How Native American Slaveholders Complicate the Trail of Tears Narrative

O' Be Joyful

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When you think of the Trail of Tears, you likely imagine a long procession of suffering Cherokee Indians forced westward by a villainous Andrew Jackson. Perhaps you envision unscrupulous white slaveholders, whose interest in growing a plantation economy underlay the decision to expel the Cherokee, flooding in to take their place east of the Mississippi River.
What you probably don’t picture are Cherokee slaveholders, foremost among them Cherokee chief John Ross. What you probably don’t picture are the numerous African-American slaves, Cherokee-owned, who made the brutal march themselves, or else were shipped en masse to what is now Oklahoma aboard cramped boats by their wealthy Indian masters. And what you may not know is that the federal policy of Indian removal, which ranged far beyond the Trail of Tears and the Cherokee, was not simply the vindictive scheme of Andrew Jackson, but rather a popularly endorsed, congressionally sanctioned campaign spanning the administrations of nine separate presidents.

 

O' Be Joyful

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(snip)

“The Cherokee owned slaves for the same reasons their white neighbors did. They knew exactly what they were doing. In truth,” Smith said, the Cherokee and other “Civilized Tribes were not that complicated. They were willful and determined oppressors of blacks they owned, enthusiastic participants in a global economy driven by cotton, and believers in the idea that they were equal to whites and superior to blacks.”

None of this lessens the very real hardship endured by Cherokees and other Native Americans compelled to abandon their homelands as a result of the Indian Removal Act. Signed into law in the spring of 1830, the bill had been rigorously debated in the Senate (where it was endorsed with a 28-19 vote) that April and in the House of Representatives (where it prevailed 102-97) that May. Despite a sustained, courageous campaign on the part of John Ross to preserve his people’s property rights, including multiple White House visits with Jackson, in the end the influx of white settlers and economic incentives made the bill’s momentum insuperable. All told, the process of removal claimed more than 11,000 Indian lives—2,000-4,000 of them Cherokee.
 

5fish

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New Mexico's Indian slave history... https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/us/indian-slaves-genizaros.html

Mr. Trujillo is one of many Latinos who are finding ancestral connections to a flourishing slave trade on the blood-soaked frontier now known as the American Southwest. Their captive forebears were Native Americans — slaves frequently known as Genízaros (pronounced heh-NEE-sah-ros) who were sold to Hispanic families when the region was under Spanish control from the 16th to 19th centuries. Many Indian slaves remained in bondage when Mexico and later the United States governed New Mexico.

Snip...

Historians estimate that Genízaros accounted for as much as one-third of New Mexico’s population of 29,000 in the late 18th century.


Snip... You all know the old argument the Africans enslave their own people and sold them to the whites. Well it seem American Indians didi the same...

The trade then evolved to include not just Hispanic traffickers but horse-mounted Comanche and Ute warriors, who raided the settlements of Apache, Kiowa, Jumano, Pawnee and other peoples. They took captives, many of them children plucked from their homes, and sold them at auctions in village plazas.

The Spanish crown tried to prohibit slavery in its colonies, but traffickers often circumvented the ban by labeling their captives in parish records as criados, or servants. The trade endured even decades after the Mexican-American War, when the United States took control of much of the Southwest in the 1840s
.

Snip... US Government ...

Seeking to strengthen the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, Congress passed the Peonage Act of 1867 after learning of propertied New Mexicans owning hundreds and perhaps thousands of Indian slaves, mainly Navajo women and children. But scholars say the measure, which specifically targeted New Mexico, did little for many slaves in the territory.

Snip... the GENE's... their all family now...

But genetic testing is offering a glimpse into a more complex story. The DNA of Hispanic people from New Mexico is often in the range of 30 to 40 percent Native American, according to Miguel A. Tórrez, 42, a research technologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of New Mexico’s most prominent genealogists.




https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/16/realestate/16hunt-hagstrom.html?action=click&algo=top_conversion&block=editors_picks_recirc&fellback=true&imp_id=518335029&impression_id=403811939&index=0&pgtype=Article®ion=ccolumn&req_id=466332693&surface=home-featured&action=click&module=editorContent&pgtype=Article®ion=CompanionColumn&contentCollection=Trending
 

5fish

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Those Comanches are slavers....

LINK: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/01/native_american_slavery_historians_uncover_a_chilling_chapter_in_u_s_history.html

Historian Pekka Hämäläinen, in his 2009 book The Comanche Empire, writes of Comanche uses of slavery during their period of dominance of the American Southwest between 1750 and 1850. The Comanche exercised hegemony in part by numerical superiority, and enslavement was part of that strategy. Hämäläinen writes that Comanches put captives through a rigorous process of enslavement—a dehumanizing initiation that brought a non-Comanche captive into the tribe through renaming, tattooing, beating, whipping, mutilation, and starvation—but stipulates that once a person was enslaved, there were varying degrees of freedom and privilege she or he could attain. Male captives might be made blood bondsmen with their owners, protecting them from ill treatment and casual sale; women might be married into the tribe, after which time they became, as Hämäläinen puts it, “full-fledged tribal members”; younger, more impressionable children might be adopted outright. After a period of trauma, captives could, quite possibly, attain quasi-free status; their own children would be Comanches.

Snip... a comparison of slavery...

In his book Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous and Atlantic Slaveries in New France, Brett Rushforth writes about a similar tradition of “natal alienation” practiced by enslaving tribes in the Pays d’en Haut (the French name for the Great Lakes region and the land west of Montreal) in order to strip a captive of his or her old identity and life. Rushforth does not sell short the awfulness of these processes; still, he pointed out: “Rather than a closed slave system designed to move slaves ‘up and out’—excluding slaves and their descendants from full participation in their masters’ society, even when freed—indigenous slavery moved captives ‘up and in’ toward full, if forced, assimilation.” This was more than Africans enslaved by Europeans could hope for, after the legal codification of hereditary chattel slavery in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Snip... Native Americans and Black slavery...

In the late-18th-century Southeast, the Native relationship to slavery took a surprising turn. There, a relatively small group of Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws held Africans in bondage. Historian Tiya Miles has written two histories of Cherokee slaveholding. Miles places the number of enslaved people held by Cherokees at around 600 at the start of the 19th century and around 1,500 at the time of westward removal in 1838-9. (Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, she said, held around 3,500 slaves, across the three nations, as the 19th century began.) “Slavery inched its way slowly into Cherokee life,” Miles told me. “When a white man moved into a Native location, usually to work as a trader or as an Indian agent, he would own [African] slaves.” If such a person also had a child with a Native woman, as was not uncommon, the half-European, half-Native child would inherit the enslaved people (and their children) under white law, as well as the right to use tribal lands under tribal law. This combination put such people in a position to expand their wealth, eventually operating large farms and plantations. This was the story of James Vann, the father of Joseph, the steamboat owner; the elder Vann’s mother was Cherokee, while his father was white.

Snip...

In the second and third decades of the 19th century, the Cherokee strategy to keep the American government from taking their land was to prove their own sovereignty as a “civilized” people. They were trying, Miles said, “to form a Cherokee government that looked like the U.S. government, to publish laws, establish a Supreme Court, establish a principal city, to create a police force, to create a newspaper.” These efforts were concurrent with the growth of slavery, another adopted tradition that would show that Cherokees were truly assimilating.

Snip...

The fact that Native people so often assisted in the enslavement of people from other tribes makes this story a complicated one. Yes, Europeans did have Native assistance in implementing their ends; they were also the ones who put Native tribes under the existential pressures that forced many Indians to sell fellow Natives into slavery. This tragedy does not make for so clear-cut a narrative as, say, the bravery of the fugitive African Americans who took the Underground Railroad to freedom. Yet it is a tragedy nonetheless
 

diane

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Sure! Indians had slaves. Real sharp market for them, too - the potlatches held in the Pacific Northwest often involved a rich man proving how little material wealth meant to him by pitching it into the sea....and sometimes it tried to swim back... The Dalles in Oregon was a huge slave trading market place - very much as lively as Natchez. That's how one of my grandmas got into the family - Nez Perce raided SE Oregon Shoshone, picked up some little girls, sold them to the Klamaths - notorious slave traders - who sold them to a Rogue River band at the Dalles. They were the chief's investment and worth quite a bit. He could always adopt a daughter and marry her to an adversary to seal negotiations, so it was wise to have some on hand. So, the Cherokees and other 'civilized' tribes took to slavery same as the whites. Only, they didn't try to put a pretty tutu on the pig - didn't make any apologies or arguments for it. The biggest difference was the Indian slave owner was very likely to claim the offspring of a slave, and it wasn't unlikely for a slave to marry the master or into his family.
 

Jim Klag

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Most of the tribes in North America kept captured enemies as slaves as well. Of course they also made brides out of female active enemies.
 

diane

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Most of the tribes in North America kept captured enemies as slaves as well. Of course they also made brides out of female active enemies.
Slavery with the tribes was generally not permanent - you could get out of it rather quickly. usually by adoption. Sometimes it was pretty harsh, too. It also tended to be a way of mixing the gene pool so it didn't get stagnant! My several great grandma married the Rogue River headman's brother, and gained very, very high status and lived on the big Table Rock in the Rogue Valley. Then Peter Skene Ogden's party came through. His diary says 'skirmish with the Indians at Table Rock' and nothing more - the village was totally destroyed. She and a handful of survivors made it down the Illinois drainage and fetched up in the Konomihu country, where she married another headman who was a cousin of her now deceased husband. Second family. That was nice and peaceful for a while, then the Modocs decided to make a raid for slaves to sell to the Klamaths... Always something! The Klamaths were big brokers in east Oregon for that business. Meanwhile, down by Sacto, Sherman was eyeballing a shiney rock and saying to Sutter, "Yep, John, that right there is a big ol' chunk of gold."
 

offroadx

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It only makes sense Cherokee had slaves, after all they had tried to adopt the white mans way's to be accepted by the white man.........only to be resented for doing it.
 

diane

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It only makes sense Cherokee had slaves, after all they had tried to adopt the white mans way's to be accepted by the white man.........only to be resented for doing it.
Hello, offroadx! Nice to see a new member.
 
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