Saturday, July 7, 2012

Slaves and Freedmen of the 5 Civilized Tribes - Burials

Some posts are fun to write, about our journeys and my lack of direction. Some posts are of a more solemn nature, when posting about loss of loved ones, especially children. Then there are posts, like this one, that NEED to be written.

I by NO means claim to be an expert in this area, I have since encountering the below photos, read up more and I will include some links here to people who are experts in this area, and historical documents to back up information that I put forth. Again, I am not claiming to be an expert in the topic but what I am an expert in is human nature, and when something I see just about brings me to my knees.

I am becoming more an expert in Native American studies, particularly Mississippi before the move west, Oklahoma (where I am born and raised) where the Trail of Tears ended. I have read about Freedmen and Native Americans who owned slaves prior to the civil war, but again, my area is the Native American and only reading with brevity about the slaves they had among them. I have since changed that way of thinking and am more studying the WHOLE of the Native American life to include those they enslaved. SLAVERY

I was interested in going to the site of Skullyville, the point at which the Trail of Tears was the destination and the Agency for them to check in and receive their land grants was. There is a Choctaw Nation Burial site with purportedly hundreds of 'only' Native American peoples. I did go there and photograph and see people who were on the Trail of Tears, absolutely fascinating and another blog post! 

Now, BEFORE anyone gets too stirred up, I am of Native American descent, I do comprehend the idea of the things they faced being forced to move from their homes, the lands of their people and what that must have been to them, this is not about them. There will be a post about them, this is about those they enslaved and their resting place.

What I also saw, and had briefly read about, was this...."Outside the formal confines of the Choctaw National Cemetery, at Skullyville, there is an adjacent area of burials, which, if not actually part of the present entity of Skullyville Cemetery, is obviously associated with it historically. It is apparent that some of the earlier burials are freedmen, and that some of the more recent burials are descendants of freedmen. "

A Fence? After all these years, after the prices they paid, the families paid, why still a fence? Why separate them in death as they were in life?

Well seeing to the other side I had to find a way in to see it. I could see that it was mowed but my finding the entrance was less than easy. There is NO entrance from the Choctaw side to the Freedmen side, so there must be a road, there must be a marker, there must be a sign!

Around the corner from Skullyville, I found a dirt road that veered off into the direction I knew the Freedmen Cemetery to be, so I took it. That sign you see is for a Chicken farm, not the Cemetery itself.

Down a dirty dirt road, about .4 of a mile, still no sign, no nothing to tell me or a visitor they are heading to the resting area of loved ones. Only the now wafting smell of chicken houses looms in the air, sighs... (If you are from this area you know and cannot forget that smell once you have had it once in your lifetime).

FINALLY....I Made it???

Those posts? Yeah those are to keep the semi-trucks hauling feed and chickens from hitting those 5 precious resting spots at the front of this cemetery.... Still, no signage!!! DOUBLE sigh....

I have to say it had in the last few days been mowed, but I also have to say, not weeded, and there were, of the supposed 100 or more once headstones that were visible, now about 20-25. Unfortunately a good 5-6 flat ones had met the wrong end of the powerful mower blades like the below photo. 

I was able to clean off and get photos of about 25 headstones with family information that can be of use historically for families. I also included above a link to a page someone, 10 years or so back, photographed the stones when there were around 100 still visible. 

This post is meant to be informative, to remind people that equal treatment in death, is just as important as it is in life. Dignity does not die at the grave, it lives on in these resting places, in the families and friends left behind, in the legacy of the lives they lead, the lives they touched, the history they formed. It is my HOPE in posting this that the next time you, or someone you know, goes to a resting place, treat it and the people in it with the dignity they so richly deserve. Their lives, their deaths, their resting places are to be treasured, no matter who, what tribe, what nation, what race, or what label they have had attached to them. 

Happy Hunting,

Below are some informative links to information regarding this population of people. 


  1. Alisha,

    I like what you've done on this blog. We at the Silver People Chronicle have been blogging about a similar situation- The former Silver Roll people of Panama- for years now. We just lobbied for a law to make the three most significant cemeteries where their remains are located in Panama and got the Law passed!
    "This post is meant to be informative, to remind people that equal treatment in death, is just as important as it is in life. Dignity does not die at the grave, it lives on in these resting places, in the families and friends left behind, in the legacy of the lives they lead, the lives they touched, the history they formed." I love the reverence behind what you said.

    1. Roberto,

      Thank you for your kind words! I am VERY happy you all got our law passed! I appreciate you coming by and reading what I am up to, I do think I will unfortunately find more cemeteries in these types of conditions, but I have to say that this one really does break my heart. Leave me a link to your blog, I would love to come by and visit and pay my regards as well!

  2. Alisha, My Dear Friend,

    I am so thrilled to see what you have begun &/or accomplished here on your blog site...

    You are an impressive individual that I am VERY PROUD to say I had the pleasure of being your friend, frequent house guest & just generally growing up with in the same " Ol' Stomping Grounds on Church Street.... I will visit often, as I too - as well as my wife have Indian ancestry but we really don't even know where to begin to start our endeavor at finding our Ancestral Indian ties.....

    Your Friend for Life,
    Burl Faulk II
    Poteau, Oklahoma