As we develop stories about our ancestor’s history we can draw upon numerous documents that exist such as Dawes Land Enrollment Cards, Newspapers, the Congressional Record and even legal briefs.
The story of our ancestors has been well documented and in some cases we are fortunate to have photographic images of them. My belief is when we can use a photo of our ancestors we provide more evidence of their existence that goes beyond the black and white pages of the Dawes Commission, a Supreme Court docket or a newspaper article that may have a negative slant based on the racial tensions of their time.
With a photo we breathe life into our ancestors and life into their stories we are required to tell. With that in mind I would like to present a slice of history for those who have Chickasaw and Freedmen Choctaw ancestors.
One Drop Rule Determines Race
In 1905 a Senate investigation was held regarding the enrollment and allotment of land to the former slaves of Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. During this investigation it was discovered that many of the former slaves of the Indians were children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Choctaw and Chickasaw men.
During the investigation testimony was taken from many of the people involved with the enrollment process but one person in particular gave damaging testimony to the practice of racial identification practiced by the Dawes Commission that was detrimental to the future land wealth of thousands of people of African-Native American descent.
Charles Cohee gave testimony to the method of forcing people who were multi-racial from the tent that received testimony on their Indian ancestry and forced them to enroll as freedmen.
What was maddening about this procedure is the deliberate act of denying for ages thousands of individuals who had possibly more Indian blood than people who were enrolled as Choctaw and Chickasaw "by blood." This act also deprived these thousands of men, women and children 320 acres of land they were rightfully entitled too.
The one overriding reason for denying these people their birth rights as "Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians" was their mother was of African descent.
Source: Congressional Record Serial Set - Senate Report 5013 (59th Congress, 2nd Session part 2, page 1610)
Photo Montage created by Terry LIGON