To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America:
The undersigned, your memorialists, respectfully show that they are residents of the Chickasaw nation, and area “persons of African descent” and were born and bred in the said nation.
They have such interests there as inspire them with an earnest desire to remain residents, and to become citizens of the Nation. There they have families, wives, and children, and property; in fact everything that is dear to them is there; and they would consider it a great hardship to be forced to leave their firesides and to seek new homes.
Your memorialists represent not only themselves, but also that class of persons known in the nation as “persons of African descent” of which class there are about three thousand individuals. We and they have ever been loyal to the Government of the United States, and expect ever so to remain.
In order the more plainly to lay before your honorable bodies our cause and our claims, we call attention to the 3rd article of the Treaty between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and the United States, of April 1866, which reads as follows:
Art. 3 The Choctaws and Chickasaws in consideration of the sum of $300,000 hereby cede to the United States the territory west of the 98th degree west longitude, known as the leased district, provided that the said sum shall be invested and held by the United States at an interest no less than five percent, in trust for the said nations, until the legislatures of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations respectively shall have made such laws, rules and regulations as may be necessary to give all persons of African descent, resident in the said nations at that date of the Treaty of Fort Smith, and their descendants, heretofore held in slavery among said nations, all the rights, privileges and immunities, including the right of suffrage, of citizens of said nations except in the annuities, moneys and public domain claimed by or belonging to said nations respectively; and to give to such persons who were residents as aforesaid, and their descendants, forty acres each of the land of such nations on the same terms as the Choctaws and Chickasaws, to be selected on the survey of the said land, after the Choctaws, and Chickasaws, and Kansas Indians have made their selections as herein provided; and immediately on the enactment of such laws, rules and regulation, the said sum of $300,000 shall be paid to the said Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in the proportion of three-fourths to the former, and one-fourth to the latter—-less such sum at the rate on one hundred dollars per capita, as shall be sufficient to pay such persons of African descent before referred to as, within ninety days after the passage of such laws, rules, and regulations, shall elect to remove and actually remove from the said nations respectively. And should the said laws, rules and regulations not be made by the legislatures of the said nations respectively, within two years from the ratification of this treaty, then the said sum of three hundred thousand dollars shall cease to be held in trust for the said Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, and be held for the use and benefit of such said persons of African descent as the United States shall remove from the said territory, in such manner as the United States shall deem proper–The United States agreeing within ninety days from the expiration of the said two years, to remove from said nation all such persons of African descent as may be willing to remove; those remaining or returning after having been removed from said nation to have no benefit of said sum of three hundred thousand dollars, or any part thereof, but shall be upon the same footing as other citizens of the United States in the said nations.
From the terms and language of this clause of the treaty, it is quite evident that the leading desire and intention of the Government of the United States was the complete enfranchisement of the “persons of African descent” in the said nations. Besides the emphatic words used in this clause touching the “laws rules and regulations necessary” etc, we have the additional assurance from the very date of the instrument, 1866, that this enfranchisement of the Negro was the leading design of this clause; because at that time the Government was especially looking to the accomplishment of that event in all its enactments touching the colored race, as well as its amendments to the Constitution of the United States. If this be the true intent and meaning of this clause of the treaty we respectfully suggest the question: Will the Government of the United States quietly allow itself to be thwarted in this beneficent design?
The Chickasaw Indians, have up to this time, neglected and refused to pass the “laws, rules and regulations” enumerated in the said clause of the treaty. In 1877, after the lapse of eleven years from the date of said treaty, the Legislature of the Chickasaw Nation passed the following statute:
AN ACT CONFIRMING THE TREATY OF 1866
Section 1: Be it enacted by the Legislature of the Chickasaw Nation, that whereas a treaty was concluded at Washington City, on the 28th of April 1866, by commissioners duly appointed on the part of the Chickasaws and Choctaws and the United States Government, which treaty was ratified with amendments by the United States Senate, and confirmed by the President, The Chickasaw Legislature does hereby give its assent and confirm the said treaty and amendments made by the Senate of the United States.
Section 2: Be it further enacted, That the Chickasaw Legislature does hereby give its assent to the sectioning and allotment of the lands in severalty under the system of the United States, as provided of in the treaty of April 1866 and the President of the United States is hereby requested to cause the same to be done as soon as may be practicable.
Section 3: Be it further enacted, That the provisions contained in article 3d of the said treaty, giving the Chickasaw Legislature the choice of receiving and appropriating three hundred thousand dollars therein named for the use and benefit, or passing such laws, rules and regulations as will give all persons of African descent certain rights and privileges, be and it is hereby declared to be the unanimous consent of the Chickasaw legislature, that the United States shall keep and hold said sum of three hundred thousand dollars for the benefit of this aid to Negroes; and the Governor of the Chickasaw Nation is hereby requested to notify the Government of the United States that it is the wish of the Legislature of the Chickasaw Nation that the Government remove the said Negroes beyond the limits of the Chickasaw Nation, according to the requirements of the 3rd article of the treaty of April 18th 1866.
Approved October 17th 1877 B.F. Overton, Governor
This act reflects the settled design and purpose of the Chickasaw Nation not to enfranchise the said “person of African descent” named in said treaty. They have refused and neglected, and still refuse and neglect to pass such laws. Besides the evidence of the settled purpose of the Chickasaws, as found in this statute, we are enabled to state as a fact that on several occasions during pending elections, applications have been made at the polls of voting, to be allowed to vote, by persons of “African descent” yet these applications though made by some of the oldest and most respectable of such persons—persons born and bred in the nation—-have been invariably rejected.
In the aforesaid act of their legislature, as it appears to us, the Chickasaws show a disposition to shuffle off upon us, in lieu of our rights the money, this, $300,000 or a part of it; and to thus absolve themselves from their obligations under the treaty; and we feel obliged here to assert that we do not consider ourselves in any way entitled to any portion of said money, as matters now stand; and we protest most solemnly against the bartering of our rights and privileges for money.
The Removal of the Negroes From The Nation
The stipulation of the Government of the United States, to remove from the nations persons of African descent, applies only to such persons as might elect to move. In this connection we take occasion to say, that although sixteen years have passed away since the ratification of this treaty yet no persons of African descent have so elected to remove. And it is our belief that the United States Government has not removed from the nation any persons of African descent under this stipulation.
Now, when the Government agreed to this stipulation in the treaty, to remove from the nation such of the persons of African descent as might elect to remove, and such as were “willing” to remove, the Government asserted implicitly that it would not remove any persons of African descent, who did not so elect to remove; for an agreement reached in diplomacy is supposed to embody the ULTIMATA of the treating parties.
We assume, then, that the Government is pledged, by this treaty, not to remove any of the persons of African descent from the nations who are not willing, or who do not elect to remove; and that the Government has thus graciously given us the privilege of making or not making this election.
For many and grave reasons we do not elect to remove. As natives, we are attached to the localities of our birth and childhood; as men, we are attached to the people among whom we have been born and bred; we like the Chickasaws, as friends; and we know by the experience of the past that we can live with them in the future in the close union of sincere fraternity and brotherly love. It is for these and other grave considerations, that we do earnestly desire to be freemen in fact as well as in theory; for without the elective franchise–a free vote–there can be no real liberty. As things now exist so far as the persons of African descent in the nations are concerned the word freedmen is a sham.
In this connection we here call attention to the latter clause of the said 3rd article of the treaty of 1866:
“And should the said laws, rules, and regulations not be made by the legislatures of the said nations respectively within two years from the ratification of this treaty, then the said sum of three hundred thousand dollars shall cease to be held in trust for the said Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and be held for the use and benefit of such said persons of African descent as the United States shall remove from the said territory, in such manner as the United States shall deem proper—the United States agreeing, within ninety days from the expiration of the said two years, to remove from said nations all such persons of African descent as may be willing to remove; those remaining or returning after having been removed from said nations to have no benefit of said sum of three hundred thousand dollars, or any part thereof, but shall be on the same footing as other citizens of the United States in the said nations.”
Now we’re respectfully submitting that, having remained unmolested in the nation for sixteen years after the ratification of this treaty, and having not elected to remove, we are, in the very terms of this clause of the treaty placed upon the same footing as other citizens of the United states in the said nations.
It is true that we are debarred, in so many words from any benefit in the said sum of $300,000, but we do not set up any claims to said money or to any part thereof. We cheerfully abandon every claim which we may or might have had in the said money. But notwithstanding this very clear stipulation, and the legitimacy of the conclusion we draw from it as connected with the facts and the lapse of time, we are still ignored as citizens, and are so likely to remain, without the gracious intervention of the Government of the United States on our behalf.
The $300,000—What is the Status of it?:
We have no accurate knowledge as to whether or not any portion of this sum of money has been paid in any way to the nations. This question we respectfully submit to the more enlightened understanding of Congress, within whose reach all such information lies. We are advised, however, and so state our belief, that some part of this money has been paid to and accepted by the Chickasaws. And we here call attention to the 46th article of the treaty of 1866:
Art 46. Of the moneys stipulated to be paid to the Choctaws and Chickasaws under this treaty for the cession of the leased district and the admission of the Kansas Indians among them, the sum of $150,000 shall be advanced and paid to the Choctaws, and $50,000 to the Chickasaws, through their respective treasurers, as soon as practicable after the ratification of this treaty, to be repaid out of said moneys or any other moneys of said nations in the hands of the United States; the residue, not affected by any provision of this treaty, to remain in the Treasury of the United States; the residue, not affected by any provision of this treaty, to remain in the Treasury of the United States at an annual interest of not less than five per cent, no part of which shall be paid out as annuity, but shall be annually paid to the treasurer of said nations respectively, to be regularly and judiciously applied, under the direction of their respective legislative councils, to the support of their government, the purposes of education, and such other objects as may be best calculated to promote and advance the welfare and happiness of said nations and their people respectively.
We make no effort to reconcile this 46th clause of the treaty with the 3rd clause. If the Chickasaw have received any of their proportion of this money, then surely, they are under the greater obligation to carry out the stipulations of the 3rd clause, and to enact such “law, rules and regulations as may be necessary to give all persons of African descent, and their descendants heretofore held in slavery among said nations, all the rights privileges, and immunities—including the right of suffrage.”
Citizenship in the Nation By Adoptions and Intermarriage
By the two modes of making citizens in the nations, one by legislative adoption and then other by intermarriage with Chickasaws, there is but little, if any chance for a person of “African descent” to become citizens of the nation. Because
1. The rule upon which they as this legislative adoption reads thus:
“The legislature shall have power by law to admit or adopt as citizens of this nation such persons as may be acceptable to the people at large.
2. The intermarriage of persons of African Descent with Chickasaws is very rare; there may be a few of such cases, but as a general rule, we of African descent do not intermarry with Chickasaws; we intermarry amongst ourselves, and we do not wish to be either forced or induced by any custom, law or power to abandon our social habits of life and fall into new ways.
The Equality of the Laws
In the fourth article of said treaty of 1866, it was stipulated on the part of the nations, “That all laws shall be equal in their operation upon Choctaws, Chickasaws and Negroes, and that no distinction affecting the latter shall at any time be made; and that they shall be treated with kindness and protected against injury.”
We acknowledge with gratitude and pleasure that at the hands of the Chickasaws we have been treated with kindness and protected against injury; nor do we complain that, since the ratification of the treaty, any special law has been made affecting us differently and unequally with the Choctaws and Chickasaws; but at the same time, we repeat here the steady and determined refusal of the Chickasaws to pass the laws rules and regulations heretofore referred to, as stipulated in the third article of the treaty, and it is plain that without such laws, rules and regulations, we cannot enjoy and equality of the laws as they exist amongst the tribes.
Many persons of African descent in the Chickasaw Nation in the late war, who still reside there and on whose behalf we are now appealing, were volunteer soldiers in the late war between the States, and such, did good and honorable service for the Union, and bear upon them to this day the practical marks and scars of war; and we are at liberty at the same time to state that no one of the Chickasaw freedmen took part in the war against the Union.
In thus appealing to the Congress of the United States we disclaim any disposition on our part, as well as on the part of those we represent, to force the tribe into any measures which may be disagreeable to them or violative of their peculiar customs and usages, and we express, the wish earnestly that whatever should be done in the premises may be such as can carried out so as not in any manner to disturb the harmony which has so long existed and which now exists between us and the tribes.
In the seventh article of said treaty “The Choctaws and Chickasaws agree to such legislation as Congress and the President of the United States may deem necessary for the better administration of justice and the protection of the rights of person and property within the Indian Territory. Provide, however, such legislation shall not in any wise interfere with or annul their present tribal organization or their respective legislatures and judiciaries, or the rights, laws privileges and customs of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, respectively.”
Therefore, we pray that the Congress pass such an act as will place us on a footing with the persons, other than the Chickasaws, as are referred to in the following seventh clause of the general provisions of the constitution of the Chickasaw Nation. That is to say:
Section 7:. All persons, other than Chickasaws, who have become citizens of this nation, by marriage or adoption, and have been confirmed in all their rights as such, by former conventions and all such persons as aforesaid, who have become citizens by adoption by the legislature, or by intermarriage with the Chickasaws, since the adoption of the constitution of August 18, AD 1856,s hall be entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities of native citizens. All who may hereafter become citizens, either by marriage or adoption, shall be entitled to all the privileges of native born citizens, without being eligible to the office of governor.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
We the undersigned, are members of the Chickasaw tribe, and we hereby cheerfully endorse the foregoing memorial and recommend that the prayers of the petitioners be granted of consistent with the powers that exist under the said treaty; and we sign this paper as delegates appointed by such of the Chickasaw tribe as are friendly to the prayer of the petitioners.