- A guest at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) “Black History Month Fireside Chat” joined the Monday call with a land acknowledgement for a Native American tribe that allied itself with the Confederacy and owned black slaves, according to a DOE recording of the call.
- The guest, Colette Pichon Battle, Visions and Initiatives Partner for climate justice initiative Taproot Earth, joined the call with a small label acknowledging that she was in “Choctaw Territory.”
- In 1860, enslaved peoples of African descent comprised 14% of the Choctaw Nation, Fay Yarbrough, a professor and associate dean at Rice University, wrote in a January article for the National Endowment of the Humanities.
A guest at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fireside Chat on Black Resistance, Energy & Climate Justice signed onto the Monday call with a land acknowledgement for a Native American tribe that kept black slaves and allied itself with the Confederacy, according to a DOE recording of the call.
Colette Pichon Battle, the Visions and Initiatives Partner for the climate justice initiative Taproot Earth, joined the Black History Month Fireside Chat with a label that read “Choctaw Territory,” and verbally mentioned she was calling from “south Louisiana.” Director Shalanda H. Baker of the DOE’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, who hosted the call, praised the “acknowledgement,” noted that she was also calling in from “indigenous territory” in D.C., specifically “Piscataway territory … Anacostan people as well,” and asked if Battle could “talk about the ways in which centering blackness is also connected to indigeneity and indigenous peoples.”
“[T]he struggle specifically of black folks and native folks of this place are actually intertwined,” Battle said. “[B]oth of our peoples were enslaved, both of our peoples were killed, harmed, even taken from one land to another and used to build the capital and the wealth of this country. These are the original sins of the United States, and in order for us to actually get to a place of healing and reconciliation we’re gonna have to deal with these two groups of people in particular,” she continued.
The Choctaw do not appear to maintain a reservation in southern Louisiana, according to a map composed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
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In 1860, enslaved peoples of African descent comprised 14% of the Choctaw Nation, and were made to perform agricultural labor and interpretive duties for Choctaw enslavers to communicate with white Americans, Fay Yarbrough, a professor and associate dean at Rice University, wrote in a January article for the National Endowment of the Humanities. The Choctaw Nation ultimately formed a formal alliance with the Confederacy, contributing 1,000 mounted riflemen to the Confederate cause in 1861 alone.
“Enslaved Africans were also taken on the Trails of Tears by their tribes to do the hard dirty work of clearing fields, carrying bags, chopping wood, etc. so that the rest of the tribe could more easily survive and build new Indian plantations in the Removal Treaties lands of Indian Territory,” Marilyn Vann, president of Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association, testified to the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in July 2022. “After the Indian removals of the 1830s and 40s, Indian slaveholders were paid for enslaved Africans who died on the Trail of Tears.”
Following the Civil War, various tribes, including the Choctaw, signed treaties with the U.S. government to free their slaves and grant them tribal citizenship, but freedmen were often denied these rights despite this, CNN reported.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton argued that the federal standards that determine Indian descent are unreliable, since they depend on federal records from immediately after the Civil War, which many Native Americans did not trust enough to join and many white Americans attempted to join to get “free” land, according to a 2021 statement in which he pledged to consider offering tribal membership to freedmen’s descendants.
Following this statement, however, “no town halls or forums to discuss freedmen citizenship have been held,” Vann testified, expressing doubt that the Choctaw would follow through.
“The Choctaw nation had about 200,000 population in 2021. Based on the freedmen being 1/3 of tribal citizens during the Dawes enrollment, approximately 66,000 freedmen descendants should be currently registered in the tribe,” Vann testified. “Based on past history, the chances of the tribe living up to its treaty obligations without federal intervention appears almost non-existent.”
Battle and the Department of Energy did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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