Putting them on the Choctaw Indian roll and noting that they had Choctaw mothers suggests that Hudson may have still connected Choctaw inclusion to ancient matri- lineal notions of blood and clan membership. But he also regarded them as “negro.” By considering them both Choctaw and “negro,” Hudson demonstrated that such cat- egories were not mutually exclusive or absolute. 12 Regrettably, the fragmentary nature of census evidence leaves a number of key questions unanswered. For example, did these “collored” people view themselves as Choctaws, and did community members treat them as such? Could they vote in Choctaw elections, receive annuity payments, and send their children to Choctaw schools? Did beliefs in matrilineal blood and group inclusion have widespread relevance to them? In the late 1880s, the identity of these “collored” citizens remained ambiguous and open to interpretation. 13 People in the Choctaw Nation lived in a world where skin color spanned a wide gradient and racial identity could be fluid. In 1890, when federal census takers came to Indian Territory, they complained, “A serious difficulty was met in the answer to ‘Are you an Indian’?” The enumerators remarked on the insufficiency of observing pheno- type alone in determining whether a person was Indian or not. “Under the laws of the 11 For the reasons behind American condemnation of the matrilineal clan, see John Edwards, “The Choctaw Indians in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century,” ed. John R. Swanton, Chronicles of Oklahoma 10 (September 1932): 402 and Michael C. Coleman, Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837–1893 (Jackson, MS, 1985), 38–42. For the role of census takers as “cultural brokers,” see Margaret Connell Szasz, ed., Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker (Norman, 1994). The Choctaw censuses can be found on microfilm in the Choctaw National Records , Archives and Manuscript Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (hereafter CNR). 12 Nashoba County Census, 1886, roll 3, CNR. 13 For more information on the rights of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, see Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., The Chickasaw Freedmen: A People Without a Country (Westport, CT, 1980). This content downloaded from 220.127.116.11 on Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:43:49 UTC All use subject to
Jesse T. Schreier 465 Five Tribes,” they observed, “a person white in color or features, is frequently an Indian, being so by remote degree of blood or by adoption.” They seemed similarly confused about the Indianness of many people of African descent: “Negroes are frequently met who speak nothing but Indian languages, and are Indians by tribal law and custom and others are met who call themselves Indians, who have not yet been so acknowledged by the tribes.” Fitting the mixed-race population of the Indian Territory into existing American racial categories was like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
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- Winter '17
- stephen jones
- The American, Choctaw, Choctaw Nation, Choctaw government