Opinion

Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans fought for their survival






Freedmen descendants protest outside a Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Photo by Marilyn Vann / Descendants Of Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes

Author and attorney Gyasi Ross continues his look at the intertwined struggles of Native Americans and African Americans:
If a person takes the time required to take an honest look at the history of Native and black relations they would see that there is zero systemic history of black folks discriminating against Native people or Native people discriminating against black folks. Now, let’s be clear—there are absolutely instances where Native people did (and sometimes are still doing) destructive isht against black folks, and there are absolutely instances where black folks did destructive isht against Native people. But those are anomalies. Exceptions. Once again, to repeat, there is ZERO evidence of any systematic pattern of behavior by either group against the other. Never. And there are many, many more instances of Native people working with black folks for both groups’ survival. Unlike systematic discrimination, of which there is no proof, there is systematic proof of cooperation between Native and black people.

That history of cooperation makes you wonder when the first thing folks bring up when talking about Native and black interaction is discord and separation.

Moles. Agent provocateurs.

We’ll explore some of those instances of Natives falling victim to anti-blackness in the next two installments of this series; moreover we’ll also talk about those times when black folks fell victim to anti-Nativeness. There is an evil rumor that “Natives” had black slaves—no, my friends, that’s just not true. Instead, there is only a record of FIVE tribes ever holding black slaves, and those were those Five Civilized Tribes. Five tribes. Out of over one thousand tribes at the time. And one of those Tribes—the Seminole—became one of former slaves’ greatest allies. And also within the five tribes, it was only a few very well-to-do Natives who held slaves. It wasn’t “Natives” who held slaves—it was a few Natives from a few tribes who held slaves.

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: COINTELPRO, Cherokee Freedmen and Survival Tactics: Black History Month For Natives Pt.2 (Indian Country Today 2/9)

Related Stories:
Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans share a lot in common (1/29)