Rights of Mississippi Choctaws in the Choctaw Nation

Memorial Of The Full-Blood Mississippi Choctaws Relative To Their Rights In The Choctaw Nation

APRIL 24, 1902.—Referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs (to accompany amendment to S. 4848) and ordered to be printed.

To the honorable members of the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled:
Your memorialists, full-blood Mississippi Choctaws, speaking the Choctaw language, respectfully submit that on December 24, 1889, the general council of the Choctaw Nation passed the following resolution:

Whereas there are large numbers of Choctaws yet in the States of Mississippi and Louisiana who are entitled to all of the rights and privileges of citizenship in the Choctaw Nation; and
Whereas they are denied all rights of citizenship in said States; and
Whereas they are too poor to immigrate themselves into the Choctaw Nation: Therefore,
Be it resolved by the general council of the Choctaw Nation assembled, That the United States Government is hereby requested to make provisions for the emigration of said Choctaws from said States to the Choctaw Nation. (Eighth report Dawes Commission, 115.)

By the treaty of 1866 the protection of our rights was guaranteed in article 13, as follows:

ARTICLE 13. The notice required in the above article shall be given, not only in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, but by publication in newspapers printed in the States of Mississippi and Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama, to the end that such Choctaws and Chickasaws as yet remain outside of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations may be informed and have opportunity to exercise the rights hereby given to resident Choctaws and Chickasaws: Provided, That before any such absent Choctaw or Chickasaw shall be permitted to select for him or herself, or others, as hereinafter provided, he or she shall satisfy the register of the land office of his or her intention, or the intention of the party for whom the selection is to be made, to become bona fide resident in the said nation within five years from the time of selection; and should the said absentee fail to remove into said nation and occupy and commence an improvement on the land selected within the time aforesaid, the selection shall be canceled, and the land shall thereafter be discharged from all claim on account thereof. (Ibid, 117.)

Judge W. H. H. Clayton, United States judge for the central district of Indian Territory, in his opinion on the Jack Amos case, made the following decision:

I am disposed to the opinion, however, and will so hold that the descendants of the Mississippi Choctaws, by virtue of the fourteenth article of the treaty of 1830, are entitled to all of the rights of Choctaw citizenship, with all of the privileges and property rights incident thereto, provided they have renounced their allegiance to the sovereignty of Mississippi by moving into the Choctaw Nation in good faith, etc. (Ibid, 116).

Judge Clayton held in the E. J. Horne case as follows:

That all Mississippi Choctaws and their descendants were entitled upon their removal to the Choctaw Nation to all the privileges of a Choctaw citizen, except to the right to participate in their annuities. This right of citizenship being conferred by the treaty, no law afterwards enacted by the Choctaw council can deprive them of that right because it would be in conflict with the treaty which confers that right to them and their descendants, without reference to the quantity of Indian blood. If they are descendants of Choctaw ancestors, it is sufficient. (Ibid, 118.)

This decision by Judge Clayton was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States, October term, 1898, May 15, 1899. (Ibid, 197.)

Congress on June 7, 1897, directed the Dawes Commission to examine and report to Congress whether the Mississippi Choctaws under their treaty are not entitled to all the rights of Choctaw citizenship, except an interest in the Choctaw annuities. The Dawes Commission found that they were so entitled, provided they would remove to the Choctaw-Chickasaw Nation. (Ibid, 79.)

In a report of January 28, 1898 (H. R. Doc. 274, Fifty-fifth Congress, second session, p. 6), Congress directed the Dawes Commission to identify such Mississippi Choctaws, by act of June 28, 1898. (Eighth Annual Report Dawes Commission, p. 18.) They did identify the full-blood Choctaws by a schedule submitted to the Department of the Interior May 10, 1899, containing about 1,900 names, and since that time have identified some other full-blood Choctaws in that country.

The Dawes Commission, by statute, were forbidden to receive the application of any nonresident Indians after a certain date, but an exception was made in favor of the Mississippi Choctaws. For this reason many thousand persons have set up claims pretending they were Mississippi Choctaws, and have put in jeopardy the rights of the real Mississippi Choctaws by virtue of manifest frauds perpetrated in the name of the Mississippi Choctaws by said pretenders.

On February 7, 1901, the United States Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes; the governor of the Choctaw Nation, Hon. Gilbert T. Dukes, and the Choctaw commissioners; and the governor of the Chickasaw Nation, Hon. Douglas H. Johnson, and Chickasaw commissioners, made and entered into an agreement containing the following provision:

Mississippi Choctaws
13. All persons heretofore identified by the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes as Mississippi Choctaws, and whose names appear upon the schedule dated March 10, 1899, prepared by said Commission under the provisions of the act of Congress approved June 28, 1898 (30 Stat. L., 495), and such full-blood Choctaw Indians residing in the State of Mississippi and such full-blood Choctaw Indians as may have removed from the State of Mississippi to Indian Territory as may be identified by said Commission shall alone constitute the “Mississippi Choctaws” entitled to benefits under this agreement.

And thereupon provided that those who moved in good faith to the Choctaw-Chickasaw country should be enrolled as Mississippi Choctaws and allotted lands like other Choctaws. (H. R. Doc. 490, Fifty-sixth Congress, second session, p. 12.)

The proposed Choctaw-Chickasaw supplemental agreement (H. R. 13172) has been so ingeniously drawn as to make it impossible for the full-blood Mississippi Choctaws to secure their rights under it. By section 41 they are required, within six months after the date of the final ratification of the agreement, to make bona fide settlement within the Choctaw-Chickasaw country; but the Mississippi Choctaws, in spite of the schedule submitted and the report of the United States Commission identifying them, are prevented from knowing whether they are entitled to remove, because the Interior Department has for three years withheld its approval, and under the law such schedule is not held as identification until approved by the Interior Department, according to the construction of that office. No Mississippi Choctaw knows to this day whether he is identified. If he sells his home and his property to move to the Choctaw Nation, he does so at the jeopardy of losing everything and not being received when he reaches the Choctaw Nation.

The purpose of Congress was to enable the Mississippi Choctaws to know before moving that they would be received. We therefore pray that sections 41, 42, 43, and 44, imposing onerous conditions on the Mississippi Choctaws, be struck out, and a simple, plain provision made, free from ambiguity, as follows, to wit:

Mississippi Choctaw
41. All persons heretofore identified by the Commission of the Five Civilized Tribes as Mississippi Choctaws, and whose names appear upon the schedule dated March 10, 1809, prepared by said Commission under the provisions of the act of Congress approved June 28, 1898 (30 Stat. L., 495), and such full-blooded Mississippi Choctaw Indians as may be identified by said Commission, and the wives, children, and grandchildren of all such full-blood Choctaws, shall alone constitute the “Mississippi Choctaws” entitled to benefits under this agreement.42. All “Mississippi Choctaws,” as herein defined, who shall remove or may have removed to the lands of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes within twelve months after official notification of their identification, shall be enrolled by said commission upon a separate roll designated “Mississippi Choctaws;” and lands equal in value to lands allotted to citizens of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes shall in like manner be selected and set apart for each of them. All such persons who reside upon the lands of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes for a period of one year after enrollment as above provided shall, upon proof of such bona fide residence, receive patents as provided in the Atoka agreement, and they shall hold the lands thus allotted to them as provided in the Atoka agreement for citizens of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, and be treated in all respects as other Choctaws.

The provisions asked for by the full-blood Mississippi Choctaws vary in no substantial way from the reasonable requirements of the treaty itself, but eliminates technical rules and difficult requirements proposed to be imposed upon the Mississippi Choctaws without just reason. We believe the Choctaw-Chickasaw people are perfectly willing to receive all full-blood Choctaws, as they have so expressed themselves.

The unjust provisions and technical rules contained in sections 41, 42, 43, and 44 of the pending agreement were no doubt prepared by the attorneys representing the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations with a view to barring out the pretenders who have attempted to secure enrollment in said nations by fraud. We do not blame but on the other hand commend all efforts of such attorneys to accomplish such a purpose: but we call attention to the fact that while attempting to accomplish this purpose the wording of the provisions is such that they unfortunately do a great injustice to a large number of full-blood Mississippi Choctaws who have already been identified as stated above and who are entitled to enrollment.

We can not believe that it was the purpose of those who drew the provisions referred to to have that effect. Therefore we offer in lieu of the sections objected to the proposed amendments set out above, which we think fully protect the Choctaw-Chickasaw nations from all pretenders who are attempting to be enrolled by fraud, and which at the same time preserves the rights of the Mississippi Choctaws. To this there can be no reasonable objection. Simple justice demands it.

Your memorialist respectfully calls attention to the manifest injustice of requiring the Mississippi Choctaws to prove a technical right under article 14 of the treaty of 1830, or any other article. The Mississippi Choctaws were joint purchasers in 1820 of the lands in Indian Territory, and no article of 1830 should be invoked against their right of common ownership in these western lands.

No such principle was ever thought of until by an accident Congress in the act of 1898, requiring the identification, happened to make reference to the fourteenth article, because in that article was a provision that residence in Mississippi should not deprive Choctaws of their rights. The treaty of 1866 expressly provided that opportunity should be given to nonresident Choctaws to remove to the Choctaw Nation when allotments should take place. This recognized right of the treaty of 1866 has not been abated by any act of the Mississippi Choctaws, and their right can not be justly ignored by the United States or by the Choctaw-Chickasaw nations without their consent. The Dawes Commission, in its report of June 30, 1901 (Eighth Annual Report, p. 21), points out how injuriously and unjustly this would operate to the Mississippi Choctaws, and shows that Congress is in duty bound to provide for our full-blood people.
Respectfully submitted.

The Mississippi Choctaws
By C. F. Winton
Robt. L. Owen, Counsel

[box]Source: 57th Congress, 1st Session, Document No. 319[/box]


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