Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Seminole Freedmen Win Rights for Health Services

 Earlier this year many were shocked when one of the members of the two Freedman Bands in the Seminole Nation showed up to receive a Covid Shot. She was refused service, then the Lighthorse police were called to escort her out of the building.

The Freedman was a member of the tribe, and even serves on the tribal council as Chief of the Bruner band. Many were shocked how a person who serves her tribe, was turned away from a life saving vaccine, during a worldwide health epidemic. 

Well, today an interesting ruling has come down from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, declarining that Seminole Freedmen are eligible for Health Services of Indian Health Services--IHS.

As enrolled members of a Federally recognized tribe they are eligible to receive these benefits. For many years health services have been denied to Freedmen. 

Seminole Freedmen are generations long members of the Seminole Community having arrived in Indian Territory in the 1840s many as free people. They lived among Seminoles  for generations, and have been a part of the political structure of the tribe continaually. They are also people of African descent.

However, the past 3 decades have brought many challenges to Seminole Freedmen with their status being challenged. In the 1980s a strong anti-black sentiment arose, and even to the point of disenrolling the Freedmen from the tribe. They filed suit and won their case, and were re-admitted. However, their admission came with a price. They were to receive no benefits as citizens. The only thing that they could do was vote for people running for office, but nothing more. No health services, no educatonal benefits, no assistance with housing issues, etc.

The letter of October 5th from the Department of Human Services signals a change of direction. Those in the Freedmen community applaud this new development and many are hopeful that more changes will be seen coming from the other tribes of eastern Oklahoma.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Remarkable Freedwomen of Indian Territory

Left to Right:
Top Left-Sallie Walton, Top Center-Bettie Ligon, Right Center-Hagar Meyers
Bottom Left-Malinda Hall, Bottom Right-Lucinda Davis

Since March is Women's History Month, I thought that I would honor some often overlooked Freedwomen from Indian Territory. 

There are some women whose name should be said aloud. They are seldom mentioned in annals of Oklahoma history and even less so in the texts of tribal history. However, freedwomen from the Five former slaveholding tribe were not passive pawns in a system that worked against them. They lent their bodies and minds and spirit to cause to uplift those of their community. Some spoke up and showed courage during times of conflict. Others dared to resist and insist that they be acknowledged for who they were. Others simply told their story with all of the cultural nuances that they embraced. And others nurtured children who lived to tell their stories.

These were patient souls from whom we descend.  Some were well known, and others were simply quiet steadfast warrior women, worked tirelessly in their own domain. It is from such women who were the matriarchs of the families, and we must speak their names. These daughters of Oklahoma soil should no longer be bypassed in the annals of history. We honor them.

So weekly I shall profile at least one Freedwoman from Indian Territory, whose life was an inspiration and whose story deserves to be told.

To be honored this month: 

Sallie Walton, Choctaw Freedwoman, Matriarch of the Walton family of Skullyville
Bettie Ligon, Choctaw & Chickasaw Freedwoman - Head Litigant in Equity 7071
Hagar Meyers, Creek Freedwoman - Peacemaker woman of courage of the Green Peach War
Malinda Hall, Choctaw Freedwoman - Instructor and Educator of Choctaw Freedmen
Lucinda Davis - Creek Freedwoman - Survivor of Slavery, cultural storyteller of life in Creek culture

May they  never be forgotten.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Honoring Black Soldiers of the Indian Home Guards in the CivilWar

There are many men from Indian Territory who were enslaved in the Civil War. They escaped with Opotholeyahola into Kansas. Some joined the Kansas Colored Regiments, and they later became part of the US Colored Troops.  But there were many who also remained with the Creeks and they too enlisted in the Union Army. The would participate in every major battle of the Civil War. From Cabin Creek, to Honey Springs, and points in between.

It is important to know that the Home Guards (1st, 2nd and 3rd) were the only Indian Union Regiments.
The remaining 20+ Native American regiments from the Five Tribes, were Confederates. 

The following is a partial list of soldiers who were of African descent. who served with the Indian Home Guards.  May their legacy as freedom fighters in the Civil war be added to those of the Kansas Colored infantries and the regiments of the US Colored Troops.  May they always be remembered.

Index to Pension File of Sugar George, Company H, 1st Indian Home Guards

Black Soldiers of the Indian Home Guards 

Sugar T. George 
Wheat Baldridge
Adam Dyle
Samuel Barnett
Dennis Harrod
George Marshall
Green McGilvray
Saucer Bradley
Robert Benjamin
Abram Colonel
Harry Stedham
Jacob Bernard
Snow Sells
Simon Brown
George Monday
Abe Prince
Billy Caesar
William Hawkins
John Cooks
Jacob Perryman
Dennis Marshall
Manam Marshall
Troy Stedham
Sage Barnwell
Toby Drew
Thomas Marshall
James Quabner
William Peter
Love Jimboy
Tally Lewis
Thomas Al 
Gabriel Jimison
Solomon Renty
Jacob McGilvray
Pickett Renty
Charles Renty
August Deer
George McGilvray
Thomas Bruner (Identified as a free man of color)
August Deer
Abraham Caesar
Latah Harjo
Benjamin Ab
Scipio Sancho
Morris Kernell
James Kernell
Ben Sancho
Redman Kernell
Peter Stedham
Joseph Sambo (Sango)
Billy Hawkins (Identified as free man of color)
John Kernell
Jim Barnett (Identified as free man of color)
Aaron Sancho
Samuel Wade 
Joe McGilvray
William Grayson
Isaac Smith
Tucker (This was Silas Jefferson)
Adam (Identified as free man of color)
Alex Hawkins
York McGilbra

(courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society)
Silas Jefferson (enlisted as Tucker) was also a leader within the Creek Nation

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Honoring Creek & Seminole Civil War Veterans

African Creeks were among the first men of African descent to find themselves in battle in the Civil
War. They were among the many who travelled with Creek leader Opotholeyahola into Kansas early in the war.

Entering the free state of Kansas, new options were presented to them and they seized their freedom, enlisted in the Union Army and became soldiers in two regiments of the US Colored Troops.  Their enlistment began as the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored regiments. 

By 1862, they engaged in battle in Missouri at the battle of Island Mound. They then moved into northern Arkansas, and were involved in numerous battles in Arkansas, and later their native Indian Territory. Their record is a distinguished one, and notable depictions of their actions at the Battle Honey Springs have been well documented. 

Their courage and honor should never be forgotten.  

Headstone of Robert Bowleggs - 79th US Colored Infantry
National Cemetery, Ft. Smith Arkansas

Partial List of Creek Freedmen in the 79th US Colored Infantry

79th US Colored Infantry 
Benjamin Barnett
William Bruner
August Deer
Scipio Gouge
Billy Island
George Jonah
Smart Lewis

83rd US Colored Infantry
Abran Caesar
Edward Caesar
Phillip Caesar
William Caesar
Samuel Chambers
Henry Daniels
Adam Doyle
Tony Doyle
Jackson Gouge
Henry Grason
Aaron Grayson
Robert Grayson
William Grayson
Jack Hampton 
Samuel Harry
Israel Hawkins
Jackson Holmes
William Jackson
Gabriel Jameson
George Jeffrey
Nessa Lovett
Isaac Marshall
Moses Marshall
Sandy Marshall
James McGilbry 
Quash McGilbry
Wm McGilbry
Sandy Morrison
Jackson Perryman
Wm Peters
Adam Prince
Samuel Ranty
Soloman Ranty
Samuel Renty
Simon Renty
David Robinson
Jesse Taylor
Benjamin Thomas
Samuel Wade

Seminole Freedmen in the US Colored Troops
Samuel Davis
Cyrus Bowleggs
George Bowleggs
Robert Rowleggs

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Honoring Chickasaw Freedmen Civil War Veterans

Because the Chickasaw Nation was located farther away from military conflicts, opportunities for Union occupation, and recruitment of enslaved men to enlist in the Civil War were limited. Among the enslaved men in Indian Territory, Chickasaw-held people in bondage faced further restrictions on their movement. In addition, other tribes had begun to come into Chickasaw country with their slaves to avoid conflict and to reduce chances of enslaved people to get to the Union line and to find freedom.

However, some enslaved men of African descent did manage to find their way through war torn country in the Choctaw and Creek nations and they did manage to enlist. And for those few Chickasaw who managed to make their way from bondage, they are also honored here. In their honor an image from their military service file is placed here.

Boynton Colbert (Bynum Colbert)
54th US Colored Infantry

Isaac Alexander 79th US Colored Infantry

Quash Bear, 79th US Colored Infantry

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Honoring Choctaw Freedmen Civil War Freedom Fighters

People enslaved in the Choctaw Nation found themselves close to incredible activity that would change the trajectory of their lives. The time was 1863 and the conflicts of the Civil War was close by. Many lived in proximity to the Arkansas state line, and nearby Fort Smith provided an opportunity to seize their own freedom and to enlist in the Union Army. Several regiments recruited soldiers from both Cherokee and Choctaw Nations when they were encamped there.  For the enslaved men, with their slave holders and overseers from the two tribe having joined the confederate army, there was no one to prevent them from seizing their freedom and enlisting. They walked off the plantations and farms were they were held in bondage, and walked into freedom, and committed themselves to fight for the freedom of those left behind.

When Union forces came into Fort Smith one of the regiments that was organized in that city was the 11th US Colored Infantry. Some from the Skullyville district of the Choctaw Nation heard the call for able bodied men, and they enlisted. Others living in close proximity to Cherokee and Creek areas enlisted in the 79th and 83rd, which had been formed from the Kansas Colored regiments. And later when those units came back through Fort Smith more opportunity came for Choctaw held slaves to enlist.

As the war continued and they entered the conflict, some would not survive the war and live to see freedom. But others would survive, and lived several decades afterward, but died before statehood and the land allotment era, in their native Choctaw Nation. But these men served and are honored here. And it should be noted that for many their service is the only footprint on paper that is left that bears their name.

This is written to honor those men of courage whose names are seldom mentioned, but whose names belong on the Wall of honor of freedom fighters of Indian Territory. They are among the forgotten sons of Oklahoma, whose names I call, as Freedman History Month continues.

Partial List of Choctaw Freedmen in the Union Army

11th US Colored Infantry 
Theodrick Birgit
Thomas Blackwater

79th US Colored Infantry
Samuel Burris
Jefferson Rogers

83rd US Colored Infantry
Mobile Boyd
George Boyd
Ephraim Clark
Simon Clark
Joseph Dunforth
Phillip Fulsom
Austin Geary
Robert Hawkins
Hommedy James
Richard La Fleur
Jackson Monroe
Aaron Newberry
Cannon Ormsby
Thomas Phillips
Phillip Rushington
Duncan Walker
Dickson Williams

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Honoring Cherokee Freedmen Civil War Freedom Fighters

 In the US Civil War, men of African Descent were active in the quest for freedom.  Some had followed Creeks into Kansas. While there, some found themselves in a new status--that of free men. The opportunity to engage in the battle for freedom, several enlisted in one of three groups--Indian Home Guards, 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Infantries, or the US Colored Troops. Note that the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored regiments were later re-designated as the 79th and 83rd US Colored Infantries, respectively.

Cherokee Freedmen are found mostly among US Colored Troops, in both 79th and 83rd regiments.  However, a few names are found in other regiments as well. 

To honor Cherokee Freedmen Civil War Soldiers a partial list is placed here. Additional research is much needed to compile a comprehensive list, and hopefully someday such a project will be undertaken. Many of these men died during the war, and others died prior to the Dawes enrollment era, so many names have simply been forgotten with time. And some were born and enslaved in the Cherokee Nation, but moved away from the Territory in later years. Thankfully, Civil War records reflect their names, and their place of birth, their names can still be called and should be remembered.

Partial List of Cherokee Freedmen Civil War Soldiers

Indian Home Guards
Buck Bushyhead

11th US Colored Infantry
Aron Alberty 
George Bench

79th US Colored Infantry

Moses Carter
Wiley Carter
Thomas Daniels
George C. Davis
Isaac Rogers
Franklin Ross
Nelson Ross
Thomas Ross

83rd US Colored Infantry

Amos Adair
Andrew Brewer
Jacob Brewer
George Bushyhead
Moses Fields
Zachary Foreman
William Funkhauser
James Geary
Ephraim Isaac
Andrew Johnson
George Johnson
Israel Johnson
Moses Johnson
Henry Kidd
Dick Linch (Lynch)
George Martin
Hugh Martin
Toby Martin
Melton Washington
Edward Peter
Lewis Theodore
Burgess Thomas
John Webb
Daniel Webster
David Whitman
William Anderson
Aughter Williams

May the service of these men of the Cherokee Nation who served honorably in the Civil War and the quest for freedom, be remembered and honored.