Friday, May 9, 2008

My American Indian Ancestor

One of the most difficult family lines that I've tried to trace is my granddaughter's lineage through her American Indian ancestor, her maternal great-grandmother. Family members say that she was a Blackfoot Lakota captured from the Black Hills in the mid-1800s. She was pregnant at the time of her capture and spent time as a slave, ending up in Alabama from where most of her descendants scattered around the United States.

While looking for her name on the Indian rolls and not being successful, I began to look for other family names that I knew should be in the Indian Territory in the early 1900s. The Guion Miller Roll Index, Armstrong Roll, Baker Roll, Dawes Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes and other Native American rolls are available here.

Finally, I found one of the names I was looking for. He was listed as a 2-year-old in a household with his parents, a younger brother and grandparents whose names I recognized as those written in my uncle's hand in his family Bible. Previously, I had located the same family in the 1900 Oklahoma Indian Territory census and in the race block he was listed as I - which could only mean Indian - born in IT (Indian Territory). The family had always told the story that Grandpa was an Indian but we had never seen any proof. Only the census hinted at this.

On the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes website I found that I could order census packets from the National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas, or from the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

I decided to order my families Dawes Packet online from the Oklahoma Historical Society. I ordered the Census Card and Application Packet for my ancestor, giving the research center names, dates, and the information I had found online included on the Dawes Final Roll. A few days went by and I got a phone call from a researcher there at the Oklahoma History Research Center. He had found my ancestor's application packet that had about 15 pages of microfilm to be copied. He wanted to tell me that on the outside of the packet there was a reference to another application packet for someone else who turned out to be her uncle. That application packet contained over 150 pages! But in order for me to be sure I had all the information and knowing there might be a wonderful tidbit of our history hidden away in the archives, I ordered copies of it all.

I talked to the gentleman from the research center twice and he was very helpful and courteous. It turned out that my ancestors were listed as Mississippi Choctaw Refused on the Dawes Final Roll. After reading very carefully all of the papers included in the packet I learned that the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes refused to identify them as Choctaws because their original Indian ancestor had not complied with the orders of the fourteenth article of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek of 1830.

"ART. XIV. Each Choctaw head of a family being desirous to remain and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the Agent within six months from the ratification of this Treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner shall be entitled to one half that quantity for each unmarried child which is living with him over ten years of age; and a quarter section to such child as may be under 10 years of age, to adjoin the location of the parent. If they reside upon said lands intending to become citizens of the States for five years after the ratification of this Treaty, in that case a grant in fee simple shall issue; said reservation shall include the present improvement of the head of the family, or a portion of it. Persons who claim under this article shall not lose the privilege of a Choctaw citizen, but if they ever remove are not to be entitled to any portion of the Choctaw annuity."
In the papers included in the packet for our ancestor, there was a long response from the Commission to an application for rehearing of the case. They tell the story of the mother who lived in Mississippi at the time of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. They recorded that she "went before the United States Agent, Ward, at Dancing Rabbit Creek, in the State of Mississippi in 1830, to signify her intention to take a five years stay, in compliance with the fourteenth article of the treaty of 1830," but that Agent Ward, who was under the influence of liquor at the time, refused to enroll her. It was also reported that this fact was shown by the affidavits of Soloman York, 96 years of age, and Tubbie and Kerr Thomas, each 82 years of age.

Even though the family's lawyers put forth these facts, the office of the Acting Commissioner, A. C. Tonner, recommended that the motion for a rehearing not be allowed. There were 28 pages in the typewritten decision by the Department of the Interior, Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes.

The Commission did not say they were not Indian, just that they did not comply with the articles of the treaty; and therefore, were refused free land. I can imagine my family pursued this for 5 years because they had already built a life on land they had purchased in the Indian Territory.

The application packet includes children's names, ages, places of birth, marriage information, residences, etc. There is a genealogy report as well. There were transcribed interviews with the main family members in this drama that drew me in and I could feel the confusion, pain, and even embarrassment that they must have felt as they sat there answering personal questions.

Maybe I've read too many western paperbacks, seen too many western movies, or lived in the West too long. Maybe I've romanticized the life of the Indian. But after reading the words of my ancestors and of the members of the Commission along with their decisions, I feel I have a better understanding of how my ancestors lived and how they suffered. I have ancestors from all nationalities, from the English, Welch, German, African, Austrian, and American Indian. That period of time when the United States was being expanded was a very difficult one according to history. I hope we all will remember and can reflect without rancor upon all that our ancestors went through. Even though this research of mine has pushed me nearly to the edge!

1 comment:

Yaya' s Changing World said...

My great-great gramma' was Choctaw. Her name was either Mary Chany or Annie Chany. Theodore Mock and * Chany were issued a Bill of Sale and a marriage license on the same day... 29 Feb 1864. I don't s'pose you would have any idea how to find that record, would you? Thanks for any advice you can offer. ~ Yaya
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