Heritage Matters

Heritage Matters

Someone new in their community. Who are our people

Wildhorse CreekStevenson's family reunion logo 2000

Flisa M Stevenson is a MLA candidate at Cornell University. For more information about the Cornell University Department of Landscape Architecture visit the website at www. landscape.cornell.edu

When the Federal government expelled the so-called Five Civilized Tribes from their traditional homes in the eastern United States they took the enslaved Africans then owned with them to new lands in the West Indian Territory which was carved out of lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. roughly consisted of the eastern half of present day Oklahoma. This forced migration to the government-established Indian Territory provides a wealth of docu�mentary evidence, including census data, field reports. and land allotment records produced by the Untied States government

The Chickasaw Indians were among the Five Civilized Tribes. and were slaveholders. When the Civil War ended, it took another treaty (the Treaty of 1866 to free the enslaved within Indian Territory. Among the stipulations was to free the Africans held in bondage in all tribes and adopt them as citizens with full rights in their respective nations. However, the Chickasaw did not want the freedmen living among them and asked tie United States to remove the freedmen from their nation. Chickasaw freedmen found themselves a people disenfranchised in the nation of their birth.

The native-born freedmen did not want to leave the land that was their homeland for several decades. They had bonded with the land and for the most part identified with the Chickasaw customs and lifeways in which they had been raised. By 1882 many black Chickasaw had been born free, but the elder freedmen were born In the Chickasaw Nation after removal to Indian Territory. Despite attempts by the Chickasaw to oust them, the freedmen tenaciously held their Position in the Chickasaw country until they became citizens of the United States in 1907

Fleet Stevenson Jr. grew up on a farmstead in former Chickasaw country near Wildhorse Creek. until 1954. He has always said his family's land came from Indians. A review of historical records Indicates that his great-grandfather. Dave Stevenson was a freedmen descendant of Laney Stevenson, a slave and half-blood Chickasaw in Mississippi. Her sons Dick. Joe, and Dave Stevenson settled in Indian Territory near Wildhorse Creek. Several generations of Stevenson�s were born and raised in this area. Thus the Stevenson�s claim to African-Native American heritage was substantiated.

Although the built environment has the capacity to serve as a repository of our collective and individual history and memory, following the genealogy trail through a place acknowledges the presence of the Intangible, the interweaving of memory and experience, to reveal the people who contributed to its making.

Understanding Wildhorse Creek, and other places related to African American-Native American commingled heritage, requires addressing the gap in historical knowledge concerning Native Americans as slaveholders and African Americans relationship to land. Exploring issues of spatial identify using the genealo�gy trail gave focus to the documentary evidence. The personal histories expressed by the members of this black frontier society shaping space in the land they were born to, called home and struggled to keep, give it significance.

On April 14-18 2003, the George Wright Society (GWS) and the, National Park Service (NPS) will hold a joint conference of natural and cultural resource professionals in San Diego. California Protecting Our Diverse Heritage incorporates two conferences on parks and cul�tural resources. The GWS Biennial Conference is the largest interdisci�plinary conference on research and resource  management on protected areas in the Nation

Protecting Our Diverse Heritage: The Role of Parks, Protected Area; and Cultural Sites, GWS/CR2003 Joint Conference

Source: http://www.cr.nps.gov/crdi/publications/HM_VI_Conferences_etc.pdf