Chickasaw Freedmen Find a Home
January 14, 2004
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.