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Old 08-18-2005, 11:01 PM   #7
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Part 4

The BAR has ignored its own advice and refused to consider and analyze all of the facts. We have urged, on more than one occasion, that the strong common thread of references to Indian heritage, the 180 year-old story of our Indian ancestor who swam the river with the baby on her back and self-identification has to be given weight. Further support for the veracity of our oral tradition has been found in an 1816 Washington, D.C. newspaper which recounts the incident (Marschalk 1816). A transcript of the newspaper account is provided in Exhibit 3.

Jacqueline Matte has served as the primary historical researcher for our people. Over a twenty-year period, she collected every reference, published or unpublished, related to our ancestors. Each piece of this information has been sent to the BAR, some of it repeatedly, in the anticipation that gaps in chronology, incomplete documentation, and unanswered questions could be expected for a non-literate people. Those gaps, however, were used offensively by the BAR to deny recognition rather than to leave open the analysis for further consideration.
While we do not discredit the value of genealogical records, the BAR has not taken into account that our earliest ancestors were not literate in English. It is unreasonable to expect that they would have kept extensive genealogical records of themselves in a language they did not know. Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota Sioux, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado) has commented on this very problem in the federal recognition process, and specifically in reference to the MOWA Choctaw stating,
“Much of the confusion is due to the insistence that Indian communities meet criteria which, if it had been applied in the past, would have disqualified the vast majority of presently recognized groups” (Deloria 2002:10).
He refers to the “catch-22” in the federal recognition process. If our ancestors had assimilated, they would have been more likely to have left the types of written documentation the BAR requires to demonstrate Indian ancestry. However, such assimilation, by the BAR rules, would disqualify a community as a legitimate Indian tribe.
A recently discovered 1960 letter written by U.S. Representative Frank Boykin also demonstrates the veracity of our oral history. An excerpt follows below:
I’ll take care of him when he gets here, because we have a lot of wild Indians. You will remember that Aaron Burr was captured there on our game preserve at McIntosh in 1806; and then a little later, chief Geronimo, that great fighting chief, was captured here. Well, we sent them all to Oklahoma, after having them in captivity here a long time. Well, I still have a lot of them and they work for us. They can see in the dark and they can trail a wounded deer better than some of our trail dogs (Boykin 1960).
Boykin’s description of the MOWA Choctaw is that they are descendants of Indians who escaped removal and remained in the area that we currently inhabit. Although Boykin’s use of the term “wild Indian” is insulting, it is, nevertheless, an indisputable description of us as an Indian community.

b. The BAR Applied Radically Different Standards in Evaluating the MOWA Choctaw and the Petitions of Other Tribes, Particularly in Terms of Oral History
The BAR has applied radically different standards in evaluating the petitions of the MOWA Band of Choctaw and other tribes. We have chosen to draw comparisons between the petition of the Jena Band of Choctaw with our own since they were evaluated within months of each other and both are Southeastern Indian groups with Choctaw ancestry. The BAR applied a higher standard for the MOWA Choctaw than the Jena, in some cases, requiring the MOWAs to provide information that was described as impossible to obtain for the Jena. They were particularly inconsistent in evaluating the oral history of these two groups. Similar types of information derived from oral history were accepted for the Jena and rejected for the MOWA Choctaw. In one instance where a discrepancy between oral history and census data existed for the Jena Choctaw, oral history was deemed more reliable. However, the exact opposite conclusion was drawn for the MOWA Choctaw for similar circumstances. We should be clear that we are in no way questioning the legitimate Indian status of the Jena band of Choctaw. Rather, we are making the point that we feel that in all fairness, the same standards should have been used in evaluating our petitions.
One example of this type of discrepancy in the BAR’s evaluation of the MOWA Choctaw and Jena Choctaw petitions involves the importance of oral history in establishing ancestral links. For the Jena, the BAR recognized that their earliest Choctaw ancestors would have logically had Choctaw rather than Anglicized names and established a linkage between 1830 Choctaw based on the oral history of their 1880 descendants among the Jena. The following citation from the Jena petition is lengthy, but important for it makes clear that the federal government acknowledged the impossibility of linking Choctaw names to anglicized names and further, argued that it was “fair and reasonable to assume” that 1880 persons living in traditional Choctaw territory who claimed descent from Choctaw ancestors through oral history, were, indeed, Choctaw:
After one commissioner visited Mississippi for several weeks, the Dawes Commission produced a roll of the Mississippi Choctaws and submitted it to the Department of the Interior in March 1899. Later in the year, however, the Commission asked that the roll be withdrawn and returned it. The roll contained 1,923 names (Dawes Commission 1899, 78; 1900, 18, 10; Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1899, 122; 1901, 157-158). The Commission had identified a Mississippi Choctaws all of the full-blood Choctaws who had appeared before it. The Commission noted that it was impossible to prove that an individual’s Choctaw ancestors had made a good-faith effort to comply with the provisions of Article 14 of the treaty after 1830. The facts were not known to those living 60 years later, the Choctaws with English names could not be traced back to ancestors with Indian names, the Government’s records were inadequate, and the investigations made after the treaty had demonstrated that Agent William Ward had refused to register Choctaws who sought to comply with the treaty’s terms. The Mississippi Choctaws, the treaty contended could not be reasonably expected to show that their ancestors had complied with the provisions of the treaty. It was “fair and reasonable to assume,” however, that the Choctaws who had remained in Mississippi had intended to declare their intention to do so and to use the treaty to assure themselves of a homestead ([Dawes Commission 1899, 78-79] from TR-Jena 1994:21). (Emphasis added).
We provided the BAR with similar documentation in the form of an 1851 petition signed by our Choctaw ancestors that was submitted to the Commissions of Indian Affairs on our behalf by John Seawell (mayor of Mobile) and Felix Andry (See Exhibit 1 references to Indians of South Alabama of the Choctaw Nation 1851 and Choctaws in Mobile). The BAR rejected this evidence on the grounds that 1851 Choctaw names could not be linked to Anglicized names, although this was described as an unreasonable and even “impossible” expectation for the Jena Band of Choctaw:

Evidence was presented by the petitioner to indicate that some Choctaw Indians remained in Southern Alabama between the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 and the Civil War. However, no evidence was presented by the petitioner to indicate that either the Reed or the Weaver/Rivers/Byrd family associated as colleagues or witnesses with Felix Andry, who was married to a Choctaw woman named Nancy and who submitted claims to the Federal government on behalf of the Choctaw remaining in Alabama (TR-MOWA 1994:5).
It should be noted that one of the progenitors of the MOWA Choctaw described in our petition to the BAR has been traced to a person with an Anglicized name, Chief Tom Gibson (a.k.a. Eli-Tubbee, Elah, Tubbee, or Elatatabe). He lived in Washington County, Mississippi Territory (presently Washington County, Alabama) until 1813 when the influx of whites caused him to move to Killistamaha (English Town) clan of the Six Towns located in southeastern corner of the present boundary of the state of Mississippi, just miles from the current southwest Alabama location of our MOWA Choctaw community. John Gibson, James Gibson, and Betsy Gibson were in Mobile area in 1850 as shown in U.S. government correspondence and 1880 census. However, the BAR discounted this information because the 1860 census described her probable place of birth as Georgia, her father’s North Carolina, and her mother’s Virginia (TR-MOWA 1994:75-76). The BAR concluded that the link is “based on oral tradition only” (TR-MOWA 1994:75) rather than acknowledging that the census information itself was ambiguous.

(continued)
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