This official Choctaw Nation supplemental guide for teaching about the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision is full of misinterpretations of the history, omits histories of Black people and Freedmen, and erases the Choctaw Nation’s clear history of anti-Blackness. (Thread)
First of all, in the official guide, the authors state that “If people who were not Choctaw tribal members respected Choctaw laws, they could visit the Choctaw Nation, work there, or even become Choctaw citizens,” in post-Removal Indian Territory.
This statement holds true if the individual in question was white or non-Black from another Indigenous tribe. However, Black people (both of Choctaw heritage and devoid of Choctaw heritage) were specifically barred from living in the Choctaw Nation boundaries if they were free.
The 1847 Choctaw Constitution specifically stated that “no free negro, or any part negro, unconnected with Choctaw and Chickasaw blood, shall be permitted to come and settle in the Choctaw Nation.”
The constitution also made it illegal for any person of partial African ancestry to “ever” “hold any office under [the Choctaw Government]” and made it legal to naturalize anyone as a citizen as long as they WEREN’T “a negro.”
These anti-Black laws were acted upon and affected real peoples’ lives. Oliver Ingles, a free Black man from Fort Smith, Arkansas was hired to work at Spencer Academy (a missionary school in Choctaw Territory) and when Peter Pitchlynn, the Chief of the Choctaw Nation at the time
Ingles made no preparations to leave and lived within the Nation for a year in conflict with Chief Pitchlynn’s racist demands, but eventually left after receiving his full compensation.
So, could “people who were not Choctaw tribal members respected Choctaw laws” “visit the Choctaw Nation, work there, or even become Choctaw citizens?” Well, they definitely COULD NOT if they were Black. In fact, in doing so, they risked arrest and re-enslavement.
Perhaps the @choctawnationOK—who released this statement—refuses to see Black people from the 1800s as people even now?
The guide also states that “the Choctaw Nation had been an ally of the United States since the American Revolution, and continued conducting business with Americans after Removal.” This is certainly true. However, the guide never mentions that much of this “trade” had been in
slaves and goods produced by slaves owned by Choctaws.
The article also states that the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations “had little choice but to side with the Confederate States of America in the conflict. Their safety and security were at stake.” This leaves out that the tribes sided with the Confederacy partially out of a drive to
Continue owning slaves of African descent. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations continued to practice slavery within their territories up until 1866–even after they LOST in the Civil War along with others in THE CONFEDERACY.
The guide states that “the U.S. forced them to accept concessions that included the loss of land and some of their control over their lands. The most significant requirement was the allowance of railroads to be built within and through Indian Territory.”
This completely overlooks the fact that the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations we’re punished in part because even after they lost in the Civil War, THEY REFUSED TO EMANCIPATE THEIR SLAVES. Slavery continued to be legalized and practiced in both tribes until the Treaties of 1866.
The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations both practiced chattel slavery up until they entered into the Treaties of 1866 with the federal government—a fact that is never once stated in the “history” guide.
Further, this “history” guide does not mention Freedmen once in discussions of the Dawes Commission or land allotments, even though Freedmen were some of the people most at risk for land theft and land manipulation schemes.
For a source on Freedmen land manipulation schemes, you can read one of our theses here:
To learn more about Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen in the Civil War please read @AYWalton’s blog post from 2012:
You can follow @ChoctawFreedmen.
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