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Alabama Indians in Texas
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On October 15, 1910, William Loker was appointed commissioner to the Alabama Indians of Texas and instructed October 26 by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to proceed to Livingston, the county seat of Polk County in that State, and to such other places as might be necessary to investigate fully the condition and needs of the Indians mentioned.
Mr. Loker was advised that these Indians were reported in the Federal census of 1890 as being located on Big Sandy Creek, Polk County, upon a tract of 1,280 acres given them by the State of Texas; that they were said also to be civilized and self-supporting; to have a chief and subordinate chiefs; to maintain to a great degree their Indian habits in dress and manners; and to cultivate lands like their white neighbors, for whom they worked on occasion. For his guidance the essential points to be reported upon were given as :
Mr. Loker’s report of December 6, 1910, shows that these Indians, numbering 192 individuals, including men, women, and children, are located 17 miles east of Livingston upon a tract of 1,280 acres of land which the State of Texas, about 1850, deeded to them conditionally free of taxes, but with restriction on alienation.
The report of this official shows also that in two decades these Indians have made marked progress in civilization, and are now on about the same plane in this respect as are their white neighbors; that their old tribal customs have been abandoned; that they speak the English language almost entirely, and that they have adopted the manners and dress of the whites.
With respect to their present economic condition, the investigation shows that these thrifty and steady workers are now self-sustaining more by outside labor on farms, in lumber camps, railroad construction, etc., than by farming the small amount of their available agricultural land. Also they are well clothed and are not in need of any assistance for the winter. They send their children of school age to the public school within their village, and the majority of them are members of the Presbyterian Church located in their midst.
These Indians are subject entirely to the laws of the State and county wherein they reside; they use very little intoxicating liquor, and are reported as being peaceable and law abiding.
About a third of their land, which is held in common, is said to be timbered; 35 per cent is of fair agricultural character, and the remainder of the land is sandy and not fitted for farming.
Their one-story houses, of their own construction, contain two or three rooms, and are fairly comfortable; they raise a small amount of stock, poultry, etc., and cut such timber from their lands as is absolutely needed for building and fuel purposes.
As shown, these Indians derive their greatest revenue from outside lumber industries, and as the supply of timber in that region is rapidly decreasing they must in the near future seek other means of support.
Commissioner Loker reports that while they say they have no claim against the Government, their needs are: (1) More land to cultivate, and (2) a school with manual-training instruction. He adds that if these Indians had about 5,000 acres of land they would be able to compete successfully with their white neighbors in farming and stock raising, and would be able to take cars of themselves in the future.
Report of William Loker, Commissioner, etc., December 6, 1910.
Roll of Alabama Indians rending in the State of Texas. [Post office, Klam, Polk County, Tex. Trading point, Livingston, Tex.]
4 Age is in Months.
19 Twin to 20
20 Twin to 19
36 Age is in Months.
50 Age is in Months.
55 Husband is not Alabama Indian.
71 Age is in Months.
81 Son of No. 80 by first husband, a full-blood Alabama.
95 Age is in Months.
125 Age is in Months.
129 Mother of No. 126.
130 The leading man of this village and about the only one capable of giving early history of these Indians, but he was too ill to be interviewed. Was under care of Dr. Martin, of Knoxmill.
138 This child by first wife; present wife is Caddo Indian.
139 This child by first wife; present wife is Caddo Indian.
140 This child by first wife; present wife is Caddo Indian.
141 This child by first wife; present wife is Caddo Indian.
142 This child by first wife; present wife is Caddo Indian.
143 This child by first wife; present wife is Caddo Indian.
157 Age is in Months.
160 Chief of tribe; is very feeble and quite childish; lives with son 10 miles northeast of village.
167 This family lives about 10 miles north of village on account of head’s employment in lumber mill; have a home within the village.
188 Living with the David family; is a sister-in-law of No. 189 and came from Louisiana to care for children.
189 Seldom at home, being employed at Knox Lumber Co.’s mill about 10 miles from village.
The Alabama Indians residing within the State of Texas number 192 individuals. They are located 17 miles east of Livingston, in Polk County, Tex,, upon a tract of land 1,280 acres in extent, deeded to them by the State of Texas, free of taxes, but which they can not dispose of, about 60 years ago.
These Indians have abandoned all their old customs. In fact they have preserved no history of their people. They use only English names and almost universally speak English. Their manners and dress are as the white people and they live just as their white neighbors.
They farm all of their land that is capable of cultivation, but obtain their living more by working in the lumber industries, upon the railroad construction and section work, and hiring out to the white farmers. They are thrifty people and steady workers.
They have a public school within the village and take full advantage of same; also they have a Presbyterian Church supported by the “East Texas Presbytery,” and the rector’s roster shows the great majority faithful members. Their land is not divided, but they farm for the benefit of all. They are of course subject to the State and county laws, but any disputes within the village are settled by their church committee, and I am told that there is seldom a necessity for action. There is no instance of the civil authorities having been called upon. They are an absolutely civilized and peaceful people and appear to use every means to advance themselves. I am told some of the younger men that go out to the mills to work have used whisky to excess, but strong drink is not a habit among these Indians. They are living in a prohibition country, but am told that even before the county had prohibition these Indians spent very little for liquor.
They live in homes of their own construction and as good as their state of prosperity could command. These homes are one story, but of two and three rooms, and they are comparatively comfortable. They raise for their own purposes chickens, hogs, goats, cattle, and ponies only a small number, but all they can care for.
They dress as well, if not better, than the class of white people they have for neighbors. In particular, I noted the young girls at church. All wore hats and gowns of store make.
Were it possible to assist these Indians toward getting more land and manual training, it is very certain they would take full advantage of the benefits.
These Indians advance no reasons why the Government should give them anything. They do not pretend to have a claim of any sort against the Government, but for some years have understood that Congressman Cooper and others had asked assistance for them and have hoped the Government would increase their land holdings. They are strongly inclined to agriculture, and they believe, as do the white people, that with sufficient land they would be successful farmers and a prosperous people. They are not in prosperous circumstances, but neither are they in want. They are sturdy workers, and as long as the present lumber industries continue they will continue to make a living. It is in the lumber industry that they obtain the greatest part of their revenue. The timber is very rapidly being cut, and when this industry ceases they must seek other means of subsistence. It is their hope and that of all the white people that know anything of them that the Government will assist them to the extent of giving them more land, which would care for their future. The health conditions are better than those of the white people. This may be due perhaps to the fact that most of the white people have located in this part of Texas of late years and the climate is trying. Still these Indians lead regular industrious lives and take the best care of themselves. In sickness they call in the white physicians.
From all information I am able to obtain, advise that there are no other Alabama Indians in Polk County, Tex. There are a few Caddo Indians, not more than a dozen, and most of them are intermarried with these Alabama Indians. Also there are some of the Kickapoo Indians in Polk County. I am told that they are of low degree, have intermarried with the Negroes and are placed in the same class with the Negro. The only other Alabama Indians can learn of are about 100 located in Louisiana. These have been asked to locate here in Texas, but always have declined to consider the proposition. Occasionally a party of Alabamas from Louisiana visit these Texas Alabamas, and while it is admitted they are all of the same tribe the Louisianans do not in the least compare with the Texas Alabamas in point of civilization and advancement. There is now practically no communication between the Texas and Louisiana Alabamas.
It can be said without fear of contradiction that the Alabama Indians residing in Texas are absolutely civilized, have availed themselves of every means of advancing themselves; that they would’ appreciate and profit by Government assistance, and are in every way deserving of any assistance the Government might give them.
For assistance and information rendered, which was of much help in investigating conditions, I am indebted to these persons particularly.
Mr. M. V. Currie, Kiam, Polk County, Tex. Mrs. Currie is the widow of a Presbyterian minister, and with her son is living among these Indians. Mr. and Mr. Currie spent 25 years in mission work among different Indians. Five years they spent with the Creeks, 4 years with the Alaska Indians, and 16 years with this tribe of Alabama Indians. During a period of 10 years Mr. Currie was rector of the Indian church, and Mrs. Currie was the instructor of the Indian school. It was through Mr. Currie’s influence that the East Texas Presbytery established their church for the Indians.
Mrs. Currie is considered their best friend and the greatest worker and authority by both the Indians and -white people. She expresses the opinion that these Alabama Indians are the best she has met with in all her work. Advises that when she first located among them they observed all Indian customs, held their various dances, used their own language, dressed in buckskin clothing of their own make, and did work only sufficiently to obtain a poor living, and spent the great part of time hunting. She considers their advancement very remarkable. She now considers them in every way the equal of the whites and in a degree their superior.
Mr. and Mrs. Caleb W. Chambers, Kiam, Polk County, Tex. Mr. Chambers is present rector of the Indian church and Mrs. Chambers is the instructor of the Indian school. They are now in the eleventh year of service among these Indians, and like Mrs. Currie, are very enthusiastic in speaking of the remarkable advancement of these Indians. Mr. Chambers knows something of agriculture and has been of much assistance in this work with the Indians. He also assists in the school. Mrs. Chambers is a very energetic and capable woman, and besides being a very successful instructor has taught the Indians much in the way of domestic duties. Both Mr. and Mrs. Chambers are held in the highest esteem by these Indians.
Mr. Davis Sylestine, Kiam, Polk County, Tex. Mr. Sylestine is a full-blood Alabama Indian and was born and raised in this village. He speaks English fluently and is a capable man. He has attained of his own efforts the responsible position of “saw filer” in Knox Lumber Mill and is looked upon as among the most trustworthy of the employees. He is a trustee of the church, clerk of the village, and is looked upon as the leader of the younger element of the village.
Capt. Evans, “postmaster,” Livingston, Polk County, Tex. Capt. Evans is the oldest resident, having been in this part of Texas for 40 years, and has known these Indians all of that time. He advises that their advancement has been remarkable and gives them a very high reputation for industry, honesty, and says they have always been peaceable and excellent neighbors.
Mr. Nute Green, Livingston, Polk County, Tex. Mr. Green is connected with M. Stone Co., general merchants, of Livingston. He has been engaged in this line for 25 years in Livingston, and has always been in close touch with these Alabama Indians. He gives them the highest reputation for honesty, sobriety, and industry, and advises that they have always been peaceful and the best kind of neighbors.
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