Freedmen descendants use DNA to show Indian blood

About 100 descendants of the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes have taken DNA tests that show they have Indian blood, The Oklahoman reports……………

Freedmen’s descendants discover past By Judy Gibbs Robinson
The Oklahoman

When a cotton swab scraped a few cells from the inside of Rhonda Grayson’s cheek last June, she was pretty sure what she would find. Like most of those at the conference sponsored by the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized tribes, Grayson wanted ironclad proof she is part American Indian. She got it. “It showed I had 9 percent Native American blood,” said Grayson, a black woman who has traced her lineage to a great-grandmother on the Chickasaw freedmen rolls. “I was not surprised … but I didn’t know what percentage I would have.” Others were surprised by the findings, including Rick Kittles, the Ohio State University geneticist whose assistant swabbed about 100 cheeks that day in Norman. Kittles returns Saturday to report on his findings at the association’s third annual conference at the University of Oklahoma. The conference starts at 9 a.m. in Dale Hall. Intrigued by the plight of Oklahoma’s black Indians, Kittles came to Oklahoma to test his hypothesis that descendants of Oklahoma Freedmen today would be about 20 percent American Indian. The figure was 6 percent. “It was shocking to see it was so low,” Kittles said in a telephone interview from his office. His findings came as a blow to some study participants who trace their ancestry to tribal members and expected a stronger genetic stamp. “That’s how science is,” Kittles said. “When you start looking into things like this, you should be aware and be ready to deal with the unexpected.” European genesAnother surprise was the percentage of European genes — about 20 percent — in the study participants. “That was much higher than I thought, but in talking with some of the anthropologists, they say many of the Native Americans in that area were already mixed with whites before mixing with the blacks,” Kittles said. In other words, they could have gotten some European genes from their Indian ancestors. LaMona Evans-Groce of Edmond, whose grandmother received a 140-acre allotment of Creek land, said she was disappointed to learn she is 29 percent European and only 11 percent American Indian. “I thought it was more because my grandmother is so American Indian,” Evans-Groce said. But she and other members of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes said the findings will not deter them from seeking citizenship and equal rights in the tribes their ancestors once embraced. Pre-Civil War rootsTheir battle has its roots before the Civil War, when the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek tribes brought African slaves with them when they were removed from their Southern homelands to Oklahoma. In addition, most Eastern tribes had adopted and intermarried with blacks over generations of contact, historians say. Treaties signed after the Civil War required tribes to emancipate their slaves and either adopt them into their tribes or the U.S. government would relocate them. By the end of the 19th century, more than 20,000 Africans had been adopted into four of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma –the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, historians say. The Chickasaws refused to adopt blacks and the government failed to relocate them as promised. In the 1890s the Dawes Commissioncreated tribal membership rolls, preparing to divide up communally held tribal land. Based on appearance, many black Indians were listed as “freedmen” with no blood breakdown noted. Still later, some tribes revised their membership requirements to require a certificate of degree of Indian blood, making those descended from freedmen ineligible. Marilyn Vann, president of the descendants’ group, said Cherokee freedmen voted in tribal elections as recently as 1971. “We’re not wannabe people who are pretending to be Indian people or pretending to have Indian rights,” Vann said. “We have documents to prove who we are and we know who we are.” Citizenship requirementsMike Miller, spokesman for the Cherokee Nation, said the Cherokees as a sovereign nation determine their citizenship requirements, which includes an ancestor who traces back to the Dawes Rolls as a Cherokee. “What it boils down to is the Cherokee Nation has determined that to be a member of our Indian nation, you need to be at least part Indian,” he said. Miller acknowledged that the Dawes Rolls were probably flawed, but he said there is no recourse for descendants of freedmen who can trace their ancestry to a blood Cherokee some other way. “That’s a law. We can’t bend a law. It’s not at anyone’s discretion,” Miller said. The descendants understand today’s tribal leaders are not personally responsible for past discrimination, Vann said. “We’re not asking for an apology or reparations. We are asking for the same treatment as other people who are descendants of people on the Dawes Rolls,” Vann said. “What we want is what has been promised.” Kittles said the jury is still out on whether genetic testing like his will help the descendants of freedmen. He said he hopes it does. “For them to change the criteria by which you are a member of that group because of power and finances, that’s really sad,” Kittles said. “That has to be reconciled.”
Information provided To Jorge Estevez by Bobby Gonzalez (Taino).

15 thoughts on “Freedmen descendants use DNA to show Indian blood

  1. Indian people before European did not have to humiliated in proving who they were. They were they were born Indian just like European were born European. Indian people should not have to prove who they are because of discrimination by European Americans. The Irish do not have to take DNA test to prove they are Irish. It is ridiculous. Indian people whatever there colored, if the were born in the Indian Nation with Indian parents should be accepted as Indian.

  2. To be stripped of your land and to be stripped from your land. This is the plight of the Black Indian. What is really sad is that Native people’s participated in the enslavement of other peoples of color yet holler about what the government has done to them. Descendents of Cherokee freedmen should be compensated based on the fact that the Nation of the past had the nerve to enslave them. If Cherokees don’t owe their descendents of black slaves anything than America does not owe the American Indian anything. Lets just all lick our wounds, fish for ourselves and get over it, if that’s the case. The fact that cherokees had black slaves and will not compensate or hold their word their the treaties is a slap in the face. It shows that they seek to be like their former oppressors by not acknowledging a wrong even though they are quick to tell the American government what wrongs have been done to them. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU! If America owes you, clear out your debts first. It is extremely hypocritical and I doubt the GREAT SPIRIT is smiling on that!

  3. I have traced both my grandparents to the freedmans rolls and find that there is no listing for their blood percentage. My grandparents looked indian. I thought about a DNA test and I will take one to show my indian blood. I have the names of the slave owners. I plan to somehow see if there is a relation. Is there any help to find the slave owners desendents?

  4. Once we lived like deer in the woods, free to roam the land at will. We had no words of yours nor mine. With a deep respect for each other, the land, we lived in harmony with all things provided by the Creator, the Great Mystery called Life, and all living things past and present, for we instinctively knew what was right & honorable, and lived as such, we did not have to be told, nor laws enacted.

    It is important at this time to remember where we came from, who we really are, and why we are here!

    All the things our ancestors spoke of, before the world turned upside-down have come to pass. Those words were spoken so long ago they have lost some of their meaning, and for some i am afraid, all of their meaning.

    It is our choice as a free people, to do the work, that will remind us of our true heritage, remind us of why we are here, and what is our purpose, and return to the values that lasted a nation(s), from the beginning of time, to present.

    The voices of the past are growing louder, a calling to those that are preparing/prepared to do the work at hand, to right a wrong that will last beyond yours and mine, that knows no bent laws, because one can.

    We are currently on a path, a strangle hold, if you will, that will choke us out of existence. If we fail to heed the voices of our ancestors, whom regularly come to us in our dreams, to do the healing work needed to wake a nation.

    Thank You Creator,
    Spirit Helpers,
    For Your Words At This Time.


  5. I know I am of Indian blood. I know I am Indian. It would be nice it we didn’t have to prove it. How do you prove it as most blood has been mixed and always was mixed. The Africans before the continents separated walked into the Americans and were here before the Asians ever crossed the berring straight to mix with the Africans and create who we now call American Indians. All of our blood is mixed. Our blood continues to be mixed as time passes by. Be careful as requirements continue to be placed on us to prove our blood relationship and we continue to mix with other bloods that we don’t erase everyones Indians rights.

  6. My great grandmother was a Cherokee Indian who married a Freedmen and my grandmother being mixed married a Freedmen as well. My mother was part Cherokee and Descendant of Freedmen. I do not have papers to prove portions of this except some pictures and verbal family history past down. I wish I had asked more questions and written down more information. With that being said my past is what it is. Whether I or my children are recognized as part Cherokee or not or share in any such right as a Descendant of Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation will not make us or break us. Just like our ancestors we have been through hell and back yet have survived. No amount of money can by us because our souls has already been bought by our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. Knowing that I can sleep at night. CAN YOU??

  7. I think that is exactly the right spirit, and the principle of self-identification to which so many indigenous nations and activists have defended as a right akin to self-determination is what you express here. While I have no say in the politics of the Cherokee Nation, I have to say that I feel very sorry that you continue to suffer from such exclusion.

  8. There are no black indians

    Just wanna be’s

    whites had slaves, but that dosen’s make
    a black man white

  9. I am really amazed to hear from you that there are all these Indians who, after centuries of living with other peoples in their midst, remain “racially pure” as you imply. Considering that the Cherokee Nation has members with as little 1/2056 “Indian blood,” I wonder if you find your own position just a little extreme and unrealistic. You should be so lucky to have “wanna be’s” — Americans tend to call such people “immigrants” and “new citizens,” and they claim to welcome people who want to help build and expand the nations, but perhaps you would prefer Indians to inbreed, be reduced in number for marrying other people, and thus officially die out.

    Whites had slaves, yes. Whites also often made children with slaves. Your attempt at a neat division between people, while accommodating itself to racist ideology, is plainly unsupported by historical fact.

  10. This is great information. I have always heard that I have native American ancestors,maternal and paternal. How can I find this out since most of the rumors are strictly that-rumors in my family? My last name is Wallace and the maiden name of my mother is Miller, which both of these names appear on the Freedmen list. HELP….

  11. My great grandmother whom I knew well was 1/2 Creek, 1/2 white. Her mother was full blood, but was denied entrance on the Dawes Blood role and therefore both my gggrand and ggrandmother are on the Dawes Freedman role. I have all of their information and would like to be tested (DNA) to ascertain my blood percentage and validate my heritage. I also intend to apply for citizenship in the Creek nation. As I grow older I think it very important to leave a clear trail for my children and grandchildren of who they are. I am African, Native American and German. I am American…and that is the greatest legacy I can leave to my kids. Can you recommend a DNA testing site that might help me in the Dallas Area?

    Thank you,

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