Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lorenzo RUSSELL et al.

I have to repeat why I enjoy researching the history of the Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen and not just concentrate on my family’s history among these tribes. I take the position that if I research the freedmen at certain points I will discover my own family. The reason I do this is simple, the blending of families was obvious when I began researching this history and researching entire history (for me) is more interesting which serves to maintain my.

As I was going through some names of people associated with Bettie’s List (Equity Case 7071) I came across the name of Lorenzo Russell who appeared to have a Choctaw Indian father and freedwoman for a mother. The fact that it also appeared both of his parents were alive and possibly had Dawes cards and packets meant there was a great possibility there was more information to uncover regarding any claim Lorenzo had to have his file transferred to the Choctaw by Blood Roll.
Chickasaw Freedman Card#1306 rear 
 Based on the information provided on the rear of Lorenzo Russell’s Chickasaw Freedman card number 1306 a Choctaw Indian named Jim Russell is given as Lorenzo’s father.  Who knows if it was by malice or just the Dawes Commission working with the leaders of the Choctaw Nation; the pattern of denying people of mixed African-Choctaw ancestry has done a disservice to the history and legacy of the Five Slave Holding Tribes in general.
Choctaw Freedman Card#1364 front

You can peel through pages of Lorenzo Russell’s Dawes packet and aside from the notation on the rear of his Dawes card there is absolutely no mention of his father or the fact that Lorenzo and all of his descendants possess the blood of his father James Russell. What is remarkable is the file of his father!

Choctaw by Blood M1301 #1545 p4
This is another example of the complex nature of relationships and identities that governed the lives of all who lived in Indian Territory. The fact that in 1904 this couple was married and a Choctaw Indian was married to a freedwoman for many years prior to this date had implications the Dawes Commission had to deal with when enrolling this family for land allotments.

  • Should the children be enrolled as Choctaw by blood? 
  • Would the children receive three hundred and twenty acres of land as opposed to the forty freedmen received? 
  • Was James’ wife entitled to be enrolled as an intermarried citizen? For an Indian with children by a white woman the answer was clear, she and her children would be enrolled as Choctaw citizens by blood.

For whatever reason the attorney for James Russell inquired about James being entitled to enroll as an intermarried citizen “the same as other intermarried Indians by blood.” The commissioner caught this statement and clearly must have scratched his head on why such a question would be up for discussion.

I suspect the attorney inadvertently used James’ name when he should have been asking about the intermarried status of James Russell’s wife. It is later in the file on another page that the name of James’ wife is revealed. 
Choctaw by Blood M1301#1545 p7
There is nothing contained in this “interview” given by Julia Russell the wife of James Russell that prompted Commissioner Needles to see if Julia’s children were on the Choctaw by Blood roll nor did he determine if she wanted to be enrolled as an intermarried Choctaw citizen due to the fact she was “legally” married to a Choctaw Indian. Commissioner Needles simply rubber stamped the interview and enrolled Julia as a Chickasaw freedmen until she was later transferred to the Choctaw Freedmen roll.

Two remarkable documents were present in the file of James Russell; this one with Julia commenting on her parents provided information about her mother and siblings. The document provided information that Julia’s mother had been sold to someone in Texas and while there she gave birth to three other children.

It was this document and that history of being sold along with the name of her mother that rang a familiar tone to me and my own family history. Phoebe Jackson and the story of her being sold by a James Lanihee is the same story of my great great grandfather on my maternal line; Isom Jackson.

Choctaw Freedman Card#1213 rear

Choctaw Freedman Card#1213 front

Choctaw Freedman M1301# 1213 p3
Looking at the brother of Julia, Isom Jackson’s Dawes card you will note Isom’s wife also claimed to have a father of Indian (Chickasaw) descent and blood. This is again a reminder of just how fluid and complex the relationships were during this time and that despite all claims to the contrary there is more and more evidence that Choctaw and Chickasaw men father a large number of children with their slaves and subsequently denied their own children the same privileges of citizenship in the nation of their birth.

To illustrate just how misguided a policy this was by the tribes with the complicity of the United States government, the other document in the packet of James Russell is one dealing with the citizenship claims of another son, Dan Russell.

M 1301 Choctaw by Blood#1545 p2
  •        Naturally the question becomes is this one of Julia’s sons?
  •        Was he enrolled as a citizen by blood or was he a freedman?
  •        Dan and Lorenzo have the same father so they both should be considered “Choctaws by Blood?”
  •       You probably know where I’m going with this but bear with me…
  •        If Dan was mentioned in his father’s Dawes file, he should have a file of his own, right?

Choctaw by Blood # 5371
Dan is the son of James Russell, he is also the half-brother of Lorenzo Russell but because Dan’s mother Molsy was considered a Choctaw Dan was placed on the Choctaw by Blood roll. Dan received payments in 1893 and was considered to be one-sixteenth Choctaw Indian.

Lorenzo on the other hand was placed on the freedmen roll, no mention of his Choctaw blood is provided and despite the marriage between James and Julia, not one other person in this family was placed on the Choctaw by Blood roll.

Quite frankly I don’t know how these tribes morally continue to toe this line of ONLY those who have an ancestor on the “blood” roll have a right to citizenship when the Dawes Commission clearly ignored the relationships and genealogy of the thousands of men and women who sought to be placed on the correct roll for citizenship in the nation of their birth.

There is a third document that has nothing to do with claims of citizenship but was an interesting piece of historical knowledge contained in the file of Dan Russell.

Dan considered him self a cowboy and in 1896 in volunteered to fight in the Spanish American War as a “Rough Rider.” This meant he may have had a relationship or at least knew Teddy Roosevelt before he became president of the United States.
M1301 Choctaw by Blood 5371 p3
There is another historical point to make here and that would be the time Dan spent in Leavenworth Penitentiary. From listening to an online presentation given by the National Archives and from prior experience, there is a good possibility that an image of Dan exist.

His military records I was able to locate online again through NARA only provide some basic information about Dan that is repeated in his testimony before the Dawes Commission so if there is additional information or another military record, the descendants of Dan Russell or for that matter the Choctaw Nation might be encouraged to locate more on this man because of his contribution as a Rough Rider.

M1301 Choctaw by Blood#5371 p5

12 Record of Service Dan Russell NARA National Archives Identifier: 301365
As you can see, the story of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen has a great deal to do with the history of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. Their story should be included as a vital part of both nations so a complete and accurate portrayal of the tribes and all of its people are presented.

To dismiss the history and presence of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen is morally indefensible. The relationships formed by freedmen and Indian despite the institution of slavery suggests the fear of blacks within the tribe is totally without merit. Contrary to the popular belief you have to be “Indian” to be a citizen ignores just how freedmen were ostracized from the nation of their birth and how subsequent generations sought to survive in a hostile community that marginalized their lives and relationships.

Why are the tribes continuing this legacy?

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, ...