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Indigenous Nations Alliance show a united front at the Millions More Movement in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2005. Photo: Kenneth Muhammad
I can’t just sit here and give you a news story. I am upset! Offended! And I must do something about it. If my first step is getting this article published so the world can know how ignorant and uneducated we have become, then let my words ring bells.
I am a proud Oglala Lakota and Black woman. I understand that the Black community and the Native community are far in distance from each other, but I also understand it was planned that way.
You may ask why? Well, because the Seminole tribe and the Cherokee tribe and many other tribes were once a joined tribe with African slaves. Because Native Americans were here in America first, and the African slaves were forced here. First, the Spaniards, English, Dutch and French tried using Native Americans as slaves, but because the Natives knew the land, they would always run away. So, when the Africans were forced here, some of them would runaway and the Native Americans would help them escape. Families were being developed, communities were being built and when the slave-masters wanted their slaves back, the Black and the Red man were fighting the same enemy.
So what has happened? How come we are not fighting the same enemy anymore? Why are we denying our great-great cousins, aunts, mothers and fathers from joining with the Native tribes? Well, this Devil is a tricky and deceitful being. Everybody has been Willie Lynched—the Black, Red, Brown and the Yellow man. We have been blinded by money—“dead presidents”—who, when they were alive, didn’t care anything about the Red and Black man. We have been hanging on to false promises of Federal funding and grants. Still the Federal Government is still dividing us, by their small pocket change. It is in their plan, too.
Just imagine a place where the clean rivers flow; apples, oranges, peaches, strawberries grow wild. Imagine a place where we are self-governed, making our own laws, making our own money; or trading because we are sovereign.
Imagine a place where our children are not confined to small classrooms, but their educational tools are miles and miles of green grass. Doesn’t it sound beautiful? We once had this, until the Federal government stamped broken treaties and laws to separate the Black and the Red man. We can have this again, but we must know our history because it does repeat itself.
How can the Cherokee tribe deny membership with Freed Slaves? More than 76 percent of voters decided to amend the Cherokee Nation’s constitution to remove the estimated 2,800 Freedmen descendants from the tribal rolls, according to results recently posted on the tribe’s Web site. Black Cherokees stood side by side during the Trail of Tears. This wicked devil doesn’t want the Black man to ever feel like he is belonging to anyone. But the truth is in the pudding. Approximately 90 percent of Black Americans have Native American blood. No matter what they try to do, you cannot deny blood.
We must take this issue head on!! We cannot let these tribal presidents that have one drop of Indian blood in them make racist decisions. Blacks and Native people have been executed, hoodwinked, bamboozled and pillaged. So, I am asking the Cherokee Nation, if you know this, why kick your Brother if he is already down?
All My Relations
(Yo’ Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad is the National Director of the Indigenous Nations Alliance-Millions More Movement. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Editor’s note: The following article is written by Tom Big Warrior, History keeper and Chief of the Traditionalist United Eastern Lenape Nation, who offers insight to the history that has caused the divisions which still exist in Indian Country today.]
As I mentioned before, prior to the Civil War, there were deep divisions in Indian Country. Within the Cherokees, there was a polarization between the slave-owning “Knights” and the anti-slavery “Pins” ( who wore crossed straight pins on their lapels as an identifying symbol). In Kansas Indian Territory, the anti-slavery Lenapes (Delawares) allowed John Brown and his guerrilla fighters to use their reserve as a base area. The Cherokee Strip (between the Cherokee and Lenape reserves) was an outlaw zone where the pro-slavery Missouri “Border Ruffians” operated.
When the five “Civilized Nations” joined the Confederacy, the anti-slavery factions made a “Long March” to the Lenape Reserve in Kansas. This included mostly full-bloods and those with Afrikan blood heritage (including runaway slaves). They did this in the dead of winter and were pursued by Confederate cavalry from Texas and pro-slavery “Knights.” Fighting nearly daily rear-guard actions, the fugitive anti-slavery Indians arrived in Kansas in sorry shape having dumped most of their possessions in flight. Many died as the U.S. government was slow to respond with necessary supplies and provisions.
Nonetheless, the men joined with the Lenape and other Kansas-based Indians in forming the Kansas Indian Brigades and the Black Brigade, which together with White state militia, invaded the Oklahoma Indian Territory and drove out the Confederate forces. As they advanced, their ranks swelled with freed slaves and Indians who switched sides or came out of hiding. They captured Chief John Ross of the Cherokees and sent him off to Washington as a POW. There he buddied up with Lincoln and Eli Parker of the Indian Bureau.
After the war was over, he was restored to power and the Lenapes were forced to give up their Kansas reserve and were incorporated under the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Those who had resisted the Confederacy were put under the same group of mostly White former slave owners whose descenders still dominate Cherokee politics. They still have domination over the Lenape (Delawares) and the dispossessed Freemen.
It is a racial issue, but it is also a class issue, and most fundamentally it is about money and power. There are few full-bloods today. Most look either “White” or “Black.” In the pre-WWI period, poor Black, Indian and White sharecroppers, workers and small farmers became very radicalized. In 1916, the Socialist Party carried three counties and Oklahoma had the largest per capita number of Socialist votes of any state. Thousands joined the multi-racial and socialist-orientated Working Class Union (WCU), the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and Farmers and Laborers Protective Association (FLPA).
When the U.S. entered the war and instituted a draft, the WCU called for an armed uprising that was dubbed the “Green Corn Rebellion.” Thousands of armed sharecroppers gathered on Roasting Ears Hill outside Sasakwa, OK. They were joined by striking miners from Wilburton, OK. Their plan was to gather their forces and march across the South, (picking up like-minded share-croppers and workers as they went), and descend upon Washington to demand Pres. Wilson’s resignation.
Before they got moving, however, they were confronted by a large posse of right-wing, pro-government forces. They dispersed without a fight but the posse went on a witch-hunt, ransacking homes and whipping people with ropes. Some 450 were arrested and many were imprisoned. A statewide reign of terror ensued, and the Socialist Party packed up and left. Thousands fled to the hills or neighboring states.
White racism and reactionary politics is not confined to the “White Indians” of the Cherokee Nation but is deeply rooted in the culture and history of class oppression and class struggle of Oklahoma. It is as deeply rooted as in the “Deep South.” All progressive forces should unite to support the struggle of the “Black Indians” and see it is part of our common struggle for liberation.