Thursday, August 3, 2017

Joe & Dillard Perry Chickasaw Freedmen & Chickasaws by Blood

One of the more intriguing stories of identity, race, and heritage comes from the story of two brothers, born in Indian Territory. Their story on the surface appears to be a simple one where an elder in the family registered her grandsons with the Dawes Commission. She had been enslaved in the Chickasaw Nation and was doing what many people did during the years of the Dawes enrollment process. She registered her family. The saga Joe and Dillard began when they were first enrolled and place on the rolls of Chickasaw Freedmen.

However, what emerged was a story that mirrored that of many others in Indian Territory. The two Perrys had a mother of African Ancestry, and their father was native American--Chickasaw Indian. The story is unique because the parents of the two young men had a true relationship and had planned to raise their family together.

In 1892, Charlie became ill and died, thus leaving Eliza with her two boys to raise alone. Having an extended that was quite large, Eliza received support from her mother Harriet, and it was Harriet the matriarch who appeared and enrolled the children. They were enrolled along with a large clan of other family members on Chickasaw Freedman Card #61.

On the front of the card, one can clearly see the names of the two grandchildren whose cases would later be challenged. Joe and Dillard have roll number 267 and 268. Because of the controversy, one can also note that an asterisk was placed near their numbers.

Chickasaw Freedman Card Number #61
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas  1898-1914,
NAI Number: 251747, Record Group Title: 
Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

Reverse side of card

This is clearly a very large family and much rich genealogical data is found on the card, reflecting the spouses and children of those represented when the grandmother enrolled them. On the top card above the names of Joe and Dillard, is the name of their mother Eliza. Eliza would later be the one to request that her sons be placed on the Chickasaw roll by blood.


Close Up of Data on Card


The back side of the card also revealed the name of the Joe and Dillard's father Charley Perry, who was, by that time, deceased.

Close up on reverse side of card

Before looking at the application jacket, this case is one in which much is revealed in the various details found on the card itself. Some of the notations added after the initial interview are noted in red and they reflect various actions pertaining to the two young boys and how the commission acted upon them.

The back of the card contains more data about changes in their status. It should be noted that they originally began the process in 1898, when the grandmother appeared to enroll all of her children and grandchildren. Then the mother Eliza began a suit, because her husband was Chickasaw, by blood and she wanted them to be recognized as such. A decision was made in 1906 (see note below) to cancel their status as freedmen and transfer them to the rolls by blood.

An important footnote is written in red on the bottom of the front side of the card, directing the reader to a change in status for Joe and Dillard Perry, cancelling their status as Freedmen.
(same as above)

When they were transferred to the blood roll a card was completed for them as Chickasaws by blood. And as one can clearly see from the blood card---it was quickly canceled.



And one can tell by the notations on the front of the card how their case evolved. And the large stamp of course reveals a later decision as well.





From both the card "by blood" and the "Freedman" card it is clear that this was a complicated case. But then so much more about the case emerged when reading the application jacket. The details about Eliza, her marriage to Charley Perry, and the subsequent cold treatment by his relatives toward her are also reflected.

Several pages from the series of interviews are presented here. What emerges is the fact that Charles and Eliza had a relationship and had begun living together. But marriage between an Indian and one of African ancestry was forbidden by law and threat of punishment. As it turns out, Charlie and Eliza were arrested for cohabiting and were taken to Texas. Their crime? She was black and he was a Chickasaw Indian. It was pointed out during one of the interviews that she was also one quarter or one eighth Indian, however, the presence of African blood in her veins somehow in the eyes of the Chickasaw community and policy put a "stain" on the public perception of the couple and their right to have lived as husband and wife. Their marriage made their act of having a relationship with each other, a crime.

They had two children Joe and Dillard, and some of the witnesses from the Perry family said only that they had "heard" that there were two children, but had never met them. It was later stated that Charlie and Eliza married while in Texas, but another official objected, finding it inconceivable that a "negress" and an Indian would be allowed to marry while in Texas.

The National Archives at Ft Worth; Ft Worth, Texas, USA; Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75

The questioning began addressing the family background of Charlie Perry, and whether the witnesses had knowledge of the two boys Joe and Dillard being his sons. In addition, several people, including relatives all mention that Charlie would go away and live someplace else, for a while, but would only return to they Chickasaw family for short visits. 

(same as above)

A series of questions were addressed to the witnesses about not only the two young boys being the sons of Charlie Perry, but also several were asked about the mother and whether Charles was mentioned as being married to Eliza.

(same as above)

The grandmother Harriet also took the stand and spoke about her knowledge of the case of Charlie and Eliza. Harriet was the grandmother who went and registered the family from the beginning of the Dawes Enrollment Process.


(same as above)


(same as above)


(same as above)

(same as above)
Eventually after much discussion occurred about the status of Eliza and Charlie Perry's marriage, Eliza herself finally took the stand to speak.

(same as above)

When Charlie became ill, he was at the home of his Chickasaw Family. Eliza did go and visit him while he was ill, but clearly did not stay long for she was not really welcomed while there. Charlie died, and Eliza faced the future years without her husband, and began to negotiate life with her two children.

As stated, their Freedman grandmother originally enrolled them, but Eliza mentioned in her interview that she should consider suing on behalf of her sons, so she did file a lawsuit for the right of her sons to be enrolled as Chickasaw by blood. Their father Charlie, who was now deceased, was, in fact, a Chickasaw Indian. But the children were not accepted by their Chickasaw relatives and they were, in fact rejected by their Chickasaw grandmother, who admitted that she never knew them. There was deliberate avoidance of contact with the bi-racial children of their Chickasaw father, by his family.

What emerged was a story of challenges, and counter-challenges to be thrown in the face of the Perry children, despised for their African blood, and ignored although they carried the blood of their Indian fathers. So the children were enrolled as Freedmen, then cancelled as Freedmen, then enrolled as Chickasaws by blood, then cancelled as Chickasaws by blood, and re-enrolled as Chickasaw Freedmen. Theirs is a noteworthy cases, and it was not a unique case--there were others involving Choctaw as well as Chickasaw Freedmen. The case of Bettie Ligon also addressed the status of a woman who was originally as a Choctaw Freedman and her efforts to be enrolled as Chickasaws by Blood. That was the well known landmark case Equity Case 7071.

The story is a complex one, and in a future piece I shall focus on the genealogy of the larger family of Perrys, Taylors, Johnson, Bruners and other who comprised the structure of this one blended family of cultures, tribes, races and bloodlines. Truly, it can be said that the case of Joe and Dillard Perry continues to be a complex one for genealogists and students of Indian policy, law and sociology.