Aboriginal Ethnic (Black) Indians
and Their Descendants
Contend With America's Legacy of Slavery
Plague Ethnic Native Americans
and Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes
in Pursuit of Treaty Rights
Indians advantaging themselves by enslavement of Black Tribal Members, sectarian divisions between Tribal Union Loyalists versus Confederate Loyalists in a desperate struggle for control of Tribal Leadership, Lands, and the necessity of ending Slavery, all aligned and combined to cause the Civil War to devastate Oklahoma Indian Territory.
Deadly clashes between Tribal forces desiring to retain Slaves juxtaposed with portions of the Tribes morally opposed to Slavery, killed Tribal citizens and caused great damage to Tribal properties, individual homesteads, farms and businesses.
However, it was the wholesale slaughter and destruction of Black Indians, their sympathizers, and desolate condition of the refugees and destitute Black Indian survivors (particularly the legions of Black Indians from a variety of Tribes) that followed the Creek Nation’s Opothleyahola, the majority of whom were killed outright as they passed through the Cherokee domain trying to get into Kansas (a free state). Once there, several groups fanned out into Neosho, along the Verdigris, and other settlements, braving the elements, but starving without provision of supplies or shelter.
“Civil War: White Man’s Quarrel-Red Man’s Woe”
Fort Smith (Arkansas Territory) was seized by forces of the Confederacy from Texas
April 23, 1861
Retreat of Federal Troops from Indian Territory
As Confederates took over the military Forts throughout Indian Territory, the garrisons of U.S. Federal Troops from Fort Smith, Fort Washita, Fort Arbuckle and Fort Cobb unified under command of Col. W.H. Emory of the 2d U.S. Calvary and marched north out of the Indian Territory to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 400 miles away, leaving vulnerable populations of Loyal Indians and Freedmen to fend for themselves.
With the Cherokees deeply divided over Slavery, the Seminole Nation preferring to remain neutral, after living in peace with their Ethnic (Black) Members, whom had been free for 100 to nearly 200 years before coming to Oklahoma Indian Territory, as well as the ambivalence of the Choctaw Council (adopting a resolution expressing regret over the political disagreement between the North and South, recalling the long alliance between their Nation and the U.S., while at the same time declaring, in the event that the Union should be dissolved they would align with the South); and the defiant Chickasaw Legislature entered a resolution declaring the alliance and friendship with the U.S. absolved, in favor of an alliance with the Confederate States--the Indian Territory essentially became a Confederate Military District and a hot zone for Union sympathizers.
In addition to the 5 Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, the Confederacy made treaties with portions of the following tribes; Comanche, Wichita, Waco, Caddo, Anadarko, Tawakony, Tonkawa, Keechi, Delawares, Osage, Quapaw, Seneca and Shawnees.
Not All Indians Accept Alliance With Confederate States
Pictured: Holato Micco
Opothleyahola (Hu-pui-hilth Yohola, proper), had been an old and prominent Creek Chief pressured by the Confederacy to join their cause. He refused to participate in an action against the United States Government or Federal Troops. In fact, he reminded the Creeks of the duties and obligation by which they were bound to the United States by Treaty.
The loyal portion of Seminoles, Wichitas, Kickapoos, Cherokees, and Delawares joined Opothleyahola on the trek to Kansas, with his own loyal Creeks and Freedmen).
They endured two or three fateful incursions (at Chusto-Talash, Chustenahlah) with disloyal Confederate Indian contingents backed by Texas Troops, as they retreated north in December, 1861.The defeated group of Union loyalists scattered over an estimated 200 to 300 miles of extent territory between the Verdigris and Fall River, Walnut Creek and the Arkansas, including into Neosho and Humboldt, Kansas. Hundreds more perished after losing their material goods, food, clothing and possessions during the battles. Many succumbed to disease, starvation and freezing temperatures.
Upon learning about the suffering of Tribal Union Loyalists under Opothleyahola, Indian Superintendent Coffin provided for their relief by establishing a Refugee Camp on the Verdigris, which was later removed to LeRoy, Kansas. All able-bodied males were organized in service to the United States, and two regiments were placed under the command of Colonel Weir for an expedition against the Confederacy within the Cherokee Country in the Indian Territory. Despite the fact that Weir’s poor leadership imperiled his men, ultimately in the end, the United States prevailed over the Confederacy.
In September, 1865, a General Council of Tribes residing within the Indian Territory was held at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Represented were Freedmen and Indians of the following Nations; Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Creek, Osage, Quapaw, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Wichita and Wyandotte; including Representatives of the United States; D.N. Cooley, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Elijah Sells, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Thomas Wistar, Gen. W.S. Harney, and Col. E.S. Parker. The primary objective of the General Council was to end Slavery, Hostilities arising from the Civil War in Indian Territory, and returning Indian Country to peace-time conditions.
Indian Freedmen participated as signatories: “At this council the Indians were informed that those tribes which had entered into treaties of alliance with the late Confederate government had forfeited all of their old rights of consideration and protection from the government of the United States, and that their property was subject to confiscation. The tribes were induced to enter a treaty ending the Civil War in Indian Territory, form a union (commonwealth) with a territorial form of Government, with abolishment of any forms of Slavery (captivity) and ensure citizenship with full tribal rights for all members.” The 1865 Treaty was signed by all Nations in attendance, with the exception of the Cherokees. Thus, the Council concluded and *adjourned September 21, 1865.
Tabled Discussion of Treaties Reopens in 1866 at Washington, D.C.
Although the Indian Territory General Council and U.S. Representatives tabled discussions regarding negotiations of separate individualized Treaties and adjourned on September 21, 1865 at Fort Smith, Arkansas, they did so only after successfully effecting a legally binding multi-party Treaty Agreement between the Tribal General Council and U.S. Representatives. They also gathered resolutions repudiating rebel alliances, immediately breaking the legal power of the treaties that the Confederate Factions of Indian Nations entered earlier with the confederacy.
Tribal Factions remaining Loyal and Faithful to the Union throughout the conflict, in stern moral disagreement with Slavery, were now at the helm. The agreement also formally ended the war in Indian Territory and commanded peaceful relations between all tribes, with further plans to reconvene and re-enter separate Treaty negotiations at Washington, D.C., six months later (falling within calendar year, 1866).
Delegates, Representatives, Interpreters and Agents for Ethnic Tribal Bands and Freedmen in attendance at the drafting of the 1865 Treaty at Fort Smith, included; Harry Island, interpreter for Creeks, Cow Tom, Robert Johnson and Cesar Bruner.
Treaty Enabling Act:
Powers An Ethnic (Black) Indian
The Freedmen Tribes, Bands and Nations of the 5 Civilized Tribes never lost sight of the fact that, in 1832, Congress decreed and fully recognized an enactment conferring the geographical boundaries of Oklahoma Indian Territory to the Tribes-forever. The act was ratified in 1834. The aforementioned act was also taken into consideration as the Tribes were induced to function (peacefully, in cooperation with all other tribes) under their own authority as a Commonwealth (Republic), an independent Nation run by the Indian Territory Political Constituency (with Government selected by the people to serve their interests) within the Indian Country. The Commonwealth (Republic) powered by the Fort Smith Treaty authored by the Indian Territory General Council (including Freedmen Tribes or Bands as signatories) was corroborated by the United States of America. That power was further transferred by verbiage inserted into the succeeding 1866 Treaties.
The gathering of Indian Territory Tribes at Fort Smith to forge a multi-party instrument ending the Civil War gave rise to the idea of an Indian Territory General Council. Representatives from all Tribes and Bands inhabiting the geographical domain and political sphere of influence of the Indian Territory, could embody their political interests. It was an essential element giving life, vitality and success to the plan to install Indian Country Representatives of their constituency in Congress, a right gained by the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws and Creeks (representing Seminoles as a sub-tribe) through the Treaties of Hopewell (S. Carolina), Supreme Law of the Land, enacted 1790s.
The 1865 Fort Smith Treaty outlined and formed the basis of the 1866 Treaties with the Nations of the 5 Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminoles).
1866 Treaties and the Ethnic Protectorate of the 5 Civilized Tribes
Although each treaty was individualized and rendered specific to the various Nations comprising the 5 Civilized Tribes, the language of the Fort Smith Treaty was carried over into the 1866 Treaties, nearly word for word.
1866 Treaty Identification of Ethnic Black Indians
Within six months of drafting the Treaty at Fort Smith, the Seminole Nation reconvened to renew Tribal negotiations in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Government.
The Nation had historically viewed their African Ancestored Tribal Members (from 1565) as a bona fide Ethnic Protectorate, and as such were reticent to identify those members as “former slaves”. Instead, they were identified as “ many persons among them of African Descent and Blood.” Only a small fraction of Black Seminoles were actually identified as “Freedmen,” vs. simply “Seminoles.” The number of Oklahoma Seminoles having African Ancestry was so large that the language of the 1866 Seminole Treaty reflected that the Seminole ceded their “entire domain” for the location of Indians and Freedmen (an excess of 2 million acres).
To wit, Article 2. States: “The Seminole Nation covenant that henceforth in said nation slavery shall not exist, nor involuntary servitude, except for and in punishment of crime, whereof the offending party shall first have been duly convicted in accordance with law, applicable to all the members of said nation. And inasmuch as there are among the Seminoles many persons of African descent and blood, who have no interest or property in the soil, and no recognized civil rights, it is stipulated that hereafter these persons and their descendants, and such other of the same race as shall be permitted by said nation to settle there, shall have and enjoy all the rights of native citizens, and the laws of said nation shall be equally binding upon all persons of whatever race or color, who may be adopted as citizens or members of said tribe.”
Ethnic Native Americans and their Indian Creole Progeny were forced to accept diminished/marginalized identity, due to semantics. Use of the word, name and application to the persona of “Freedmen” prefaced all official communications regarding Black Indians, yet “Freedmen,“ was never part of the known historical lexicon of the Indian Tribes. From the outset, “Freedmen” was originally a word generally employed by Caucasians to identify freed Slaves in U.S. States. Its modern use is only to legally identify the descendants of historic Ethnic Native American Members of the 5 Civilized Tribes, particularly in adherence to legal language and documentation regarding them.
Within the Indian Territory (Indian Country) the word “Freedmen” was primarily used only in legal documents to describe Tribal Citizens having African Ancestry, but never employed for use by any Bands, Citizens or Members of any Indian Territory Tribe.
The only exception to use of the word “Freedmen” was by persons, agencies or entities addressing the unchanging legal language of Treaties that had been inserted by US. Agents, as well in Congressional Enactments, Resolutions or Laws pertaining to the Class, Caste, Tribes or Clans of Ethnic (African Ancestored) Native Americans generally referred to as “Freedmen,” “Indian Freedmen,” “Indian Negroes,” “Colored Indians,” “Creoles,” and “Mulattos.” It was not a self-defining moniker used by the various Black Indian Tribes. Of the course of time, even the name Freedmen would be nearly rendered to obscurity as Indian Freedmen were forced into a monolithic group identified at various times as “Mulatto,” “Negro,” “Colored,” “African American,” or “Blacks” without a trace of their true Ethnic Identity at all.
The only thing Ethnic (Black) Indians could do was pass their heritage and ancestral information down to their own children and families. Although most identified solely as simply Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, Seminole Negro Scouts, Mississippi Choctaw or by Band designations, Dorsar, etc., rarely was their status as “Freedmen” ever discussed, because it was not a self-designation.
The names actually used by Indian Tribes to identify and distinguish their particular Ethnic (African Ancestored or Black) Native American Citizens varied from tribe to tribe and included Kushtuska (Cush Warriors), Tuscalusa (Black Warriors), Lusa (Black, in all its variant forms, i.e., Mochalusa (Dark Brown, Coffee, Coco Black), Calusa (Fierce Blacks), Nalusa (Black Spirits), Estelusti, and more.
You will note that use of the word “Freedmen” appears in U.S. applications, for example Article 3. “In compliance with the desire of the United States to locate other Indians and Freedmen thereon.”
Despite insistence upon using the word “Freedmen“, the Treaty specifically notifies readers that not all such Freedmen were ever Slaves within the Indian Country, and that there had always been Colonies of Black Tribal Nations having lived Free and amalgamated (into and among) the Indian Tribes for hundreds of years (perhaps thousands of years) in North America before arrival of European men to the continent, existing west to east from California to Massachusetts and north to south from Canada to Mexico. More importantly, the Ethnic (Black) Tribal Peoples were in residence with the Indian Territory Tribes long before the start of the Civil War in Indian Territory. Hence, the inclusion of that statement in the 1866 Treaties.
Though none of the aforementioned changes the fact that there were truly members (mostly Mixed Blood/Whites) having owned Slaves in the traditional sense of American understanding. Relegated to Indian Country by a litany of early treaties and geographical boundaries, it was also insisted upon by Indians and Whites that these Ethnic Natives (at the conclusion of the Civil War in Indian Territory) be viewed and treated equally as “Indian Citizens” in every way imaginable, which is why they were drafted into the Treaties, Tribal Legislative Acts, Adopted En Masse and made heirs to the legacy of each Tribe.
It is only the forces of racism and discrimination opposing them after the Civil War.
Therefore, during 1866 Treaty negotiations, the Seminoles were reticent to identify African Ancestored Tribal Members as former Slaves or Freedmen. The treaty agreement concluded March 21, 1866, and Article 2 addressed “many persons of African descent and blood”…”their descendants, and such others of the same race as shall be permitted by said nation to settle there, shall have and enjoy all the rights of native citizens, and the laws of said nation shall be equally binding upon all persons of whatever race or color, who may be adopted as citizens or members of said tribe.”
The Seminole Treaty included sweeping stipulations, mandates and guarantees specific to African Ancestored Members of the Tribes, even land cessions to the United States for purposes of settling the Freedmen in their own colonies, district, and towns, as addressed in Article 3. “In compliance with the desire of the United States to locate other Indians and freedmen thereon, the Seminoles cede and convey to the United States their entire domain, being the tract of land ceded to the Seminole Indians by the Creek Nation under the provisions of article first, (1,) treaty of the United States with the Creeks and Seminoles, made and concluded at Washington, D.C., August 7, 1856. In consideration of said grant and cession of their lands, estimated at two million one hundred and sixty-nine thousand and eighty (2,169, 080) acres…”
History Notes: Ethnic Black Indian Republic:
Enabling Act-Enhances Independence
A 1565 Enabling Act, benefiting Moorish Settlers and Ethnic Seminoles presented in the form of a Cedula (powered by the Supreme Authority of a Spanish Royal Proclamation) conferred upon Pedro Menendez de Aviles in Florida, to form a Crown Colony. It was a Freedmen Republic with a Provisional Capital at St. Augustine for their Political Constituency within the Seminole Country. (more on Black Indian Settlements page).
The Entire Political Constituency was originally acknowledged by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, which continued on even down through his nephew Francisco Menendez (an African Mandingo) within the Seminole Country, whom in 1738, was also conferred a Grant of Land from the Spanish Governor Montiano for a Military Fort and expansion settlement, it’s name was Gracia Reál de Santa Terésa de Mosé-(Fort Mose or Moosa).
In 1819, Spain ceded La Florida (with the exception of the Seminole Reservation) to the United States for $5 million dollars and the release of American claim to Texas.
The formal transfer did not occur until 1821. Andrew Jackson was named the first Military Governor of the Territory, but only served a few months before leaving. His replacement was William Pope Du Val.
Upon their retreat, the Spaniards tried to attain U.S. Citizenship for the Seminole Creoles (with African Blood), as well as Free Blacks left behind by inserting language into the Adams-Onis Treaty granting them continued freedom and U.S. Citizenship;.
"The inhabitants of the territories which his Catholic Majesty cedes to the United States shall be…admitted to the enjoyment of all privileges, rights, and immunities of citizens of the United States."
However, Governor General Andrew Jackson’s first decree nullified Article VI, of the Adams-Onis Treaty, denying the promised U.S. Citizenship to Seminoles, Free Blacks and Mixed Race (Creole) Inhabitants of Florida. They were still an Independent Republic with proficient and worrisome warriors intent upon staying in the territory, hostile to American military encroachment and advancement. Jackson wanted them out of Florida.
With some political wrangling and eventual capitulation (surrender) of Ethnic Seminoles, Creoles and their Allies, negotiated by the Ethnic (Black) Seminoles themselves, the entire constituency was forced to abandon their Crown Colony, settlements and homesteads to remove to Oklahoma (as Free People), leaving the majority of Red Seminoles in Florida.
With the eventual surrender of the entire constituency of Ethnic (Black) Seminoles, Creoles and their Allies, forced to abandon their Florida Crown Colony, surrounding settlements and homesteads in exchange for removal to Oklahoma (as a Free and Autonomous People) with “a fair and equitable share” of ceded Tribal Lands gained by the terms of a document entitled “Capitulation of the Seminole Nation of Indians and their Allies.”
To appease Jackson’s desire to vanquish the Black Seminole Warriors from the geographical boundaries of Florida; in 1837, by Treaty Mandate, a primordial Grant of Land from the Creek domain in Oklahoma that included the lands of their new Provisional Capital (Wewoka), was provided to the Ethnic Black Seminoles.
It was ceded to the Ethnic (Black) Seminole/Creek Creole Constituency, essentially to ensure their emigration. The agreement secured by Alligator (Halleck Tustennuggee and Alachua Chief, John Horse) assured them an allodial title to lands, which were originally part of the Creek domain that was now ceded to the Black Seminoles for their settlement.
Additionally, the Ethnic (Black) Seminoles and Creoles would travel and be received as free people, to live autonomously on their own Oklahoma Lands and Settlements as they had traditionally in Florida (but within the geographical domain/country of the Seminole nation). The Provisional Capital of the Black Seminole Constituency in Oklahoma was named by them, “Wewoka,” which means “Barking Waters.”
Once in Oklahoma, it became very clear that the Creek Nation intended to make the Free Black Seminoles their Slaves and indeed history notes are replete with incidents wherein the very heavily armed Black Seminoles and their Kickapoo allies defended the Black Seminole Populace, their Settlements, Homesteads and Freedom in Oklahoma Indian Territory, vigorously against predatory raids by Creeks and Texas Slave Traders.
When it became even clearer that the United States had no intention of aiding them in maintaining their tenuous freedom, upon learning that the Solicitor’s opinion was that they would be reduce to the status of Slaves in Oklahoma; the Black Seminoles then formulated a secret plan to thwart the action of their enslavement. They would flee to Mexico and Freedom within her borders. They were indeed received as a Free Nation of Black Indians, Granted ample sitios (Acres of Lands) to established their Colony, given survival provisions and treated well by Mexico’s Central Government.
After the exodus of John Horse and the Black Seminoles into Texas and then Mexico beyond, the remaining two Bands of Black Seminoles were quarantined in a concentration camp to prevent their removal by John Horse, the Free Black Seminoles and the Kickapoo Warriors. The two remaining Black Seminole Bands (Dorsar and Barkus) yet remain in Oklahoma to the present day, with tenuous Citizenship status and disparate benefits access).
The Treaty-guaranteed lands of the Black Seminole Capital at Wewoka was illegally seized by the angry Creek Chief Jumper, following the exile of the Seminole/Creek group under John Horse to Mexico. It enraged the Creek Chief that John Horse had taken his own sister Juana and her children with him to Mexico. Juana’s children had all been fathered by the Creek Chief, and he was enraged to find them gone. He mustered a Posse that pursued the group all the way to the border of Mexico.
As such, the Black Indian Settlement at Wewoka, including other original Black Indian Towns were expropriated and taken in Trust by the United States Government and the parent Seminole Nation in 1866. The Southern Seminoles (in Mexico), despite the fact that they participated in Treaty negotiations by virtue of a Special Delegate (and signatory) in the 1866 Seminole, were never repatriated back to their ceded domain, which they traded the lands granted to Francisco Menendez and their crown colony at St. Augustine.
Their independent government continued to operate historically under John Horse and subsequent Chiefs, down to present day Chief William Warrior.
Indian Territory General Council Representatives:
1866 Seminole Treaty, Article 7;
“The Seminole Nation agrees to such legislation as Congress and the President may deem necessary for the better administration of the rights of person and property within the Indian Territory; Provided, however, [That] said legislation shall not in any manner interfere with or annul their present tribal organization, rights, laws, privileges, and customs. The Seminole Nation also agree that a general council, consisting of delegates elected by each nation, a tribe lawfully resident within the Indian Territory, may be annually convened in said Territory, which council shall be organized in such manner and possess such powers as are hereinafter described:…”
“2d. The first general council shall consist of one member from each tribe, and an additional member for each one thousand Indians, or each fraction of a thousand greater than five hundred, being members of any tribe lawfully resident in said Territory, and shall be elected by said tribes, respectively, who may assent to the establishment of said general council; and if none should be thus formally selected by any nation or tribe, the said nation or tribe shall be represented in said general council by the chiefs and head-men of said tribes, to be taken in the order of their rank, in the same number and proportion as above indicated. After the said census shall have been taken completed, the superintendent of Indian affairs shall publish and declare to each tribe the number of members of said council to which they shall be entitled under the provision of this article:…”
3d. Said general council shall have power to legislate upon all rightful subjects and matters pertaining to the intercourse and relations of the Indian tribes and nations resident in said Territory; the arrest and extradition of criminals and offenders escaping from one tribe to another; the administration of justice between members of the several tribes of said Territory, and persons other Indians and members of said tribes or nations; the construction of works of internal improvement and the common defence and safety of the nation of said Territory. All laws enacted by said council shall take effect at such time as may therein be provided, unless suspended by direction of the Secretary of the Interior or the President of the United States. No law shall be enacted inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States, or the laws of Congress, or existing treaty stipulations with the United States; nor shall such council legislate upon matters pertaining to the organization, laws, or customs of the several tribes, except herein provided for….”