(fwd from Bill Bogert) Camejo on Indians and Civil War

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri Jul 11 06:48:26 MDT 2003

The excerpts from Camejo include one sentence on some Indians being
slave owners, which may be appropriate considering how much he has to cover.

However, I happen to be reading at the moment Scott L. Malcomson's _One
Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race_ (New York: Farrar,
Strauss, and Giroux, 2000), which has a whole chapter, "'Welcome, Negro,
Welcome': The Indian As Slave and Slaveholder."

Malcolmsen does not attempt to give a broad portrait of the Indian
experience, but instead focuses on the Cherokee, whom whites considered
the most "civilized" of Indian nations.

Many Cherokees feared that if they remained in the South, local
legislation would soon reduce them to the status of Negroes. Making a
virtue from despair, hope lay in the Western territories. Paradoxically,
some Cherokees became more racialized after their forced removal to the

A white traveler passing through the Cherokee nation noted: "...Most of
the labor among the wealthier classes of Cherokees, Choctaws,
Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, is done by negro slaves; for they all
have adopted substantially the Southern system of slavery." (p. 89)

Malcolmsen follows this with an explanation that would warm the cockles
of any materialist.

"Collective landownership made a plantation system both tremendously
profitable for those who could buy slaves and wildly divisive in class
terms. The use of land went to the person who couild till it ... Capital
was spent on slaves, not land, because you couldn't buy land... The
population of slaves relative to that of Cherokees increased slowly but
steadily from 1824 to 1860."  (ibid.)

When war broke out, the Cherokees were all over the map. John Ross, a
Cherokee leader who tried to keep the tribe together, "seems to have
sensed the parallel between Confederate states' rights doctrine and
tribal sovereignty." The abolitionist faction among the traditionalist
Keetoowah Society of Cherokees raided and pillaged or joined the Union
army. Another faction practiced "a higher form of terrorism" against the
Keetoowahs while also leading Confederates." (p. 93)

The war went disastrously for the Cherokee. There was one small
consolation. After Oklahoma became a state, "when the white leadership
segregated their state, they recognized Indians as not being black." (p.106)

[Malcolmsen is coming from the position that tripartite racial
construction is a product of New World experience. He focuses on
Oklahoma as a laboratory of separatism. Blacks, whites, and Indians all
had the same goal, "a separate state dominated by their own
race....[T]hese Americans seem to have felt they needed their own racial
place in order to escape the past, to remake themselves, to become new
people -- to become, at last, innocent, each to itself, after nearly
three hundred years together." (p.6)]

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