Bettie’s List, is a blog about the approximately 1,600 to 2,000 people seeking a transfer from the Choctaw or Chickasaw Freedmen roll to the “citizen by blood” roll because their father or another male ancestor was a Chickasaw or Choctaw citizen by blood
Bettie’s List is also my story on how I became familiar with this unique story and the journey I’ve been on since discovering my family's hidden history of African-Native people.
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.
I sabella Gillispie was enrolled as a Chickasaw
Freedwoman in 1898 with her thirteen children ranging from eighteen year old
son Christopher to her son Andrew who was born May 18, 1902. The
family resided in Pontotoc County in the community of Wiley, Indian Territory.
Isabella and her children filed a petition
to be transferred from the Chickasaw Freedmen Roll to the Chickasaw by Blood
Roll which became part of the Joe and
Dillard Perry files as petition ninety-five. Their claim of Chickasaw blood
like so many on Bettie’s List is
based on her father being a Chickasaw blood citizen. Also like other
African-Chickasaw mixed people her mother Unity
Chico, was a slave of the same man that was her father; his name was Osburn (sic) Fisher also known as David
Osborne Fisher was well known in the Choctaw and Chickasaw community and
was first married into the large slave owning Kemp family through his wife Elizabeth Kemp. Elizabeth died in 1866 and Fisher married a Matilda Ol…
Bettie Ligon died today from lumbar pneumonia. Bettie Ligon was the lead litigant on Equity Case 7071 involving approximately 2,000 so called Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen who were seeking full “rights and privileges” as citizens in the respective nation of their and their parents birth. The litigants in this lawsuit were seeking recognition from the two nations and the United States government as citizens based on being progeny of a parent who was considered a Chickasaw and/or Choctaw “by blood” on the Dawes Rolls. Bettie Ligon's death comes almost a year after the decision by the United States Supreme Court of December 12, 1911. The decision by the court was rendered without any oral arguments on the merits of Equity Case 7071. The defendants attorneys did not appear before the court and written briefs were not provided as stipulated, yet these 2,000 “Black Indians” and their descendants today are not considered Chickasaw nor Choctaw and are not citizens of their respective n…
Alice Lamey was one of those brave women of Indian Territory who persisted in her claims of possessing Chickasaw blood and was determined to have the Dawes Commission and the Chickasaw Nation acknowledge her family as Chickasaw Indians by blood.
It is unfortunate the decisions of the Dawes Commission and the so called customs of the Chickasaw Nation denied the ancestry of Simmion Lamey and his children. They were enrolled as Chickasaw Freedmen despite the insistence of Simmion’s father being a full blood Chickasaw.
The actions of the Dawes Commission with the approval of the tribes meant that thousands of people who actually possessed “Indian blood” were left off the citizenship rolls based on the antebellum custom of determining race by the “status” of their mother.
In other words if you mother was a slave your "blood" was contaminated and you were not considered to be an "Indian by blood." Only if you mother happened to be "Indian" or "…