Choctaw

Slavery as an institution had become deeply entrenched among the leading men of the Choctaw Nation long before the removal to Indian Territory.
— "The Choctaws in Oklahoma," p. 32

Peter Pitchlynn (my sixth great-uncle); Chief of Choctaw Nation, 1864-1866.

Peter Pitchlynn (my sixth great-uncle); Chief of Choctaw Nation, 1864-1866.


A significant number of tribal leaders owned black slaves. Just a few years after the move west, the General Council had passed laws forbidding any public expression of “the most fatal and destructive doctrine of abolitionism”; barring slaves from learning to read and write; and refusing to let free blacks settle within the nation’s territory. In 1856 the tribe became an object of particular revulsion among Northern abolitionists when reports spread that a Choctaw lynch mob had burned alive an enslaved woman accused of complicity in the murder of her master.
— Adam Goodheart, New York Times ("Choctaw Confederates")

My Choctaw ancestors owned slaves dating back to their time in Mississippi. Peter Pitchlynn, my sixth-great uncle—who led two exoduses from Mississippi, helped create the Choctaw school system in the the new Indian Territory, and would become the Chief of the Choctaw Nation (okhistory.org)—is also recorded as owning more than sixty slaves at one census in 1860 (see below).

His daughter, Lavinia Pitchlynn Harkins, witnessed (and perhaps instigated) the lynching (burning alive) of her slave in 1858, mentioned in the above quote (Choctaws in Oklahoma 30).

In the midst of fighting for his own people and their rights, Peter Pitchlynn also fought to own the rights of others.


Peter Pitchlynn’s Slave Role of over 60 slaves, 1860.

Peter Pitchlynn’s Slave Role of over 60 slaves, 1860.


At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Choctaw Nation joined the Confederacy to defend slave ownership and their land. Peter Pitchlynn, who remained a Unionist, watched as three of his sons and tribe joined the fight for the South (New York Times).

He, and the tribe, were left with the quandary of fighting for their freedom as well as the continued bondage of others.


But the Choctaws are completely tied up, by Treaties, with the government of the United States, which Texas & Arkansas and all of our Southern friends had a hand in making. By these very same treaties, we have a complete title & right to the land we now live on and all our invested funds are now in the hands of President Lincoln. These Treaties are the only guarantees we have for our country & our monies. If we now violate them by joining the secessionist, we lose that guarantee for our country and our monies. Still we cannot and must not oppose our Southern friends, and all we now ask of them is to wait upon us, and by no means to doubt our friendship, for their friendship is dear to us. Their interest is our interest, their prosperity is our prosperity. But how can we forfeit all of our rights without first having guaranties made to us for our future security?
— Peter Pitchlynn, "The Choctaws in Oklahoma," p. 58

A group of Cherokee veterans, 1903.

A group of Cherokee veterans, 1903.


I was born August 12, 1853, in the Choctaw Nation near Old Boggy Depot. My parents came to the Indian Territory between 1840 and 1850, and settled near Old Boggy Depot. When the Civil War began Father joined the Confederate Army under General Cooper and became a shoe-maker, making shoes for the soldiers.
— Margaret Russell (Great-Great-Great Grandmother)

Perry Russell’s (Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Husband of Margaret) Confederate service record

Perry Russell’s (Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Husband of Margaret) Confederate service record


Both my fourth-great grandfather and my third-great grandfather, Chester Ashley Wright and Perry Russell, fought for the Confederacy. Perry’s wife Margaret would be given land in the Dawes act, and it would be on this land my great-grandfather would find arrowheads.

She, along with her husband Perry, her father Chester, and my sixth-great uncle Peter, were both subject to victimization and were victimizers themselves.


On June 19th, Peter Pitchlynn signed the final surrender of the Choctaw Nation.
— "The Choctaws in Oklahoma," p. 71

I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know how I should feel.