The approximately 2,800 Freedmen/Women who were disenrolled from the Cherokee Nation in March of 2007, are still waiting for the outcome of the debate as to whether or not they will be re-instated back into the Cherokee Nation as citizens.
Last month, Senator Barack Obama made the following statements on his position towards the Freedmen/Women – CN issue. His comments in effect were:
“U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama has come out against any congressional interference “at this point” in the ongoing controversy over Cherokee Nation citizenship for descendants of former slaves.
“Tribal sovereignty must mean that the place to resolve intertribal disputes is the tribe itself,” the Illinois lawmaker said in a statement provided Saturday by his Senate office.”
And Sen. Obama, how is this stance any different from past politicians who made statements that where the rights of black Americans of the South were concerned, that we should leave it all up to the states? By leaving outcomes up to the Southern states, many black Americans lost their lives, livihood, property, and enfranchisement. Why should the Cherokee Nation be any different from the racist, segregationist American South where the black Cherokee Freedmen/Women are concerned? Why do you fear calling the Cherokee nation out on its mistreatment of its own citizens?
(The following is a link to the petition to Sen. Barack Obama to reconsider his stand on non Congressional intervention in the disenrollment of 2,800 Black Cherokee Freedmen/Women, requesting that he support the Congressional Bills (HR 2824 and HR 2786 [NAHASDA]) (and the Congressional Black Caucus) backing the Freedmen/Women Treaty rights of 1866, and that he revise his position on the plight of the Black Cherokee Freedmen/Women.  Here is the link to the petition:
OR call Sen. Obama:  (202)-224-2854;
OR Fax Sen. Obama:  (202)-228-4260
The issue of slavery in the Cherokee Nation angers and enrages many Cherokees of today, just as the issue of American slavery angers many whites, of today.
American race-based slavery was introduced to the Cherokee Nation sometime around the late 1790s-1800s. Once the CN saw that race-based slavery could benefit the CN (just as much as it benefited the United States of America), the numbers of Cherokee slavers began to increase.
Many people state that slavery under the Cherokee slavers was more benign than white-run American slavery. There was practically very little difference between the two.
Many people love to give a sugary-coated, saccharine-sweet romanticized view of enslavement under the Cherokee slaveowners, but, in fact, many of them were no different from the most brutal of white slavers:
“The establishment of  black slavery in  the Cherokee Nation, as in  the United States, was an evolutionary process. Antoine Bonnefoy, a French voyageur, became a  Cherokee captive in 1741 and was subsequently adopted into  the tribe. His journal describes these events in detail. On November 15, 1741,  the Bonnefoy party of eight men was ambushed by a war party of approximately eighty Cherokees. Three of  the men were killed, and  the other five, including Bonnefoy and a seriously wounded Negro, were captured. Each of  the captives immediately became a slave of a  Cherokee warrior. They were bound and slave collars were placed around their necks. During  the journey back to  the Cherokee village,  the Negro’s wounds became worse, and he was set free. “He could not be adopted into  the family of a Cherokee and his wounds probably kept him from being considered desirable as a slave.” Not knowing what to do or where to go, the Negro followed the party for two days. On the  third day,  the Cherokees “gave him over to the young people, who killed him and took his scalp.” (1)
As the institution of black slavery grew in size and importance, the Cherokees adopted a comprehensive slave code comparable in many respects to the control laws of the southern states. The laws were designed to preserve the slave mentality, protect against insurrection, control or expel free blacks, prevent miscegenation, and control virtually all personal and group activities of slaves. The Cherokees may have exhibited the strongest color prejudice of any Indians. As early as 1793, Little Turkey declared that Spaniards were not “real white people.” Moreover, free blacks were always viewed with suspicion and distrust. They suffered social and legal discrimination. In the early 1840s all free blacks, except those manumitted by Cherokee masters, were ordered to leave the Nation. (1)
The Cherokees were exhibiting a strong color consciousness by this date. They were regularly purchasing, selling and using  black slaves.  (1)
1.  Journal of Antoine Bonnefoy, in Williams, Early Travels, p. 152. (excerpted from, “Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians”, by R. Halliburton, Greenwood Press, 1977, pgs. 12 – 18, Chapter 1: The Origins of Black Slavery in Cherokee Country)
The Cherokees continued to obtain additional black slaves by purchase and capture. The capture of black people had become not only profitable but an acceptable form ofrevenge. When Colonel Evan Shelby undertook his Chicamauga Expedition in 1799 and proceeded to destroy the Indian towns in that region, the Cherokees sought revenge. Chief Bench, determined to avenge his humiliation, boasted:
“I am going back next summer and pay old Shelby a visit and take all his Negroes.” (2)
Another missionary commented on black slavery in the Cherokee Nation by saying:
“This institution was derived from the whites. It has all the general characteristics of Negro slavery in the Southern portion of our union. In such a state of society as we find among these Indians, there must of necessity be some modifications of the system; but in all its essential features, it remains unchanged.”  (2)
2. Whipple, Relations of the American Board, pg. 88 (excerpted from, “Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokke Indians”, pg. 21, Chapter 1: The Origins of Black Slavery in Cherokee Country.)
“They were the first
party to emigrate under the “Schermerhorn treaty.” Ridge was accom-
panied by eighteen slaves. After arriving in the West, he settled on the
north side of Honey Creek and put his blacks to work clearing land.
Ridge’s son John sent his slaves West but kept three with him–a woman
to cook, a man to drive the carriage, and a governess for the children.
Upon arrival at Honey Creek he built “a good double log house” and put
his slaves to clearing, fencing, and breaking land. He owned twenty-four
blacks at that time.
“Believing that total removal was inevitable, the John Martin and George
Washington Adair families left Georgia for the West in 1837. They traveled
in covered wagons and took their livestock and black slaves with them.
These families had black nurses for the children, maids for the kitchen
and household chores, and many field hands. Adair settled on Saline
Creek near the present town of Salina, and Martin made his home on
Grand River near the present Locust Grove, two miles south of the Adair
family. 27 About 2,000 Cherokees, mostly members of the Ridge faction,
migrated under the terms of the Treaty of New Echota.
“By this time there were about 8,000 people in the West and more than
1,000 farms had been established. Missionaries’ correspondence indicates
that it was an EXCEPTIONAL CASE to find a family of Cherokees WITHOUT AT LEAST ONE SLAVE to do the more arduous work. ”
(Caps mine, for emphasis.)
SOURCE: “Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians”, by R. Halliburton, Jr., Greenwood Press, 1977. Chapter 4: “The Last Decade in the East”, page 59.
As slavery became more like white-run American-based slavery (degradation and inhumane brutality) the perception of black people as humans in the eyes of the Cherokee became less, and eventually enslaved black men and women became mere animals to be worked for their free labor —–chattel—-and ultimately black people began to become inferior as fellow human beings who should receive the same regard for their humanity that the Cherokee showed each other:
“The advent of  slavery on a larger scale had been accompanied by unique problems concerning the conduct and legal status of slaves. This condition was partially alleviated by the enactment of a series of slave codes. Since the Cherokees were in the process of accepting the white man’s civilization, it is not surprising that they also adopted his slave codes. The first of these acts was apparently passed in 1819 as the result of a runaway black’s trading a stolen horse to a Cherokee The act read:
New Town,  Cherokee Nation, November 1st, 1819. In Committee The National Committee have taken up the case submitted to them by the Council relating to the exchange of horses between Otter Lifter and a runaway negro man, belonging to Wm. Thompson. The horse delivered to Otter Lifter by said negro man was proven away from him, and the question submitted to the Committee was, whether or not, the master of the negro man, Wm Thompson, should be accountable to the Otter Lifter for the horse so proved away from him on account of the transgression of his said negro man;  the Committee therefore have decided that Wm. Thompson ought not to be accountable for  the contract entered into with his runaway negro man by any person contrary to his approbation, and, Resolved by the Committee, that no contract or bargain entered into with any slave or slaves, without the approbation of their masters shall be binding on them.”
Subsequently, the National Committee and Council passed the following act on October 28, 1820:
“That any person or persons whatsoever, who shall trade with any negro slave without permission from  the proper owner of such slaves, and  the property so traded for be proven to have
been stolen,  the purchaser shall be held and bound to the legal proprietor for  the same, or the value there of; and be it further Resolved, That any person who shall permit their negro or negroes to purchase spirituous liquors and vend the same, the master or owner of such negro or negroes shall forfeit and pay a fine of fifteen dollars for every such offense, to be collected by the Marshalls within their respective Districts for the National use; and should any negro be found vending spirituous liquors without permission from their respective owners, such negro or negroes, so offending, shall receive fifteen cobbs or paddles for every such offense, from  the hands of  the patrolers of  the settlement or neighborhoodn which  the offense was committed, and every settlement or neighborhood shall be privileged to organize a patroling company. (3)
Miscegenation and intermarriage had been repugnant to the Indians from their earliest contacts with Negroes. The first known marriage of a Cherokee to a Negro was that of Chief Shoe Boot. Shoe Boot was a friend of Andrew Jackson and had been instrumental in winning the Battle of Horseshoe
Bend. After his white wife left him, he married her black servant, Lucy, who was his property. Lucy bore him two children. The chief petitioned  the Council for free status for his children who were his black slave property according to common law. The request was granted, but  the Council warned Shoe Boot that interracial marriages between Cherokees and blacks were not socially acceptable. The Council made its position unequivocally clear with  the passage of the following act on November 11, 1824:
That intermarriages between negro slaves and Indians, or whites, shall not be lawful, and any person or persons, permitting and approbating his, her or their negro slaves, to intermarry with Indians or whites, he, she or they, so offending, shall pay a fine of fifty dollars, one half for the benefit of the Cherokee Nation; and
Be it further resolved, That any male Indian or white man marrying a negro woman slave, he or they shall be punished with fifty-nine stripes on the bare back, and any Indian or white woman, marrying a negro man slave, shall be punished with twenty-five stripes on her or their bare back. (3)
Legislation against miscegenation demonstrates the real position of blacks. The Cherokees may have displayed  the strongest color prejudice of all American Indians.  It has been stated that the Cherokees once had a death penalty for marrying a Negro. (3) Even the   Spaniards were not considered “white” by some. In 1793 Little Turkey, a prominent chief, declared that the Spaniards were not “real white people, and what few I have seen of them looked like mulattoes, and I would never have anything to say to them.” (3) The Cherokees were adamant in their determination not to become racially identified with a subject people whom they regarded–as did their white neighbors–as their servants and inferiors. Some miscegenation did occur, just as it did in the white South, but a Cherokee Negro was always regarded as a Negro. (3)
The sale of stolen feed and livestock by black slaves continued to prove troublesome and the following act ( November 11, 1824) was expected to solve the problem:
“The Cherokees did not experience the inner conflict between the practice of slavery and conscience that permeated much of the United States. They never felt the need to justify slavery and never expressed the opinion that slavery was in the best interest of the black. Neither did they give voice to the “positive benefits” of Christianizing and civilizing their slaves. Slavery was justified solely on the basis of the benefits that accrued to masters. Yet, unlike the white community, there appears to be little or no feeling of guilt among the Cherokees today.
During the early part of the nineteenth century, the Cherokee Nation was considered a separate and independent government. The jurisdiction of the United States was not considered to extend over the Cherokee Nation. Therefore, fugitives began to seek sanctuary there. Runaway black slaves and some free blacks sought refuge within the Nation. They were not welcome, and the General Council attempted to remedy the situation with the following act ( November 11, 1824):
Resolved. . . That all free negroes coming into the Cherokee Nation under any pretense whatsoever, shall be viewed and treated in every respect, as intruders, and shall not be allowed to reside in the Cherokee Nation without a permit from the National Committee and Council. (3)
Two days later the following augmenting act was declared law:
Resolved. . . That no citizen or citizens of the Cherokee Nation shall receive in their employment, any citizen or citizens of the United States, without first obtaining a permit agreeably to law, for the person or persons so employed; and any person or persons violating this resolution, upon conviction before any of the District Courts, shall pay a fine for every offense at the discretion of the Court, not exceding ten dollars; and the person employed to be removed. (3)
Cruelties against enslaved black people escalated:
“Black slaves in the West were sometimes the recipients of harsh and brutal treatment. The following letter from the Cherokee agent in Arkansas to the secretaty of war graphically illustrates such conditions.
Reuben Lewis To The Secretary of War Cherokee Agency Arkansas August 15th 1819
. . . A circumstance happened sometime since in this Nation, and which I am told is not the only one of the kind which has happened among the Cherokees, which in my opinion calls upon the humanity of our Government to put an end to. A Negro Man belonging to a Cherokee woman had fallen under the displeasure of her husband, (from what cause I have not been able to ascertain sirtainly,) the Negroes Mistress desired her husband to kill him, which he d’clined, she then desired him to tye the Negroe, which he did, she then with an axe nocked him in the head; cut it off, and threw the body into the River. There is no Law or custom among the Cherokees to protect the lives of that poor unfortunate part of the human Species, and as among Savages particularly, passion often gets the ascendency of reason, they hold there lives by a feble tenure, calling imperiously for protection. . . .
R. Lewis
TheHonbl The Secretary Cherokee Agt at Arkansas of War”.   (3)
Chapter 3, Maturity and Westward Movement, pgs. 32-49.


Labour for enslaved black people differed no better under Cherokee slavery any more than slavery under white slave masters:
“The work performed by Cherokee slaves varied little from that done by slaves in the southern states. Agriculture consumed the time and energy of most slaves. Blacks cleared and improved land, split rails, built fences, plowed ground, planted, cultivated, and harvested crops of cotton, corn, and other commodities. They also tended livestock, milked, and provided domestic service by cooking meals, waiting tables, cleaning, washing, gardening, and grooming horses. Female slaves sometimes served as “mammies” and taught their mistresses the operation of the card and spinning wheel. Some slaves were highly skilled artisans, including wheelwrights, blacksmiths, midwives, millwrights, millers, carpenters, tanners, cobblers, physicians, and masons. These were a small minority, however. Domestic manufacture was frequently an important slave activity. Beginning with raw materials, blacks produced tools, cotton and woolen cloth, knitted stockings, gloves, and scarves. Some industrial slavery existed, with slaves operating several salt works, mills, and tanneries. Old slaves were given the customary titles “Uncle” and “Aunt.” (4)
Slavery in the Nation was different in one respect–Cherokee slaves did not always enjoy the holidays and laying-by time that slaves in the United States did:
“The slaves’ quarters usually consisted of windowless log huts with dirt floors. A stone fireplace supplied warmth and heat for cooking. Slaves usually did their own cooking from rations periodically issued by the master or overseer.” (4)
The teaching of enslaved black people to write was forbidden in the Cherokee Nation. Some white missionary teachers who entered the Cherokee Nation to teach enslaved blacks soon found out that their aims and lofty goals were definitely not wanted nor welcomed by the Cherokee slavers. The Cherokee National Council made its intent unequivically clear on October 24, 1848, by enacting the following law:
“Be it enacted by the National Council, That an Act passed October 22d, 1841, prohibiting the teaching of Negroes to read and write, be amended so that if any white person, not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, should be guilty of a violation of this act, it shall be the duty of the Sheriff of the District where such violation should take place, to notify the Chief of the same, and it shall be the duty of the Chief to notify the agent, and demand a removal of such person or persons from the limits of the Cherokee Nation.”  (4)
Some Cherokee slaveholders grew fat and rich off the forced chattel slavery of their enslaved black human property:
“Principal Chief John Ross settled at Park Hill when he arrived in the West. He erected a house, which he called “Rose Cottage,” about two miles from the mission station. In 1840, John Howard Payne (the composer of “Home Sweet Home”) visited Ross at Park Hill for several months. Payne related that there were numerous black slaves at Rose Cottage at that time. One black cleaned Payne’s boots every Saturday and earned the sobriquet “my man Saturday.” (4) As Ross’s economic circumstances improved, the modest house was replaced by a magnificent mansion. The furniture was reportedly valued at $10,000. The house was furnished with rosewood and mahogany, silver plate, and imported china. The mansion, situated on a hillside and surrounded by native oaks and elms, was approached by a half-mile-long driveway bordered with exotic roses. Rose Cottage could accomodate forty guests in comfort. The ample interior included guest rooms, family rooms, a library, and a parlor. The spacious grounds surrounding the house were enhanced by shrubbery and flowers. The orchards (the apple orchard contained a thousand trees) and vegetable garden supplied the family table, which usually included guests, and a retinue of house and field servants.”  (4)
And another, John Martin:
“John Martin, who served as treasurer and the first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation, reportedly owned 100 black slaves. (3) Martin had two wives and maintained separate residences for them. He owned an “elegant” home known for its marble mantels and hand-carved stairways. One of his plantations was on the Federal Road near the Coosawattee River.
Cherokee slavers ran advertisements for the recovery of their “human property”:
“Andrew R. Nave, a Cherokee slave dealer of the 1850s,  received a letter from James Moosley of Van Buren, Arkansas, asking that he have handbills printed to advertise a reward for a runaway. The letter follows in its entirety.
Van Buren June 13th
D Sir
I had a negro man to leave me on the 10th instant Which I bought off of Picket Benge and we suppose has gone near the Creek Agency where I understand he was raised May I ask the favor of you to have a number of hand bills struck 30, offering a reward of fifty dollars for his apprehension
delivery to me or to Wallase Ward % of [in care of] Buren. Any expense you may incur in the matter shall be promptly refunded he is 21 or 22 years of age a dark mulatto full face five feet 10 or 11 inches high would weigh 165 or 70 pounds speaks the Creek and Cherokee Languages but little English his name John was sold some 10 months since by a man named Williams to a Mr. Task of the nation by Task to Benge.
By attending to the above request you will confer an obligation upon me which shall be resiprocated when ever an opportunity offers.
Fearing this may not find you at home I have written to Johnson Foreman on the same subject.
Your friend James Moosley.
Distribute the hand-bills through this and the Creek nations. (4)
The brutality that Cherokee slavers showed their slaves who stood up in  defense of themselves was especially egregious and sickening:
“They [ Avery Vann family] were kind to their slaves and gave orders that they were not to be whipped or abused. John Naw, a son-in-law, disregarded these orders and tried to whip an old slave named Uncle Joe, who cut John Naw in two with a bowieknife. Naw died and Uncle Joe was mobbed by a gang of men and beheaded and his head stuck on a pole.” (4)
Chapter 4:  The Last Decade in the East, pgs. 50-60.
The original Cherokee Constitution contained language relating to the issue of slavery, which contained the following sections directly relating to black slavery.
“Article III, Section 4: No person shall be elegible to a seat in the General Council, but a free Cherokee male citizen, who shall have attained to the age of twenty-five years. The descendants of Cherokee men by all free women, except the
African race, whose parents may have been living together as man and wife, according to the customs and laws of this Nation, shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges of this Nation, as well as the posterity of Cherokee women by all free men. No person who is of Negro or Mulatto parentage, either by the father or mother side, shall be eligible to hold any office of profit, honor or trust under this Government.
Article III, Section 7: All free male citizens, (excepting negroes and descendants of white and Indian men by negro women who may have been set free,) who shall have attained to the age of eighteen years, shall be equally entitled to a vote at all public elections.
“Article III, Section 5. No person shall be eligible to a seat in the National Council but a free Cherokee male citizen who shall have attained to the age of twenty-five years.
The descendants of Cherokee men by all free women except the African race, whose parents may have been living together as man and wife, according to the customs and laws of this Nation, shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges of this Nation, as well as the posterity of Cherokee women by all free men. No person who is of negro or mulatto parentage, either by the father or mother’s side, shall be eligible to hold any office of profit, honor, or trust under this Government.
Article III, Section 7. In all elections by the people, the electors shall vote viva voce.
All free male citizens, who shall have attained to the age of eighteen years shall be equally entitled to vote at all public elections. (5)
The first three laws enacted under the Tahlequah Constitution concerned black slavery. The first law was entitled: “An Act for the Punishment of Criminal Offenses.” Section 3 stipulated:
Be it further enacted, That upon trial and conviction of any person charged with the offense of having committed a rape on any female, he shall be punished with one hundred lashes on the bare back; and upon the conviction of any negro for the aforesaid offense against any free female, not of negro blood, he shall suffer death by hanging. (5)
The second measure was entitled: “An Act for the Punishment of Thefts and Other Crimes.” Section 2 read:
Be it further enacted, That if any person shall enslave, or sell, or dispose of in any manner, any free person, for the purpose of enslaving the same, such person so offending shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished with corporeal infliction, as provided in the section above, and compelled to make ample remuneration by such compensation as the court may determine.
The third law was entitled, “An Act to Prevent Amalgamation with Colored Persons.”
Be it enacted by the National Council, That intermarriage shall not be lawful between a free male or female citizen with any slave or person of color not entitled to the rights of citizenship under the laws of this Nation, and the same is hereby prohibited, under the penalty of such corporeal punishment as the courts may deem it necessary and proper to inflict, and which shall not exceed fifty stripes for every such offense;–but any colored male who may be convicted under this act shall receive one hundred lashes.
Chapter 5:  The New Nation in the West, pgs. 61-79.
Those are the original statutes of the Cherokee Nation’s Constitution, when slavery was prevalent in the CN. Here, in 1975, the language changes, and any reference to slavery has been removed from the original Constitution:
“Section 1. All members of the Cherokee Nation must be citizens as proven by references to the Dawes Commission Rolls, including the Delaware Cherokees of Article II of the Delaware Agreement dated the 8th day of May, 1867, and the Shawnee Cherokees as of Article III of the Shawnee Agreement dated the 9th day of June, 1869, and/or their descendants.
Section 2. There shall be established a Cherokee Register, to be kept by the Registrar, for the inclusion of any Cherokee for membership purposes I the Cherokee Nation who presents the necessary evidence of eligibility for registration.
(a) A Registration Committee shall be established. It shall be the duty of the Registration Committee to consider the qualifications and to determine the eligibility of those applying to have their names entered in the Cherokee Register. The Registration Committee shall consist of a Registrar and two (2) assistants. All members shall be appointed by the Principal Chief, and confirmed by the Council.
(b) There shall be a number assigned to every name, which is approved and entered into the Cherokee Register. This number shall be preceded by the three words, “Cherokee Registry Number”.
(c) The decisions of the Registration Committee shall be subject to review by the Tribunal created by Article VII.
Section 3. Registration as used in this article refers to the process of enrolling as a member of the Cherokee Nation and is not the same as registration for voting purposes.
Approved for Referendum by the Commissioner, Morris Thompson on September 5, 1975, Seconded by the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Ross O. Swimmer, on October 2, 1975, approved by Referendum on June 26, 1976.
Cross References
Courts and procedures generally, Title 20, Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. Election generally, Title 26, Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. Right to belong to recognized clans or organizations, Article XIV of the Cherokee Constitution. Treaties and agreements, Appendix I, 1986 Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. “
On the issue of how the former enslaved black people under Cherokee slavers was to be decided, the November 28, 1866 amendments to Article lll of the Constitution were approved and adopted by a convention of the Cherokee people at Tahlequah.
Section 5 was amended to read:
All native born Cherokees, all Indians, and whites legally members of the Nation by adoption, and all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months from the 19th day of July, 1866, and their descendants, who reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, shall be taken, and deemed to be, CITIZENS of the Cherokee Nation.”
(Chapter 9:  The Civil War, “Red Over Black”, pg. 135.)
(Selected Laws of the Cherokee Constitution).
Notice to Cherokee Freedman for enrollment. (Muskogee Times-Democratic Phoenix Newspaper)
*See also, the Cherokee Constitution of 1839.
And just as many, many enslaved black people resisted and fought against white enslavement, so too, did many, many black people fight against and resist Cherokee enslavement:
“Cherokee slaves frequently reacted to their status by running away, exhibiting defiance, stealing, and malingering. Runaway slaves, who frequently headed back East, were sometimes hunted with dogs. In order to identify their property, some Cherokee masters branded their slaves. Many slaves had no last names, others took their masters’ names. Some never knew their parents; others were sired by their masters or members of their master’s family. Black women were sometimes sold for refusing to become pregnant. Some masters sought obedience by regularly taking one or more of their slaves to witness hangings. Black women were usually expected to do the same work as men. They were lashed and ran away just as the men did. Some slaves became drivers and overseers. Mothers were sometimes sold away from their children. A few slaves purchased their freedom.”
The Cherokee Nation was no stranger to slave rebellion. Just as white-run America came to fear more Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser slave rebellions, so to, did the Cherokee Nation come to fear rebellionas as well. Most notably, the Black Slave Revolt of 1842. In 1842 there was a major black slave uprising in the Cherokee Nation. (5) (Link: )
“Some two hundred or more slaves belonging to Joseph Vann, Lewis Ross, and other Cherokees in the Canadian District (that section of the Nation lying between the Canadian and Arkansas Rivers) were joined in the revolt by slaves from the Creek Nation. Webbers Falls was the center of the plot, but slaves from a wide area along the lower valleys of the Grand and Verdigris rivers appear to have been involved. One of Benjamin Franklin Landrum’s slaves reportedly composed and sang a song entitled “I’ll Tell You, Marsa Ben, Yo Niggers Gwine to Leave Yo,” just previous to the escape. (5 )The uprising apparently began about 4:00 A.M. when blacks locked their overseers in their cabins while they slept. The slaves then took horses, guns and other weapons, food, and supplies, and fled. They were reportedly headed west for Mexican territory where they thought there was a settlement of free blacks along the Rio Grande. The slaves had supposedly heard that somewhere in the Rio Grande Valley there was a free town, a place of refuge from which runaway slaves could not be reclaimed. (5)
Fifty-five years later a Fort Smith, Arkansas, newspaper described the slave rebellion as follows:
“The people of Webber’s Falls, Cherokee Nation, awoke one Spring morning in the year of 1842 to find themselves abandoned by their slaves. Not a negro could be found on any of the farms in the bottom or in the surrounding neighborhood. At that time there were several hundred of them there or thereabouts. Joe Vann alone had brought out from Tennessee, two years before, more than two hundred of them and settled on the rich alluvial lands of that section of the nation. The owners were for a time in a state of consternation. Men rode about the adjacent country to ascertain what had become of the runaways. In a short time it became apparent that they had abandoned their owners and when the trail was found the conclusion arrived at was that they were seeking to escape
from bondage by making a desperate effort to reach New Mexico.”
Chapter 5:  The New Nation in the West, pgs. 61-79 (“Red Over Black”).
The “Trail of Tears” was not just traversed by the Cherokee only. As the Cherokee endured the forced march, so too did their slaves they took with them. But, no one wants to hear of the enslaved black people who also died while walking the Trail of Tears with their slave masters:
“The Treaty of New Echota, ceding all Cherokee lands east of the Missis-
sippi River, had been signed in December 1835. It gave the Cherokees
approximately six million acres in present-day northeastern Oklahoma
and allowed two years for the removal. The bulk of the Eastern Indians
did not migrate until 1838 and 1839, however. The hardships suffered
during that migration are well known. Principal Chief John Ross’s wife,
Quatie, died at Little Rock, Arkansas, during the journey. The Cherokees
refer to the trek as Nuna-da-ut-sun’y, “The Trail Where They Cried,”
which is commonly known as the Trail of Tears. It is not commonly
175 of them perished during the journey. ”
(Caps mine, for emphasis.)
“Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians”, by R. Halliburton, Jr., Greenwood Press, 1977. Chapter 5: “The New Nation in the West”, page 61.
The threat of sexual abuse from Cherokee slave masters was a horror that enslaved black women faced, just as much as they did under white slave masters. For an enslaved black woman could not have any control over her body or any children she gave birth to whether the father was the Cherokee slave master, his son, his other male relatives, or any male Cherokee who came to the plantation. And Cherokee slave masters sexually debased and impregnated their enslaved black women as much did white slave masters. And as they impregnated black women to create more profit for themselves, so too did they sell their own Cherokee/Black offspring to obtain more material wealth.
As for the change in the language of the Cherokee Constitution, it comes off as trying to erase the history of the enslavement of back people by Cherokee slavers. All the excising of the original wording of the Cherokee Constitution, all the Farenheit 451 treatment of the Cherokee history enslavement of black people cannot be buried. No matter how hard you try, you cannot burn away the past.
That the CN did nothing in the way of abolitionists against slavery, that the CN condoned and legally sanctioned slavery in its own Constitution showed how the Cherokee had no problems with the institution of slavery, save for the efforts of the Keetowah Society. The Keetowah Society (a small group of pro- Union Cherokees), vehemently fought against slavery. The Civil War polarized the Cherokee Nation, just as it did white-run America at that time. Just as there were whites who were pro- and anti-slavery, so too were there Cherokee who were pro- and anti-slavery amongst the Cherokee. The Union opponents of Slavery were the Keetowahs who bitterly opposed slavery; on the other hand, there were the “Knights of the Golden Circle” (sometimes called the “Knaves of the Godless Communion”) led by Chief Stand Watie, a large slave holder from Honey Creek, who were so pro-slavery that they eventually sided with the Confederate States of America. The Cherokee (many of them half-white, and slave holders)  who stood on the side of the pro-slavery American South, with Chief Watie,  overruled the Cherokee (full-bloods, and the Ketoowah) who were against any enslavement of another human being, and joined the CN with the CSA in secession.
Enslaved black people under the Cherokee slavemasters during the Civil War were no different than black people enslaved under white slavers. They comported themselves admirably towards their Cherokee masters, even when those masters were away fighting in the Civil War to maintain their rapacious livelihood of human bondage against black people.
During the War, there were black slaves who remained faithful to their Cherokee masters, even though they had no promise of freedom. Many enslaved black people who neither harmed, nor deserted their Cherokee masters all throughout the Civil War:
“Many black slaves remained in the Nation and continued to be faithful to their absentee masters; sometimes they were the sole occupants of plantations. Mrs. Ella Coody Robinson related: “Mother took us children and went to New Hampshire when father died during the war as she had been educated there and we stayed several months. When she returned home she found the home affairs in good order, the faithful negroes staying at their posts of duty. (4) Lydia Keys Taylor explained: “My father fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War. He left a negro slave to take care of the plantation near Tahlequah. After the war, on returning to the plantation, he found the house burned, cattle gone, but the slave was still there.” (4) Major Joseph Lynch Martin, known by many as “Greenbriar Joe,” owned a large plantation at Pensacola, Florida, and operated three cattle ranches at Ketchum and Greenbriar in the Cherokee Nation. More than 300 black slaves labored on these properties. When the war began, Martin placed his black slave driver, Nelson, in charge of his ranches and gathered a regiment of men for the Confederate army, outfitting it at his own expense. He participated in the battle of Cabin Creek, which was fought on his Pensacola ranch. During the war, Nelson made two trips to Florida to oversee his master’s affairs there. (4)
The sanctioning of slavery in much of Cherokee society and the Cherokee Nation’s Constitution was in effect the sanctioning of the acceptance of black people as inferior to Cherokee and that enslaved black people had no rights under slavery that a Cherokee was bound to respect.
No amount of re-writing the Cherokee Constitution will change the fact that there were Cherokee slavers who beat and mistreated the enslaved black people who toiled under their yoke of bondage, and that through rape of enslaved black women, and forced impregnation, Cherokee slavers passed their blood on into the enslaved black people among them—-black people who would eventually become the Freedmen/Women that live in the CN today.
A slave master is a THIEF, and no amount of a so-called “kind master” will ever absolve any human being of owning another one.
For what is a slavemaster, if not a thief?
A thief who steals the labor of an enslaved woman, man and child. A thief who robs another human being of their dignity. A thief who forces unwanted sex, and motherhood on a group of women who cannot say, “No’, because as slaves they have no rights to be protected by laws that recognize their humanity as members of the human race, and as women. A slaveholder is a thief who steals body, spirit, labor, and lives of those whom they enslave and degrade.
That is what the Cherokee slaveholders were:  thieves, parasites and abominations who were not fit to walk among the living.
The Cherokee Nation needs to acknowledge its wrong in enslaving black people. The Cherokee Nation needs to accept that it did wrong when it legally sanctioned the enslavement of black people with laws written into its Constitution to illegally steal the labour, lives, and bodies of enslaved black men, women and children. The Cherokee Nation must accept that it is the right of the Freedmen/Women to decide whether or not the Freedmen/Women can forgive the Cherokee Nation for condoning the sins. . . .and crimes. . . .against the humanity of enslaved black people.
The voices of the enslaved black men and women who lived under slavery in the CN have been silenced for far too long.  They too have their right to be remembered and never forgotten. They too shall be heard as they tell of what life was like for them under slavery in the Cherokee Nation, when black people were not human but instead were things, objects, commodities to be traded, bought and sold.
Very little personal information about Cherokee black slaves was ever recorded and most of that has since been lost or destroyed. There are a few extant sources, however. The following interviews conducted during the 1930s, during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration with the Works Progress Administration audio recordings of former slaves, gives voice to the many, many women and men who lived under chattel bondage in a hypocitical country that prided itself on being the freest nation on Earth for all of its citizens. Other sources of voices from the past of formerly enslaved black men and women can be found among the Foreman Papers (named after Grant Foreman who worked on these genealogical documentations under FDR’s WPA. The papers contain one hundred and twelve volumes of historical memoirs containing accounts of enslaved black women and men under the Five Civilized tribes, who lived before, and after, the Civil War), in their own words; the Indian – Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma, conducted by William Gross; the WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives; and the Ex-Slaves File of the Oklahoma Historical Society, which are the best examples. The following  reminiscenses were recorded some seventy years after emancipation.
AGE 83
I was born in Rusk County, Texas, on a plantation about eight miles east of Belleview. There wasn’t no town where I was born, but they had a church.
My mammy and pappy belonged to a part Cherokee named W. P. Thompson when I was born. He had kinfolks in the Cherokee Nation, and we all moved up here to a place on Fourteen-Mile Creek close to where Hulbert now is, ‘way before I was big enough to remember anything. Then, so I been told, old master Thompson sell my pappy and mammy and one of my baby brothers and me back to one of his neighbors in Texas name of John Harnage.
Mammy’s name was Letitia Thompson and pappy’s was Riley Thompson. My little brother was named Johnson Thompson, but I had another brother
sold to a Vann and he always call hisself Harry Vann. His Cherokee master lived on the Arkansas River close to Webbers Falls and I never did know him until we was both grown. My only sister was Patsy and she was borned after slavery and died at Wagoner, Oklahoma.
I can just remember when Master John Harnage took us to Texas. We went in a covered wagon with oxen and camped out all along the way. Mammy done the cooking in big wash kettles and pappy done the driving of the oxen. I would set in a wagon and listen to him pop his whip and holler.
Master John took us to his plantation and it was a big one, too. You could look from the field up to the Big House and any grown body in the yard look like a little body, it was so far away.
We negroes lived in quarters not far from the Big House and ours was a single log house with a stick and dirt chimney. We cooked over the hot coals in the fireplace.
I just played around until I was about six years old I reckon, and then they put me up at the Big House with my mammy to work. She done all the cording and spinning and weaving, and I done a whole lot of sweeping and minding the baby. The baby was only about six months old I reckon. I used to stand by the cradle and rock it all day, and when I quit I would go to sleep right by the cradle sometimes before mammy would come and get me.
The Big House had great big rooms in front, and they was fixed up nice, too. I remember when old Mistress Harnage tried me out sweeping up the front rooms. They had two or three great big pictures of some old people hanging on the wall. They was full blood Indians it look like, and I was sure scared of them pictures! I would go here and there and every which-a-way, and anywheres I go them big pictures always looking straight at me and watching me sweep! I kept my eyes right on them so I could run if they moved, and old Mistress take me back to the kitchen and say I can’t sweep because I miss all the dirt.
We always have good eating, like turnip greens cooked in a kettle with hog skins and crackling grease, and skinned corn, and rabbit or possum stew. I liked big fish tolerable well too, but I was afraid of the bones in the little ones.
That skinned corn aint like the boiled hominy we have today. To make it you boil some wood ashes, or have some drip lye from the hopper to put in the hot water. Let the corn boil in the lye water until the skin drops off and the eyes drop out and then wash that corn in fresh water about
a dozen times, or just keep carrying water from the spring until you are wore out, like I did. Then you put the corn in a crock and set it in the spring, and you got good skinned corn as long as it last, all ready to warm up a little batch at a time.
Master had a big, long log kitchen setting away from the house, and we set a big table for the family first, and when they was gone we negroes at the house eat at that table too, but we don’t use the china dishes.
The negro cook was Tilda Chisholm. She and my mammy didn’t do no outwork. Aunt Tilda sure could make them corn-dodgers. Us children would catch her eating her dinner first out of the kettles and when we say something she say: ‘Go on child, I jest tasting that dinner.’
In the summer we had cotton homespun clothes, and in winter it had wool mixed in. They was dyed with copperas and wild indigo.
My brother, Johnson Thompson, would get up behind old Master Harnage on his horse and go with him to hunt squirrels so they would go ’round on Master’s side so’s he could shoot them. Master’s old mare was named ‘Old Willow’, and she knowed when to stop and stand real still so he could shoot.
His children was just all over the place! He had two houses full of them! I only remember Bell, Ida, Maley, Mary and Will, but they was plenty more I don’t remember.
That old horn blowed ‘way before daylight, and all the field negroes had to be out in the row by the time of sun up. House negroes got up too, because old Master always up to see everybody get out to work.
Old Master Harnage bought and sold slaves most all the time, and some of the new negroes always acted up and needed a licking. The worst ones got beat up good, too! They didn’t have no jail to put slaves in because when the Masters got done licking them they didn’t need no jail.
My husband was George Petite. He tell me his mammy was sold away from him when he was a little boy. He looked down a long lane after her just as long as he could see her, and cried after her. He went down to the big road and set down by his mammy’s barefooted tracks in the sand and set there until it got dark, and then he come on back to the quarters.
I just saw one slave try to get away right in hand. They caught him with bloodhounds and brung him back in. The hounds had nearly tore him up, and he was sick a long time. I don’t remember his name, but he wasn’t one of the old regular negroes.
In Texas we had a church where we could go. I think it was a white church and they just let the negroes have it when they got a preacher
sometimes. My mammy took me sometimes, and she loved to sing them salvation songs.
We used to carry news from one plantation to the other I reckon, ’cause mammy would tell about things going on some other plantation and I know she never been there.
Christmas morning we always got some brown sugar candy or some molasses to pull, and we children was up bright and early to get that ‘lasses pull. I tell you! And in the winter we played skeeting on the ice when the water frose over. No, I don’t mean skating. That’s when you got iron skates, and we didn’t have them things. We just got a running start and jump on the ice and skeet as far as we could go, and then run some more.
I nearly busted my head open, and brother Johnson said: ‘Try it again,’ but after that I was scared to skeet any more.
Mammy say we was down in Texas to get away from the War, but I didn’t see any war and any soldiers. But one day old Master stay after he eat breakfast and when us negroes come in to eat he say: ‘After today I ain’t your master any more. You all as free as I am.’ We just stand look and don’t know what to say about it.
After while pappy got a wagon and some oxen to drive for a white man who was coming to the Cherokee Nation because he had folks here. His name was Dave Mounts and he had a boy named John.
We come with them and stopped at Fort Gibson where my own grand mammy was cooking for the soldiers at the garrison. Her name was Phyllis Brewer and I was named after her. She had a good Cherokee master. My mammy was born on his place.
We stayed with her about a week and then we moved out on Four Mile Creek to live. She died on Fourteen-Mile Creek about a year later.
When we first went to Four Mile Creek I seen negro women chopping wood and ask them who they work for and I found out they didn’t know they was free yet.
After a while my pappy and mammy both died, and I was took care of by my aunt Elsie Vann. She took my brother Johnson too, but I don’t know who took Harry Vann.
I was married to George Petite, and I had on a white underdress and black high-top shoes, and a large cream colored hat, and on top of all I had a blue wool dress with tassels all around the bottom of it. That dress was for me to eat the terrible supper in. That what we called the wedding
supper because we eat too much of it. Just dances all night, too! I was at Mandy Foster’s house in Fort Gibson, and the preacher was Reverend Barrows. I had that dress a long time, but it is gone now. I still got the little sun bonnet I wore to church in Texas.
We had six children, but all are dead but George, Tish, and Annie now. Yes, they tell me Abraham Lincoln set me free, and I love to look at his picture on the wall in the school house at Four Mile branch where they have church. My grand mammy kind of help start that church, and I think everybody ought to belong to some church.
I want to say again my Master Harnage was Indian, but he was a good man and mighty good to us slaves, and you can see I am more than six feet high and they say I weighs over a hundred and sixty, even if my hair is snow white.
Near as I ever know, I was born in the year of 1850, away back in the hills east of Tahlequah; the Cherokee folks called it the Flint District and old master Ben Johnson lived somewheres about ten miles east of the big Indian town, Tahlequah. Never did know just where his farm was, and when the new towns of the country spring up it make it that much harder for me to figure out just where he lived and where at I was born.
Don’t know much about own folks either, ‘ceptin’ that my mother’s name was Elasey Johnson and my pappy’s name was Banjo Lastley, who one time lived ’round where Lenapah now is. There was one brother name of Turner Whitmire Johnson, and a half sister name of Jennie Miller
Lastley, who is still living down in Muskogee, but brother Turner been dead most 40 year ago I guess. Pappy was belonging to another master, that’s how come my folks’ name was different, but I kept the old Johnson name, even though the old master was the meanest kind of a man.
His wife, Mistress Anna, died when one of the children was born; maybe that’s why he was so mean, just worried all the time. The master lived in a double log house, with a double fireplace in the middle of two rooms, and I was one of the girls who stayed in the house to take care of the children. How many children they had I never remember and I don’t remember the names, but they was all pretty mean, like the master and the overseer that drive the folks who work in the field.
The cabin where I live with my mother was a two-room log house having two doors that open right into the yard. There was no gallery on the slave cabins and no windows, so the corners of the rooms get dark early and sometime I get pretty scared before mother got in from the fields in the evening. She be gone all the day and always leave me a big baked sweet potato on the board above the fireplace and then I eat about noon for my dinner.
That was before I got big enough to work in the master’s house and take care of the children. She always work in the fields; she was sick all the time, but that didn’t keep her out of the fields or the garden work. Sometimes she be so sick she could barely get out of the old wood bunk when the morning work call sound on the farm.
One day my mother couldn’t get up and the old master come around to see about it, and he yelled, ‘Get out of here and get yourself in the fields.’ She tried to go but was too sick to work. She got to the door alright; couldn’t hurry fast enough for the old master though, so he pushed her in a little ditch that was by the cabin and whipped her back with the lash, then he reached down and rolled her over so’s he could beat her face and neck. She didn’t live long after that and I guess the whippings helped to kill her, but she better off dead than just living for the whip.
Time I was twelve year old I was tendin’ the master’s children like what they tell me to do, and then one day somehow I drop one of them right by where the old master was burning some brush in the yard. ‘What you do that for?’ he yelled, and while I was stopping to pick up the baby he grabbed me and shoved me into the fire! I went into that fire head first, but I never know how I got out. See this old scarred face? That’s
what I got from the fire, and inside my lips is burned off, and my back is scarred with lashings that’ll be with me when I meet my Jesus!
Them things help me remember about the slave days and how once when I got sick of being treated mean by everybody after mother died, I slipped off in the woods to get away and wandered ’round ’till I come to a place folks said was Scullyville. On the way I eat berries and chew bark from the trees, and one feed I got from some colored people on the way.
But the old master track me down and there I is back at the old farm for more whippings. Then I was give away to my Aunt Easter Johnson, but she Was a mean woman–mean to everybody. She had a boy six year old. That boy got to crying one day and she grabbed up a big club and beat her own child to death. Then she laughed about it! Like she was crazy, I guess. And the only thing was done to her was a locking up in the chicken house, ending up with a salt and pepper whipping.
All the slaves wore cotton clothes in the summer, wool jackets in the winter and brass-toed shoes made from the hide of some old cow that wasn’t no good milker anymore. I lost the first pair of shoes they give me and had to go barefoot all the winter. Out in a thicket I had seen a rabbit so I started after it, but took my shoes and set them down so’s I could sneak up without making noise. Then I miss the rabbit and go back for the shoes but they was nowhere I could find them. When Master Johnson find out the shoes was lost I got another whipping.
I hear about the slaves being free when maybe a hundred soldiers come to the house. They was a pretty sight settin’ on the horses, and the men had on blue uniforms with little caps. ‘All the slaves is free’ one of the men said, and after that I just told everybody, ‘I is a free Negro now and I ain’t goin’ to work for nobody!’
A long time after the war is over and everybody is free of the masters, I get down to Muldrow, Okla., and that’s where I join the church. For 58 year I belong to the colored Baptists and I learn that everybody ought to be good while they is living so’s they will have a better restin’ place when they die.
In 1891, I met a good man, Randolph White, and we got married. I still got some of the pieces or scraps of my weddin’ dress, a cotton dress it was, with lots of colors printed on it–with colors like the Indians use to wear.
I was a Cherokee slave and now I am a Cherokee freedwoman, and besides that I am a quarter Cherokee my own self. And this is the way it is.
I was born in 1850 along the Arkansas river about half way between Fort Smith and old Fort Coffee and the Skullyville boat landing on the river. The farm place was on the north side of the river on the old wagon road what run from Fort Smith out to Fort Gibson, and that old road was like you couldn’t hardly call a road when I first remember seeing it. The ox teams bog down to they bellies in some places, and the wagon wheel mighty nigh bust on the big rocks in some places.
I remember seeing soldiers coming along that old road lots of times, and freighting wagons, and wagons what we all know carry whiskey, and that was breaking the law, too! Them soldiers catch the man with the whiskey they sure put him up for a long time, less’n he put some silver in they hands. That’s what my Uncle Nick say. That Uncle Nick a mean Negro, and he ought to know about that.
Like I tell you, I am a quarter Cherokee. My mammy was named Adeline and she belong to old Master Ben Johnson. Old Master Ben bring my grandmammy out to that Sequoyah district way back when they call it Arkansas, mammy tell me, and God only know who my mammy’s pa is, but mine was Old Master Ben’s boy, Ned Johnson.
Old Master Ben come from Tennessee when he was still a young man, and he bring a whole passel of slaves and my mammy say they all was kin to one another, all the slaves I mean. He was a white man that married a Cherokee woman, and he was a devil on this earth. I don’t want to talk about him none.
White folks was mean to us like the devil, and so I just let them pass. When I say my brothers and sisters I mean my half brothers and sisters, you know, but maybe some of them was my whole kin anyways, I don’t know. They was Lottie that was sold off to a Starr because she wouldn’t have a baby, and Ed, Dave, Ben, Jim and Ned.
My name is Sarah now but it was Annie until I was eight years old. My old Mistress’name was Annie and she name me that, and Mammy was
afraid to change it until old Mistress died, then she change it. She hate old Mistress and that name too.
Lottie’s name was Annie, too, but Mammy changed it in her own mind but she was afraid to say it out loud, a-feared she would get a whipping. When sister was sold off Mammy tell her to call herself Annie when she was leaving but call herself Lottie when she get over to the Starrs. And she done it too. I seen her after that and she was called Lottie all right.
The Negroes lived all huddled up in a bunch in little one-room log cabins with stick and mud chimneys. We lived in one, and it had beds for us children like shelves in the wall. Mammy used to help us up into them.
Grandmammy was mighty old and mistress was old too. Grandmammy set on the Master’s porch and minded the baby mostly. I think it was Young Master’s. He was married to a Cherokee girl. They was several of the boys but only one girl, Nicie. The old Master’s boys were Aaron, John, Ned, Cy and Nathan. They lived in a double log house made out of square hewed logs, and with a double fireplace out of rock where they warmed theirselves on one side and cooked on the other. They had a long front porch where they set most of the time in the summer, and slept on it too.
There was over a hundred acres in the Master’s farm, and it was all bottom land too, and maybe you think he let them slaves off easy! Work from daylight to dark! They all hated him and the overseer too, and before slavery ended my grandmammy was dead and old Mistress was dead and old Master was might feeble and Uncle Nick had run away to the North soldiers and they never got him back. He run away once before, about ten years before I was born, Mammy say, but the Cherokees went over in the Creek Nation and got him back that time.
The way he made the Negroes work so hard, old Master must have been trying to get rich. When they wouldn’t stand for a whipping he would sell them.
I saw him sell a old woman and her son. Must have been my aunt. She was always pestering around trying to get something for herself, and one day she was cleaning the yard he seen her pick up something and put it inside her apron. He flew at her and cussed her, and started like he was going to hit her but she just stood right up to him and never budged, and when he come close she just screamed out loud and run at him with her fingers stuck out straight and jabbed him in the belly. He had a big soft belly, too, and it hurt him. He seen she wasn’t going to be afraid, and he
set out to sell her. He went off on his horse to get some men to come and bid on her and her boy, and all us children was mighty scared about it.
They would have hangings at Fort Smith courthouse, and old Master would take a slave there sometimes to see the hangings, and that slave would come back and tell us all scary stories about the hanging.
One time he whipped a whole bunch of the men on account of a fight in the quarters, and then he took them all to Fort Smith to see a hanging. He tied them all in the wagon, and when they had seen the hanging he asked them if they was scared of them dead men hanging up there. They all said yes, of course, but my old uncle Nick was a bad Negro and he said, ‘No, I aint a-feared of them nor nothing else in this world’, and old Master jumped on him while he was tied and beat him with a rope, and then when they got home he tied old Nick to a’tree and took his shirt off and poured the cat-o-nine tails to him until he fainted away and fell over like* he was dead.
I never forget seeing all that blood all over my uncle, and if I could hate that old Indian any more I guess I would, but I hated him all I could already I reckon.
Old Master wasn’t the only hellion neither. Old Mistress just as bad, and she took most of her wrath out hitting us children all the time. She was afraid of the grown Negroes. Afraid of what they might do while old Master was away, but she beat us children all the time.
She would call me, ‘Come here Annie!’ and I wouldn’t know what to do. If I went when she called ‘Annie’ my mammy would beat me for answering to that name, and if I didn’t go old Mistress would beat me for that. That made me hate both of them, and I got the devil in me and I wouldn’t come to either one. My grandmammy minded the Master’s yard, and she set on the front porch all the time, and when I was called I would run to her and she wouldn’t let anybody touch me.
When I was eight years old Mistress died, and Grandmammy told me why old Mistress picked on me so. She told me about me being half Mister Ned’s blood. Then I knowed why Mister Ned would say, ‘Let her along, she got big big blood in her’, and then laugh.
Young Mister Ned was a devil, too. When his mammy died he went out and ‘blanket married.’ I mean he brung in a half white and half Indian woman and just lived with her.
The slaves would get rations every Monday morning to do them all week. The overseer would weigh and measure according to how many in
the family, and if you run out you just starve till you get some more. We all know the overseer steal some of it for his own self but we can’t do anything, so we get it from the old Master some other way.
One day I was carrying water from the spring and I run up on Grandmammy and Uncle Nick skinning a cow. ‘What you-all doing?’, I say, and they say keep my mouth shut or they kill me. They was stealing from the Master to piece out down at the quarters with. Old Master had so many cows he never did count the difference.
I guess I wasn’t any worse than any the rest of the Negroes, but I was bad to tell little lies. I carry scars on my legs to this day where Old Master whip me for lying, with a raw hide quirt he carry all the time for his horse. When I lie to him he just jump down off’n his horse and whip me good right there.
In slavery days we all ate sweet potatoes all the time. When they didn’t measure out enough of the tame kind we would go out in the woods and get the wild kind. They growed along the river sand between where we lived and Wilson’s Rock, out west of our place.
Then we had boiled sheep and goat, mostly goat, and milk and wild greens and corn pone. I think the goat meat was the best, but I ain had no teeth for forty years now, and a chunk of meat hurts my stomach. So I just eats grits mostly. Besides hoeing in the field, chopping sprouts, shearing sheep, carrying water, cutting firewood, picking cotton and sewing I was the one they picked to work Mistress’ little garden where she raised things from seed they got in Fort Smith. Green peas and beans and radishes and things like that. If we raised a good garden she give me a little of it, and if we had a poor one I got a little anyhow even when she didn’t give it.
For clothes we had homespun cotton all the year round, but in winter we had a sheep skin jacket with the wool left on the inside. Sometimes sheep skin shoes with the wool on the inside and sometimes real cow leather shoes with wood peggings for winter, but always barefooted in summer, all the men and women too.
Lord, I never earned a dime of money in slave days for myself but plenty for the old Master. He would send us out to work the neighbors field and he got paid for it, but we never did see any money.
I remember the first money I ever did see. It was a little while after we was free, and I found a greenback in the road at Fort Gibson and I didn’t know what it was. Mammy said it was money and grabbed for it,
but I was still a hell cat and I run with it. I went to the little sutler store and laid it down and pointed to a pitcher I been wanting. The man took the money and give me the pitcher, but I don’t know to this day how much money it was and how much was the pitcher, but I still got that pitcher put away. It’s all blue and white stripedy.
Most of the work I done off the plantation was sewing. I learned from my Granny and I loved to sew. That was about the only thing I was industrious in. When I was just a little bitsy girl I found a steel needle in the yard that belong to old Mistress. My mammy took it and I cried. She put it in her dress and started for the field. I cried so old Mistress found out why and made Mammy give me the needle for my own.
We had some neighbor Indians named Starr, and Mrs. Starr used me sometimes to sew. She had nine boys and one girl, and she would sew up all they clothes at once to do for a year. She would cut out the cloth for about a week, and then send the word around to all the neighbors, and old Mistress would send me because she couldn’t see good to sew. They would have stacks of drawers, shirts, pants and some dresses all cut out to sew up.
I was the only Negro that would set there and sew in that bunch of women, and they always talked to me nice and when they eat I get part of it too, out in the kitchen.
One Negro girl, Eula Davis, had a mistress sent her too, one time, but she wouldn’t sew. She didn’t like me because she said I was too white and she played off to spite the white people. She got sent home, too.
When old Mistress die I done all the sewing for the family almost. I could sew good enough to go out before I was eight years old, and when I got to be about ten I was better than any other girl on the place for sewing.
I can still quilt without my glasses, and I have sewed all night long many a time while I was watching young Master’s baby after old Mistress died.
They was over a hundred acres in the plantation, and I don’t know how many slaves, but before the War ended lots of the men had run away. Uncle Nick went to the North and never come home, and Grandmammy died about that time.
We was way down across the Red River in Texas at that time, close to Shawneetown of the Choctaw Nation but just across the river on the other side in Texas bottoms. Old Master took us there in covered wagons when
the Yankee soldiers got too close by in the first part of the War. He hired the slaves out to Texas people because he didn’t make any crops down there, and we all lived in kind of
camps. That’s how some of the men and my uncle Nick got to slip off to the north that way.
Old Master just rent and rave all the time we was in Texas. That’s the first time I ever saw a doctor. Before that when a slave sick the old woman give them herbs, but down there one day old Master whip a Negro girl and she fall in the fire, and he had a doctor come out to fix her up where she was burnt. I remember Granny giving me clabber milk when I was sick, and when I was grown I found out it had had medicine in it.
Before freedom we didn’t have no church, but slipped around to the other cabins and had a little singing sometimes. Couldn’t have anybody show us the letters either, and you better not let them catch you pick up a book even to look at the pictures, for it was against a Cherokee law to have a Negro read and write or to teach a Negro.
Some Negroes believed in buckeyes and charms but I never did. Old Master had some good boys, named Aaron, John, Ned, Cy and Nat and they told me the charms was no good. Their sister Nicie told me too, and said when I was sick just come and tell her.
They didn’t tell us anything about Christmas and New Year though, and all we done was work.
When the War was ended we was still in Texas, and when old Master got a letter from Fort Smith telling him the slaves was free he couldn’t read, and young Miss read it to him. He went wild and jumped on her and beat the devil out of her. Said she was lying to him. It near about killed him to let us loose, but he cooled down after awhile and said he would help us all get back home if we wanted to come.
Mammy told him she could bear her own expenses. I remember I didn’t know what ‘expenses’ was, and I thought it was something I was going to have to help carry all the way back.
It was a long time after he knew we was free before he told us. He tried to keep us, I reckon, but had to let us go. He died pretty soon after he told us, and some said his heart just broke and some said some Negroes poisoned him. I didn’t know which.
Anyways we had to straggle back the best way we could, and me and mammy just got along one way and another till we got to a ferry over the Red River and into Arkansas. Then we got some rides and walked some until we got to Fort Smith.
They was a lot of Negro camps there and we stayed awhile and then started out to Fort Gibson because we heard they was giving rations out there.
Mammy knew we was Cherokee anyway, I guess.
That trip was hell on earth. Nobody let us ride and it took us nearly two weeks to walk all that ways, and we nearly starved all the time. We was skin and bones and feet all bloody when we got to the Fort.
We come here to Four Mile Branch to where the Negroes was all setting down, and pretty soon Mammy died.
I married Oliver Wilson on January second, 1878. He used to belong to Mr. DeWitt Wilson of Tahlequah, and I think the old people used to live down at Wilson Rock because my husband used to know all about that place and the place where I was borned. Old Mister DeWitt Wilson give me a pear tree the next year after I was married, and it is still out in my yard and bears every year.
I was married in a white and black checkedy calico apron that I washed for Mr. Tim Walker’s mother Lizzie all day for, over close to Ft. Gibson, and I was sure a happy woman when I married that day.
Him and me both got our land on our Cherokee freedman blood and I have lived to bury my husband and see two great grandchildren so far.
I bless God about Abraham Lincoln. I remember when my mammy sold pictures of him in Fort Smith for a Jew. If he give me my freedom I know he is in Heaven now.
I heard a lot about Jefferson Davis in my life. During the War we hear the Negroes singing the soldier song about hang Jeff Davis to a apple tree, and old Master tell about the time we know Jeff Davis. Old Master say Jeff Davis was just a dragoon soldier out of Fort Gibson when he bring his family out here from Tennessee, and while they was on the road from Fort Smith to where they settled young Jeff Davis and some more dragoon soldiers rid up and talked to him a long time. He say my grandmammy had a bundle on her head, and Jeff Davis say, ‘Where you going Aunty?’ and she was tired and mad and she said, ‘I don’t know, to Hell I reckon’, and all the white soldiers laughed at her and made her that much mader.
I joined the Four Mile Branch church in 1879 and Sam Solomon was a Creek Negro and the first preacher I ever heard preach. Everybody ought to be in the church and ready for that better home on the other side.
All the old slaves I know are dead excepting two, and I will be going pretty soon I reckon, but I’m glad to lived to see the day the Negroes get the right treatment if they work good and behave themselves right.
They don’t have to have no pass to walk abroad no more, and they can all read and write now, but it’s a tarnation shame some of them go and read the wrong kind of things anyways.
AGE 90
I was born in the old Caney settlement southeast of Tahlequah on the banks of Caney Creek. Off to the north we could see the big old ridge of Sugar Mountain when the sun shine on him first thing in the morning when we all getting up.
I didn’t know nothing else but some kind of war until I was a grown woman, because when I first can remember my old Master, Charley Rogers, was always on the lookout for somebody or other he was lined up against in the big feud.
My master and all the rest of the folks was Cherokees, and they’d been killing each other off in the feud ever since long before I was borned, and jest because old Master have a big farm and three-four families of Negroes them other Cherokees keep on pestering his stuff all the time. Us children was always afeared to go any place less’n some of the grown folks was along.
We didn’t know what we was a-feared of, but we heard the Master and Mistress talking ’bout ‘another Party killing’ and we stuck close to the place.
Old Mistress’ name was Nancy Rogers, but I was a orphan after I was a big girl and I called her ‘Aunt’ and ‘Mama’ like I did when I was little. You see my own mammy was the house woman and I was raised in the house, and I heard the little children call old mistress ‘mama’ and so I did too. She never did make me stop.
My pappy and mammy and us children lived in a one-room log cabin close to the creek bank and just a little piece from old Master’s house.
My pappy’s name was Joe Tucker and my mammy’s name was Ruth Tucker. They belonged to a man named Tucker before I was born and he sold them to Master Charley Rogers and he just let them go on by the same name if they wanted to, because last name didn’t mean nothing to a slave anyways. The folks jest called my pappy ‘ Charley Rogers’ boy Joe.’
I already had two sisters, Mary and Mandy, when I was born, and putty soon I had a baby brother, Louis. Mammy worked at the Big House and took me along every day. When I was a little bigger I would help hold the hank when she done the spinning and old Mistress done a lot of the weaving and some knitting. She jest set by the window and knit most all of the time.
When we weave the cloth we had a big loom out on the gallery, and Miss Nancy tell us how to do it.
Mammy eat at our own cabin, and we had lots of game meat and fish the boys get in the Caney Creek. Mammy bring down deer meat and wild turkey sometimes, that the Indian boys git on Sugar Mountain.
Then we had corn bread, dried bean bread and green stuff out’n Master’s patch. Mammy make the bean bread when we git short of corn meal and nobody going to the mill right away. She take and bile the beans and mash them up in some meal and that make it go a long ways.
The slaves didn’t have no garden ’cause they work in old Master’s garden and make enough for everybody to have some anyway.
When I was about 10 years old that feud got so bad the Indians was always talking about getting their horses and cattle killed and their slaves harmed. I was too little to know how bad it was until one morning my own mammy went off somewhere down the road to git some stuff to dye cloth and she didn’t come back.
Lots of the young Indian bucks on both sides of the feud would ride around the woods at night, and old Master got powerful oneasy about my mammy and had all the neighbors and slaves out looking for her, but nobody find her.
It was about a week later that two Indian men rid up and ast old master wasn’t his gal Ruth gone. He says yes, and they take one of the slaves along with a wagon to show where they seen her.
They find her in some bushes where she’d been getting bark to set the dyes, and she been dead all the time. Somebody done hit her in the head with a club and shot her through and through with a bullet too. She was so swole up they couldn’t lift her up and jest had to make a deep hole right along side of her and roll her in it she was so bad mortified.
Old Master nearly go crazy he was so mad, and the young Cherokee men ride the woods every night for about a month, but they never catch on to who done it.
because I never see my sisters and brother for a long time after the Civil War, and for me, I have to go live with a new mistress that was a Cherokee neighbor. Her name was Hannah Ross, and she raised me until I was grown.
I was her home girl, and she and me did a lot of spinning and weaving too. I helped the cook and carried water and milked. I carried the water in a home-made pegging set on my head. Them peggings was kind of buckets made out of staves set around a bottom and didn’t have no handle.
I can remember weaving with Miss Hannah Ross. She would weave a strip of white and one of yellow and one of brown to make it pretty. She had a reel that would pop every time it got to half skein so she would know to stop and fill it up again. We used copperas and some kind of bark she bought at the store to dye with. It was cotton clothes winter and summer for the slaves, too, I’ll tell you.
When the Civil War come along we seen lots of white soldiers in them brown butternut
suits all over the place, and about all the Indian men was in it too. Old master Charley Rogers’ boy Charley went along too. Then pretty soon–it seem like about a year–a lot of the Cherokee men come back home and say they not going back to the War with that General Cooper and some of them go off the Federal side because the captain go to the Federal side too.
Somebody come along and tell me my own pappy have to go in the war and I think they say he on the Copper side, and then after while Miss Hannah tell me he git kilt over in Arkansas.
I was so grieved all the time I don’t remember much what went on, but I know pretty soon my Cherokee folks had all the stuff they had et up by the soldiers and they was jest a few wagons and mules left.
All the slaves was piled in together and some of the grown ones walking, and they took us way down across the big river and kept us in the bottoms a long time until the War was over.
We lived in a kind of a camp, but I was too little to know where they got the grub to feed us with. Most all the Negro men was off somewhere in the War.
Then one day they had to bust up the camp and some Federal soldiers go with us and we all start back home. We git to a place where all the houses is burned down and I ask what is that place. Miss Hannah say: ‘Skullyville, child. That’s where they had part of the War.’
All the slaves was set out when we git to Fort Gibson, and the soldiers say we all free now. They give us grub and clothes to the Negroes at that place. It wasn’t no town but a fort place and a patch of big trees.
I think old Master sell the children or give them out to somebody then,
because I never see my sisters and brother for a long time after the Civil War, and for me, I have to go live with a new mistress that was a Cherokee neighbor. Her name was Hannah Ross, and she raised me until I was grown.
I was her home girl, and she and me did a lot of spinning and weaving too. I helped the cook and carried water and milked. I carried the water in a home-made pegging set on my head. Them peggings was kind of buckets made out of staves set around a bottom and didn’t have no handle.
I can remember weaving with Miss Hannah Ross. She would weave a strip of white and one of yellow and one of brown to make it pretty. She had a reel that would pop every time it got to half skein so she would know to stop and fill it up again. We used copperas and some kind of bark she bought at the store to dye with. It was cotton clothes winter and summer for the slaves, too, I’ll tell you.
When the Civil War come along we seen lots of white soldiers in them brown butternut suits all over the place, and about all the Indian men was in it too. Old master Charley Rogers’ boy Charley went along too. Then pretty soon–it seem like about a year–a lot of the Cherokee men come back home and say they not going back to the War with that General Cooper and some of them go off the Federal side because the captain go to the Federal side too.
Somebody come along and tell me my own pappy have to go in the war and I think they say he on the Copper side, and then after while Miss Hannah tell me he git kilt over in Arkansas.
I was so grieved all the time I don’t remember much what went on, but I know pretty soon my Cherokee folks had all the stuff they had et up by the soldiers and they was jest a few wagons and mules left.
All the slaves was piled in together and some of the grown ones walking, and they took us way down across the big river and kept us in the bottoms a long time until the War was over.
We lived in a kind of a camp, but I was too little to know where they got the grub to feed us with. Most all the Negro men was off somewhere in the War.
Then one day they had to bust up the camp and some Federal soldiers go with us and we all start back home. We git to a place where all the houses is burned down and I ask what is that place. Miss Hannah say: ‘Skullyville, child. That’s where they had part of the War.’
All the slaves was set out when we git to Fort Gibson, and the soldiers say we all free now.
They give us grub and clothes to the Negroes at that place. It wasn’t no town but a fort place and a patch of big trees.
Miss Hannah take me to her place and I work there until I was grown. I didn’t git any money that I seen, but I got a good place to stay.
Pretty soon I married Ran Lovely and we lived in a double log house here at Fort Gibson.
Then my second husband was Henry Richardson, but he’s been dead for years, too. We had six children, but they all dead but one.
I didn’t want slavery to be over with, mostly because we had the War I reckon. All that trouble made me the loss of my mammy and pappy, and I was always treated good when I was a slave.
When it was over I had rather be at home like I was.
None of the Cherokees ever whipped us, and my mistress give me some mighty fine rules to live by to git along in the world, too.
The Cherokees didn’t have no jail for Negroes and no jail for themselves either. If a man done a crime he come back to take his punishment without being locked up.
None of the Negroes ran away when I was a child that I know of. We all had plenty to eat. The Negroes didn’t have no school and so I can’t read and write, but they did have a school after the War, I hear. But we had a church made out of a brush arbor and we would sing good songs in Cherokee sometimes.
I always got Sunday off to play, and at night I could go git a piece of sugar or something to eat before I went to bed and Mistress didn’t care.
We played bread-and-butter and the boys played hide the switch. The one found the switch got to whip the one he wanted to.
When I got sick they give me some kind of tea from weeds, and if I et too many roasting ears and swole up they biled gourds and give me the liquor off’n them to make me throw up.
I’ve been a good church-goer all my life until I git too feeble, and I still understand and talk Cherokee language and love to hear songs and parts of the Bible in it because it make me think about the time I was a little girl before my mammy and pappy leave me.
From the book, “Red Over Black:  Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians”, by Rudia Halliburton, Jr., Greenwood Press. 1977.
Ned Thompsom was interviewed in Henryetta, Oklahoma, by W.P.A. field worker Grace Kelley in August 1937. Source: Oklahoma Historical Society, Indian Pioneer History, Vol. 90
Grandfather was an Alabama slave. His master had a lot of boys who were named Tom, so as Grandfather took care of the cows all the time when he was a boy, they started to calling him “Cow Tom” when they wanted him. Each boy called according to his work to keep them all from answering. That named stayed with Grandfather all his life. When the agreement was made to sell the land in Alabama for land here, he was forced to follow his master, to see if the land was suitable to trade. That trip was made two years prior to immigration.
There were no towns, but they crossed the Arkansas River southwest of Fort Smith on horseback, then went southwest of Fort Smith on horseback, then went southeast of Checotah, due northwest to North Fork, and then south. As they were going northwest, they passed a high hill, and saw some birds flying towards them. He thought there must be water up there, and the birds had been there to drink, but others said it was too high a hill to have water on top of it. They went to see, and found a spring that had been chopped out before 1832. It is thought that some Mexicans had chopped out the spring, as they came through going south, as they explored clear to Fort Sill. Grandfather then returned to Alabama, and sent his wife and children with the immigration, but he stayed and fought in the Florida War. That was similar to the Green Peach War, as it was just between Indians. When the Indians emigrated they brought their Negroes, just as they did their property or stock. They ate and were clothed, just as the Indians saw fit to furnish them. When Grandmother came, her boat sank, and only a few of her people lived. Grandfather was an interpreter in 1832, and up to 1866.
The only Negroes who had to work hard were the ones who belonged to the half-breeds. As the Indian didn’t do work, he didn’t expect this slaves to do much. Two acres was a big farm, and the Indians would have from eight to ten Negroes to attend it, which was plentiful. The Negroes had little log huts with dirt floors, around their owner’s house. Most of the Indians wouldn’t sell their Negroes, so they had a great many, as the Negroes usually had big families. The men who owned slaves were:  Dave Barnett, Ben Marshall, Lee Hawkins, D.N. McIntosh, Watt Grayson, C.W. Stidman, Sooka Colonel, and Yargee.
Everybody got their goods by ox wagon from Fort Smith. So, when some of these large slave owners were without money and needed supplies, two or three of them would take a load of Negroes to Fort Smith, and sell them to buy the supplies they needed. Some of the slave owners took the Negroes to Paris, Texas, to sell.
I was a child and can’t remember all about it, but we were going to Fort Gibson, and the Civil War had just started. We went through a battlefield where there were many dead persons. Some were white, and some were Indians. It was six or seven miles east of High Spring. There was a house close, and there were some who were living in the house; but, the wounded were in there on beds. One of my sisters had bad dreams, and cried all night because of what she had seen. The dead were in the cornrows.
It was on that same trip that we heard that we would pass Honey Spring. We children were anxious to come to it, for we loved honey. When we got there, there was only water in the spring, and we were disappointed.
When the War came to a close, the commission met at Fort Smith, and the Indians had to adopt tne Negroes into the Creek Nation. The Indians first said that since the government had taken the Negroes from the Indians, now the government could take care of them. But finally the Treaty of 1866 was signed.
[Editor’s note: The following section talks about the Green Peach War.]
Samuel Checote was the chief. Isparhechar didn’t like the Creek Constitution, and rebelled against the Indian government, and the Creek tribe was divided. My people and I were on Checote’s side. The people who lived out here by the Rock Store were on Isparhechar’s side.
One scrimmage took place on a flat rock west of Okemah, where seven or eight men were killed, who belonged to both sides. My cousin, Joe Barnett, who was a Light Horsemen captain, and Sam Scott, an Indian, were killed by Isparhechar’s men.
I was shot in the shoulder, on both sides of the neck. We were going west, and forty or fifty of them were coming east. We didn’t see each other until we were real close. At ten o’clock in the morning, Isparhechar’s people had passed the Sac and Fox line, and the Indian agent and the chief of the Sac and Fox stopped us. Then we came back, and the government sent soldiers, Colonel Bates and others, who captured the Isparhechar men and took them to Fort Gibson. After they had signed a peace contract, the soldiers escorted them back to their own homes. Sam Checote didn’t go out, but gave orders trying to subdue them and make them obey the Creek law. Pleasant Porter was the manager at that time; he was chief after statehood.
The old Indians had quite a town [High Spring Council] on the mountain due north of Hichita. My uncle was a blacksmith there. That town was all burned down during the Civil War.
This old trail [Old Trail of 1872] went between Fort Scott, Kansas, and Fort Sill, Indian territory. General Custer and General Grayson passed through on it in 1872. I was a young man then. It crossed the Arkansas River north of the place where Muskogee is, passed through Okmulgee, and between that stump and this porch. There were no towns then, though. To go to that house, go north two miles from the Rock Store, which is two miles north and One east of the Okfuskee and Okmulgee County line. Turn to Highway 75, turn west one mile, south to the second house, turn west about a block or a quarter of a mile. This house is Katy Rentie’s old home. The Government Trail in the Civil War went from Muskogee to Hoffman, crossed at Grayson, came to the Rock Store and went on somewhere close to Spring Hill or Pharoah.
I was a strong young man when they tore the old log house down and rebuilt the new rock Council House [at Okmulgee]. I had a wagon and team, and helped with the hauling. After the log house was torn down, it had to be hauled away. All the lumber was hauled from Muskogee, mostly by ox teams. The rocks were native stone from south of Okmulgee. I remember Bill, George, and Mr. Fryer, and Frank Wilson, Mr. McDermott, who owned the store near Okemah, did the stonework. C.W. Turner was the man at Muskogee who sold the building material.
[Editor’s note:  In the following paragraphs, Thompson dicusses punishments in the Creek Nation at Muskogee.] The price of the article wasn’t considered in those days. It was as bad to steal a lead pencil as a cow or horse. If you stole a pen or a horse, the penalty was fifty lashes for the first offense, a hundred for the second offense, and death if you were caught stealing for the third time. If you stole some stock, and a person saw you driving them away, he came to you and told you where they were, when he saw them, and, if he knew you, he told who was driving them, or described you as well as possible. Everyone helped to keep stealing down. Then you had a trial, and you had to prove that you didn’t steal them, if you were innocent. If you proved that some person had told a falsehood on you, just to get you punished, this person got the punishment that you would have  gotten, so there wasn’t much perjury. One time I followed some stock from sixty miles east of here clear to the Texas border, where I found them, and brought them back.
The Indians not the government, broke the treaties. (Emphasis mine). Now, I haven’t anything against the Indians, but they are always saying that the government broke all their treaties. They never say how they broke them all themselves. The government wouldn’t allow anyone to live in the Indian’s country without the Indian’s consent. He charged $1.00 a month for that consent. Then, the Indians allowed the non-citizens, both black and white, to marry their daughters (no word mentioned on whether black or white females could marry the sons- my emphasis).—and to raise half-breed children. The Indian had no control over these non-citizens.
If they committed a crime, the government had the expense of finding, convicting, and punishing them. When the country was getting full, they asked the government’s protection. It was too expensive for the state of Arkansas. It was just bleeding that state to death; and, when the legislature tried to find where all the money was going, it was to the Indian Territory. When they tried to tax the Indians to pay these expenses, they found that it couldn’t be done. Each of the Five Civilized Nations sent men to meet with the Committee of Interior, Charles Curtis and Henry Dawes were two of the men, but they met the committee separately. They found that the Indians had broken every treaty, including the one about fighting each other.
In the treaty which the Indians are always quoting, about the land being theirs as long as the grass grows and the water flows east, there is a clause that says that no state nor dominion shall have the right to control nor govern the land of the Indians. It didn’t say one thing about the Congress having the right to change or make laws governing the land. So in 1896, the law was passed to divide the land among the Indians. To do this, there had to be a roll of each and every Indian. I helped make the roll of the Creeks when I was about forty-eight years old. At the meeting at Eufaula, to sectionize the country, Willie Sapulpa asked, “Does you mean to give land to the Negro?” They said “Yes, you took them into your tribe as one of the Creek Nation in the Treaty of 1866.” Willie Sapulpa said, “I not do it.” General Porter made a speech, and said that there wasn’t anything else they could do. That, as they had broken every treaty, they had not one leg to stand on. So the Negro got his land, not because he had Indian blood in him, but because after the Civil War he had been adopted into the Nation. (See here, my emphasis.)
The government schools were to teach the Indian the ways of the white man. They were supposed to use English in talking, as well as in reading and writing. When the government found that the money was being wasted, as the Creek language was being used in the schools, they stopped them. Principals of the schools were:  William Robertson, Wetumka Mission; Luke McIntosh, Eufaula; Willie Sapulpa, Sapulpa; and Johnson Tiger, Okmulgee Mission.
There were some bears in the mountains. They were between a red color and brown. There were Mexican cougars, too. In the bottoms, the forest was so that thick you couldn’t see, and twelve o’clock noon was as dark as midnight. The grass was so high at this time of year, you had to keep the stock “belled” that you would want to use, for you couldn’t see it. The grass was as high as this gelding, and a man riding on a horse would get wet with dew to his waist. Acorns would be three inches deep in the forests, and that was what the hogs lived on. Big fish were plentiful.
(From “Black Indian Slave Narratives”, by Patrick Minges, John F. Blair, Publisher, 2004, pgs. 135-141.)
Cherokee Documents, Vol. 27, “Missions 1849-1873”
John Ross Letters
Miscellaneous Letters
Miscellaneous Letters and Manuscripts Relating to Cherokee History
Andrew Nave Letters
Business Accounts
Business Letters and Accounts
Civil War
Social Correspondence
Cherokee Letters
Cherokee Documents
Diary of Hannah Hicks
Foreman Papers
Hicks Papers
Hitchcock Papers
John Drew. Papers
John Ross Papers
Worcester-Robertson Papers
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archives
Arbuckle to Fulton, June 26, 1839, Record Group 393, Records of the United States Continental Commands, 1821- 1920, 2d Military Department, Letters Sent, November 1834-June 1841.
Smith to Dearborn, 1805, Record Group 393, Records of the United States Army Continental Commands, 1821- 1920, Secretary of War Files, Indian Division, No. 484, 1805.
Ex-Slaves File
Foreman Collection
Foreman Papers
John Drew Papers
Cherokee Collection
Alice Robertson Collection
Cherokee Nation Collection
Documents Relating to the Five Civilized Tribes
John Ross Manuscripts and Papers
Constitution and Laws of the Cherokee Nation. St. Louis, 1875.
Constitution of the Knights of the Golden Circle.
Eastern Cherokee Census of 1835.
Laws of the Cherokee Nation: Adopted by the Council at Various Periods. Tahlequah, 1852.
SOURCE: “Red Over Black”, pgs. 195-196.
Born in slavery: Slave narratives from the Federal Writer’s project, 1936-1938
Historical collections for the National Digital Library, Library of the Congress. Includes narratives of slaves that lived with the 5 Civilized Indian Tribes
[This was originally a 17-volume set, which has since been expanded to a 41-volume effort, that includes Set 2.]
The Cherokee Nation will have to one day accept and acknowledge the humanity of the Black Cherokee Freedmen/Women.
The strength of a nation depends on how it treats the least considered of its people, and the CN has shown that racism knows no bounds. The weakness of a nation is one that callously disregards the humanity of an entire portion of its population all for the sake of racist beliefs.
The following are Cherokee Nation citizens.
Their diversity shows that color should not preclude their acceptance and acknowledgement as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.
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The Cherokee tribal council rejects Marilyn Vann even though she has ancestors who walked the Trail of Tears.
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The Cherokee tribal council rejects Freedmen Leslie Ross even though he is the great-great-great-grandson of a chief.
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Anissia Vo has spent four years trying to make good on her grandfather�s dying wish: that his family be recognized as Creek.
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Ron Graham has government documents showing his great-great-grandmother was a full-blooded Creek.


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  2. hbp

    Good points…bold and to the point.

  3. Addy

    Excellent article. Superbly written and documented.

  4. Sam

    Interesting post… knowledge I was unaware of.

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