The Fort Smith Elevator and the Vinita Indian Chieftain
These three short articles about the Catawba in Arkansas were written between 1889-1895, and are found in the local newspaper, "The Fort Smith Elevator". Some people were trying to organize a group of Catawba in the late 19th century. One man is called "Williams" in one place and "Williamson" in another.
Also found, late in the day, a few lines in an article in "The Indian Chieftain" of Vinita, Oklahoma, dated 1888, when Vinita was a part of the Cherokee Nation. Remember Oklahoma only became a state in 1907.
August 16, 1889
The Fort Smith Elevator
Catawba Indian Association
The Catawba Indian Association mey at Rocky Ridge on the 10th. The meeting was called to order by the President. After the reading of the minutes and the calling of the roll of the officers, transacting other business that came before the order, a call for new members was made and 90 was added to the new list, after which the meeting adjourned to meet at Aults’ Mill, three miles south of Fort Smith, the second day of the fair, the 16th day of October, where the delegates and all persons interested wil please attend without further notice, as matters of interest will be considered.
J. Bain, President
G. W. Williamson, Secretary
Hello Mr. Hawkins,
Attached is a copy of the article you requested. The article mentioned another meeting held on October 16th and I found it in the October 25th edition but the film was so dark I could not get a good print to scan. The text of the article follows. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
The Western Catawbas Indian Association met at Ault’s Mill October 16, 1889, at which meeting a number of new members were added to the Association, thus making it nearly 4,000 strong. They appointed an executive committee which is empowered to transact all business and place the matter before congress. The Association adjourned to convene again at a called meeting of the president.
October 25, 1889 p. 3 col. 5
From Fort Smith Historical Society publication
Taken originally from “The Fort Sh Elevator” (newspaper), date probably early Jan 1895.
All Catawba Indians by blood or otherwise are requested to meet at the County Court House in Fort Smith Arkansas on Thursday, Jan 24th, 1895 at 10 o’clock a. m. for the purpose of perfecting the census roll of the Western Catawba Indian Association and the transaction of other matters that may come before the meeting. All Catawba Indians are expected to be present or by proxy as business of importance will come before the meeting.
James Bain, Pres’t.
Geo. E. Williams, Sec’ry
Western Catawba Indian Association
Please keep the timeframe in mind. Tha Dawes Act (also called the Allotment Act) had just been passed in Congress meaning the Indians in Oklahoma at least would no longer own all their lands in common -- each Indian family was to receive -- I think it was 160 acres -- I might be wrong about the number of acres. Well many more people were asking for this land than there actually were Indians living on the lands in Oklahoma. So the Indians and whites both grew very suspicious some of the applicants.
We hear of all those on the rejected rolls. But we never hear of those who claimed Catawba ancestry -- all we hear of are Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Creek or Seminole. Apparently 4,000 people wanted to claim Catawba ancestry. The final list seems to have had only 257 names, so something happened to the rest, and we have no list of the names of those 257 persons.
Also, these 4,000 are not on any accepted or rejected roll, either, as no roll was made for the Catawba. I am hoping to discover the names of those 257 as well as those 4,000.
General opinion at the time was they were individuals who had a little Indian blood and had been living as whites. The idea of giving free land to people who had not gone through the hardships of removal, people who had left them to live as Whites, was a bitter and difficult pill for the traditional Indians who had never left the various tribes to take. Also it was suspected that many people applying were simply full blood Whites looking to take Indian lands as had happened many times in the past. This attitude doomed the petitioners such as these claiming a Catawba heritage, to failure. But what became of them?
I am going to keep researching these Catawba petitioners in/around Fort Smith, Arkansas. They seem to have been forgotten.
ps -- found one other comment before going to bed tonight from "The Indian Chieftain", a newspaper from Vinita, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory dated 1888, located in what is today north eastern Oklahoma.
Indian Chieftain, March 1, 1888, Vinita, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), image 2 of 4
The Western Catawba Indian Association, with headquarters in Fort Smith, proposes to petition congress to set aside for the use of all persons of Indian blood, not members of any tribe, a portion of the Indian Territory.
I can not help but remember hearing that dad's grandparents were at one time thinking about signing up for the Dawes Act, but "something happened" and they never did. Part of my quest in doing research was to find out exactly what happened. This would have been the 1890s. They did live near Fort Smith at one time and we do seem to have some ancestors that "could have been" Catawba. Did we belong to this organization, the Western Catawba Indian Association -- at one time 4,000 strong? That would explain a lot. The Melungeons too, were eastern Siouan -- if not Catawba then descended from their closest, both genetically and linguistically -- allies.
Now I have had very good "evidence" before and it proved wrong upon further scrutiny, so I don't want to get too excited -- but this might be "it". We have evidence our Brown's "might have been" mixed-Catawba -- unfortunately no proof.
I also keep thinking of Chief Haigler's letter to Gov Glen (of SC) when he asked him to give wampum to the Pedee Indians and asked the governor to ask the Pedee to live with them (the Catawba) to make them stronger. And in the 1890s some Catawba in Arkanss and Oklahoma descendants were still doing that -- trying to get other Indians to join them in a new land in the west, to maindain a resemblance of a nation, even at that late date. They did not want to go into extinction as a nation, quietly.
I would have loved to find more about this organization. But it seems to have just vanished off the face of the earth. We they the original "fake" tribe? Were they mixed bloods of hte tribes that are extinct, an echo of a memory of a people that once existed, but are all gone, now? I suspect this is the case, although I wish it weren't.