Still running into people who claim to be “part Indian?” Read on to find more details about what became of the real Black Indians in Chattanooga.
If you read I’m Part Indian Part I, you have already learned how many runaway slaves, freed slaves and drifters were often embraced by Indian tribes and allowed to marry into tribal units. They were judged on the basis of character, skill and loyalty to the group, not on the tint of the skin or the fact that they were descended from a supposedly inferior race. These blacks were welcomed, and the memory of this unconditional love and acceptance is still apparent in African American families today.
“I’m part Indian,” has been a stock phrase among Chattanooga African American families since emancipation.
Eventually, the New Echota Treaty of 1835 sold Cherokee lands to the United States Government. This sale opened the door for Indian removal. Not long afterward, a mandate came down in Chattanooga that the entire Indian population be moved west of the Mississippi River to make room for whites, who wanted the rich, fertile land for themselves.
According to the Chattanooga History books I found right in the downtown library–3rd Floor, the Indians were hunted down and rounded up. They were often found hiding in treetops, bushes and hollow logs, and were herded into stockades at Ross’ Landing. Their houses, gardens and livestock were plundered and ransacked right before their eyes, even as the Ross’ Landing soldiers marched them to interment camps at gunpoint. Their property was auctioned off, usually for next to nothing.
Their African American slaves were confiscated, but those African Americans who had been born Indian, or rather, who “looked Indian” were marched to the stockades with the rest of the tribe, loaded onto barges, and eventually floated down the river.
Altogether, 2,000 or more Cherokee Indians were held in interment camps at Ross’ Landing. They were usually moved in groups of 1,000, and one such group left the Brainerd Mission, crossed over the Tennessee River, went through Walden’s Ridge, and continued across the Sequatchie Valley. Unfortunately, it may never be determined how many of these Indians had African American blood in their veins.
Overall, some 16,000 Cherokee Indians were living in the eastern part of the country, and with forced removal, they attempted to walk the “Trail of Tears” to their new Indian home. It is estimated that at least 2,000 Cherokee Indians from the East perished from starvation, exhaustion, dehydration, mistreatment, freezing temperatures and rampant diseases along the way.
Across the country, when the Indian Removal Act of 1830 went into effect, over 10,000 of the 60,000 Indians that marched along the “Trail of Tears” were “Black Indians.”
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed, I’m Part Indian: Black Indians in Chattanooga.
Be sure to pick up your copy of African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes and find out about other African American personalities and events from long ago. Just click on the icon to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon.com’s website, where you can make your purchase.
Best wishes and happy researching,