CULTURE & TRADITIONS
of Oklahoma’s Indian Freedmen
Many person speak of Indian ancestry, although few persons can cite customs, languages, or traditions from any particular nations that pertain to their Native American ancestor. References are often made that refer to racial features such as hair length, cheek bones, and complexion. However, the same ancestor sometimes referred to as the "full blood" Indian did not leave any traditions or customs that remain a part of the memory of anyone living in the family today.
Oklahoma's Black Indians and their hundreds of thousands of descendents are among those who have left a legacy of records, from the Dawes rolls to the earlier records created after the Treaty of 1866 was signed. In addition, until the middle of the 20th century, there were Black Indians - Freedmen who still lived and practiced the customs of the nations where they had been born. The WPA Slave Narratives contained more than 25 interviews of Black Indians, who spoke of their lives as Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws and Chickasaws. Their language, burial customs, and diet were formulated by the native culture into which they had been born, lived and eventually died.
Those seeking more knowledge about the customs practiced by these Black Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes will not find lives centered around pow wows, and Hollywood images of the plains nations. These documented citizens of the Five nations were bilingual, bicultural people, seeking to establish new lives for themselves in their new country and their new state of Oklahoma.