Saturday, June 22, 2013

Samuel Chawanochubby & Mason Clark - Children of their Chickasaw Father and African Mother

Dawes Enrollment Card of Samuel Chawanchubby, Card #93
NARA Publication Number M1186

Many issues arise when discussion of Freedmen and their status as citizens of the tribes into which they were born. For Chickasaw Freedmen, the issue is further complicated, since their former slaves were never officially adopted by the tribe, and for nearly 40 years after they were finally released from bondage many remained without a country, without status and technically without a future.

During the years of the Dawes Enrollment the plight of Freed men and women was a source of concern, in each of the Five Civilized Tribes. For Chickasaw Freedmen the concern was even greater, thus creating an amazing effort of collaboration among Freedmen descendants to fight for their status. 

One of the issues pertaining to Freedmen was the perception that the former slaves were "simply Negroes" to once again be dismissed as worthy of ostracization, alienation and second class status. Though many Freedmen lived within the culture of their Indian slave holders, race somehow trumped culture when the Dawes Commissioners began the enrollment process, that would result in the receipt of land for all who were so approved. Freedmen were part of this enrollment process, and there are more than 14,000 files of Freedmen from the Five Tribes. All who were approved would eventually receive land allotments and thus bring Indian Territory closer to the inevitable statehood of Oklahoma.

The Freedmen in the Chickasaw Nation would receive land, but their status as Freedmen and not "by blood" meant that their land allotment would be smaller. This was a similar practice in the Choctaw Nation. However, there were many among the Chickasaw Freedmen who were also bearers of "Indian blood" and many would later file a large class action suit demanding to be put on the rolls by blood, for they had proof of having a Chickasaw parent.

Such was the case of Samuel Chawanchubby. His father was a Chickasaw Indian known simply as Chawanchubby. His mother was a slave of Chawanochubby. But the relationship between Samuel's father and mother went beyond slave master/slave.  They had a relationship, and were perceived to by the community to be husband a wife.

The front side of Samuel Chawanochubby's enrollment card reflects  his status as having been enslaved.

Close View of Chickasaw Freedman Card 93
NARA Publication M1186

The reverse side of the same card reflects the fact that his father was the same man, who was listed as the slave holder.

Close View of Back Side of Chickasaw Freedman Card 93
NARA Publication M1186

This is the case of many persons who were placed on the Freedman Roll in Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, however, the application jacket reveal more about the cultural context in which Sammuel Chawanochubby lived.  He spoke only the language of his father, and he had many witnesses who verified on his behalf that he and his parents and siblings lived together as a family. His parents were considered married and they raised their children as husband and wife. A fascinating document from the Application jacket reflects this relationship.

Document from Application Jacket of Samuel Chawanochubby
NARA Publication M1301 Chickasaw Freedman 93

This document presesented by his attorney Tom D. McKowen, describes the Samuel's family pointing out that Isom Chawanochubby, a Chickasaw was Samuel's father. His parents had lived according to Chickasaw tradition, and it is pointed out that they were perceived to be Chickasaws, and that Samuel and his siblings were recognized by their father as his own children. In addition, Isom Chawanochubby was also known by an English name of Isom Newberry. 

Samuel Chawanochubby's sister was Mason, Clark. The file submitted on her behalf revealed even more succinctly how immersed they were in their Chickasaw community. Mason spoke no English and needed interpreter's to speak on her behalf.

Document supporting the case of Mason Clark the sister of Samuel Chawanochubby
M1301 Chickasaw Freedman File #93

Upon learning that Samuel Chowanochubby and Mason Clark were siblings, a search was made for an enrollment card for her as well. Mason had a card and she and her family were put on the rolls of Chickasaw Freedmen, again for the fact that their mother had been enslaved.

Enrollment Card of Mason Clark, Chickasaw Freedman Card #54
NARA Publication #M1186

The reverse side of her card also reflects the full sibling status of Samuel and Mason, with the same parents listed, Chawanochubby (Isom) and Lena their once enslaved mother.

The placement of Samuel and Mason on the Freedmen Rolls took place in 1902 as indicated by the stamp on their enrollment cards.

The application to be included among Chickasaw's by blood made by Samuel and his sister Mason Clark, do not appear to have changed their status. Mason's mother tongue being exclusively Chickasaw, and her status in the community as being known to be a  part of this Chickasaw based family was clearly demonstrated by those who knew both of them, did not appear to alter the ruling of the Dawes Commissioners. However, the culture and recognition of the family within the Chickasaw community was revealed by those who stood as witnesses for both of them.

Mollie Porter a Chickasaw Indian testified on behalf of Samuel and Mason.
Application Jacket of Samuel Chawanochubby

It appears that Samuel's request to be moved to the Rolls by blood was eventually denied. It was stated that both parents were enslaved, in spite of the sworn testimonies of others and in spite of the cultural ties clearly evident as interpreters were needed for Chickasaw speaking Mason.

But there is still much to be learned from this file.This is the kind of record that reveals so much more about the relationships that occurred in spite of the cultural demands of the Territory, the Tribes, the South, and the larger community from the nearby United States.

Descendants of the Chawanochubby's and the children of Mason Clark have clear documentation of their cultural and also direct lineage to Chickasaws, by culture, language and family.

Hopefully, the descendants of this line and the descendants of many whose ancestors are on the freedmen rol as well, will embrace the critical need to tell the story.

The greater story is the history of what happened to the ancestors.  And whether the family was place upon on the rolls as "Freedmen", or rolls "By Blood" or given status by "inter-marriage", all of the histories are important. 

One status does not out-weigh nor have greater value over another.  All shared the same historical landscape, and hopefully someday descendants from all categories can embraced their shared past.