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Claims by Mississippi Choctaws 

     But no roll of Choctaw citizenship could be complete until the Mississippi Choctaws were given an opportunity to establish their rights to citizenship as provided by Section twenty-one of the Curtis Bill.  Living as he did in the most out of the way place in Mississippi, in complete ignorance of what was taking place outside of his immediate neighborhood, the average Mississippi Choctaw might have never known, if left to himself, of this late revival of his almost forgotten claim. Furthermore, in order for him to be enrolled it was necessary for him to appear in person before the Commission. So it was thought best for the Commission to send representatives to Mississippi to instruct the Mississippi Choctaws in the matter of their claims and to afford them an opportunity for filing their claims and making the necessary proof of their rights to enrollment. 

     To carry out this purpose, the Commission opened an office in Meridian, Miss., and for several months devoted their time to the applications of Mississippi Choctaws.  Hundreds of them appeared in person before the Commission with their witnesses. Their applications were formally filed, and their evidence recorded by the Commission.  But to the applicants the proving of claims was a new business, and not all of them made the proof that they could have made had they only known how to make it. 

     These filings together with the evidence was carried by the Commission back to its main office at Muskogee, Indian Territory, there in time to be passed upon.  If the Commission found that the evidence of record in any case was not sufficient to entitle the claimant to enrollment, he was notified of the fact and given further opportunity to make his proof. If sufficient evidence was furnished the Commission in time, the claimant was enrolled, otherwise the claim was dismissed.

     With the appearance of the Mississippi Choctaw before the Commission certain questions of procedure had to be determined. By referring to section twenty-one of the Curtis Bill it will readily be seen that much was left to be supplied by the Commission.  First, what Mississippians were entitled to claims of Indian citizenship?  In this particular the Commission held,

(1) that the claimant must be a Choctaw or a descendant of a Choctaw; 
(2) that he or some of his ancestors before him must have made application or sought to make application, or made some effort or done some overt act toward making application, to Judge Ward, the United States Indian Agent, who was sent to Mississippi by the United States Government during the six months immediately following the ratification of the treaty of 1830 for the purpose of carrying out with the Choctaws remaining in Mississippi the provisions of the 14th article of the aforesaid treaty, for a home for himself in Mississippi; 
(3) that he did not receive that home or any in lieu thereof from the United States Government; and 
(4) that he had not become a permanent bona fide citizen of the Indian Territory prior to June 25, 1898. 
     For a time full-bloods and descendants were regarded by the Commission as being on the same footing.  Descendants were allowed to file their claims by proving one-eighth Choctaw blood or even one-sixteenth Choctaw blood, and in some cases probably less.  In this way many white people and negroes got their claims on file before the Commission. 

Supplemental Treaty of 1902 

     It was thought too at first that full-bloods and descendants were both required to show some semblance of compliance with the requirements of the 14th article of the treaty of 1830.  The Supplemental Treaty of 1902 to a great extent reversed this policy by making a vast difference in the status of the claims of Mississippi Choctaws as to whether they were full-bloods or descendants.  This new law virtually established the claims of all full-bloods upon their proving that they were such, which proof was easily made by profert of the claimant before the Commission. But while the new law greatly aided the full-bloods, it virtually eliminated all descendants from any further consideration. 

     The purpose of the law was to cut down the number of Mississippi Choctaw claimants, and it served well the purpose for which it was intended.  That the Commission was being imposed upon by the Mississippians who were not Choctaws was evident.  Furthermore there was opposition among Indian citizens to the claims of Mississippi Choctaws; not because they did not love their Mississippi brothers, but because each new name on the final roll meant a corresponding reduction in each individual share, each increase in the divisor meaning a proportionate decrease in the quotient, the dividend being a constant quantity.

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Copyright 2001 - All Rights Reserved
Ellen Pack