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Chickasaw Freedmen Find a Home

January 14, 2004

Almanac Transcript

Chickasaw freedmen find a home this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The aftermath of the US Civil War took years and even decades to clean up and sort through. Each state had war related issues to work out including everything from veterans affairs to reconstructing the former Confederacy. For Indian Territory much of the confusion and difficulty arose from the existence of thousands of freed slaves now living within the various Native American communities. For the newly freed slaves much of the confusion came from not knowing exactly to what nation they belonged: the United States or the tribal nation of their previous owners.

Of the five major tribes in what is now Oklahoma the Chickasaw, it seems, had the most difficult time in dealing with these freedmen. Initially the Chickasaws simply wanted to adapt the freedmen into the tribe. Soon after the war, however, African-Americans began migrating into the Chickasaw Nation soon outnumbering the Indians in many areas. Adopting this now large number of freedmen was not considered a viable option by the Chickasaws and legislation to remove all freedmen from the nation made it's way to Washington DC.

The Chickasaw Nation requested in 1866 for the Federal Government to remove the freedmen population. The removal action was agreed to by Washington but red-tape and political bungling slowed the process to a crawl. Seven years later and still waiting the Chickasaw Nation took matters into their own hands. It was in this week, January 11th of 1873 that the Chickasaw Nation officially adopted the freedmen into the tribe. The tribe allocated land for permanent settlement and money to facilitate the action. It wasn't until 1894, twenty-one years after the fact, that the US Government approved of and officially recognized the adoption of the freedmen by the Chickasaws.

By that time the freedmen had settled down on permanent farms and by the standards of the time were considered to be doing quite well. Things didn't fall immediately into place for the Chickasaw freedmen, however. Just as in the rest of the US, ex-slaves were denied civil liberties and forced to fight for various rights. The Chickasaws like many other former slave holding tribes felt threatened by the large number of freedmen living in their nations, and there were countless theories concerning proper legislation for and treatment of the freedmen. For many freedmen of the era January 11th, 1873 stood out as a special day of sorts, it was the day that they were officially adopted as citizens of the Chickasaw Nation and could say at last that they indeed had a home in this world.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.

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