An Open Letter…
Mr. David W. Hill-Principal Chief, Mr. Del Beaver-Second Chief, The Muscogee Creek Indian Nation and To whom it May Concern
Speaking of Justice…
A lot has been said about justice in the past few weeks. Most of which has been said before, in one form or another, for several generations of Black Americans. Horrific accounts of misdeeds, mal-intent, and malfeasance have been long ignored by a society eager to cover up its own sordid participation in this past.
There exist, at the same time an alternate parallel, in America, where the struggle in the boiling pot for justice has simmered down to a rue of racism. This struggle is taking place in the cauldron containing the Indian nations of the 5 Civilized Tribes and the Black Americans associated with these tribes who are called Freedmen. The 5 Civilized Tribes are the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminoles. The term civilized came in because these tribes more readily, than other tribes, accepted the ways and culture of the White man including the owning of slaves. Freedmen is a term given to former slaves and their descendants. The only distinguishing factor is “state” freedmen were owned by whites and “Indian” freedmen were owned by Indians. Other than that, both groups endured similar lifestyles on the margins of society.
In this open letter, we are addressing the need to end the disenfranchisement of Black people who are descendants of freedmen listed on the Freedmen and the By-Blood Dawes Rolls. We abjure the constitution rewritten in 1979 which effectively disavowed Black citizenship in the Muscogee Creek Indian Nation. This is in direct conflict with the 1866 Treaty. It is also a slap in the face of many African Creeks who stood with the Creek Nation when the U.S. government, after the Civil War, was determined to take over Creek lands. Little known names such as Ketch Barnett, Cow Tom, Sugar George, Harry Island and others served as interpreters and policy makers in forging agreements between the tribes and the government. These men along with other African Creek men and women served other leadership roles in Creek Nation society. If not for their contributions, Creek Nation lands and culture could be dramatically different today.
In the interest of brevity, I will be blunt. Skin color has been a major determinant in who’s name goes where. A discussion of all the particulars won’t happen here, but the obvious thing is people with European/Indian mixed blood went on the by blood list and people with African/Indian mixed blood went on the Freedmen list. One list carried citizenship and benefits, the other did not. We recognize this as racist and we recommend an immediate, permanent and peaceful end to it.
We, as descendants of Creek Freedmen, are not going away. We value the lives and legacies of our ancestors, too. We are also energized by the victory of the Cherokee Freedmen who have successfully regained their tribal citizenship based on the same criteria we experience. We are also buoyed by the energy of the Choctaw/Chickasaw Freedmen along with resurgent mindset of the Seminole Brotherhood. Within the Creek Freedmen, the education and sophistication of the youth is paramount as they learn from today’s mentors, leaders, The Muskogee Creek Indian Freedmen Band and other organizations dedicated to Freedmen culture. This is only the beginning of a new wave of actions geared toward lasting change. We look to the rising sun of a new day begun, as we march on until victory is won.
Kenneth Ford, Founder/Director
Descendant Freedmen Alliance of Kansas City (DFAKC)