Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicken or the Egg?


I have been working on a database for the more than 1500 claimants on Equity Case 7071 or as I like to call it now, “Bettie’s List.” The database I’m constructing will contain many documents from various sources which include Dawes Cards M1186, the interview packets and census records.

One of the census records I've been considering including in the database was the Choctaw Freedman Roll of 1898-1900 that is part of the Green McCurtain Collection. What became evident when I constructed this montage was the information that is reflected in these two documents.

First I was under the impression that the Choctaw freedmen were citizens of the Choctaw nation and therefore they were duly documented in various tribal census records since 1885.

I was also under the impression the information contained on the Dawes cards was derived from person to person interviews conducted during the Dawes Commission allotment activities from 1898 to approximately 1914 when the rolls supposedly closed.

The fact that the information regarding tribal enrollment number and the age of the enrollee on the Dawes card was supposed to be generated from an interview conducted when the “freedmen” “applied” for their forty acre allotment?

Clearly if there was an interview of the enrollee the information on the front and rear of the card should be reflected and documented in a verbatim interview. I have concluded long ago the so called Dawes “Interview” jackets were essentially summaries of the interview and in the majority of cases omitted pertinent information that is reflected on the card without any reference of it in the summary.

Choctaw Freedmen Card # 106 rear Bettie LIGON et al.

For example, in the case of the people on Bettie’s List in practically every instance when one of these individuals indicated they had a parent (male) who was Choctaw or Chickasaw “by blood” the name appears on the rear of the card but does not appear anywhere in their interview.

As I recall the Chickasaw Nation didn’t have a census for their former slaves because they did not adopt them as citizens and felt no special need to document them. However, the Choctaw Nation did adopt their former slaves and their descendants and there are at least two census records that reflect this, the 1885 and the 1898-1900 Choctaw Freedman Censuses.

It appears in this case the 1898 Census was created from the information received during the Dawes Allotment period. I would imagine the Choctaw Nation did not have a full accounting on who was a citizen in their nation when it came to the freedmen until 1898?