"Every Muscogee citizen, whether his skin is red, white or black, has equal rights and privileges in this (Creek) Nation. Even the most abject, poor and ignorant is entitled to equal consideration with the most distinguished, rich and learned at the hands of our officers." Isparhecher
Freedmen a fed issue
June 12, 2009 12:58 pm
— Editor, Daily Press:
The disparate racial treatment of Native American Freedmen began and must end with Congress, not the courts.
Congress created the Dawes Rolls under the Allotment Act of 1887 to document tribal citizenship. The rolls discriminated against African-Native American offspring by labeling them Freedmen without documenting degree of Native American ancestry. Interracial Caucasian Native American offspring were identified by blood quantum to 1/32nd degree, creating a “paper bag” test for Native American identity, and reinforcing the stigma against anyone “tainted” by African blood.
Freedmen challenged their segregation from “Indians by Blood,” but in 1906 Congress barred the transfer of Freedmen to the “by-blood” rolls. Thus began a century of Freedmen litigation seeking equality with “Indians-by-Blood,” who were granted the advantage of using the Dawes Rolls for documenting lineage. Congress inflamed racial tensions by apportioning government benefits based on blood quantum rather than treaties and the historical context from which they arose. For example, Congress excluded Seminole Freedmen in apportioning money between Florida and Oklahoma Seminoles in the Seminole Indians Judgment Funds Act of 1990. This fractured relations between Oklahoman Seminole Freedmen and Seminole-by-Bloods, which ended with the BIA siding with tribal leaders in denying Freedmen their share.
The treatment of Seminole Freedmen underscores the arbitrary character of the Dawes Rolls. The Seminole Tribe coalesced in Florida from escaped slaves and indigenous peoples disenchanted with the Southern plantation system of slavery. Escaped slaves intermarried within Seminole society, and shared African methods of crop cultivation more suitable to Florida’s climate. Even Congress recognized their integral role, and unlike the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek, there was no legislative mandate to create separate rolls for Seminole Freedmen.
The issue is neither sovereignty nor blood quantum, but a core premise of the 14th Amendment: that when the government creates a discriminatory harm because of race, it has a duty to repair the lasting effects of that harm. In this instance, the harm is more insidious due to the initial bonding between African and Native Americans, and their common heritage as the two “involuntary” minorities.
Congress can facilitate the healing by reforming the law. First, the racial discrimination of the rolls must be repealed by affording all Freedmen Native Americans identical access to government benefits for “by-blood” Native Americans. Second, Congress must remove the economics underlying bias against Freedmen and increase grants to reflect full Freedmen citizenship. Only then can traditional tribal values be rescued from a blood fetishism fueled by perverse incentives that pit one disadvantaged group against another.
There is a certain irony in the fact that our founding fathers were inspired by the color-blind, egalitarian values of indigenous Americans, yet later legislated racial strife into the tribes in a way that persists.
Kevin James, Esq.
Former Columbia University Revson Fellow, New York
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.
I totally agree with the article and express my concern that congress has not stepped upto the plate to rectify the injustices committed against the freedmen.
Good evening, Eli and Company...
But, as the ever growing outrage over the mistreatment of a Black Muskogee EMS worker by a stuck on 'stupid' veteran cop, among indigneous folk all thruout your relations on both sides of the Mississippi River is revealing to more than just me?
You probably have far more allies than you really were lead to believe...
On the other hand:
You also have an uphill battle, to get non-indigenous folk to realize it is also in their best interests to be your allies and supporters, as well...
Attitudes and viewpoints are too oftentimes being based on old or present stereotypes:
Also it may well take far more than one recent miniseries to undo the damage...
good artical. i just got back from oklahoma where i spoke with a young lady in the citizenship office who never knew that the freedmen were citizens of the nation.all she knew was the blood requirements of becoming members of the creek incorporation which the freedmen are denied membership. there is a different between the nation and the incorporation of 1979. much like the republic of america and corporate america.I am a creek of moorish dececent under the jurisdiction of the nation formed by the treaty of 1866.
Thanks for reviving this article and it has a definate meanings to the situation today. Those that can change things need to see this article.
Thanks for bringing forth this article.
My grandpa, Peter Hawkins 214-200-1790 thank you