendants of Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association Conference P.O. Box 3324, Enid, Oklahoma 73701

Don't Miss Securing Your All-Inclusive Package To This Historic Event!

Association Board Member, Chair Bylaws-Conference Committees, Angela Molette (Choctaw-Chickasaw)

Freedmen Descendants of the 5 Civilized Tribes Association
P.O. Box 42221
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73123

Association President-Marilyn Vann (Cherokee-Choctaw)
Association Vice President-Eleanor "Gypsy" Wyatt (Choctaw-Chickasaw-Creek-Cherokee)
Association Treasurer-Gail Jackson
Association Spiritual Advisor-Ronald Graham (Creek)
Association Secretary-Rose Mamaghanyzadeh (Cherokee-Choctaw)


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Issue Number 18
November 28, 2002



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Other commentaries in this issue:

Commentary 1
Bush’s Domestic Enemies List... Preparing for "National Emergency"...

Commentary 2
Black Democrats Urge Media Counteroffensive... But media is no substitute for substance

Commentary 3
Secret Bomber to Probe Secrets of Bombing...

Tom Paine challenged... Young Congressman spurned... Reputable publication tomfoolerized

Iraq's Nuclear Non-Capability: Iraqi scientist tells of impoverished colleagues, defunct program. By Imad Khadduri

Commentaries in Issue 17 November 21 , 2002:

Poll Shows Black Political Consensus Strong... Analysis of JCPES survey reveals consistent class, gender, age agreement

NEWS from
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The Harold Ford Show vs Serious Democratic Business

THE CRISIS, ongoing... Homosexuals singled out?... Disgruntled readers’ revenge

War for Private Profit... Bush’s Drugs of Choice

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.