Allen County Public Library Native and African American Online Resources

allen county public library

The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana is far more than a local, county, state or even regional resource. It’s one of the premiere genealogy libraries in the country and draws researchers from all states and Canada with its very large collection and dedication to genealogists.  One of its best features is that many of their resources are available online.  However, if you ever get the chance to visit, absolutely, do – it’s a wonderful place!

The ACPL publishes a free periodic newsletter, Genealogy Gems, published by Curt Witcher,  that you can subscribe to by going to the website: Scroll to the bottom, click on E-zine, and fill out the form. You will be notified with a confirmation email.

This month’s issue included several research tips and hints about Native American research which I’d like to share with you.  I’m quoting part of an article written by Curt, and I’m inserting instructions that he didn’t include.

Working The Website–Part Two by Curt B. Witcher

Last month, we took some time to explore a number of marque features on We started with the main page, and that is where I would like to start again this month. On the right-hand side, immediately beneath the search boxes for our free databases and our online catalog, one will find a section called “Family History Archives.” This is one “springboard section” I alluded to at the end of my column last month.

This archive section provides one with direct links to copyright-clear materials that have been digitized from the collections of The Genealogy Center. We have digitizing partnerships with both FamilySearch and the Internet Archive. More than 170,000 local and family history publications are available for free use on as a result of this multi-organization cooperative. Thousands of Genealogy Center books are available online through this site. More than 80,000 Genealogy Center books and microfilm are available through the Internet Archive web site, As with FamilySearch, these materials are available for free. One can view the items online, save as PDF documents, and even download to a Kindle.

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Be sure to take advantage of this resource by clicking on “Internet Archive” under “Family History Archives.”  It’s amazing.

internet archive

Just take a look at the most downloaded items last week.

internet archives most downloaded

The archives are searchable by key word.

Appreciating the challenges of African American and First Nations/Native American research, The Genealogy Center offers two gateways for those interested in these areas of research. The African American Gateway is organized by states, regions, countries outside the United States, and subjects. Within each area, one will find a significant collection of relevant websites along with a comprehensive list of Genealogy Center resources for the specific state, region, country, or subject in which one is interested. There are nearly 10,000 Internet sites categorized in this gateway. Using this gateway is a good way to quickly access pertinent materials to advance one’s research.

To find the Native American and African American gateways, click on “Databases” at the top of the page on the blue bar.

genealogy center

You will then see the options for both the African and Native Gateways under the “Databases and Files” section.

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The Native American Gateway is organized a bit differently. The first link in this gateway is to short guide on how to begin doing Native American research. Whether just starting or continuing this type of research, taking a quick look at this outline may be quite beneficial.

genealogy center 3

The rest of the links on the left-hand side of main gateway webpage are quick access points to The Genealogy Center collection. The “Microtext Catalog” link takes one to a table that lists all Native American materials in this format. The table begins with a listing of general or multi-tribe materials followed by an alphabetical list of tribe-specific materials. The “Genealogy Center Catalog” link takes one directly to a search screen where one can enter a tribe name, surname, or geographic location to get results specific to The Genealogy Center collection. Under the “Collection Bibliography” link, one will find the additional links of “Tribes,” “Locations,” and “General.” The “Tribes” and “Locations” links are likely the most useful as one can find Genealogy Center-specific materials on more than 150 tribes as well as U.S. states and regions as well as Canada and Mexico. Like the many other snapshots continually updated by Center staff, the Native American snapshot contains major indices and research works to assist one in conducting this challenging research. Further, there are specific materials listed for eight major tribes.

On the right-hand side of the Native American Gateway main page, researchers will find links to “Websites,” “First Nations of Indiana,” “Indian Census Records,” “Cherokee Records,” and “National Archives Guides.” The “Websites” list and “First Nations of Indiana” are not intended to be comprehensive but rather to provide one with some major sites that can offer both solid info and links to other web resources. The “Indian Census Records” section provides several dozen links to important information about First Nations’ enumerations–where they can be found, how to get access them, and how to use that data they contain. The “Cherokee Records” link takes one to the National Archives’ website, “The Dawes Rolls (Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory).” More links will be added to this site in the future. This gateway is rounded-out with links to three significant guides to National Archives and Records Administration guides.

Posted in Cherokee, Research, Resources | 1 Comment

Married in the Manor and Custom of the Time

Primus Tyler was a slave, bought by the Quakers and freed. You can read the whole story on Lisa Henderson’s blog, Fourth Generation Inclusive.

I’ve excerpted a piece here from a letter where Primus describes the marriage customs of an earlier time. Ever wonder why you can’t find your ancestor’s marriage – these types of customs might be the reason. Those enslaved couldn’t marry legally, and those in a mixed race marginalized community probably couldn’t afford the price of the license, if they were allowed to marry. Interracial marriage was prohibited. Native people often fell between the cracks and had their own customs, none of which involved going to the courthouse and obtaining a license.

Catlin Station Ind. Mar 24th 1869

Mr Harlan Hamlin, Indianapolis

Dear Sir, Inclosed you will please find a bill of sale conveying me from Elizabeth Edwards of North Carolina to James Siler of Indiana and on the same bill under the hand of the said Siler is a writing relinquishing all claims and demands on me to Elizabeth Tyler my wife showing conclusively that the facts was known & recognized by those of that day familiar with the class. With regard to living witness I don’t suppose I can produce any from they being advanced in age. I have outlived all those that was present at the time I was married according to the manor and custome of such persons in the old times and old Country which was simply to prepare a supper invite in the friends and at the proper time the groom & bride took their places at the ends of the table facing each other after supper the parties was considered duly married and was recognized by the law when not conflicting with the interest of the masters.

/s/ Primus Tyler

Posted in North Carolina, Slaves | 1 Comment

Matching DNA of Living Native Descendants to DNA of Native Ancestors

dna strandsAs most of my subscribers know, I also author the blog.  Recently, the ability for currently living people who have taken an autosomal DNA test from either Family Tree DNA (who I recommend), 23andMe or Ancestry can download their results file and compare it to the file of a Native American male who lived in present day Montana about 12,500 years ago and is associated with the Clovis culture.

We call this ancient Native child Anzick.

It was exciting when Anzick’s file was uploaded to the free (contribution) comparison site, GedMatch, because it allows anyone to compare their autosomal DNA to his.  The results of doing this have produced some real surprises, and I’ve written several articles about utilizing that DNA matching ability, the resulting discoveries and what it all means.

Here’s a list of the articles.  Enjoy!

Utilizing Ancient DNA at GedMatch

Analyzing the Native American Clovis Anzick Ancient Results

New Native Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups Extrapolated from Anzick Match Results

Ancient DNA Matches – What Do They Mean?

Ancient DNA Matching – A Cautionary Tale

Posted in Anzick, Clovis, DNA, Montana | 5 Comments

Ring Found in Indian Grave Inscribed “Think of Mary”

ring found in indian grave

Charlotte News, Charlotte, NC, Sunday, July 3, 1921

“There has been one incident in my life that has fascinated me for years,” declared T.J. Saulter, traveling sales man of Norfolk, Va, who was in Charlotte Saturday.

“My pet hobby is collecting Indian relics.  Ever since I was a boy I loved to roam over fields in which relics could be found.  I have a splendid collection which I have added to for years.

About 19 years ago I had a friend who lived in the country near the Chowan river, in the eastern part of North Carolina.  He was also interested in Indian relics.  One day I received a letter from him, telling me that he had discovered a queer looking mound near a large swamp on the banks of the river.  He stated that he believed it to be the grave of an Indian of the Tuscarora tribe.  This tribe used to roam on the banks of the Neuse and Tar river mostly but many of them had small settlement on other North Carolina rivers also.  They suffered severe losses in battle about 1713 and the remnant of the tribe joined the Five Nations of Indians making what was known as the Six Nations.  Their history is interesting and I was enthused over the idea of opening the grave.

I reached the home of my friend a few days later.  We had some difficulty locating the mound as it was well in a swamp covered with underbrush and briers.  We carried a pick axe and a shovel.  We finally stumbled across it.  In appearance it was merely a place where the earth was a foot or so higher than the ground around it.  Several bushes and a small tree were growing up on it.

The work of digging down into the mound held us with enchantment.  We knew not what we might unearth.  We were both silent as we worked.

We dig down probably five feet when I struck some hard object with my pick.  I quickly took my hands and scratched the dirt away from around it.  It was an Indian tomahawk, beautifully made.  We knew then that it as an Indian grave.  We found several pieces of bone, some arrowheads and a pipe made of some kind of green stone.  We searched a good while longer and finding nothing else, we were just beginning to stop work when I noticed an object of some kind protruding from the loose dirt in the hole.  I snatched it up.  It was no Indian relic.  It was a ring set with a small dull red stone of some kind.

When I examined it more carefully, I saw that it was gold.  I took my handkerchief and rubbed it for some time to brighten it up.  I chanced to glance inside of the gold band then and there was engraved there in tiny English letters the words, “Think of Mary.”  In appearance it looked to be a man’s ring, although the design was different from any I ever saw.  I later showed it to a jeweler who told me the stone was a ruby.  The ring had evidently been worn much, for the inscription inside was barely legible and the entire ring worn considerably.

How it got in that grave will always be a mystery.  No one will ever solve it.  It is reasonable to supposed that the ring was given to some man from [the] old country by his sweetheart left behind when he came to the new world to prepare a place for her.  Possible he was killed by the Indian, who was later buried with the ring which he had taken from the white man’s finger.  At any rate, there is a weird history of some kind attached to the ring.  I have it still and I don’t think money would make me part with it.”

Hat tip to Chris for this article.

Posted in North Carolina, Tuscarora | 13 Comments

When Redmen Aren’t Red Men

I’m always grateful when one of our readers send me original Native documents with names.  In this case, hat tip to Yvonne for sending me this information about the Onieda Tribe #88, Improved Order or Redmen, also called the Independent Order of Redmen from Staunton, Va.

Yvonne found this suit at the Virginia archives in the Chancery suits for Augusta Co., VA.

redmen chancery

On November 1, 1894, the suit states that a group of men formed an unincorporated voluntary association called the Oneida Tribe #88, who purchased, then leased space in a building to other groups, one of which was suing them.

redmen chancery2redmen chancery3redmen chancery4

First, I found it odd to find Oneida in Virginia, and second, the number 88 threw me.  I read through the first few pages of the document, shown above, and then I decided to see what I could find about this tribe.  What I found was shocking.

The Independent Order of Red Men weren’t Indians at all, although many of their rituals were indeed based on those of Native Americans.  They were white men who formed a fraternal organization by that name.

The Improved Order of Red Men traces its origin to certain secret patriotic societies founded before the American Revolution. They were established to promote Liberty and to defy the tyranny of the English Crown. Among the early groups were: The Sons of Liberty, the Sons of St. Tammany, and later the Society of Red Men.

Their rituals and regalia are modeled after those used by Native Americans. The organization claimed a membership of about half a million in 1935, but has declined to less than 38,000.

On December 16, 1773, a group of men—all members of the Sons of Liberty—met in Boston to protest the tax on tea imposed by England. When their protest went unheeded, they disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians, proceeded to Boston harbor, and dumped overboard 342 chests of English tea. (See Boston Tea Party.)

However, for the next 35 years, each of the original Sons of Liberty and Sons of St. Tamina groups went their own way, under many different names. In 1813, at historic Fort Mifflin, near Philadelphia, several of these groups came together and formed one organization known as the Society of Red Men. The name was changed to the Improved Order of Red Men in Baltimore in 1834. In the late 18th century, social and benevolent Tammany Societies, named after Tamanend, were formed. The most famous of these was New York City’s Society of St. Tammany, which grew into a major political machine known as “Tammany Hall.” Around 1813, a disenchanted group created the philanthropic “Society of Red Men” at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia. From this, the “Improved Order of Red Men” was later formed as a working man’s drinking group similar to the Odd Fellows fraternal organization.

In 1886, its membership requirements were defined in the same pseudo-Indian phrasing as the rest of the constitution:

“ Sec. 1. No person shall be entitled to adoption into the Order except a free white male of good moral character and standing, of the full age of twenty-one great suns, who believes in the existence of a Great Spirit, the Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and is possessed of some known reputable means of support.”

The restriction to white males remained until 1974 when the “all white” clause was eliminated.

The Order has a three tiered structure. Local units are called “Tribes” and are presided over by a “Sachem” and a board of directors. Local meeting sites are called “Wigwams”. The state level is called the “Reservation” and governed by a “Great Sachem” and “Great Council” or “Board of Chiefs”. The national level is the “Great Council of the United States”. The Great Council consists of the “Great Incohonee” (president), and a “Board of Great Chiefs”, which includes the “Great Senior Sagamore” (first vice-president), “Great Junior Sagamore”, “Great Chief of Records” (secretary), “Great Keeper of the Wampum” and “Prophet” (past president). The headquarters of the Order has been in Waco, Texas, since at least 1979.

So, of your family tells you that your male ancestor was a member of an Indian tribe, it may well be true, but it may not be the kind of tribe you had in mind.


Posted in Fraternal Organizations, Oneida | 3 Comments

Chief Big Head, Standing Rock, Dakota Territory

big head

A G.W. Scott cabinet card photograph of Chief Big Head, a Sioux Indian, taken between 1880-1890 in North Dakota.

In the records of Indian Chiefs and Visitors to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, we find a listing for Big Headed, Dakota Chief.  I cannot find any references to Big Headed, but there are two Chief Big Heads that are from the Dakota Territory.  The school was open from 1879 to 1918, so Big Headed or Big Head would have visited or attended during that time.

Chief Big Head, Pahtanka or Nasula-Tanka was born about 1838 and died in 1889.

Big Head, the head chief of the Cut Head band of the Yanktonais, was born in the winter called Wičhapi Okhičamna, the Moving of the Stars and the time of the great smallpox year called Wičahaŋhaŋ.  In this year the stars did not fall to the earth as they did in 1834 and ’37, but the movement of the stars went on in the heavens with flashes and great disturbances all during the night. This is said to have happened in 1830, according to the record of Little Dog, a Huŋkpapȟaya.

Big Head, commonly called Pažipa, was influential in his band. He had good judgment, was kind and truthful. He born in Minnesota.  He had 25 families and lodges in his camp. The Yanktonais lived in the Dakota Territory east of the Missouri River, east to the Misapplies and North to the Apple Creek Valley which they considered their homeland.

Big Head (Pahtanka or Nasula-tanka, which means Big Head or Big Brain), son of a Yanktonais Chief with the same name and his wife Turns Back (ca. 1814), was born about 1838.  The 1858 treaty with the Yanktons (they had agreed to a massive land cession of 11 million acres, nearly 23 percent of the present state of South Dakota) infuriated the Lakotas and Yanktonais. This land cession directly affected the Yanktonais, whose primary bison hunting grounds were east of the Missouri River. At Fort Pierre, Lakotas demanded that the federal government revoke the 1858 treaty and stop the Yankton treaty payments. Further up the river, Upper Yanktonai chief Big Head (father), who had a reserved attitude toward the whites, refused the treaty and to accept treaty annuities.  He, accompanied by eighty warriors, sharply informed Indian Agent Alexander H. Redfield that the Yanktons had no authority to cede these lands, for they belonged to all Sioux.

In 1863, the older Big Head and the Yanktonais were involved in the punishment campaign following the Minnesota Uprising. He survived and was captured at the Massacre of White Stone Hill located near Kulm, North Dakota the following year. Chief Big Head and Chief Two Bears with other survivors were taken to Fort Randall, South Dakota and held prisoner for two years.

On 3 September 1864, they were engaged in the Battle of Whitestone Hill, where General Alfred Sully surrounded a Sioux hunting encampment, containing some 500 lodges, mainly Yanktonais under the leaders Two Bears, Little Soldier, and Big Head and Hunkpapa under their leader Black Moon. Some Santee were also present. Sully attacked the Sioux and massacred mostly women and children because the men were out hunting. Then Sully rounded up the friendly bands of Little Soldier and Big Head, about 30 men and 90 women and children in all, who were taken as prisoners of war to Crow Creek Agency, where many died from starvation. Some Winter Counts report the death of a Dakota called Big Head, who was taken prisoner by soldiers. This must have been the older Big Head.

After the death of his father, the son took the name Big Head. Big Head and his band were captured by General Sully at White Stone Hill. They were brought down to Old Fort Sully and, after the Treaty of 1868, he and part of the Cut Head bands were placed at Standing Rock, Dakota Territory. Remnants of the bands of Cut Heads can be found at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota; Poplar, Montana; and Crow Creek, South Dakota. During the battle of White Stone Hill, Big Head became separated from his wife and was reported killed. She had a small son. Later, she became the wife of Waanataŋ or Charger, a Mnikowožu chief. When a reunion of the nations took place, Mrs. Big Head saw her former husband alive and well at a dance. She told Waanataŋ she wished to return to her former husband. Waanataŋ felt pretty bad but acted the man. He loaded her horses with costly presents and leading a horse for a present to Big Head, he led the horse of his wife and returned her to Big Head. The chiefs shook hands and became loyal friends.

On October 20 and 28, 1865, the U.S. made treaties with Hunkpapa and Yanktonai at Fort Sully. The signers included Two Bears, Big Head, Little Soldier, and Black Catfish. In these treaties, the Indians agreed to cease all hostilities with U.S. citizens and with members of other tribes. They also agreed to withdraw from overland routes through their territory. They accepted annuity payments, and those who took up agriculture would receive implements and seed.

Three years later, in 1868, Big Head was a signatory to the “Fort Laramie Treaty,” which was actually signed at Fort Rice by the Yanktonais. In 1868, he was a signatory to the Fort Laramie Treaty. In the following year, the Grand River Agency (moved and renamed Standing Rock in 1874) was established.

According to Edward S. Curtis, more or less all Yanktonais lived on reservations by 1869. The 1874 Census revealed the following populations at Grand River Agency: Upper Yanktonai, 1,406; Lower Yanktonai, 2,607; Hunkpapa, 1,556; and Blackfeet, 871.  But many Sioux, who were still living in the un-ceded lands as provided in the 1868 Treaty, were uncounted.

Big Head and his Cut Head band still roamed the upper Missouri and even the Milk River region in Montana in the 1870s. His band settled – at least for a time – at the Fort Peck/Poplar River Agency.  In 1872, Big Head was one of the Yanktonais leaders who travelled to Washington.

The Yanktonais head chiefs – Medicine Bear, Black Eye, Two Bears, Big Head, and others – wanted to negotiate the acceptance of their wish to stay in Montana at the new Milk River Agency (later Fort Peck). In the end they failed.

In 1876, there were only a few Yanktonais in the battle of the Little Bighorn. It is known that a small group of Yanktonais from Fort Peck – Thunder Bear, Medicine Cloud, Iron Bear, Long Tree, and some women – joined Sitting Bull’s camp to hunt and trade. At that time, the Yanktonais skirmished a lot with tribes like the Gros Ventre, the Assiniboines, and the Crows.

In 1876, Big Head was in the Battle of Little Bighorn (Greasy-Grass). After the Battle; he took refuge in Grandmother’s country (Canada) with other chiefs and bands. According to oral history, Sitting Bull told the chiefs to scatter in their return to the United States so they would not be killed prior to his surrender. In the early 1880s, Big Head, who called himself Felix Big Head, moved to Standing Rock, where he had 17 lodges and 168 people under his care in the northern part of the reservation .

In 1882, U.S. Senator George F. Edmund initiated a law that declared polygamy a crime.

In the 1885 Standing Rock Ration List, Chief Big Head is shown to have 17 lodges and 168 people:

  • Natan Hinape (Comes Out Attacking)
  • Wakua Mani (Walking Hunting)
  • Itoye Tate (Wind In His Face)
  • Waciyanpi (Trusting In)
  • Tutiyopa Maza Win (Her Iron Door)
  • Wakeya Win (Carries the Lodge)
  • Naicijin (Stands to Defend Himself)
  • Mato Witko (Fool Bear)
  • Tatanka Ohitika (Brave Bull)
  • Anpetu Wakan (Holy Day)
  • Anpetu Rota (Grey Day)
  • Mato Sabiciye (Bear Makes Himself Black)
  • Sunka Wakantuya (High Dog)
  • Nakpa Ogi (Brown Ears)
  • Tatanka Wakute (Shoot the Buffalo)
  • Nakpa Duta (Bed Ears)
  • Tatanka Wanbdi (Bull Eagle)
  • Tunka Iyotake (Sitting Boulder)
  • Horpi (Nest)
  • Cokab Iyaye (Goes In the Middle)
  • Takana Duta (Red Swift)
  • Maka Okyan (Flying In the Earth)
  • Ota Apapi (Struck Plenty)
  • Kangi Ciqana (Little Crow)
  • Rante Maza (Iron Cedar)
  • Maza Kutepi (Shoot the Iron)
  • Wanbdi Watakpe (Charging Eagle)
  • Ti Wakan (Holy House)
  • Atateya Mani (Walking Wind)
  • Iyutanyan (Mrs. Galpin)
  • Wakiyan Duta (Red Thunder)
  • Keze (Barb of Fish Hook)
  • To wan ota (His Many Arrows)
  • Wasu Rota Win (Grey Hail)
  • Upi Kdeska (Spotted Skirt)
  • Wahacanka Wakan (Holy Shield)
  • Toka Ole (Hunts the Enemy)
  • Kankeca Supa (Black Woodpecker)
  • Hitunkasan Cante (Weasel Heart)
  • Tokicuwa (Warrior)

sioux reservation 1888

Sioux Reservation in 1888, above – Standing Rock near the top right.

On the Standing Rock Reservation and under the tutelage of Agent McLaughlin, Big Head, who had evolved into one of the main Standing Rock leaders, belonged to the strong supporters of the Edmunds plan.  Taking part in reservation politics, Big Head got his hair cut and, in 1888, he went to Washington, dressed in a suit, as part of the Sioux delegation to negotiate the cession of Sioux lands. On this occasion (and with the support of Agent McLaughlin) the Sioux successfully fought against the selling out of reservation land.

1888 sioux delegation

At the taking of their picture Chief Big Head’s hair was cut and he dressed in this suit as part of the delegation from Standing Rock that went to Washington D.C. in 1888.

1888 standing rock delegation

That would change in 1889. When the new Crook commission convened its hearings at Standing Rock in July 1889, Gall, John Grass, Mad Bear, and Big Head were prepared to speak out against the second Sioux bill as they had in Washington. But Major McLaughlin had switched positions and, in private conversations, he turned over Grass, Mad Bear, and Big Head.

1888 standing rock delegation2

Grass, “with the facility of a statesman,” argued convincingly on behalf of the new position. Gall, Mad Bear, and Big Head gave shorter but likewise influential speeches on behalf of the 1889 Sioux bill, which enraged Sitting Bull. These leaders compelled many undecided agency Indians to vote for the new bill. Gall and Mad Bear later regretted their decision.

Major James McLaughlin, Indian Agent at Standing Rock for a time, thought very highly of him as a man. During the negotiation of the treaty of 1889, Big Head worked hard among his people to hold on to their land and not dispose of any more of it in treaties until the previous treaties were fulfilled.

The commissioners from Washington, consisting of Governor Foster of Ohio, Captain Pratt, and General Crook, all threatened war if the Indians did not consent.  Big Head said:

“It is no use to talk about the old times.  The Government has made treaties two or three times and the Commissioners never tell lies.  They told us at Ft. Rice (1868) that they would give every family a yoke of oxen, a cow, a wagon and other things and said nothing about land being selected. The interpreter who explained the treaty to us never told us that way. The Commissioners who were here last fall were asked for the same things and for light wagons, too, and they said they would ask the Great Father for them.  We would like to hear about this last treaty. The Government sends more annuities and provision to other Indians than it does to us because the others are mean and bad. At Cheyenne they have more goods and supplies.  An Indian who came from there told me this.  He may have fooled me, but he told me so. The Indians here did not get enough clothes. One blanket to each man and woman is not enough for the winter time. We don’t know yet which we would prefer—blankets or citizen’s clothes. I suppose we are going to get some working cattle but they are too slow.  We ought to have mules and wagons.  There is no use to ask for horses or ponies as the Government would think we intended to run away with them. One mule and a good cart would be good but we couldn’t haul logs or wood or hay.  We ought to have a strong wagon and a pair of mules. They said all this land of the Indians could be taken by conquest if the Indians did not submit. I was there at that time, and had just returned from Hampton, Virginia the year before the treaty, so could understand both sides, the Indians’ and the whites’.” We have been farming down below (from some seven to fifteen miles south of the Agency on the east side of the river) for many years and we intend to farm there again, but we don’t to go to Cheyenne or Ft. Thompson (Crow Creek), though the Agents and Indians there are trying to get us to go. We have heard this for a long time. I like to hear you talk.  I think you are going to help us.  You don’t allow anyone to buy wood. That’s the way we want it.  The whites below us cut our wood and when the Indians say anything they tell us the land there belongs to the Government. Parkins (in charge of Indian Trader’s Store) sells his wood to the Government too cheaply.  He ought to charge a big price and then we could get a good price, too. We would like to have a Catholic Priest across the river and a school over there.”

They felt opposed to any more treaties. They trusted their chiefs to hold out and not give in to the threats being used in the arguments.  Big Head further stated:

I heard General Crook say,  “This country you want to keep so bad is not all good. About half of it is badlands.”

I heard the crowd murmuring, “Then why do they want it so badly?”

General Crook went on to say they could take this land by conquest and ship all the Indians down south as slaves. This was only eight years after the Indians had surrendered to the United States government. Their guns and horses had been confiscated. The reservation was a semi-arid country with hardly any rainfall and they were depending on the government for rations since all the game was gone. There was nothing left to subsist on, only a few yokes of oxen issued by the government with which to till the soil, but most of these were wild and unmanageable. It seemed to be one of the darkest hours for the Indians. How could there be a war? The Indians had been dispossessed of all their guns and horses and were hemmed in on a half desert reservation. John Grass and Gall, under McLaughlin’s advice, were the first to consent to the conditions of the new treaty. All the head chiefs were taken to Washington where they sullenly sighed away their last hunting grounds, the Badlands, where there was a natural game reserve and where there would always be game. After the return from Washington, the chiefs were down-hearted.

The Indians did not want to dispose of their land. Big Head only lived a month or two after returning and died of grief. Upon his death in 1889, he was buried in the Cannon Ball area.

Father: Big Head the older, (died 1863/64)
Mother: Turns Back (born 1814)

Chief Felix Big Head, Nasula Tanka, born 1838
Spouse: Owl Big Head, Hinhan, born 1838

Son: James Big Head, born 1854
Dau: Jane Big Head, born 1854
Son: Chase Big Head, born 1858
Son: George Big Head, born 1877

Chief Big Head has descendants in Canada and Standing Rock.

Witness: A Hunkpapha Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of the Lakotas  by Waggoner, Josephine

Posted in Dakota, Sioux | 3 Comments

Cherokee Freedmen Rolls

freedman enrollment

Freedmen is one of the terms given to emancipated slaves and their descendants after slavery was abolished in the United States following the American Civil War. In this context, “Cherokee Freedmen” refers to the African-American men and women who were formerly slaves of the Cherokee before and after removal to Indian Territory. It includes the descendants of the former slaves, as well as those born in unions between formerly enslaved or enslaved African Americans and Cherokee tribal members.

During the American Civil War, the Cherokee who supported the Union abolished the practice of African slavery by act of the Cherokee National Council in 1863. The Cherokee Freedmen became citizens of the Cherokee Nation in accordance with a treaty made with the United States government a year after the Civil War ended.

After their emancipation and subsequent citizenship, the Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants had to struggle to be accepted as a legitimate part of the Cherokee Nation. Some Freedmen have been active in the tribe, voted in elections, ran businesses, attended Cherokee stomp dances, knew Cherokee traditions and folklore, knew the Cherokee language, and served on the tribal council, with several holding district seats.

In the early 1980s, the Cherokee Nation administration amended citizenship rules to require direct descent from an ancestor listed as “Cherokee by Blood” on the Dawes Rolls. The change stripped descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen of citizenship and voting rights unless they satisfied this new criterion. About 25,000 Freedmen were excluded from the tribe.

The controversy surrounding the Freedmen’s tribal status and right continues today.  You can read more about the dispute here.

There were two separate rolls or schedules taken of the Cherokee Freedmen which have been extracted today for surnames.

Wallace Roll of Cherokee Freedmen in Indian Territory – 1890

The digitized document is a schedule of names of Cherokee freedmen created by Special Agent John W. Wallace. Individuals on the schedule were entitled to share with the Shawnee and Delaware in the per capita distribution of $75,000, appropriated by Congress in October 1888, and issued under the supervision of his office. These records are held by NARA’s Textual Archives Service Division Old Military and Civilian Records Unit (Washington, DC).

Kern-Clifton Roll of Cherokee Freedmen – 1897

Census of the Freedmen and their descendants of the Cherokee Nation taken by the Commission appointed in the case of Moses Whitmire, Trustee of the Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation versus the Cherokee Nation and the United States in the Court of Claims at Washington, D.C; the said commission being appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, and Composed of William Clifton, William P. Thompson and Robert H. Kern, this roll being made from the testimony taken before said Commission in the Cherokee nation between May 4th and August, 10, 1896, in accordance with the provisions made and entered in the final decree of record in the above cause. Second, Contesting Freedmen and their Descendants found by this Commission entitled to be enrolled as citizens of the Cherokee Nation, and to share in the distribution of funds found in said decree.

You can read more about the rolls and land records here and find further history here.

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