Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"All Things Connect..."

 I've been more curious than ever lately about my heritage in being a government registered, one-quarter, Choctaw Indian. This entry is for me, for journaling; so I can look back and remember where I came from. Also, to see the sacrifices of so many for me to be here and have the wonderful life that I do.

My ancestors were primarily from Oklahoma with many current relatives still there to this day. I have found that Choctaw chief Allen Wright (1826-1885) suggested Oklahoma (okla "man" and humma "red"- land of the red man) as the name of the new territory. I spent many days there growing up and when I'm back home, still go as often as I can. Our family has many acres of land, 88 of them being Indian Treaty land. My great-grandmother, Mattie, was awarded 8.8 acres per child, which is for 10 kids. This is a picture of my great-grandmother Mattie and her husband, Sylvester Ladner. Mattie died in 1924 in her mid-twenties, when my grandfather, Andrew, was about six weeks old. Sylvester later married, Audry, who raised Mattie's 3 children and had 7 additional of her own. These pictures of both Mattie and Audry are the first and only pictures I have ever seen of them. All of which are buried together in the Jimtown Cemetary of Love Co. Oklahoma.

Mattie (1895-1924)
Audry (1897-1981)
Sylvester Ladner (1893-1972)

My grandfather, Andrew (1924-2000)

A little history on Choctaw Indians: the word Choctaw is derived from the Choctaw phrase, "Hacha Hatak," meaning river people. They were known as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes" because they adopted and integrated numerous cultural and technological practices of their European American colonial neighbors.

In 1831, U.S. President Andrew Jackson, who was given the name of "Sharp Knife" by the Choctaw people, made the Choctaw's the first Native Americans to travel on the Trail of Tears. The Choctaw were exiled (to the area now called Oklahoma) because the U.S. wanted to expand territory for settlement to European Americans, wanted to save them from extinction, and wanted to acquire their natural resources. 

This is a sculpture by James Earle Frazer called "The End of the Trail" which was inspired by poetry from Marion Manville Pope, "The trail is lost, the path is hid, and winds that blow from out the ages sweep me on to that chill borderland where Time’s spent sands engulf lost peoples and lost trails.”

In World War I, they served in the U.S. military as the first Native American code talkers against the Germans, using the Choctaw language as a natural code.

George Washington (first U.S. President) and Henry Knox (first U.S. Secretary of War) proposed the cultural transformation of Native Americans. Washington believed that Native Americans were equals but that their society was inferior to that of the European Americans. He formulated a policy to encourage the "civilizing" process, and Thomas Jefferson continued it. Washington's six-point plan included impartial justice toward Indians; regulated buying of Indian lands; promotion of commerce; promotion of experiments to civilize or improve Indian society; presidential authority to give presents; and punishing those who violated Indian rights. The government appointed agent, Benjamin Hawkins, to live among the Indians and to teach them through example and instruction, how to live like whites. The Choctaws accepted Washington's policy as they established schools, adopted modern farming practices, converted to Christianity, and built houses like their colonial neighbors.

"We have long heard of your nation as a numerous, peaceable, and friendly people; but this is the first visit we have had from its great men at the seat of our government. I welcome you here; am glad to take you by the hand, and to assure you, for your nation, that we are their friends. Born in the same land, we ought to live as brothers, doing to each other all the good we can, and not listening to wicked men, who may endeavor to make us enemies..." —President Thomas Jefferson, Brothers of the Choctaw Nation, December 17, 1803

The US government set up the Dawes Commission to manage the land allotment policy. Beginning in 1894, the Dawes Commission was established to register Choctaw and other families of the Indian Territory, so that the former tribal lands could be properly distributed among them. The final list included 18,981 citizens of the Choctaw Nation, 1,639 Mississippi Choctaw, and 5,994 former slaves, most held by Choctaws in the Indian/Oklahoma Territory.

Chata Anumpa (Choctaw): Hattak yuka keyu hokυtto yakohmit itibachυfat hieli kυt, nan isht imaiυlhpiesa atokmυt itilawashke; yohmi ha hattak nana hohkia, keyukmυt kanohmi hohkia okla moma nana isht aim aiυlhpiesa, micha isht aimaiυlhtoba he aima ka kanohmi bano hosh isht ik imaiυlhpieso kashke. Amba moma kυt nana isht imachukma chi ho tuksυli hokmakashke.
English Language: That all free men, when they form a special compact, are equal in rights, and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive, separate public emolument or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services.

The Choctaws believed in a good spirit and an evil spirit. They may have been sun, or Hushtahli, worshipers. The historian Swanton wrote, "The Choctaws anciently regarded the sun as a deity ... the sun was ascribed the power of life and death. He was represented as looking down upon the earth, and as long as he kept his flaming eye fixed on any one, the person was safe ... fire, as the most striking representation of the sun, was considered as possessing intelligence, and as acting in concert with the sun ... having constant intercourse with the sun ..." The word nanpisa (the one who sees) expressed the reverence the Choctaw had for the sun.

I hold a high regard to my ancestors for their struggles, their battles, but yet their respect for each other as well as those of "other lands."  I can only aspire to be the least bit as strong of a person as they were. From their perseverance and determination for a future, we now have a Choctaw Nation going strong today with at least 160,000 registered Choctaw Indians. 
"Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect."

Chief Seattle, 1854


  1. Love this post lay lay. You've always been a talented writer. I love my Choctaw Ladner's! :)

  2. SOOooo interesting Ally! I LOVE reading about "my" people also! What great people the Native Americans were and are! So proud! You look A LOT like your great grandmother Mattie!!!! :) Both beautiful ladies!