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Excellent PBS Video: America Reframed . . . By Blood

Excellent PBS Video:   America Reframed . . . By Blood


This is a recent broadcast by PBS News.  It was the premier of their America Reframed Series.   Investigative reporters dived into the issues behind the efforts of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma to expel all descendants of Black Freedmen.  Unfortunately, because the reporters knew very little about the real history of the Southeastern tribes, they tended to take statements from those interviewed as factual. POOF will discuss below, some of the facts left out. 

One of the most important facts brought out by this documentary is that in 1866 and 1867, Bureau of Indian Affairs agents arbitrarily labeled most members of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes with darker skin or some African features as Black Freedmen, whether or not they had actually been slaves prior to the Civil War.  Also, many other Cherokee Black Freedmen have proven descent from famous Cherokees, such as Principal Chief John Ross, who regularly bedded down with their young female slaves. 

Several Black Freedmen from both the Cherokee and Seminole tribes, took DNA tests, which proved their Native America ancestry, but the tribal governments rejected the DNA tests as a proof that these people were legitimate members, because they had ancestors, who were on the Cherokee or Seminole Freedmen rolls.

Here is the link to the Google citation.  You will have to click it to get to the website, where the program can be watched.

America Reframed . . . By Blood

Florida Seminoles of predominantly African heritage ~ photo taken in 1930.

Here are some basic facts completely left out of the program:

(1)  The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole people today are the result of five centuries of extensive mixing between  many ethnic groups and races.  They are not the same genetically as the indigenous peoples, who greet the first European explorers. 

(2) The Five Civilized Tribes had no concept of tribal membership being based on skin color or “blood quantum” until such clauses were written into their constitutions by white bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

(3) The Cherokees are now using the Dawes Rolls lists as a criteria for tribal membership, but most Cherokees with African heritage were blocked from signing the Dawes Rolls by white federal bureaucrats, watching from behind the sign-up tables.

(4)  Major DNA labs have found it impossible to create DNA test markers for the Cherokees, because the majority of members in Oklahoma are running 0-2 %  Native American. What the Cherokees themselves believe are “full blooded Cherokee” physical features have turned out to be a mixture of Caucasian, African, Semitic, Anatolian and Middle Eastern features

(5) It has become quite clear that the impetus for “ethnic purity” in these tribes came from greed associated with the revenues from gambling casinos.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Agreed. My mother-in-law was born on a reservation without a birth certificate. And she can’t get on the Dawes roles because of that. DNA or not. Do you know how many people in their 80s were born without birth certs? A lot. There are many, many indigenous peoples, including my children, who have lost their heritage because of it. It’s sad. And very frustrating.


    Hey Richard,
    I’m glad you put his video on the site. I always shake my head at groups like this, both have been wronged in the past by others and now one does the same thing to the other and thinks its ok. I have read enough about the modern Cherokee Tribe to find I don’t like the way they treat others. We will only accept you IF your GGGgrandparent signed this paper is very arrogant. When the one of the Cheifs said that blood not DNA mattered I almost choked. Is that hypocritical or what? According to genealogy work done by one of my cousins that is Mormon we are related to Cherokee Chief Doublehead the Troxell family and many other Cherokees. After watching this video I would have to think real hard about joining the Cherokee tribe if I was eligible because of the way they have treated these people.
    One thing I noticed was that the town of Boyln(?) was build on Creek land. I hope the Creeks are not like the Cherokee on this matter.
    Also I saw in the tribal dances, feather head dresses, clothes and other things that are more of the western Indian dress, and they were chanting and beating on a big drum. According to some articles you have written that the SE Indian tribes had different music and dancing, more like the Shipibo in Peru. I had to go back and watch the video you posted of Anaconda. It makes me want to go party with the Shipibo!
    Thanks again for all you do.

    • The Creeks in Oklahoma voted to keep the Black Creeks as tribal members. Yes, we are different.


        Hey Richard,
        Different and smarter than the average Cherokee.


    Somewhere I came across an old map of the southeast. Over where Georgia is today, there was in large black letters THE CREEKS.
    Nowhere on the map was the word Cherokee. No where.
    Then somewhere on a later map, Cherokee.
    No one today wants to know anything except that they must be Cherokee.
    And a grandmother princess is the best.
    When I finally realized the truth of what some of my mixed ancestors must have faced, I immediately went and burned some things and then went for a long swim in a half frozen Jacks River.
    But as least I found some peace and strength.
    I made a Youtube video just before the holidaze called the dirty kid. Rejected at birth I was, and I never understood then why. At least I can sleep peaceful at night.
    Skin tone seems to be the defining force behind so much rotten these days.
    But the stronger smell always seems to be dollars.
    I laugh often now about being called white trash before it was popular……

    • Your map was absolutely correct. Even as late as 1776, there were only about 100 Cherokees in the whole Province of Georgia, which then included Alabama and Mississippi!


        I have seriously been doing some looking.
        Sure wish my old homeplace had not been robbed and burnt out in the mid sixies.
        We had some things, among them old hides with some kind of writing on them. Falling apart, and tied together with some old crumbling feathers. Rest assured Richard, just remembering that hurts inside, for it was an old medicine bundle from the trip through the southland islands. The couch shell was at a school show and tell.
        I find myself crying in grief. Sorry, the memories….

        Wish sometime to meet with you Sir.


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