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BLACK NDNs. "If you know I have a history, you will respect me."

NYT: The Cherokees Free Their Slaves 
Written by Melinda Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis

Following on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation, in February 1863 the Cherokee Nation declared that all slaves within its limits were “forever free.” In 1983, the descendants of these slaves, known as the Cherokee Freedmen, were removed from tribal membership rolls and prohibited from voting in Cherokee elections. A series of protracted legal battles over Freedmen citizenship ensued and continue today.
Questions on the status of the Cherokees’ former slaves in tribal life originated in the complicated landscape of the Civil War in Indian Territory, a story of an internal civil war within the larger conflict. Although the Cherokee Nation had initially joined the Confederacy, Principal Chief John Ross and his supporters began discussions with Northern forces during the summer of 1862. These loyal Cherokees convened a meeting of the National Council at Cowskin Prairie and produced two distinct emancipation acts, documents that reverberate in today’s controversies over the legal standing of the Cherokee Freedmen.
Ross had originally rebuffed attempts to become engaged in the war, writing in June 1861: “I have already signified my purpose to take no part in it whatever.” But neutrality proved untenable, and the Cherokees signed a treaty of alliance with the Confederacy in October 1861. The nation raised two regiments; one was under the command of Ross’s nephew-in-law John Drew, while Stand Watie, Ross’s long-time political opponent, led the other.
By 1862, Ross had become disillusioned with the Confederate government. The first major military engagements in Indian Territory proved disastrous for both the Confederacy and the Cherokees. Retreating from Indian Territory, the Confederacy left the Cherokees open to Union advances and without supplies for Cherokee troops and destitute civilians. Although Ross believed the Confederacy was shirking its treaty promises, the Confederate colonel Douglas H. Cooper called upon Ross to fulfill his obligations by ordering all Cherokee men of fighting age to “take up arms to repel invasion.”
Union Capt. Harris S. Greeno was aware of Ross’s dissatisfaction with the Confederacy, and he ordered the arrest of Ross and his family at their plantation home, Rose Cottage, in present-day eastern Oklahoma. They were quickly paroled and escorted to Union territory, and they retreated to his wife’s family home in Philadelphia. Ross would spend the remainder of the war attempting to convince the Lincoln administration of the Cherokee’s loyalty and commitment to the Union cause.
With Ross absent from from Indian Territory, southern Cherokee leaders moved quickly to elect Stand Watie as principal chief and reaffirmed the Cherokee Nation’s treaty with the Confederacy. But in the winter of 1863, Col. William Phillips escorted Union Cherokees into the Cherokee Nation. There, they held a meeting of the National Council to affirm that they, and not Watie and his followers, were the true government of the Cherokee people. This 1863 loyal council opened by denouncing the Cherokee treaty with the Confederacy and insisting they were pressured into the alliance due to a lack of federal protection in Indian Territory. They then quickly moved to address the issue of slavery in the Cherokee Nation. Within the four-day period from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, 1863, the Cherokee Council passed two separate emancipation acts.
The slavery issue was of such great importance they tackled it first: before they removed Stand Watie and other Confederates from office, before discussing how to deal with the utter devastation the Cherokee people faced in their war-torn country and before John Ross was appointed to represent the Cherokee Nation in discussions with the United States government.
The prominent place of slavery at these council meetings reflected a keen understanding of the nature of emancipation policy within the Lincoln administration. As the Cherokee Nation severed ties with the Confederacy and hoped to rejoin the Union, they were certainly aware of another government that had recently done exactly that: on Dec. 31, 1862, President Lincoln welcomed West Virginia into the Union, with its statehood conditional on its newly written constitution’s including an abolition clause.
The Emancipation Acts themselves further demonstrated the Cherokee Council’s acute awareness of President Lincoln’s policies. They first called for a Cherokee delegation to negotiate with the United States government to emancipate their slaves “upon the Principle of Compensation.” During the initial years of the Civil War, Lincoln had proposed ending slavery in the border states through a gradual dissolution of the peculiar institution, with compensation offered to slave owners for their financial losses. He again endorsed a plan for gradual and compensated emancipation in his annual address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862. The Cherokee Council’s first Emancipation Act, passed on Feb. 18, was an attempt to take Lincoln up on this offer.
What is surprising, then, is how quickly the Cherokee council issued a second Emancipation Act that specified universal emancipation without compensation. On Feb. 20, the council declared: “Any person or Persons, who may have been held in Slavery are, hereby, declared to be forever free.” Why did Cherokee leaders change such a fundamental aspect of their emancipation plans?
Between Lincoln’s endorsement of compensated emancipation in his annual address and the Cherokees’ plan for compensated emancipation, a watershed had occurred. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This action forever altered the parameters of freedom in the United States, and Lincoln would cease his offers of compensated emancipation. The Cherokee Nation had missed its opportunity to receive payment for freeing slaves. Strengthening ties with the Union would require the Cherokees to adjust to Lincoln’s new emancipation policies.
The Cherokees, however, differed from Lincoln and his cabinet over one key issue. There was no serious discussion or consideration of freedmen’s citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Instead, on Nov. 14, the Cherokee Council passed an act that explicitly denied citizenship to former slaves and required freed slaves remaining in the Nation to obtain work permits. The incorporation of the former slaves of Cherokee masters into the Cherokee citizenry would wait until the 1866 Treaty between the Cherokees and United States.
In the aftermath of freedom, the United States incorporated freed people into the body politic with constitutional amendments outlining their citizenship rights. In the 1866 treaty, federal officials also required Cherokee leaders to grant former slaves and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.” This particular phrase is important, because it did not explicitly state what these rights were - and has been a source of tension between Cherokee leaders and the Cherokee Freedmen ever since.
Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.
Sources: Clarissa Confer, “The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War”; William McLoughlin, “After the Trail of Tears”; Melinda Miller, “Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economic Inequality; Cherokee Nation, 1863 Emancipation Acts and Treaty of 1866; James Oaks, “Freedom National”; Rachel Smith Purvis, “‘Maintaining intact our homogenousness’: Race, Citizenship, & Reconstructing Cherokee”; United States Government, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
Melinda C. Miller, a visiting assistant professor of economics at Yale and an assistant professor of economics at the United States Naval Academy, studies the economic status of the Cherokee freedmen during the decades following the Civil War. Rachel Smith Purvis, a postdoctoral associate at Yale, is revising her manuscript on the Cherokee Nation during the Reconstruction era.

NYT: The Cherokees Free Their Slaves

Written by Melinda Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis

Following on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation, in February 1863 the Cherokee Nation declared that all slaves within its limits were “forever free.” In 1983, the descendants of these slaves, known as the Cherokee Freedmen, were removed from tribal membership rolls and prohibited from voting in Cherokee elections. A series of protracted legal battles over Freedmen citizenship ensued and continue today.

Questions on the status of the Cherokees’ former slaves in tribal life originated in the complicated landscape of the Civil War in Indian Territory, a story of an internal civil war within the larger conflict. Although the Cherokee Nation had initially joined the Confederacy, Principal Chief John Ross and his supporters began discussions with Northern forces during the summer of 1862. These loyal Cherokees convened a meeting of the National Council at Cowskin Prairie and produced two distinct emancipation acts, documents that reverberate in today’s controversies over the legal standing of the Cherokee Freedmen.

Ross had originally rebuffed attempts to become engaged in the war, writing in June 1861: “I have already signified my purpose to take no part in it whatever.” But neutrality proved untenable, and the Cherokees signed a treaty of alliance with the Confederacy in October 1861. The nation raised two regiments; one was under the command of Ross’s nephew-in-law John Drew, while Stand Watie, Ross’s long-time political opponent, led the other.

By 1862, Ross had become disillusioned with the Confederate government. The first major military engagements in Indian Territory proved disastrous for both the Confederacy and the Cherokees. Retreating from Indian Territory, the Confederacy left the Cherokees open to Union advances and without supplies for Cherokee troops and destitute civilians. Although Ross believed the Confederacy was shirking its treaty promises, the Confederate colonel Douglas H. Cooper called upon Ross to fulfill his obligations by ordering all Cherokee men of fighting age to “take up arms to repel invasion.”

Union Capt. Harris S. Greeno was aware of Ross’s dissatisfaction with the Confederacy, and he ordered the arrest of Ross and his family at their plantation home, Rose Cottage, in present-day eastern Oklahoma. They were quickly paroled and escorted to Union territory, and they retreated to his wife’s family home in Philadelphia. Ross would spend the remainder of the war attempting to convince the Lincoln administration of the Cherokee’s loyalty and commitment to the Union cause.

With Ross absent from from Indian Territory, southern Cherokee leaders moved quickly to elect Stand Watie as principal chief and reaffirmed the Cherokee Nation’s treaty with the Confederacy. But in the winter of 1863, Col. William Phillips escorted Union Cherokees into the Cherokee Nation. There, they held a meeting of the National Council to affirm that they, and not Watie and his followers, were the true government of the Cherokee people. This 1863 loyal council opened by denouncing the Cherokee treaty with the Confederacy and insisting they were pressured into the alliance due to a lack of federal protection in Indian Territory. They then quickly moved to address the issue of slavery in the Cherokee Nation. Within the four-day period from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, 1863, the Cherokee Council passed two separate emancipation acts.

The slavery issue was of such great importance they tackled it first: before they removed Stand Watie and other Confederates from office, before discussing how to deal with the utter devastation the Cherokee people faced in their war-torn country and before John Ross was appointed to represent the Cherokee Nation in discussions with the United States government.

The prominent place of slavery at these council meetings reflected a keen understanding of the nature of emancipation policy within the Lincoln administration. As the Cherokee Nation severed ties with the Confederacy and hoped to rejoin the Union, they were certainly aware of another government that had recently done exactly that: on Dec. 31, 1862, President Lincoln welcomed West Virginia into the Union, with its statehood conditional on its newly written constitution’s including an abolition clause.

The Emancipation Acts themselves further demonstrated the Cherokee Council’s acute awareness of President Lincoln’s policies. They first called for a Cherokee delegation to negotiate with the United States government to emancipate their slaves “upon the Principle of Compensation.” During the initial years of the Civil War, Lincoln had proposed ending slavery in the border states through a gradual dissolution of the peculiar institution, with compensation offered to slave owners for their financial losses. He again endorsed a plan for gradual and compensated emancipation in his annual address to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862. The Cherokee Council’s first Emancipation Act, passed on Feb. 18, was an attempt to take Lincoln up on this offer.

What is surprising, then, is how quickly the Cherokee council issued a second Emancipation Act that specified universal emancipation without compensation. On Feb. 20, the council declared: “Any person or Persons, who may have been held in Slavery are, hereby, declared to be forever free.” Why did Cherokee leaders change such a fundamental aspect of their emancipation plans?

Between Lincoln’s endorsement of compensated emancipation in his annual address and the Cherokees’ plan for compensated emancipation, a watershed had occurred. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This action forever altered the parameters of freedom in the United States, and Lincoln would cease his offers of compensated emancipation. The Cherokee Nation had missed its opportunity to receive payment for freeing slaves. Strengthening ties with the Union would require the Cherokees to adjust to Lincoln’s new emancipation policies.

The Cherokees, however, differed from Lincoln and his cabinet over one key issue. There was no serious discussion or consideration of freedmen’s citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Instead, on Nov. 14, the Cherokee Council passed an act that explicitly denied citizenship to former slaves and required freed slaves remaining in the Nation to obtain work permits. The incorporation of the former slaves of Cherokee masters into the Cherokee citizenry would wait until the 1866 Treaty between the Cherokees and United States.

In the aftermath of freedom, the United States incorporated freed people into the body politic with constitutional amendments outlining their citizenship rights. In the 1866 treaty, federal officials also required Cherokee leaders to grant former slaves and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.” This particular phrase is important, because it did not explicitly state what these rights were - and has been a source of tension between Cherokee leaders and the Cherokee Freedmen ever since.

Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.

Sources: Clarissa Confer, “The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War”; William McLoughlin, “After the Trail of Tears”; Melinda Miller, “Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economic Inequality; Cherokee Nation, 1863 Emancipation Acts and Treaty of 1866; James Oaks, “Freedom National”; Rachel Smith Purvis, “‘Maintaining intact our homogenousness’: Race, Citizenship, & Reconstructing Cherokee”; United States Government, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Melinda C. Miller, a visiting assistant professor of economics at Yale and an assistant professor of economics at the United States Naval Academy, studies the economic status of the Cherokee freedmen during the decades following the Civil War. Rachel Smith Purvis, a postdoctoral associate at Yale, is revising her manuscript on the Cherokee Nation during the Reconstruction era.

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NPR: Who Gets To Decide Who Is Native American?

August 9, 2012

A controversy about identity has erupted in the race for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. News outlets revealed Democrat Elizabeth Warren claimed Cherokee ancestry during her academic career, and critics say Warren isn’t providing enough documentation to prove her identity. Host Michel Martin discusses just who is Native American.

Guests: 

Rob Capriccioso is the Washington D.C. Bureau Chief for Indian Country Today Media Network. An enrolled citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Sault Ste. Marie.

Dr. Tiya Miles is an American historian, and professor in the Department of History and chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. She is a 2011 MacArthur Fellow. Her work includes: Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom,The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story , “Why the Freedmen Fight”

Excerpt: Black Indians: Their Mixing Is To Be Prevented - British America

adailyriot:

… Since labor was in short supply in British America, the earliest colonist enslaved first Indians and then Africans. Since unending bondage did no exist in English law, the first form was called “indenture” and lasted for about seven years. “Indentured servants” of any color could be mistreated while in service, have theri personal life regulated, and their time extended by scheming masters.

Since all three races were abused under this system, they often rebelled and escaped. Reward notices of the time tell of red*, black, and white men and women fleeting their masters- sometimes together.

The first Africans introduced into Jamestown’s economy in 1619 became indentured servants, not slaves. Upon their release, they became part of the Virginia colony. Some became landowners, and one, Anthony Johnson, ruled an African community of twelve homesteads and two hundred acres in Virginia’s Northhampton County.

In the 1630s the rules of indenture began to change. It became legal to hold Africans and Indians for more than the usual seven years, even for life. The change began on he English-ruled island of Barbados when the governor announced “that Negroes and Indians… should sever for life, unless a contract was made to the contrary.” And beginning in 1636, only whites received contracts of indenture.

British America had taken a large step in dividing labor by race and reserving the worse for dark people. More and more white laborers were pouring into the thirteen British colonies, and masters did not want them making common cause with African or Native Americans. Masters had probably concluded their profitable labor system would work only as long as whites did not see their condition and fate as identical with nonwhites.

In 1636 a Massachusetts Indian became the first North American to be legally enslaved, sentenced to work until he died. A decade later Governor John Winthrop though of the idea of seizing Narragansett Indians to exchange for Africans. Around the same time British commissioners meeting in New Haven also decided that it was fair to make slaves of Indians and exchange them for Africans.

By 1661 slavery had become legal in the British colonies. Africans were preferred because of being thousands of miles from home. Indian slaves were able to flee to their armed brothers and sisters- and then come roaring back seeking revenge.

This idea of keeping slaves distant from their homes and families was crucial to having them under strict control. British merchants took Indians enslaved on the mainland and shipped them out to the West Indies. This was the only safe way to enslave Native Americans, for bondage was only secure when its victims felt they had no one to turn to, no friends nearby.

Reward notices in colonial newspapers now told of African slaves who “ran off with his Indian wife” or “had kin among the Indians” or  is “part-Indian and speaks their language good.”

In slave huts and beyond the British settlements along the coast, African and Native American women and men shared their sorrows and hopes, their luck and courage. They did not always know where to run to, bu they knew where to run from.

Judging reward notices, Africans picked up Indian languages soon as they reached a frontier region. Runaways in the woods always needed outside help.

The first full-scale battle between Native Americans and British colonist took place in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1622. Africans fared a lot better than their owners. According to historian James H. Johnstone “the Indians murdered every white but saved the Negroes.” This, noted Johnstone, became a common pattern during wars between colonist and Indians.

British colonial law not only lumped Native American and African people together, but handed both worse punishments than whites. A Virginia law set twenty-five lashes if he accused were a red* or black person. Virginia soon declared “Negro, Mulatto, and Indian slaves… to be real estate.”

Beginning slowly in 1670, rules of bondage began to change to permit Native Americans to leave. Virginia began matters that year by stating that Indians were enslaved for only twelve years, Africans for life.

This decision was based on a peculiar legal point that Africans were “imported into this colony by shipping” and Indians came “by land.” No mention was made of the fact that Indians did not come by land, but lived there before English settlers arrived, or that most Africans had been living in Virginia much longer than most British citizens.

Before Indians were erased out of the slave system, they had lived and married with African slaves, and produced in their offspring a new class of Americans held in chains. When the slave codes talked of “Indian slaves,” it probably meant those Black Indians. For example, although New York’s Assembly banned Indian bondage in 1679, in 1682 it forbad “Negro or Indian Slaves” from leaving their masters’ home or plantations without permission. The next year the Assembly denied “Negro or Indian Slaves” from meeting anywhere together in groups of four or more or being armed “with guns, Swords, Clubs, Staves or Any Other kind of weapon.”

Between 1619 and 1700 labor in North America had become divided by skin color. Liberty itself would remain divisible by sin color through the American Revolution and up to the Civil War and emancipation [and beyond].

This division kept working people in America from uniting against an unjust labor system. Masters deported Indian slaves to the West Indies so they could not flee to their homes and loved ones. They enlisted whites and local Indians to help them hunt their runaway African slaves. When local Native Americans refused this work, they reached out to Indians on distant islands who needed money or trade. Through this cleverness, slaveowners hoped to sleep soundly each night and awake each day to greater profits.

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

It is impossible to say to which human family we belong. The larger part of the Native population has disappeared, Europeans have mixed with Indians and the Negroes, and Negroes have mixed with the Indians. We were all born of one mother America, though our fathers had different origins, and we all have differently colored skins. This dissimilarity is of the greatest significance.
— Simon Bolivar at the Congress of Angostura in 1819.(via Black Indians by William Loren Katz)

(Source: jalwhite)

If you know I have a history, you will respect me,” a Black Indian student told a conference of New York teachers two decades ago. Her words still ring true. Those who assume that a people have no history worth mentioning are likely to believe they have no humanity worth defending. An historical legacy strengthens a country and its people. Denying a people’s heritage questions their legitimacy.
— William Loren Katz, Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage, pg.10. (via jalwhite)

This beautifully written book tells the haunting saga of a  quintessentially American family. It is the story of Shoe Boots, a famed  Cherokee warrior and successful farmer, and Doll, an African slave he  acquired in the late 1790s. Over the next thirty years, Shoe Boots and  Doll lived together as master and slave and also as lifelong partners  who, with their children and grandchildren, experienced key events in  American history—including slavery, the Creek War, the founding of the  Cherokee Nation and subsequent removal of Native Americans along the  Trail of Tears, and the Civil War. This is the gripping story of their  lives, in slavery and in freedom. Meticulously crafted from historical and literary sources, Ties That Bind vividly  portrays the members of the Shoeboots family. Doll emerges as an  especially poignant character, whose life is mostly known through the  records of things done to her—her purchase, her marriage, the loss of  her children—but also through her moving petition to the federal  government for the pension owed to her as Shoe Boots’s widow. A  sensitive rendition of the hard realities of black slavery within Native  American nations, the book provides the fullest picture we have of the  myriad complexities, ironies, and tensions among African Americans,  Native Americans, and whites in the first half of the nineteenth  century.

Google Preview available.

This beautifully written book tells the haunting saga of a quintessentially American family. It is the story of Shoe Boots, a famed Cherokee warrior and successful farmer, and Doll, an African slave he acquired in the late 1790s. Over the next thirty years, Shoe Boots and Doll lived together as master and slave and also as lifelong partners who, with their children and grandchildren, experienced key events in American history—including slavery, the Creek War, the founding of the Cherokee Nation and subsequent removal of Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War. This is the gripping story of their lives, in slavery and in freedom. Meticulously crafted from historical and literary sources, Ties That Bind vividly portrays the members of the Shoeboots family. Doll emerges as an especially poignant character, whose life is mostly known through the records of things done to her—her purchase, her marriage, the loss of her children—but also through her moving petition to the federal government for the pension owed to her as Shoe Boots’s widow. A sensitive rendition of the hard realities of black slavery within Native American nations, the book provides the fullest picture we have of the myriad complexities, ironies, and tensions among African Americans, Native Americans, and whites in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Google Preview available.


Circe Sturm takes a bold and original approach to one of the most highly  charged and important issues in the United States today: race and  national identity. Focusing on the Oklahoma Cherokee, she examines how  Cherokee identity is socially and politically constructed, and how that  process is embedded in ideas of blood, color, and race. Not quite a  century ago, blood degree varied among Cherokee citizens from full blood  to 1/256, but today the range is far greater—from full blood to  1/2048. This trend raises questions about the symbolic significance of  blood and the degree to which blood connections can stretch and still  carry a sense of legitimacy. It also raises questions about how much  racial blending can occur before Cherokees cease to be identified as a  distinct people and what danger is posed to Cherokee sovereignty if the  federal government continues to identify Cherokees and other Native  Americans on a racial basis. Combining contemporary ethnography and  ethnohistory, Sturm’s sophisticated and insightful analysis probes the  intersection of race and national identity, the process of nation  formation, and the dangers in linking racial and national identities.

Google Preview available.

Circe Sturm takes a bold and original approach to one of the most highly charged and important issues in the United States today: race and national identity. Focusing on the Oklahoma Cherokee, she examines how Cherokee identity is socially and politically constructed, and how that process is embedded in ideas of blood, color, and race. Not quite a century ago, blood degree varied among Cherokee citizens from full blood to 1/256, but today the range is far greater—from full blood to 1/2048. This trend raises questions about the symbolic significance of blood and the degree to which blood connections can stretch and still carry a sense of legitimacy. It also raises questions about how much racial blending can occur before Cherokees cease to be identified as a distinct people and what danger is posed to Cherokee sovereignty if the federal government continues to identify Cherokees and other Native Americans on a racial basis. Combining contemporary ethnography and ethnohistory, Sturm’s sophisticated and insightful analysis probes the intersection of race and national identity, the process of nation formation, and the dangers in linking racial and national identities.

Google Preview available.

The IndiVisible: African- Native American Lives in the Americas" symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian on Friday, November 13, 2009. Video made available through the Smithsonian.

A part of the American story has long been invisible—the story of people who share African American and Native American ancestry. Over centuries, African American and Native people came together, creating shared histories, communities, and ways of life. Often divided by prejudice, laws, or twists of history, African-Native Americans were united by a double heritage that is truly indivisible. Speakers include curators and authors Robert Keith Collins (African and Choctaw descent), Penny Gamble-Williams (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag), Angela Gonzales (Hopi), Judy Kertész, Tiya Miles, and Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway). Lonnie G. Bunch, III, director of the Smithsonians National Museum of African American History and Culture, will deliver opening remarks, and NMAI director Kevin Gover (Pawnee) moderates.

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