Know Your History
LIBERTY, October 26, 2014 - Why does history seem to repeat itself? I think it’s because over time we forget our history and wide up repeating some of the same dumb things that our ancestors did in the past. It’s important to know your history and there’s no better way to learn and understand it than genealogical research.
In recent months I had a conversation with new County Commissioners Leon Wilson of Dayton, TX. During our conversation we each discovered that we were both descendants of Creek Indians.
Knowing of my Creek heritage but not fully understanding how it happened I embarked on research into my family heritage.
I knew of my Creek Indian heritage from family conversations and the fact that in about 1971, when I was in High School, me and my family received our, “Indian Money” as a settlement from the Federal Government. I received a check for a little over one hundred dollars. My mother and grandmother who were living at the time received more, “Indian Money,” than I did because being from a prior generations had more Indian blood.
My direct descendant through my mother’s line is Mary Virginia McGhee Steadham born, June 13, 1837. She was the granddaughter of Tribal Chief Lynn McGhee. She had 11 children. I descend through her oldest son Rheuben S. Steadham born in 1857. Rheuben S. Steadham's daughter, Margaret Steadman Hamm, born in 1890, was my Great Grandmother born in Atmore, Alabama. She moved with her husband and her first four children from Alabama to Dayton Texas in the early 1900's.
I found out why my Indian Ancestors are still in Alabama and Leon Wilson’s ancestors are in Oklahoma today. It’s because Leon’s ancestors relocated to Oklahoma as part of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which lead to the Trail of Tears and my, much smaller tribe choose to remain in Atmore, Alabama.
Andrew Jackson's presidency marked the beginning of the ascendency of the "spoils system" in American politics. Also, he supported, signed, and enforced the Indian Removal Act, which unilaterally and forcibly relocated a number of native tribes to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma); disregarding previous treaty-agreements, and dispossessing and displacing native communities, including those which had previously been integrated into "Western" civilization.
The Indians who stayed in Alabama were a small minority. Furthermore although my Indian ancestors were here prior to white men setting foot on this continent they were not citizen’s of the old, white mans government. One condition of Indians remaining in Alabama and not relocating to Oklahoma was that they had to become citizens of the old, white man’s government. That is the way my ancestor’s became citizens.
The objective of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was to remove Indians from the Southeast to make room for white settlement of the old white man’s government.
When you watch the State of the Union Address by the President on Television today and the camera pans the audience we still have a national government of old, white men. When looking at the audience, how many women do you see? How many blacks, how many Hispanics and how many American Indians? Very few. Minorities and those who have and do experience discrimination today are underrepresented in the old, White man’s government. But, things are changing.
I’ve learned that Indian Tribal Council’s are truly hardworking managers of both money and policy. The Poarch Band Creek Indians from which I descend worked for about forty years to finally become a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe in 1986.
One of the most fundamental jobs of an Indian Tribal Council is to manage their assets and income in such way so they can continue to provide tribal member benefits into future generations. They have to be very smart and make extremely good decisions in order to accomplish this. It’s hard work and Tribal Councils must be very responsive and very close to their constituents like good government should be. Washington, the old, white man’s government has been in gridlock and hasn’t been very responsive to its constituents for the last few years. All they seem to want to do is fight and argue rather than get something done for the benefit of the Country.
But who in Washington has a track record of responsiveness to their constituents?
It was Democrats who brought us Social Security, Civil Rights, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, CHIP and now we’re fighting for equal pay for equal work by women. Yes, despite all the grumbling, people can now receive health insurance despite pre-existing conditions and so many people without health insurance now have insurance and there will be more in the future.
In 50 or 60 years when historians begin to write about our time, the Affordable Care Act will go down as a piece of landmark legislation equal to Social Security itself.
Yes, I’m a proud Democrat and very proud of the responsiveness of our party to constituents. I know my history. I look forward with anticipation of the possible opportunity to vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s time we had a woman president of the old, White man’s government.
I am also a proud descendant of the Poarch Band Creek Indians of Atmore, Alabama.