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Old 08-18-2005, 10:52 PM   #6
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Part 3

Rather than respond to the substantive conclusions reached by Stoffle, the BAR suggested that we did not demonstrate that our core ancestors descended from persons listed on the Dawes Rolls. However, when the Curtis Act of 1898 directed the commission to enroll the Mississippi Choctaw (Mann 2003:293), some of our ancestors did make application for enrollment. They were rejected because they had no written documents to verify their Indian identity and were labeled “half-bloods.” Most of the applicants rejected lived in Alabama and traced their descendancy through Lofton and Byrd’s lineage. This information was submitted to the BAR. The basis for the exclusion from the list was not that the applicants were not Choctaw. Indeed they could speak the Choctaw language. No logical reason exists for anyone to speak the Choctaw language in 1898 in Alabama if they were not Choctaw. They were not permitted on the list because they could not supply written documentation and were deemed “half-bloods.” The BAR ignored this information.

In addition to the 1910 census, the 1920 census identified our people as “French and Indian” (see Exhibit 1 reference to the 1920 Census Identifying Indians in Washington County). We have also recently found Birth and Death Certificates from around this time period identifying our people as Indian (see Exhibit 1 references to Birth and Death Certificates Identifying MOWA Choctaw as “Indian”). Moreover, the 2000 U.S. census is unequivocal in its description of our people as Indian. In its “Race List Codes,” the MOWA Choctaw Indians are listed under the category “American Indian,” sub-category “Choctaw,” sub-category “C12-Mowa Band of Choctaw” (Exhibit 4: Federal Agencies Recognizing the MOWA Choctaw, U.S. Department of Commerce). We agree with the contemporary classification of our people as American Indian by the United States Federal government, and so should the BAR.
c. The BAR Discounted Sworn Testimony Related to the American Indian Ancestry of Core MOWA Choctaw Families
The MOWA Choctaws submitted minutes from “The State v. John Goodman and Jenny Reed,” dated 1881-1882 (Washington County, Alabama Circuit Court 1881-1882). We also presented a 1918 miscegenation case, “The State of Alabama v. Percy Reed and Helen Corkins [a.k.a. Calkins]” (See Exhibit 1 reference to 1920 Miscegenation Case of Percy Reed and Helen Caulkins). The BAR ignored direct evidence of Indian ancestry which arose out of these hearings and also intentionally refused to draw inferential conclusions from the trials.
First, we used the minutes from “The State v. John Goodman and Jenny Reed” to support the claim that Rose Gaines was half-Choctaw and half-white. The minutes indicated that Alabama prosecuted John Goodman and Jenny Reed under the miscegenation acts. The BAR concluded that the not-guilty verdict was non-supportive of Choctaw heritage. The BAR discredited sworn testimony of witnesses who stated that Rose was the daughter of Young Gaines and a Choctaw woman. Additionally, the BAR questioned the reference to burned records in our 1988 petition, “Initially, the petitioner claimed that ‘these [1880’s] court records were burned” (FD-MOWA 1997:13). The 1988 petition was based on information available at the time. That the BAR would castigate us for dutifully supplementing its submission is inconceivable, unprofessional, and insulting. We did not know that the records existed because we were told in 1988 that some of the courthouse records had burned in 1907. However, some of the records had been moved and were later found in a storage closet in Chatom, Alabama.
At the trial involving John Goodman and Jenny Reed, testimony was offered that Jenny was American Indian. The BAR ignored this testimony, which was provided in prior submissions to the BAR. They took issue with the fact that Mr. Sullivan, the foreman of the jury, had testified similarly in the 1920’s. However, that does not discredit the testimony, rather it supports the conclusion of Indian descendancy. The fact that the jury found the defendants not guilty in the Goodman and Reed case is strong proof that Jenny Reed was of Native American rather than African descent. This is the only defense that would have worked in the jury trial. The BAR completely and literally ignored this conclusion.

In addition, the specific reasons outlined by the BAR for not accepting this conclusion are specious. First, the BAR says that the testimony was given at a time greatly removed from the events being discussed. The BAR is acting as a super-jury in determining the Reed and Goodman case again. The original jury, hearing the evidence and seeing the witnesses, concluded that the defendants were not guilty of miscegenation. The only reasonable conclusion for that verdict can be that Jenny Reed was Native American. The credibility and weight accorded to witnesses’ testimony is to be decided by the jury in that case and not decided by a reviewing agency some 115 years after the court hearing. The BAR does not, and should not, sit as a super-reviewing agency of previous court decisions. Finally, the BAR impugns the testimony of George Sullivan because he was 74 years old. Again, this is a matter which was weighed and determined by the jury hearing that case. The BAR does not have legitimate basis for declining to believe sworn testimony evaluated by a jury.

We also presented the 1918 case of “Alabama v. Percy Reed and Helen Corkins [Calkins].” Percy was the son of Reuben Reed and the grandson of Daniel and Rose Reed. Percy Reed was originally found guilty of miscegenation; however, the Alabama Court of Appeals reversed that verdict and concluded that the evidence presented at the trial was hearsay and that the trial Judge should have directed a verdict in favor of the defendants. The Court of Appeals concluded: “Judgment entry that court ascertained ‘that defendant is of Indian or Spanish origin” significant that state failed to make a case of miscegenation (State of Alabama 1918),” the BAR did not accord this judicial conclusion any weight at all. In fact, the BAR ignored this direct evidence of Native American descent.
2. The BAR Demonstrated Bias, Arbitrariness, and Inconsistency in Evaluating MOWA Choctaw Oral History
Recording of oral histories is a key research methodology for both historians and anthropologists. It is also the traditional Native American means of transmitting family history and cultural traditions from generation to generation. Glaring problems exist in the BAR evaluation of information from oral history we provided to them. The BAR is inconsistent and arbitrary in its utilization of oral history information as evidence of Native American ancestry. Oral history information substantiating written documents is dismissed. The BAR reviewed the petitions of the MOWA Band of Choctaw and the Jena Band of Choctaw within several months of each other. However, similar types of oral history information were deemed superior to written documents for the Jena Choctaw, but judged as inadequate evidence for the MOWA Choctaw. Second, the requirement for extensive antebellum documentation of genealogy is an unreasonable expectation for a non-literate people whose cultural norms are based on preserving cultural heritage through oral tradition.
a. The BAR Discounted Oral History Information Substantiating Written Documents.

The BAR has completely dismissed our oral history as “vague and unreliable when tested.” The BAR refused to accept oral history “until verified from contemporary documentary sources.” As demonstrated with Nancy Fisher, contemporary documentary sources have been provided that have, for reasons beyond being described as frivolous, been discounted. The BAR concludes that oral traditions cannot be accepted at face value and must be evaluated where there are accuracy and reliability. The BAR refers to Rubicam, “consider and analyze all of the facts, regardless of the source, whether tradition or an official record, then decide if you should accept or reject those facts” (Rubicam 1980:48).

(continued)
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