Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bettie's List ~ Julia Jackson

Bettie’s List ~ Julia JACKSON
Choctaw Freedmen # 1213
Choctaw Chickasaw Citizenship Court # 66

Julia Jackson and her children were part of the complainants in Equity Case 7071. They sought to be transferred from the Dawes Choctaw Freedmen Roll to the Choctaw by blood roll; their actions left a record that becomes further evidence not everyone who possessed Choctaw blood got on the blood roll.

Like so many people classified as freedmen the record to establish their blood ties for citizenship are incomplete and require a great deal of deep research. The information contained in the Choctaw Chickasaw Citizenship Court records provided some insight into the paternity of the transfer cases.

Joe and Dillard Case Files #F-66 Julia Jackson et al.,
This document summarizes the facts of the case for transfer from the freedmen roll to the by blood roll for Julia Jackson and her children.

It purports to give accurate information that reflects why she considers herself and her children as people who possess Choctaw blood and therefore entitled to be listed as a “Choctaw by Blood.”

In this document supposedly fifty-six year old Julia informs the Dawes Commission her father was a Choctaw by the name of Ben Gilbert who was the son of a Choctaw by the name of John Gilbert.

If that is the case then Julia rightfully concludes all of her children would also be descendants of Ben and John “Gilbert” and should have been placed on the Choctaw by blood roll.

Historically we know that the Dawes Commission did not enroll everyone with Choctaw blood on the by blood rolls and it appears they went to great lengths to prevent people like Julia Jackson her children and her grand children from being placed on the proper roll.

This record would seemingly be factual and contain all the correspondence received from the attorneys of the Jackson family but as I continue to look at the available records some things just don’t add up.

In the first paragraph of this letter it mentions a petition was filed on February 12, 1906 by attorney Albert J. Lee “praying for the transfer” of Julia and her children. Looking through the entire file the correspondence from attorney Lee is nowhere to be found.

I would think in such an important matter as this that the record of the Dawes Commission should be complete but this is another case where the commission fails to maintain a clean record in the case of people placed on the freedmen roll who sought to be transferred.

The reason this is important becomes clear when you look at the rationale commissioner Tams Bixby gave for denying a transfer in this case.

Joe and Dillard Case Files #F-66 Julia Jackson et al.,
The importance of a clean record in this case has to do with the method the Dawes Commission determined their cases and how that record was  forwarded to the Secretary of the Interior for a final decision.

The Secretary of the Interior could only give a judgment based on the information he was given and it appears two important pieces of information may have never been provided.

It is an established fact that when a file was sent to Washington D.C. for the approval or disapproval of the Secretary of the Interior, the actual Dawes Card was never included in the packet of information. Secondly, the oral interview that resulted in the information placed on the Dawes Card did not and does not exist in the majority of the transfer cases. In the vast majority of cases a summary of the interview is all that remains in the record.

The only time we will see any question and answer interview would be the result of some follow-up interview that occurred after the person enrolled or when there was doubt about their connection to the tribe in question.

In the case of Julia Jackson and her children we have the rare question and answer oral interview but it was not by her; it was given by her husband and in the response to this application the commission is quick to note there was no evidence of an attempt to be enrolled as a citizen by blood prior to 1906.

The other curious factor in this case is the name the Dawes Commission gives as the name of Julia’s father and grandfather; Ben and John Gilbert respectively. Had the clerks or commissioner provided the actual petition for transfer and the original Dawes card they may have caught their errors.

The commission stated there is no record of Ben or John Gilbert and that may be true but it is not the name given to their clerk during the time Julia’s husband Isom gave testimony when he allegedly enrolled the family as Choctaw Freedmen in 1899.

It is possible the names of the individuals given to the commission could have been misspelled because there is some phonetic likeness to Gilbert and McGibrey or McGilberry or McGillivray all of these factors meant it was imperative the commission get it right and have a complete record, which in my opinion they came up woefully short.

We don’t have much information about Ben Gilbert or probably more accurately; Ben McGillivray, but there is some information about a John McGillivray that fits the description of who might have been the grandfather of Julia Jackson.

Don Martini "Who's ?Was Who Among the Southern Indians a Genealogical Notebook 1698-1907"
Don Martini "Who's ?Was Who Among the Southern Indians a Genealogical Notebook 1698-1907"

It will take further research to determine whether one of those male children between ten and twenty was named Ben to see if there is any truth to the rumor that this may have been Julia’s grandfather but clearly the Dawes Commission was completely inaccurate about the name of Julia’s father.

For the record, I’m also perplexed that there is no correspondence from Albert J. Lee correcting this obvious mistake of Gilbert as it is portrayed in the letter from Tams Bixby and McGilbrey/McGillivray as it is noted on the rear of Choctaw Freedmen card number 1213.

There is one more oddity concerning the Dawes Card of Isom and Julia Jackson; there are no slave owners indicated on the front of the card. Because of their ages, they would have them born in slavery, yet only during the interview given by Isom in 1899 he refers to his enslaver. There does not appear to be any information regarding Julia being enslaved.
This appears to be another case where the clerk at the Dawes Commission got it wrong or omitted what should have been important information just to establish the Jackson family to the Choctaw nation for citizenship as freedmen.

The transfer cases continue to bring home the question of how serious the Five Slave Holding Tribes are concerned about their "real" history? 

We see many articles in scholarly journals, history books and on their own websites that advocate the history of their tribes with great fanfare about preserving Indian nations for "Indians." Here are cases in the thousands that clearly point out there are some "Indians" that were left off the rolls and marginalized because their mother's happened to be of "African descent." 

There is no question that "race" was at the heart of these decisions. There is no question that what the tribal leaders did in conjunction with the Dawes Commission was an effort to rid itself of all connections to those slaves who bore the children of Choctaw and Chickasaw men who were entitled to three hundred and twenty acres of land like the children who were given birth by "white" women and Indian fathers.

Problem is, can anyone today say with a straight face the descendants of these men and women do not possess Choctaw and or Chickasaw blood?

Monday, December 12, 2011

One Hundred Years Ago Today...

December 12, 1911

Daily Ardmoreite April 14, 1907 p6c5
What was once thought to be the “most important suit filed” in Indian Territory on April 13, 1907; became a memorandum: just a footnote in the records of the United States Supreme Court!

Bettie Ligon et al., v Douglas H. Johnston, Green McCurtain and James R. Garfield, Secretary of the Interior is commonly known as Equity Case 7071 and the ramifications of this case should have turned Indian Territory upside down.

What happened on this day at the United States Supreme Court defies logic and understanding. The lawsuit involved millions of dollars in land that could have potentially been in the tens or hundreds of millions based on the natural resources like oil, gas, coal and asphalt that was known to be in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations following the Civil War.

The foundation of the claims of citizenship for fifteen hundred to two thousand individuals and their descendants in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations was predicated on one simple truth; we are the product of our ancestors.

In genealogical terms the 1,500 to 2,000 men, women and children who were claimants on Equity Case 7071 were the children of Choctaw and Chickasaw men and therefore should have been placed on the citizenship by blood rolls of their ancestors.

Unfortunately, like most things that involve race, their efforts at obtaining citizenship were thwarted at every turn. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations allowed the institution of slavery among their citizens prior to the Civil War and based on their antebellum concepts of race.

The Dawes Commission as well as the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations determined that a child was considered to be the race of their mother and if that mother was determined to be black, Negro, or of African descent, then so was the child.

This of course had to include the absurdity of completely ignoring and denying the father who was a Choctaw or Chickasaw citizen by blood. It also was in complete contradiction of the established law on lineal descent that was established at the time. It also worked to prevent the possibility that we see today that none of the descendants of the original complainants involved with Equity Case 7071 are citizens of the Choctaw or Chickasaw Nation.

What we have on this day, one hundred years later a “continuing wrong” that is nothing more than a memo of the United States Supreme Court.

U.S. Supreme Court Memorandum December 12, 1911

Nathaniel W. LIGON Choctaw Freedman #106

Nathaniel LIGON Born September 2, 1886  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Nathaniel W. LIGON If you are a family researcher like me, ...