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Introduction, Choctaw Mixed Blood

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One of the most controversial areas of American history is that of Indian/white relations and the federal policies, which led to Indian Removal. In the early and middle nineteenth century the United States government embarked upon a program of wholesale government-sponsored emigration of tribes residing within the various states and territories.1 Later called the “Trail of Tears” this official program of tribal displacement was long the focus of American Indian policy and the genesis of the present-day reservation system. Although several northeastern and eastern tribes had been displaced earlier, the removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations (later known collectively as the Five Civilized tribes) from the rich cotton lands of antebellum Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee in the 1820′s and 30′s sparked an emotional debate throughout the United States.

This study will identify a sizable population of Choctaw mixed bloods — coexisting comfortably with the full-blood population — who effectively facilitated the Indian land acquisition policy of the federal government. Leading ultimately to removal, this land policy was designed by President Thomas Jefferson to attract settlers for militia purposes into the contested strategic area of the Old Southwest in the early years of the 19th century. In order to study these individuals in proper context a review of the history of the Old Southwest from about the time of American acquisition of the territory in 1795 to Removal in the 1830s is necessary. By addressing the political and international conditions during this period we can fully appreciate why various events evolved as they did.

One of the major problems in past Removal studies has been the abundance of polemics, which presented an Indian versus white interpretation of the relations between the peoples involved. Although many historians have added immeasurably to our knowledge of Indian/white relations, some coincidentally have perpetuated the myth that the noble savage confronted the greedy, white land grabber in a good-guy versus bad-guy scenario.2 Some have focused on the mind set of the public and of the officials making policy decisions.3 Others have been more understanding of the government policy of forced cessions and eventual removal.4 Conversely, few historians have attempted to study Indian history from the viewpoint of the white countrymen (whites living in Indian country) and their mixed-blood children during this time. Contrary to popular belief, Indians and whites in the Old Southwest normally got along quite well, often intermarried, raised mixed-blood families, and for the most part, respected each other as human beings. Many of the studies of Choctaw Indians have given passing recognition to the fact that intermarriage between whites and Indians existed, but they have not analyzed the extent of that intermixing and its effects, except to acknowledge that some mixed bloods rose to positions of leadership within the tribe.5

Another theory regarding Indian history which has become quite accepted is that land greed was the pervasive motivating force behind Indian cessions, and that government trading posts — known as Indian factories — were created in order to hopelessly ensnare the Native Americans into debts which could only be discharged by ceding land.6 Although a certain amount of American land cupidity did exist, it by no means fully explains the various elements which influenced the earliest treaties from the time of the framing of the constitution until the rigors of the Creek War.

Although advised to sec events from an Indian perspective, students of Indian relations in the formative years of the American government have found very few “Indian” accounts from which to draw analyses. Researchers are severely tested by having to plow objectively through reams of documents written from time government’s viewpoint. But a literate group outside the government and the church did witness and write about events relevant to Indian policy. This group, the white countrymen and their mixed-blood children, often spoke the Indian languages and were just as often acting for the tribes as well as being personally involved in interchanges between the two cultures. This fact offers the student of Indian/American relations an excellent opportunity to understand from a broadened perspective some of what transpired.

These mixed-blood records, however, must be read with careful consideration for the heterogeneous nature of the peoples being studied. There was no prevalent “white” view, just as there was no common Indian or mixed-blood consensus about policy. One finds, as often as not, some Indians and whites on both sides of policy arguments. This is true of all the treaties signed by the Choctaw tribe, even the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 which resulted in the Removal of most of the tribe to Indian Territory.7

This study, therefore, does not attempt to view Indian/American relations from any particular bias. Rather, it discusses and analyzes what occurred between various individuals and functionaries of both peoples, and the perspective is one of understanding the existence of multiple points of view rather than focusing on any one of them.

This study makes liberal use of extant government records, such as the large mass of letters exchanged between federal officials and individuals in Indian country.8 A large percentage of the correspondents from the Indian nations were literate mixed-bloods with the ability to accurately express their views. To see these documents as biased from a government perspective is to misread the evidence on hand: a sizable body of literate mixed bloods, whose views in some cases were antithetical to government desires, lived in Indian country and corresponded frequently with government officials.

Major areas where mixed bloods corresponded with the government included claims for such things as past service in the militia during the War of 1812 and the Creek uprising, damages incurred by the warring Creek Red Stick faction, losses while visiting Washington, D.C. as an emissary from an Indian nation, and various other reasons. Especially important are records pertaining to Choctaw Indian claims and land reservations stemming from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Many “white-sounding” names of mixed bloods appear in these records.9

Another largely untapped source of data about mixed bloods is genealogical records. Although most genealogists spend little time pursuing Indian origins, some do establish kinship to persons proven to be mixed bloods by other criteria. Thus one can prove that many early nineteenth-century Mississippians and Alabamans with surnames such as Folsom, Garland, Pitchlynn, Nail, Leflore, etc., were mixed bloods. Early historical treatments of the area also contain genealogical sketches which aid in identification. Included within these genealogical approaches is the related area of land records and wills, both major sources of information to genealogists.10

Each primary source requires a short explanation in order to understand its strengths and weaknesses when being utilized to identify mixed bloods. The Armstrong Roll was a census taken of the Choctaw nation in 1831 by Major William Armstrong at the direction of the United States government.11 He was directed to ascertain not only numbers, but also improvements to land holdings and amounts of livestock held by the individuals of the tribe. There are two extant versions of this census which differ slightly. Both were searched and data consolidated for a more comprehensive list.

The Halbert roll is a list of Choctaw claimants in the historic case of the Choctaw Nation v. the United States, case #12742, United States Court of Claims, stemming from the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek and was generated by a series of claims which came eventually to be known as the Net Proceeds case. Simply stated, the Choctaw tribe sued the United States for the profits, or proceeds, from sale of their lands in Mississippi, and many individuals traced their post Civil War claims to their ancestors of two generations or more ago. Henry Sales Halbert who had taught at Choctaw schools in Mississippi in the late nineteenth century collected the list of claimants (including individuals removed from Mississippi as well as some of their heirs) known as the Halbert Roll. A copy of this roll can be found at the Alabama Department of Archives and History along with other Halbert papers pertaining to the Choctaw Indians. Since this study mainly concerns mixed bloods the thousands of names of full-blood Choctaws are not included.

The Choctaw Reserves is a compilation of reservations granted to individuals under several articles of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. These documents, in Record Group 75, National Archives, lists both full-blood and mixed-blood reservees as well as their children who also received land reservations under the treaty. The children are divided into groups over and under ten years of age.

Ward’s Register is the infamous partial list of those Choctaws wishing to obtain reservations under the provisions of article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 and remain in Mississippi rather than remove to Indian Territory. Although several hundred people claimed they had registered with William Ward, the federal agent to the tribe, he could produce only a fraction of the names on his “register.” Although several versions of the register are extant, historians have collated the fragments and arrived at ninety-one registrants. The only published collation is in Mississippi Genealogical Exchange, volume 18, and is a valuable document due to the inclusion of numbers of children, identity in many cases as to Indian, white, or mixed-blood status, and the geographical location of the individuals named.

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek contains a long list of individuals receiving land reservations ( Trail of Tears Evaluation )and positively recognizes these people as members of the tribe in a legally binding fashion. Many of these land recipients are elsewhere identified as countrymen or mixed bloods. There can be little doubt that they were accepted as leaders and members of the tribe. The various claims to land and claims for other reasons are found in American State Papers and offer positive identification of mixed bloods in individual cases. They also help pinpoint the location of mixed-blood land holdings.

Identifications were also found in the Records of the Choctaw Trading House as well as in the multitude of letters between the mixed bloods and the government regarding claims. However, mere numbers do little to really explain the role the mixed bloods played in Choctaw society. In order to better understand the nature of the people being discussed in this study and their particular contributions a sample of family groups will be examined in detail. Of the eleven families selected for an in-depth review, some, such as the LeFlores, Juzans, Folsoms, and Pitchlynns, are quite well known, others, such as the Jones, Brashears, Cravat, and Durant families are less famous but were equally involved in tribal government. Others such as the Anderson, Nail, and Frazier families are more obscure and indicate the hazy lack of information representative of most of the mixed bloods. Although some family histories and the inclusive biographical sketches will be more comprehensive than others, the overall information demonstrates the range of data about mixed-blood families in general.

There is also much anecdotal and oral history buttressing the argument that many present-day southern white, black, and “mestizo” groups such as Red Bones, Cajuns, and Creoles, report an Indian heritage of varying quanta. Some have actually pursued and received government recognition as Indian bands. Their documentation, often within the body of government records in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, offers interesting genealogical and historical evidence of mixed-blood enclaves well into the late twentieth century.12

Two categories of identification are utilized in charts and appendices of this study: race and occupation. The racial category is further broken down into Full Blood, Known mixed Blood, Probable mixed blood, Countryman (white man living in Indian country), and Negro. The occupational category is subdivided into Trader and Interpreter.13 In the cases where these categories overlap, priority is given to placing the name in one of the racial categories. If this cannot be done the name is placed in which ever occupational category is applicable. In the cases where these categories overlap, priority is given to placing the name in one of the racial categories. If this cannot be done the name is placed in which ever occupational category is applicable. In some cases the individuals themselves left written affirmation of their mixed blood, or they were so identified by Indian agents and other government officials on the scene.

In order to fix a firm base, a listing of Known mixed bloods is conservatively compiled from censuses and other lists of Indians, and families are grouped by surname. The overwhelming majority of identified mixed bloods did not have Indian-styled names; some did use both name forms and had an Indian name as well as a European-styled one. Because the nature of the records used place all of the names into the general classification of Choctaw or Creek Indian, where no clear evidence exists indicating that the bearers of European-styled names are either Indians or Countrymen it is assumed that they are Probable mixed bloods. For example, the existence of “Indians” with the same surnames of early white traders indicates probably that they are the progeny of those traders. Evidence that the trader visited or lived in the same region as his later namesake is a strong reason to assume a paternal connection and an identity of Probable mixed blood.14 Where it is known that the bearer of such a European name is considered Indian by his peers and observers, he is identified as Indian.15

Since the size of the list of known and probable mixed bloods is so lengthy, it has been placed in Appendix A where individual names can be viewed and compared in relation to each other. Appendix A contains approximately twenty-four hundred names of individuals living in the Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw nations who were either white or mixed blood. Approximately ten percent are non-Choctaw and are included to show patterns of mixed bloods moving within the three nations. Of the total number of names seventeen percent are identified as Known mixed bloods, seventy-two percent are identified as Probable mixed bloods, five percent are identified as Countrymen, five percent are identified as Traders, and one percent are identified as Full bloods.

In order to identify as many mixed bloods as is feasible from existing records, this study utilizes all extant documents such as treaties, claims, congressional records, and official correspondence between the Choctaw tribe and the United States government, which contain tribal names. Therefore, if a name is included in the appendices of this study it is that of a full-blood unless otherwise specified. All the identities of Known or Probable mixed bloods are drawn from this aggregate of tribal lists or otherwise are identified as mixed blood by contemporary resrecord.16 In order to place the database of names contained in the appendices into proper perspective they should be viewed against the more than fifteen thousand Indian-styled names contained in the various Choctaw censuses, claims cases, and other sources.

Another factor is that some mixed bloods more closely followed in the cultural footsteps of their fathers, while others disdained the white man’s ways in favor of tribal customs. Therefore the identification of an individual mixed-blood man or woman does not necessarily indicate that they were pro-American or pro-European, or that they displayed any particular collection of cultural traits. Although many white fathers took an active part in the raising of their children, especially their sons, many others abandoned their progeny to the mother’s side of the family, a practice actually not too different from normal tribal ones.17

There is an obvious possibility that some names placed in the Probable mixed blood category could be those of full bloods, hence the use of the “Probable” intermediate category between full blood and Known mixed blood.18 But there is an equal chance that mixed bloods having Indian names are erroneously excluded. It is assumed that such cases will effectively cancel each other out, especially when viewed against the several thousand names included.

A major goal of this study, the identification of known and probable mixed bloods in the Choctaw nation prior to Removal, is thus addressed mainly in Appendix A. The other aims of showing amity between the mixed-blood and full-blood members of the tribe and the effect of Jeffersonian policies upon both groups are discussed in the context of the histories of the tribe and the leading mixed-blood families living as tribal members. The story of white traders living among and becoming part of the southeastern tribes is an intriguing and little known chapter of American history.

Footnotes

  1. See R. S. Cotterill, The Southern Indians: The Story of the Five Civilized Tribes Before Removal, Civilization of the American Indian Series, number 38, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954), 64 re early reticence of the United States to police Indians inside state boundaries. 

  2. For examples of this polemic, see the following: Charles Hudson’s The Southeastern Indians, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1982), 428; Cotterill, Southern Indians, 146 land greed, 149 re debt, 224 re mixed bloods; Angie Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, Civilization of the American Indian Series, number 6, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961), 37 re intermarriages; Arthur DeRosier, Jr., The Removal of the Choctaw Indians, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1972), 27-8 re debt, and his confusing full bloods with mixed bloods throughout. 

  3. For a good cross section see Robert F. Berkhoffer, The White Man’s Indian (New York: Vintage Books, 1978); Michael Paul Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975); Bernard W. Sheehan, Seeds of Extinction: Jeffersonian Philanthropy and the American Indian (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1973); Wilcomb E. Washburn, The Indian in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1975). 

  4. For the best example see Francis Paul Prucha, “Andrew Jackson’s Indian Policy: A Reassessment,” Journal of American History, 56 (December 1969): 527-39; see also Sheehan, Seeds of Extinction, 276-79, for a study of the broad based forces operating in favor of Indian removal during Jeffersonian times. 

  5. The major sources which touch upon the Choctaw nation include: James Adair, The History of the American Indians, Samuel Cole Williams, ed. (New York: Promontory Press, 1986); W. David Baird, Peter Pitchlynn: Chief of the Choctaws (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972); Robert S. Cotterill, The Southern Indians: The Story the Five Civilized Tribes Before Removal (Norman: University of Oklahoma press, 1954); Horatio B. Cushman, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw & Natchez Indians, Angie Debo, ed. (Stillwater, OK: Redlands Press, 1962); Angie Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961); Arthur DeRosier, Jr., The Removal of the Choctaw Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1972). 

  6. Ronald N. Satz, American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1976), 1; Cotterill, The Southern Indians, 139-65; Debo, Choctaw Republic, 37, 49. 

  7. Compare the signers in Charles J. Kappler, ed. and comp., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 4 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-29), 2: 315-319, to Appendix A. 

  8. The great majority of these communications can be found in National Archives, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, RG 75, microfilm publications M-15, M-16, M-18, M-21, T-58, M-234, M-271, and T-500, which cover letters sent and received by the War Department and other agencies involved in Indian affairs during this period. 

  9. “Claims to Reserves re Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek,” American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States, Indian Affairs (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1832-1861), 8:672-96; another example is Richard S. Lackey, comp., Frontier Claims in the Lower South (New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1977), which deals with claims stemming from the Creek War. Many others can be found in the various volumes of American State Papers, especially Indian Affairs, and Claims. 

  10. The best collection of genealogical data for Choctaw Indians in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is the Lackey collection, McCain Library, University of Southern Mississippi. Some data for Creek Indians is at the same location in the Stout collection. For an interesting and informative discussion of genealogical methodology see Alex Shoumatoff, The Mountain of Names (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985). 

  11. Printout of roll in possession of the author was provided by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians where the roll has been filed on computer. 

  12. The author has worked as a consultant for one such group, the Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians, McIntosh, Alabama, and has anecdotal evidence of several other enclaves in south Mississippi. 

  13. Sec Note in Reference to the Appendices, preceding Appendix A, for a breakdown of codes and abbreviations used in the charts and appendices. 

  14. Although tracing Choctaw mixed blood lineage through the paternal line is difficult because of surname changes over several generations, most documented sons of countrymen and mixed bloods apparently retained their father’s name beyond the time of Removal. 

  15. This study uses a conservative approach to this analysis, but the overwhelming majority of names included in the appendices can reasonably be assumed to be mixed bloods. 

  16. Since there was little chance of gain, monetary or otherwise, in falsely claiming to be of mixed blood, and because no evidence was discovered of such an action, it is assumed that most mixed bloods were sincere when identifying themselves. For the same reason it is assumed that government officials also were honest in their communications assessing mixed bloods. 

  17. Leflore to McKenney, May 5, 1828, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-81, microfilm M-234. 

  18. The category, Probable, is used in the full meaning of the preferred first definition given in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary…, 2nd. ed., (n.p.: Collins World, 1978), p. 1433, probable: “1. likely; that can reasonably be expected or believed on the basis of the available evidence, though not proved or certain.” 


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