The Keetoowah Society and the Avocation of Religious Nationalism in the Cherokee Nation, 1855-1867
 Chapter Two
The Birth and Growth of the Keetoowah Society

In the long run, it was the slavery issue that brought a new ethnic identity of the full-blood majority to organizational unity -- a unity in which the traditionalists and Christians shared a common definition of who was a true Cherokee and what those qualities were that should unify the Nation and inform its policies. When that time came, after 1855, the organizational strength and experience of the northern Baptist Christians and the leadership abilities and charisma of the native Baptist preachers provided the guidance for the full-blood effort to drive the mixed bloods from their influential role in Cherokee affairs. Only then was it clear how powerful the revitalization of Cherokee religious life had become.
William Gerald McLoughlin
The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on
Acculturation and Cultural Persistence



On April 15, 1858, a small group of men met in the chapel of the Peavine Baptist Church in the Goingsnake District of the Cherokee Nation. The church, originally known as the Amohee Church after its mother church in eastern Tennessee, was founded by Jesse Bushyhead upon the arrival of his contingency in the western Nation. [1] When Bushyhead died in 1844, Lewis Downing, a native minister and member of the National Council, became pastor. The church, which changed its name to Peavine Baptist Church in 1858, was a center for revival meetings and as the southernmost church in the Nation, it served as a jumping off point to missions among the Creek Nation.

At this discussion conducted in Cherokee, the men decided that the Cherokee Nation was in a difficult position torn by political divisions and rife for potential catastrophe. At the instigation of native minister Budd Gritts of the Peavine Baptist Church, the men decided to move from the informal meetings that had been held in the church over the years to a formal organization with a written declaration of intent:

... Our secret society shall be named Keetoowah. All of the members of the Keetoowah Society shall be like one family. It should be our intention that we must abide with each other in love...We must not surrender under any circumstance until we shall "fall to the ground united." We must lead one another by the hand with all our strength. Our government is being destroyed. We must resort to bravery to stop it. [2]
Over the next fifty years, the Keetoowah Society was to come to define what it meant to be a member of the Cherokee Nation. What was in later years referred to by missionaries as “the pagan form of worship” and “the work of the devil ” [3] was actually a unique synthesis of traditional religion and the newly adopted principles of the Christian faith. To understand what role the Keetoowah played in the Cherokee Nation, we must understand the events that led to the birth of the Keetoowah Society.

Indian Pioneers

Once in the "Indian Territory" of Oklahoma, the dissension that had led up to the removal of the Cherokee Nation continued with a vengeance. When Major Ridge, leader of the “Treaty Party”, signed the Treaty of New Echota on December 29, 1835, he is reported to have said, “I may yet die some day by the hand of some poor infatuated Indian, deluded by the counsels of Ross and his minions: ... I am resigned to my fate, whatever it may be.” [4] Less than four years later, and less than six months after the arrival of the anti-removal Cherokees in Indian Territory, Ridge's prophecy came true. Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge, and his son John Ridge were ambushed by parties of armed Cherokee and assassinated for their participation in what was considered to be treason. [5] The only member of the “Treaty Party” to escape the assassination attempt was Stand Watie, brother of Elias Boudinot. [6]

Following the assassination of these members of the "Treaty Party," a factional dispute ripped through the Cherokee Nation with the killings on both sides being so great as to bring it to the brink of civil war. [7] Chaney Richardson, and ex-slave from the Cherokee Nation, described the Cherokee “troubles:”

My master and all the rest of the folks was Cherokees, and they'd been killing each other off in the feud ever since long before I was borned, and jest because old Master have a big farm and three-four families of Negroes them other Cherokees keep on pestering his stuff all the time. Us children was always afeared to go any place less'n some of the grown folks was along. We didn't know what we was afeared of, but we heard the Master and Mistress keep talking `bout “another Party Killing” and we stick pretty close to the place...

When I was about 10 years old that feud got so bad the Indians was always talking about getting their horses and cattle killed and their slaves harmed. I was too little to know how bad it was until one morning my own mammy went off somewhere down the road to git some stuff to dye cloth and she didnt come back. [8]

The lawlessness was so great and the ability of government officials to stop the killings so weak that the ancient law of blood returned to the land and a “reign of terror” arose. John Candy, in a letter to Stand Watie reported, “Murders in the country have been so frequent until the people care as little about hearing these things as they would hear of the death of a common dog.” [9] Sarah Watie wrote to her brother of the desperateness of the situation, “I am so tired of living this way. I don't believe I could live one year longer if I knew that we could not be settled. It has wore my spirits out just the thought of not having a good home. I am so perfectly sick of the world.” [10]

Though the dispute was largely between the "Treaty Party" and the "mountain Indians" who were the last to be removed, the factionalism also broke down quite evenly among those "ardent and enterprising" Cherokees who owned ninety percent of the nation's slaves and those "ignorant and but slightly progressed in moral and intellectual improvement" who owned few, if any, slaves. [11] At the center of much of the “troubles” was a notorious gang by the name of the “Starr Boys” associated with the “Treaty Party” who engaged in a reign of terror throughout the Cherokee Nation. The “Starr Boys” targets were not only Ross Party members, but they also engaged in frequent slave-stealings and the random murder of African American members of the Cherokee Nation. [12] In the years 1845-1846, at least thirty-four politically related murders were carried out within the Cherokee Nation. [13]

As the post-removal “troubles” were sweeping the Nation, another problem began to plague the slave-owning population of the Cherokee Nation. In 1842, a major slave uprising occurred within the Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation in which the slaves of several large slave owners fled their masters, joined with fugitives from the Creek Nation, and attempted to reach a settlement of free blacks in Texas. [14] The cause of the problem was later cited as being “missionaries from Boston and other abolition centers [who] were devoting far more effort to inculcate among the slaves the doctrine of freedom than that of salvation.” [15] The Cherokee Council sent John Drew and a hundred Cherokee horsemen who captured and returned the slaves; the desperate and starving slaves were reportedly glad to see Drew's men. The militiamen cared for them “liberally” and returned them to their masters without punishment. [16] However, the Council passed a fugitive slave act that severely punished anyone found guilty of aiding or participating in a slave escape. [17]

A few years later, another group of Cherokee slaves attempted to flee their masters and seek refuge among a group of Afro-Indians from the Creek and Seminole Nation led by Chief Wildcat. Chief Wildcat, the Negro Abraham, Luis Pacheco, and their band of renegades fled through Texas and formed a free community just across the Rio Grande in Mexico. [18] A posse of slaveowners from Indian Territory surrounded the slaves and captured most of them. William Drew, brother of John Drew stated that “the Negroes talked like fighting, but when we got there, they had no fight in them, and most of them ran off and put us to a great deal of trouble to gather them up. We collected 300...There were a good many of these Negroes that had been sold, or went off to live with Wildcat.” [19] Many fugitive slaves from the Cherokee Nation remained within the Indian Territory and settled among the Seminole and Upper Creek who had historically been receptive to runaway slaves. [20]

In 1846, due to the outstanding leadership of Cherokee Chief John Ross, the factional disputes were ameliorated to the point in which a sense of placidity began to occur within the Nation. To the amazement of all, enemies John Ross and Stand Watie stood and shook hands at the signing of the Treaty of 1846, pledging themselves to peace, harmony, and general welfare of the reunited Cherokee Nation. In this period of prosperity following the Treaty of 1846, the Cherokee Nation began to reclaim its heritage and struggled to remove itself from the cruel legacy of forced displacement. [21] At the same time that many were meeting with success and prosperity and making great strides in education, political, and social autonomy, the gap between the rich and the poor -- the assimilated and the full-bloods -- began to widen and the cultural chasm began to reflect the economic one. [22] As this chasm widened, it laid the foundations for the coming struggle over the issue of slavery.

The Baptist Churches and Slavery in Indian Territory

The years 1846-1855 continued to be prosperous ones for the Cherokee Nation, but they were years where the issue of slavery moved from the background of the factional struggle between conservatives and progressives and came to eclipse all other issues that beset this new nation. The number of slaves within the Cherokee nation had grown immensely in the years following removal; in 1839 slaves represented ten percent of the Nation, by 1860 they represented nearly twenty-five percent. The 4,000 slaves in the Cherokee Nation were owned by ten percent of the population. [23] The slave revolts among the Cherokee in 1842, in 1846, and in 1850 solidified the Cherokee elite in the belief of the efficacy and importance of slavery.

Among the full-bloods (who were largely Northern Baptists as opposed to the elite who were often Southern Baptists and Methodists), the abolitionist message continued to spread and gain strength. Only five of the 1100 Cherokee Baptists owned slaves and at least fifty slaves were members of the Baptist missions, although their owners were not. Though Baptist missionaries seldom publicly preached against slavery, the Cherokees came to "look forward to the extinction of slavery." [24] Baptist missionary Evan Jones noted that among the strongest opponents of slavery were the native preachers who "are decidedly and steadfastly opposed to slavery....We have no apology to make for slavery nor a single argument to urge in its defence, and our sincere desire and earnest prayer is that it may be speedily brought to an end." [25]

It is important to note that from the very first Baptist Church in Oklahoma, the congregations were of mixed cultural heritage. The Ebenezer Baptist Church, the first Baptist church in Oklahoma, was organized in the Creek Nation by missionary Isaac McCoy on September 9, 1832. It was composed of “three blacks, two white people, and one Indian in its six charter members.” [26] The founding members of the church were Reverend David Lewis, his wife, John Davis -- a Creek, and three black members of the Creek Nation by the names of Quash, Bob, and Ned. [27] Ebenezer Baptist Church conducted its first baptisms the following sabbath:

The following Saturday, two Creeks and two Blacks were received for baptism, and on the following Sunday took place the first baptism in the Indian's Home. On the same day, under the shade of the wide-spreading, hospitable, forest trees, in the presence of a great gathering of wondering, dusky Indians, and their darker slaves, the Memorial Supper was spread, and observed in apostolic simplicity. [28]
Later, the church continued to grow under the tutelage of the licensed preacher, Mr. John Davis:
On the 14th of October, thirty seven people were baptised at a meeting at the Muscogee church, eight or ten of whom were Creeks, and the rest, except one, colored persons and slaves. On the 10th of November, nine were baptized, three of whom were Indians. [29]
On October 20, 1833, Native Creek Minister John Davis was ordained to the Baptist ministry; he remained as pastor of Ebenezer Church until his death in 1839. [30] In January 1836, the church membership numbered 82 -- 6 whites, 22 Native Americans, and 54 African Americans. An outstation of the Ebenezer Baptist Church was started some 30 miles distant, called Canadian Station. In 1839, a school was opened with fifty students at the Canadian mission with John Davis as its principal; the chief instructor at the school was a Native American Baptist minister. [31] The outpost at the Canadian River became the center of the Cherokee Baptist missions among the Creek Nation for the next twenty-five years.

As soon as they arrived in the new territory in the West, Jones and his native ministers began an outreach to the disparate members of their Baptist congregations settling in their new homes as well as to surrounding communities. Evan Jones described these missions: “friendly deputations have visited have visited the National Convention, from the Creeks, Seminoles, Shawnees, Delawares, and Senecas.” [32] There is no doubt that many of these early efforts were met by African American Baptist ministers, for most of the earliest ministers in Indian Territory were African American slaves or freedmen. [33] These early black ministers in Indian Territory included Joseph Island, Old Billy, and Brother Jesse, a slave-preacher persecuted for his ministry: [34]

One of them came and tied another rope around my wrists; the other end was thrown over the fork of a tree, and they drew me up until my feet did not quite touch the ground, and they tied my feet together. Then they went a little way off and sat down. Afterwards one of them came and asked me where I got this new religion. I said in the Old Nation. `Yes,' replied the Indian, `you have set half of this nation to praying and this is what we are going to whip you for.' Five men gave me five strokes each. [35]
Native Christians were punished for following black ministers, “One woman who received fifty lashes for affirming her faith in Christ went down to a spring...washed her wounds, and walked ten miles to hear Joseph Islands preach that night.” [36] However, the most famous black Baptist preacher of them all was Monday Durant, “a large, strong, man, of fine physical proportions. He readily spoke the Creek language, and commenced preaching when a young man:” [37]
[On the “trail where we cried”] Many negroes came with them. These secretly held their meetings, baptizing after midnight in the streams, with guards posted to keep from being suprised and arrested. A free negro, named Monday Durant, made many preaching visits to the negroes, in the Seminole Nation. A church was organized by him in 1854. [38]
There is little doubt that not only did Evan Jones and Jesse Bushyhead meet with Black ministers within the Indian Territory, but that they were also quite accepting and even encouraging of their black brethren:
Agreeably to the suggestion in our last Report, Mr Jones, of the Cherokee Mission, visited the late Creek Station (Ebenezer's Canadian Mission) in September last and attended a Creek protracted meeting. He was received with great affection and joy, and preached several times by an interpreter. He had also the happiness of seeing four candidates baptised, one of whom was a Creek chief of respectability and influence. Mr. Jones reports the state of the people to be highly encouraging. The members of the church appear well, and the religious meetings are thronged, many of the congregation attending from a distance of twenty or more miles... “Religious meetings are conducted by two black men, both slaves. The oldest, Jacob, is ordained; the other called Jack, a blacksmith, acts as interpreter. They are allowed one day in the week to support themselves and their families in food and clothing; and these days they devote to the service of the church, hiring the working of their little corn and potato patches.” [39]
Later that year, another Baptist minister visited the same mission and found a revival in progress with about one hundred people having been baptized by Pastor Jacob, “some of whom were white people and some were black, but most of them were Indians.” [40]

Within Bushyhead's Flint Church itself, there is evidence not only of black membership dating back to even its foundation in Tennessee, but there is also considerable evidence of a black ministry. In the early 1840's, Minister Bushyhead became the center of a controversy because he was both an ordained minister and slaveholder, [41] though the situation was hardly as simple as the hardline abolitionists made it out to be:

About the years 1840, or 41, Bro. B. purchased a Black man with his wife and child (by his own desires for the purpose of affording him an opportunity to become free). [italics mine]The man is a Baptist Preacher. As soon as he came home, Bro B. told him he must not consider himself any more as a slave but act faithfully as a free man. He furnished him with a horse to ride to his preaching places on sabbath days. This is the black man I have once or twice had occasion to allude to, having been called on several times to baptize hopeful converts, the evident fruit of the blessing of God on this man's labors. [42]
“Uncle Reuben, ” Jesse Bushyhead's slave, became a minister and preached to the slave communities in and around the Flint Church within the Cherokee Nation. Reuben's converts also became members of the church, “The colored persons baptized at this place are the fruits of the preaching of a Black man, a slave, who devotes his sabbath and frequently week [day] evenings to tell the love of Jesus to those of his own color, and God has blessed his labors.” [43]

Bushyhead's slave became the center of a controversy within the Baptist Church and precipitated the crisis that led to the “Great Schism” of 1844-1845. [44] Antislavery activists from the North, who had formed the American Baptist Free Mission Society in 1843, published in their Free Missionary magazine the following note, “Mr. Bushyhead, A Missionary among the Cherokee. He lives in a fine dwelling, has a plantation and several wretched human beings under his irresponsible power.” [45] Bushyhead's status within the Baptist Church as one of the denomination's finest Native ministers was rocked by the scandal which drew even further attention to the struggle over slavery within the Cherokee Nation.

The missionary position, “between two fires,” ended as a result of this controversy surrounding this disclosure; the Home Mission Board in 1844 was forced to reject the application of a slaveholding minister from Georgia as a missionary because, “When an application is made for the appointment of a slaveholder or an Abolitionist as such, the official obligation of the Board to act ceases.” [46] In May 1845, at a convention in Augusta, Georgia, the Southern Baptist Convention was formed creating its own foreign and home missionary boards. The schism in the churches reflected the larger schism which was to come in later years. [47]

Yet, the schism was not only within the churches, it made its way into the Flint Baptist Church itself. In the Spring of 1858, the Southern Baptist Convention sent its first minister, the Reverend James Slover, into the Cherokee Nation. Slover took advantage of the fact that Evan Jones had expelled Cherokee slave owners from the church. Slover also well knew that the slave owners represented the wealthier class among the Cherokee, and that the churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention could afford to pay native ministers quite well. Slover, by offering that the native ministers “set their own price,” was able to attract away Young Duck (a deacon at Flint Church), David Foreman (ordained at Flint Church - a former interpreter in Valley Towns), and John Foster (dismissed for being a slave owner). Reverend Slover, who prided himself in being different from the “Jones Baptists,” reportedly preached that “he owns one `nigger' and would own more if he were able.” [48]

However, there were some ministers who would not be won over to the Southern cause, regardless of the bounty offered by wealthy class. On one visit to the Creek Nation in 1857, Evan Jones and Pastor Lewis Downing of the Peavine Baptist Church ordained a free black by the name of Old Billy. Old Billy was warned by Creek slaveholders not to preach as a “Jones Baptist” would; the Southern Baptist missionary Henry Buckner stated that “Billy ought to have a hundred lashes” for his refusal to acquiesce to the Southern message. However, his congregation of Muscogean people -- African American and Native American, “told him to preach and they would protect him.” Henry Davise, a Beloved Man among the congregation told John Jones, “If they whip that little nigger, they will have to whip me first.” Henry Davise was ordained to the Baptist ministry at Peavine Baptist Church in 1860 that he could help Old Billy spread the message of the gospel among the Creek Nation. [49]

Though the Southern Baptists (and the Southern Methodists as well) had the money and offered many opportunities to those who would preach the pro-slavery gospel, many of the full- bloods were well aware the costs of such a discipleship:

It was so plain a case to see that these men were bought, that many turned away in disgust. Seeing that there were two denominations calling themselves Baptists, everybody was led to inquire into the difference between them, and set to examining the question to see who was right. Young men sprang up from obscurity and urged upon the people the sin of slavery, more clearly and efficiently than ever before. Many who were always opposed to it had their own sentiments more sharply defined in their own minds...The contributions of the Pea Vine church were larger than usual. [50]
Though the struggle was about slavery, it was about something deeper. In the minds of those people sitting in the pews at Peavine Baptist Church witnessing what was going on around them, larger questions arose. The person sitting next to them could be black; the person sitting next to them could be Creek; the person next to them could be Christian; the person sitting next to them could be a didahnvwisgi. [51]Yet above all, they were human. And above that consideration stood the quintessential Cherokee value of the “beloved community;” this value proved to be one of the most important common denominators between the traditionalist community and the emerging Baptist churches.

A Peculiar Institution

It was about the time of removal of the Five Nations from the East to Indian Territory that another peculiar institution arose within the Southeastern Indians, and began to spread throughout the Indian Territory. J. Fred Latham describes this particular phenomena in The Story of Oklahoma Masonry:

A number of the Indian Chiefs and other leaders had received their Masonic degrees in Washington, D.C., while there on official business. They, with the officers and enlisted men in the Army taking them to Indian Territory were members of the Craft. Seemingly this was the first time that any considerable number of Masons were domiciled in this area.

The history of the Indian Territory, and indeed that of Freemasonry in the present state of Oklahoma, is so closely interwoven with that of the Five Civilized Tribes it would be difficult -- almost impossible -- and entirely undesirable to attempt to separate them. [52]

When English settlers first arrived upon the shore of the new world, the fraternal organization of Freemasonry was already a part of their cultural baggage. The appeal of Freemasonry in England, and its swift spread across the European continent following the establishment of the first Masonic Grand Lodge in 1717, appeared to stem from the harmony between the Masonic ideals of wisdom, strength, and beauty and the newer currents of religious and political thought of the Enlightenment. [53]

The first Mason to live in America may have been Jonathan Belcher, former Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, who was made a Mason in 1704. The first person to have been made a Mason in the United States may have been the governor's son, Andrew Belcher, who was made a Mason in 1733. In June 1730, the Grand Master of England appointed Daniel Coxe of New Jersey as the first Grand Master of the New World, but apparently Coxe was relatively disinterested in establishing the brotherhood in the New World. It was to American Henry Price that the organization of the first authorized Lodge in America is attributed at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston in 1733. [54]

However, Freemasonry was very popular among the colonists and spread very rapidly among the elite of the colonies, not just in what was to become the United States but also in Jamaica (1739), Barbados (1740), Haiti (1749), and throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. [55] Many of the founding fathers of the New World were involved in Masonry, and it might not be too great an exaggeration to say that the founding documents of the United States were heavily influenced by Masonic principles. Brother John Hancock was a Mason, as well as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Baron von Steuben, John Paul Jones, and Marquis de Lafayette. Many of the Generals of the Revolutionary Army, nine of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and thirteen of the signatories of the Constitution of the United States were also Freemasons. [56]

Freemasonry is commonly understood as a “secret society” within the contexts of the larger society, but it more appropriately referred to as a fraternal order. It is organized around selective membership, private rituals and ceremonies, and secret oaths and obligations. There are certain prerequisites that one must meet in order to become a Mason, somewhat of an elitism in the financial requirements of seeking membership, and a certain sense of "bourgeois morality and responsibility" in membership. [57] The secretive nature of Masonry is irritating to some non-Masons, who particularly dislike the exclusivity of the organization and feel "left-out" of something they would like to know or might want to become a member of. [58] Though there is great discussion as to how secret Freemasonry really is, there is some sort of satisfaction in belonging to an exclusive and secretive fraternal order.

The close associations of Masonic morality with Judeo-Christian traditions of morality have led some to come to see Freemasonry as a religion, though most participants claim that it is not. Though Masonry is religious, it is not a religion. [59] It is based upon thoughts, ideas, and concepts, and as such becomes a philosophy, but not a religion. It admits to membership men (and women in some countries) of all religious faiths. Without attempting to make men perfect, Masonry seeks to attain the greatest practical good. Masonry is not confined to persons of one religion, for good men are found in many religions. Only by circumstance of birth are persons under the auspices of a particular religion. [60]

Masonry spread so rapidly among the colonial population that by the early years of the nineteenth century, it was perceived to be a threat to the political and religious order of the United States. By 1800, there were nearly 20,000 Freemasons, many of whom were placed in the highest positions of political authority. The fact that an American apostasy -- Joseph Smith's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was closely affiliated with Freemasonry further contributed to the growing suspicion of Freemasonry. [61] The furor in 1826 over the supposed murder of William Morgan, who was said to have revealed Masonic “secrets,” and the subsequent stonewalling of the investigation by New York political officials solidified anti-Masonic hysteria and led to the birth of Anti-Masonic political powers. However the controversy may have reflected upon Masonry, in the years preceding the Civil War, its growth burgeoned; between 1850 and 1860, its membership tripled to nearly 200,000 brothers. [62]

There was one group of people to whom the bonds of brotherhood did not apply. From the very beginnings of African American Freemasonry under the auspices of African Lodge #459 in Boston in 1775, white Freemasons have largely refused to accept Blacks into their lodges. In addition, they have refused to grant recognition to Prince Hall Freemasonry as being legitimate and equal in standing with white Freemasonry despite the fact that African Lodge #459 was chartered by the Grand Lodge of England. Freemasonic historian Albert Mackey ruled that African Lodge #459 was chartered legitimately, but that later jurisdictional problems and a period of dormancy during the Revolutionary war rendered the lodge “clandestine.” [63] When asked about the issue of Negro Freemasons, Freemasonic historian Albert Pike declared in 1875:

There are plenty of regular Negro masons and Negro lodges in South America and the West Indies, and our folks only stave off the question by saying that Negro Masons here are clandestine. Prince Hall Lodge was as regular as any lodge created by competent authority and had a perfect right to establish other lodges, and make itself a mother lodge. I am not inclined to meddle in this matter. I took my obligation to white men, not negroes. When I have to accept Negroes as brothers or leave Masonry, I shall leave it. [64]
The distinction that white Masons made for African Americans was not made for Native Americans. As stated above, even before their removal to Indian Territory, Native Americans were initiated into the craft in places such as Washington, D.C., state capitols, or in their native homelands. Freemasonic lodges were formed in Charleston, South Carolina at Saint Paul's Parish between Goose Creek and the Stono River and in Savannah by Governor George Oglethorpe as early as 1736. [65] A lodge was also formed in North Carolina in 1754 under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of England; by 1796, the craft had spread from North Carolina to Tennessee. The first lodge in Tennessee was located in Nashville and was chartered by the North Carolina Grand Lodge. [66] By the time of the removal of the Five Nations to the West, there were Grand Lodges in every state in which the Native Americans resided. [67] The fact that John Ross, the Chief of the Cherokee Nation, was initiated into the craft in Tennessee as early as 1827 implies that many lodges extended brotherhood to Native Americans.

J. Fred Latham, in The Story of Oklahoma Masonry, reports that not only were Native chiefs made Masons in the East, but that both the Native American leaders and the military officers that removed them during “the trail of tears” were Masons made the process of removal “more orderly.” [68] General Winfield Scott, a Freemason, who presided over the removal of the Cherokee, gave explicit orders to pursue this distasteful activity with compassion:

Evry possible kindness...must therefore be shown by the troops, and if, in the ranks, a despicable individual should be found capable of inflicting a wanton injury or insult on any Cherokee man, woman, or child, it is hereby made the special duty of the nearest good officer or man, instantly to interpose, and to seize and consign the guilty wretch to the severest penalty of the laws. [69]
When asked by the leaders of the Cherokee Nation to postpone removal because of drought and sickness among the Cherokee, General Scott again showed compassion for his fraternal brothers. Negotiating with General Scott was Chief John Ross, a Master Mason in good standing with the Olive Branch Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons in Jasper, Tennessee since 1827. [70]

Finally, when it appeared that his troops could not handle the process of removal as well as the Cherokee themselves, he acquiesced to a plea from Chief John Ross to allow the Cherokee to manage removal themselves. [71] When Andrew Jackson, former President and Former Grand Master of Masons from Tennessee, heard of Scott's brotherly relief, he wrote “I am so feeble I can scarcely wield my pen, but friendship dictates it and the subject excites me. Why is it that the scamp Ross is not banished from the notice of this administration.” [72]

Upon arrival in the new territory, former members of the Lodges from the East began to organize the craft in their new home. A number of the ministers, merchants and military personnel were members of the craft and along with the Native American leaders who were Masons, they began to have meetings. These meetings moved from very informal social groupings into fellowship meetings where Masons met and enjoyed fraternal discussions. Applications for authority to organize lodges in several places were made, but urgent domestic problems prevented the satisfactory organization of lodges. According to J. Fred Latham, members of the craft took an active part in the stabilization of the community through the organization of law enforcement and through their activity in the political affairs of the Nation. [73]

In 1848, a group of Cherokee Masons made application to Grand Master R.H. Pulliam of the Grand Lodge Arkansas and was granted a dispensation to formulate a “blue lodge.” [74] Brother George Moser, Secretary and Historian of the Cherokee Lodge presents the information as follows:

Facts as taken from the proceedings of the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas show that the Committee on Charters and Dispensations did, on November 7, 1848 at the hour of 9:00 a.m., recommend that a charter be granted to “Cherokee Lodge” at Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, and that it be given the number “21”. [75]
The officers were sworn in at Supreme Court Headquarters on Keetoowah Street on July 12, 1849; it was the first lodge of Masons established among Native Americans. [76] The officers of Cherokee Lodge #21 were:
Walter Scott Adair, Worshipful Master. Former Chief Justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court in the East. Southern Methodist who was elected Superintendent of Public Schools in 1850. Leader of the temperance movement. A member of the Ross Party who had forcibly resisted removal to the West.

Nathan Dannenberg, Senior Warden. Veteran of the Mexican War.

Joseph Coodey, Junior Warden. Methodist. Relative of John Ross. Father of William S. Coodey, Cherokee Supreme Court Judge, author of the first Cherokee Constitution in 1837. Affiliated with the Treaty Party in Georgia but moderate in the West. Slaveholder.

William Potter Ross, Secretary. Nephew of John Ross. Graduate first in class at Princeton University. Clerk of the Senate of the Cherokee National Council. Attorney. Editor-in-Chief of Cherokee Advocate.

David Carter, Treasurer. Educated at Cornwall Missionary School. Editor of Cherokee Advocate in 1849. Judge in the Tahlequah District. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 1851.
In 1852, the Cherokee National Council donated several lots in Tahlequah to be used jointly by the Masonic Lodge and the Sons of Temperance for the construction of a building to house their respective organizations. The building was erected in 1853, and owned jointly by the two organizations; the Sons of Temperance [77] occupied the first floor and Cherokee Lodge #21 occupied the second floor. The lodge building was used for a number of community services including lodge meetings, temperance meetings, educational instruction, and church meetings; later, because of the noise, both organizations used the upper floor leaving the lower floor for church services and public meetings. [78]

Freemasonry flourished among the Native Americans in Indian Territory leading the Grand Master of Arkansas to comment upon his “red brethren” in 1855,

All over the length and breadth of our state the (Masonic) Order is flourishing, and amongst our red Brethren, in the Indian Territory, it is taking deep hold, and now embraces a goodly number of Lodges and Brethren. The members of these Lodges compare very favorably with their pale-face neighbors. In fact, it is reported of them that they exemplify practically the Masonic teachings and ritual by living in the constant discharge of those charities and moral virtues so forcibly inculcated in our lectures, thereby demonstrating to all that Masonry is not only speculative, but that it is a living practical reality; of great utility to the human race, and of eminent service to a social community. [79]
Freemasonry was indeed “taking deep hold.” Fort Gibson Lodge #35 was chartered by Arkansas November 6, 1850; Choctaw Lodge #52, near Fort Washita, was granted its charter on November 5, 1852; Flint Lodge #74 was chartered at Flint Station (Peavine) on November 9, 1853; Muskogee Lodge #93 in the Creek Nation was the last to be chartered on November 9, 1855.

That is not to say that the only “lodges” in the area could have come from Arkansas. Even a conservative estimate of the black population in the Cherokee Nation in the mid 1850's amounts to fifteen to twenty percent of the overall population; [80] it is not unreasonable to consider, that among the African American population of the Cherokee Nation, there were secret societies, including Freemasonry. In 1847, when the Prince Hall Grand Lodge was founded, there were subordinate lodges in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. [81] There is also evidence that there were lodges east of the Mississippi. A.G. Clark in Clark's History of Prince Hall Freemasonry mentions that there were three Prince Hall lodges in St. Louis as early as 1851; the fact that Prince Hall lodges did not receive their official charters until immediately after the Civil War did not mean that there were not numerous ante-bellum lodges. [82]

Throughout the South, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and, to a lesser extent, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church were closely related to the Prince Hall lodges. As many of the founders of the A.M.E. church were Freemasons, as well as many of the senior officials, the spread of the church throughout the South was closely affiliated with the spread of Prince Hall Freemasonry. [83] The Free African Society, as a sister organization to the A.M.E. church, was founded to promote racial solidarity and the abolition of slavery.

Many of the members of the A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina participated in the 1822 slave insurrection led by Denmark Vesey. [84] By 1860, there were at least four A.M.E. Churches in New Orleans -- three of which were led by “slave preachers;” as early as 1823 free blacks had built a church for “African Methodists” in St. Louis, Missouri. [85] If, as William Muraskin notes in his Middle Class Blacks in a White Society, there was a close affinity between the A.M.E. church and Prince Hall Freemasonry, it is safe to assume that the two coexisted.

In 1851, the Grand Lodge of Ohio granted a warrant to 16 Master Masons from the Caribbean to form a Lodge in New Orleans; shortly thereafter there were three more Prince Hall lodges formed in the Crescent City. [86] Many of the vast number of slaves which came into the Indian Territory in the years between removal and the Civil War came from New Orleans. Slave traders within the Cherokee Nation, as well as wealthy Cherokee citizens would go to the slave market in New Orleans to acquire slaves. [87] Many of the slaves coming into the Cherokee Nation came through the Caribbean where Freemasonry had been organized in the early to middle eighteenth century. There is even some implication that Cherokee chiefs, as followers of the enigmatic Tory William Augustus Bowles, [88] had played a part in the slave insurrection in Haiti led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint L'Ouverture (both Freemasons):

...these men [Bowles and five Cherokee and Creek followers] were intended to take part, as chiefs, in the projected operations against Santo Domingo and that they would soon leave...During the month of June following I wrote from London to M. de Montmorin that the six Cheerokoes had left and that the conspiracy against Santo Domingo no doubt would not be delayed in execution. [89]
French Freemasons from New Orleans, in addition to those from Haiti, not only admitted Blacks into the brotherhood but actively worked to oppose the interests of slavery and slaveholders:
As a consequence, when, before the Civil War, the Scottish Rite Masons in New Orleans, many of whom were Frenchmen, avowed abolitionists, and enemies of the Roman Church, adopted a resolution to admit free Negroes as members on terms of absolute equality and brotherhood, a number of free men of color forsook Catholicism for Freemasonry. Their descendants in some cases followed their footsteps. [90]
There is also a profound relationship that exists between Voudon as it found expression in Haiti and New Orleans and Freemasonry. The imagery of Voudon, its art and ritual, is pervaded with Freemasonic symbolism, clothing, and secret doctrine. [91] To the extent that Voudon spread from Haiti to New Orleans and among the slaves of the Southeastern United States, it is a certainty that Freemasonry spread along similar routes.

Secret societies were also a critical part of African culture which persisted within the slave community in spite of attempts at Christianization; mutual benefit societies, voluntary associations, and assorted “lodges” often rivaled the “invisible institution” of the nascent African American churches as the grounds for leadership development and social action. [92] Organizations such as the True Reformers, the Gallilean Fisherman, the Mosaic Templars of America, the Brown Fellowship Society, and the Oddfellows flourished among African Americans, especially free Blacks, in areas such as Charleston, New Orleans, and Richmond. Yet, they did not just exist in the populated areas:

Although it was unlawful for Negroes to assemble without the presence of a white man, and so unlawful to allow a congregation of slaves on a plantation without the consent of the master, these organizations existed and held these meetings on the “lots” of some of the law-makes themselves. The general plan seems to have been to select someone who could read and write and make him the secretary. The meeting-place having been selected, the members would come by ones or twos, make their payments to the secretary, and quietly withdraw. The book of the secretary was often kept covered up on the bed. In many of the societies each member was known by a number and in paying simply announced his number. The president of such a society was usually a priviledged slave who had the confidence of his or her master and could go and come at will. Thus a form of communication could be kept up with all members. [93]
In 1846, twelve black men from throughout the South led by Moses Dickson, future Grandmaster of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri, [94] gathered in St. Louis and formed a secret society entitled the Twelve Knights of Tabor. They dedicated themselves to establishing an army, the “Knights of Liberty, ” for the sole purpose of “aiding in breaking the bonds of our slavery.” [95] The members then spread out throughout the South and spent the next ten years organizing their “guerrilla force” [96] wherever they went; Reverend Moses Dickson, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, traveled up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers from New Orleans to Wisconsin spreading his militant gospel of abolition. [97] By 1856, the Knights of Liberty had enrolled nearly fifty thousand soldiers in their secret organization:
It was absolutely a secret organized body. We know of the failure of Nat Turner and the others, the Abolitionist in the North and East. The underground railroad was in good running order, and the Knights of Liberty sent many passengers over the road to freedom. We feel that we have said enough on this subject. If the War of the Rebellion had not occurred just at the time that it did, the Knights of Liberty would have made public history. [98]
By the middle of the eighteen fifties, the United States was being ripped apart by the issue of slavery: the forming of the Republican Party in 1854 incited new hopes for freedom; the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the west to “popular sovereignty” but led to fisticuffs in the Senate; John Brown's first assault leads to the massacre of five pro-slavery men in Kansas, and the Dred Scott decision of 1857 ruled that Blacks had no rights which whites were bound to respect. In the midst of these overt political struggles, a secret campaign waged by organizations such as the Knights of Liberty and the Knights of the Golden Circle was being fought for the hearts and minds of the Southern people. As the Cherokee Nation was bound culturally and geographically to Old South, but politically and often ideologically to the North, it could not help being caught up in the impending drama.

The Birth of the Keetoowah Society

In 1855, the issue of slavery began to be an even more troublesome issue in the Cherokee Nation and for the first time a concern for "Southern Rights" arose among the wealthy mixed-blood element in the Cherokee Nation. John Ross tried to maintain a position of neutrality, but this became exceedingly difficult considering the location of the Cherokee Nation between the deep South and “bleeding Kansas.” [99] It was especially difficult considering the power and affinities of the Cherokee aristocracy. [100] John Ross, being a slaveholder, tried to quiet the controversy over slavery by publicly distancing himself from “abolitionist” forces associated with the Northern missionaries. In the eighteen fifties, he left the Congregational Church to attend a Southern Methodist congregation so that he might be seen as less controversial.

The Ross party lost votes in the 1855 council elections to an increasingly hard-line “Southern Rights” party that believed an alliance with white Southerners in the defense of slavery would be the best course for the nation. The “Southern Rights” party was composed of the educated class and many mixed bloods, who looked with disdain upon the poorer Cherokees whom they considered “backward.” They believed that the Northern missionaries, and especially the Baptists, to be taking advantage of the full bloods' ignorance to push the cause of abolition. Immediately after the elections, the new council passed a bill declaring the Cherokee to be “a slaveholding people” even though only around ten-percent of the Nation owned slaves; [101] it further sought that the churches issue a position statement regarding “the institution of slavery as a church principle.” The new bill also contained several provisions to mitigate against abolitionist interests within the churches. [102]

In 1855, Chief Ross discovered the emergence of "a secret society organized in Delaware and Saline Districts" dedicated to the promotion of slavery and the removal of abolitionist interests from the Cherokee Nation. [103] According to Ross, at the core of this "sinister plot" were the so-called "Blue Lodges" that had been established in Indian Territory by officials from Arkansas. [104] Many of the pro-slavery factions in the Cherokee Nation had ties to Arkansas and it was believed by Ross and Evan Jones that these elements were using the "Blue Lodges" associated with the Arkansas Grand Lodge to “create excitement and strife among the Cherokee people.” [105] The “Blue Lodges” were so closely affiliated with the Southern Methodist church that John Jones considered them to be the spiritual arm of the organization, “The [southern] Methodists take slavery by the hand, encourage it, speak in its favor, and brand all those who oppose it with opprobrious epithets. As they support slavery, of course slavery supports them.” [106]

History records the “Blue Lodges” as being the seat of the pro-slavery movement, but this appears to be an inaccuracy rooted in a convenient association of the “Blue Lodges” with the pro-slavery movement. However, we can see from the membership roll of Cherokee Lodge #21 (a Blue Lodge), that there were also members of the Ross Party who belonged to these so-called “Blue Lodges.” It appears that there was a split within the Freemasonic lodges within Indian Territory along the lines of party affiliation related to the efforts of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to use the lodges to promote the issue of “Southern Rights.” [107] Some members of the lodges were opposed to the efforts of the Grand Lodge as revealed in a later discussion by Lodge historian T. L. Ballenger:

There seems to have developed some misunderstanding between the mother Lodge and Cherokee Lodge at that time, the exact nature of which the records fail to reveal: possibly it was a coolness that had grown out of different attitudes toward the war. The Cherokees were divided, some of them fighting for the North and some for the South. It happened that the leading members of the Lodge sympathized with the North. [108]
Other records indicate that a John B. Jones, was a prominent member of the Freemasonic orderin the Indian Territory following the Civil War; he could have also been a member during the ante-bellum period. [109]

As a result of the split within the lodges within Indian Territory or perhaps precipitating the split, some of the members of the "Blue Lodges" became associated with a secessionist secret society by the name of the "Knights of the Golden Circle"; [110] this was the “sinister plot” that Ross described in a letter to Evan Jones which later historians have assumed to be identical with the “Blue Lodges.” The Knights of the Golden Circle was founded in 1854 by George W.L. Bickley for the purposes of “expanding the superior Anglo-American civilization” and extending the slave empire throughout the West Indies, the Southern United States, Central America, and into South America -- hence the name Golden Circle. [111] Closely affiliated with the “No-Nothing” party and later the “Copperheads,” Bickley traveled throughout the South establishing “castles” (lodges) and promoting Southern militancy and expansionism. [112]

The leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle was Stand Watie, a Freemason probably affiliated with Federal Lodge #1 in Washington, D.C. Members of the Knights of the Golden Circle included many of the elites of the Cherokee Nation: John Rollin Ridge, Elias Boudinot, William Penn Adair, James Bell, Joseph Scales, and Josiah Washbourne -- all leaders of the Southern Rights party and former “Treaty Party” members. [113] The Constitution of the Knights of the Golden Circle, as recorded on August 28, 1860 states among its provisions:

We, a part of the people of the Cherokee Nation, in order to form a more perfect union and protect ourselves and property against the works of Abolitionists do establish this Constitution for the government of the Knights of the Golden Circle in this Nation...

No person shall become a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle in the Cherokee Nation who is not a pro-slavery man...

The Captain, or in case of his refusal, then the Lieutenant has the power to compell each and every member of their Encampment to turn out and assist in capturing and punishing any and all abolitionists in their minds who are interfering with slavery....

You do solemnly swear that you will keep all the secrets of this order and that you will, to the best of your abilities protect and defend the interests of the Knights of the Golden Circle in this Nation, so help you God. [114]

The leadership of the Northern Baptist Churches of the Cherokee Nation sought a mechanism to respond to the growing militancy of the Cherokees now associated with the Knights of the Golden Circle. [115] At the encouragement of Chief John Ross, the Baptists missionaries Evan and John Jones approached the native ministers who met with the concerned laypersons of their missions. The people decided that something must be done and scheduled meetings in their churches to decide what path must be taken in order to restore unity to the people and sanity to the Nation. These were the beginnings of the Keetoowah Society. [116]

The Keetoowah Society

The few men who gathered on April 15, 1858, in the chapel of the Peavine Baptist Church in the Goingsnake District of the Cherokee Nation had grave decisions before them, both of a political nature and a personal nature. The rift that was tearing apart not only the Nation and bringing to the surface old tensions best left buried, it was ripping asunder the very churches in which had become the foundation of a new form of collective identity. Furthermore, the very culture which lay at the roots of this collective identity was being challenged by an alien ideology which asserted the rights of the individual over the rights of “the people.” In this challenge between old and new, a way to the future had to be found through an understanding of the past.

Among the men gathered in the chapel that evening were Lewis Downing, Budd Gritts, Smith Christie, Thomas Pegg, and James McDaniels, all leaders among the fullblood Northern Baptists; it is likely that Evan Jones and John Jones were present also. A brief biography of these men is as follows:

Lewis Downing (Lewie-za-wau-na-skie): Downing was born in Eastern Tennessee in 1823, of British, Irish, and Cherokee heritage. He came west with the party led by Jesse Bushyhead and Evan Jones to settle near the Baptist Mission in the Goingsnake District. He was educated in the Valley Town Mission (West) and the Baptist Mission (Bacone University) under the tutelage of Evan Jones. Downing was unanimously chosen Pastor of Flint Baptist Church succeeding Jesse Bushyhead. He was also chair of the Cherokee Missionary Society.

Budd Gritts: Gritts was a prominent fullblood Baptist minister, author of the first Keetoowah Constitution.

Smith Christie (Gasannee): Christie was a full-blood blacksmith/gunsmith whose shop served as political forum. He was a leader of conservative fullblood politics as well as a native Baptist minister.

Thomas Pegg: Pegg was member of the Grand Council of the Cherokee and a delegate of John Ross to Washington in 1855.

Evan Jones: Jones was born in Brecknockshire,Wales in 1788. [117] Though a communicant in the Church of England, upon coming to America he became a Methodist then a Baptist. He was sent to Valley Town, North Carolina in 1821. Jones was fluent in Cherokee, thus he and Jesse Bushyhead led a delegation to the West in 1838. They established the Baptist Mission in Westville, Indian Territory. Jones was a leading abolitionist and confidant and advisor to Chief John Ross from 1839 to 1866. He was made a member of the Cherokee Nation after being twice expelled by government agents for his dedication to the Cherokee.

John Jones: Jones was the son of Evan Jones and Elizabeth Lanigan. He was born in Valley Town, North Carolina in 1824 and came west with his father in 1838. He graduated from the University of Rochester in 1855 and was ordained to the ministry by a native Cherokee minister. Jones was fluent in Cherokee and served as a translator for his father.

Little did these men know that what they were about to do was to profoundly affect Cherokee history and the history of Indian Territory for the next one hundred years. From the leadership of the Peavine Baptist Church was to come the leadership of the Cherokee Nation through the most troublesome period in Cherokee history. The mechanism for political action was to become the Keetoowah Society.

Derived from the Cherokee term "Ani-kitu-hwagi" meaning "people of the Kituwah," the name Keetoowah has become synonymous with the conservative fullblood element of the Cherokee Nation. It is believed that the Kituwah settlement is the original settlement of the Cherokee in what is now North America. [118] James Mooney, a cultural anthropologist and among the first to study the Cherokee, as well as Howard Tyner, who wrote the first extended treatment of the Keetoowah, concur that the word is undecipherable from the original Cherokee. [119] Members of the Keetoowah Society believe that a messenger from God came down and gave the name "Ani-kitu-hwagi" to them and that the name bespeaks their special relationship with the divine. [120] Tribal members were forbidden to reveal the meaning of "Ani-kitu-hwagi" and that, in time, many forgot it. David Whitekiller, a Keetoowah didahnvwisgi, prayed for many hours over whether he could reveal the meaning of the word; finally, he translated the word "Ani-kitu-hwagi" to mean “the covered or protected people.” [121]

The name Kituwah also refers to an ancient Cherokee settlement formerly on the Tuckasegee River just above the present Bryson City, in Swain County, North Carolina which was one of the “seven mother towns” of the Cherokee. The inhabitants of Kituwah, the "Ani-kitu-hwagi," exercised a controlling influence over all of the towns along the Tuckasegee and Little Tennessee River and the people of this region became known as the Kituwah. Because the Keetoowah were responsible for the protection of the Northern border from the Iroquois and the Algonquian, the name became synonymous with the Cherokee among these people. [122] As early as the 1750's, the “mother town” of Kituwah had a status and independence not granted less ancient settlements; town debates and political actions were kept a “profound secret.” [123]

From the very beginning, the mother towns were known as a place of refuge where those fleeing enslavement could run. Christian Pryber, a German Jesuit who was among the first Europeans to live among the Cherokee, described one of these mother towns as “a town at the Foot of the Mountains among the Cherokee, which was to be a City of Refuge for all Criminals,Debtors, and Slaves, who would fly thither from Justice or their Masters.” [124] The Kituwan dialect, itself, is described by Tom Hatley in his The Dividing Path: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Revolutionary Era as neing the product of multicultural synthesis: “from the beginning the Kituwan dialect was mixed with the English of white Tories, traders, and black refugees.” [125] It was also with this most conservative element that the opposition to the enslavement first spread; [126] many fullblood Cherokee having been slaves themselves in the mid-eighteenth century, opposition to slavery ran deep. [127]

Although Kituwah was synonymous with the oldest of the mother towns, the legend of the origins of Kituwah goes much further back in Cherokee history. According to Kituwah legend, the Cherokee people originated from an island somewhere east of South America in the Atlantic Ocean where they were continually plagued by attacks from neighboring peoples. However, in spite of the fact they were heavily outnumbered, the Cherokee were victorious in their struggles; one enemy saw in the plume of smoke from the Cherokee encampment an eagle bearing arrows in its claws and thus became convinced that the Cherokee were the divine's chosen people. The assault was halted and the enemy withdrew. [128] According to the same legend, the Breathgiver did indeed grant the Cherokee unlimited and mysterious special powers; their wisemen were accorded a special status as those who could interpret and report upon the Breath-giver's wishes. [129]

As time passed, this ancient and mysterious clan of wisemen became known as the Ani-Kutani; the Ani-Kutani totally controlled the religious functions of the Nation because of their mysterious powers and control over the forces of nature. At this point, the Ani-Kutani were known as a clan, as opposed to a society, because their power and position were hereditary. [130] As the powers granted to the Ani-Kutani were granted by special dispensation from the divine Breathgiver, the powers were to be used only for the best interests of the people. [131]

As power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Ani-Kutani became selfish and began to use their powers in ways other than that which God had intended. One legend tells that one of the Ani-Kutani used his magical powers to seduce the wife of a young warrior while the warrior was away on a raid; when the warrior returned and discovered what had taken place, he led the warriors and the people in an uprising in which all of the Ani-Kutani were slain. [132] Another story tells of the corruption of the Ani-Kutani due to the abuses of power, but relates that the people entered into cycles of prayer to beseech the Breathgiver to deliver them from their collective malady. However, as the people had fallen from grace, the divine Breathgiver refused to acknowledge their invocation. [133]

It was revealed to one of the didahnvwisgi that they were to go to the top of a high mountain where they were to fast and pray for the deliverance of their people; each day for seven days a different didahnvwisgi from each of the seven clans joined the others on the mountain. [134] On the seventh day when all of the clans were represented, the medicine men heard a loud noise followed by a bright light and a voice spoke to them saying:

I am a messenger from the Great Spirit. He has heard your prayers and has great passion for your people. Go back to your fires and worship, there is a white ball coming from the East who is your enemy and your grandchildren's feet are directed West. You must prepare to leave and the Great Spirit will direct your footsteps. Hereafter, you will be known as the KEETOOWAHS. [135]
The didahnvwisgi returned to their respective clans and reported the message that God had given them, but only the true believers followed their instructions and made preparations to leave their fellows to follow the will of the Great Spirit. The small band set forth from their island and proceeded West. As they turned to take one last look at their homeland, the island sank into the ocean taking with it the remainder of their people and the last vestiges of their ancient civilization. The survivors traveled West through Meso-America and up the Atlantic Coast and settled among the Iroquois; in the winters the Keetoowah migrated South into the Carolinas and Georgia and returned each Spring. Eventually, the Keetoowah settled permanently in the Carolinas and Georgia and made this area their permanent home until the coming of the Europeans in the eighteenth century. [136]

A critical element in the above story is the existence of what is called “the Kituwah Spirit.” The presence of divine power among God's chosen people, the Keetoowah, is a gift provided that the power is used only to the benefit of the collective body and not for purely personal of selfish ends. It is this sense of identity tied to a bond of collective responsibility that is the key factor in the above myths of the origins the Keetoowah. It was this “strong band of comradeship” which was a central element in the belief system of the Keetoowah Society and in its focus upon national/spiritual identity and the preservation of cultural integrity. [137]

J.R. Carselowey, a member of the Keetoowah Society quoted by T.L. Ballenger, stated that the purpose of the Keetoowah Society was the “perpetuation of the full-blood race” and that the Society was to stand for unity and brotherly love among the Cherokee and, in every way possible, to work for the best interests of the tribe as a whole. [138] For the Keetoowah, from time immemorial, the Great Spirit and national patriotism seemed to be synonymous terms. The “Kituwah Spirit” stood for the autonomy of the Cherokee race -- a religious nationalism that sought to keep the Nation pure from within and free from outside influences and their ultimate control of the Cherokee destiny. [139]

So when these men sat down on April 15, 1858 in Peavine Baptist Church to formerly articulate the aims and the purposes of what was to become the Keetoowah Society, these were their pressing concerns:

On April 15, 1868, a small number of the leading members of the Keetoowahs got together and discussed the affairs of the Cherokees, the purpose and objectives for which they had always stood. They discussed what the final result probably would be caused by the existing state of affairs in the United States. The people of the United States were divided and it was clear they were about to fight. The Cherokees were situated too far in the South and the men were becoming reckless and seemed to be taking sides with the South, but the leading cause was those who owned Negro slaves. It was plain to be seen that Cherokee people without a full understanding were taking sides with the South. It was plain that the teachers for the North were being objected to and were being forced out of the Cherokee Nation. They believed that if the Missionaries were gone all of the Cherokee people would go to the side of the South, but they were mistaken. These matters were already understood by the Keetoowahs, and the Keetoowahs felt what the final result would be. They knew the relative members of the several states. It seemed certain that the states of the South were entering into a conspiracy to abandon the union of states to set up a separate government. Keetoowahs had already studied their means of defense and knew the business followed by them.

We had already studied all about them; we decided best to affiliate with the North. I was then and there appointed to devise some plan that would be best for the Cherokee people and would place us in control of the Cherokee government. We fixed for the next meeting April 20, 1858. On that day I submitted my report or draft of a paper I had written. Also I made some remarks of explanation, all of which was in the dark of night and in the woods. The report was approved and declared to be law.

We felt confident it would be acceptable to the Cherokee people and we informed them and it was accepted all over the Cherokee nation by confidential lodges. [140]

The Nation was divided and the institutions which guided the course of the Nation were equally divided. The Baptist churches which had become a point of cohesion and an institution which promoted a sense of community and fellowship among the fullbloods had been split by the issue of slavery and the larger denominational fracture over the issue. The schools had become increasingly segregated as those who read and spoke in the native Cherokee were isolated within a process of socialization which promoted assimilation. The government had become further dominated by the mixed bloods and continued to act in the interests of those slaveholders and large scale agriculturists who were moving Cherokee society away from its traditional culture. Even the Freemasonic lodges which had been actively encouraging a spirit of brotherhood, citizenship, and collective responsibility found themselves ruptured to the point that it would take decades for them to be restored to their original position in society. [141]
Reverend Budd Gritts and Reverend Lewis Downing, and the senior leadership of the Peavine Church, considered the options and came to the conclusion that only a return of the “Kituwah Spirit” could resolve this national crisis. In Chapter One of the Constitution of the Keetoowah Society as approved on April 29, 1859, they articulated the problem and the solution:
As lovers of the government of the Cherokees, loyal members of Keetoowah Society, in the name of the mass of the people, we began to study and investigate the way our nation was going on, so much different from the long past history of our Keetoowah forefathers who loved and lived as free people and had never surrendered to anybody: They loved one another for they were just like one family, just as if they had been raised from one family. They all came as a unit to their fire to smoke, to aid one another and to protect their government with what little powder and lead they had to use in protecting it.

Now let us Cherokees study the condition of our government. We are separated into two parts and cannot agree and they have taken lead of us. It is clear to see that the Federal Government has two political parties, North and South. South are the people who took our lands away from us which lands the Creator had given to us, where our forefathers were raised. Their greed was the worst kind; they had no love and they are still following us to put their feet on us to get the last land we have. It is plain that they have come in on us secretly, different organizations are with them and they have agreed to help one another in everything. They control our political offices because our masses of the people are not organized.

We therefore now declare and bind ourselves together the same as under our oaths to abide by our laws and assist one another. There must he a confidential captain and lodges in numerous places and confidential meetings, the time and place to he designated by the captains. But we shall continue on making more laws. If any member divulges any secret to any other organization it shall be considered that he gave up thereby his life. But every time they meet they must fully explain what their society stands for. They must have a membership roll in order to reorganize one another.

The following year, what it meant to be a Keetoowah was further defined:
Be it further resolved, that the Head Captains shall be the only ones authorized to appoint anyone to contact any candidates for new membership. Only fullblood Cherokees uneducated, and no mixed blood friends shall be allowed to become a member.

Under the Cherokee Constitution, after confidential conference, a number of honored men began to discuss and deliberate and decide secretly among friends whom they love, to help each other in everything. The institution is, first, their constitution and laws are to be the most sacred. Second, Federal and Indian Treaties, will be abided by. Third, in the division between North and South, we should not take sides with either. Fourth, we should not become citizens of the United States. Now since these decisions have been made we will now follow our forefather's traditions just as they met around the fire and smoked tobacco with joy and loyalty to one another. They had never surrendered. We will also approve same. Our secret society shall be named Keetoowah. All of the members of the Keetoowah Society shall be like one family. It should be our intention that we must abide with each other in love. Anything which derive from English or white, such as secret organizations, that the Keetoowahs shall not accept or recognize. Now all above described must be adopted same as under oath to be abided by. We must not surrender under any circumstance until we shall "fall to the ground united." We must lead one another by the hand with all our strength. Our government is being destroyed. We must resort to bravery to stop it." [142]

Thus, the center of the “Kituwah Spirit” was an appeal to the ancient Kituwah ideal of a “beloved community” where each “loved one another, for they were just like one family, just as if they had been raised from one family.” The “beloved community” has been the basis of the Cherokee social order dating back to before the first European contact; this “beloved community” is rooted in the monogenetic ideal that all humanity descended from a single set of parents, Selu, the corn mother, and Kanati, the hunter father. A contemporary Cherokee thinker, Marilou Awiatka, reflects this idea of “beloved community:”
The power of culture, of roots, is a mysterious phenomenon...All people in America -- and especially the children -- should be able to sing their songs, be proud of their roots and be received in a society that values their heritages. Red, black, yellow, white -- in a circle, as grandmother Corn exemplifies in her calico variety, which is commonly called Indian corn...This is Selu talking, the Eternal Wise Mother, Wisdom. And Wisdom speaks in all cultures...Not only are racism, sexism and disdain for Mother Earth coming to harvest in the 1990s, they also seem to be reseeding themselves. Thoughts and energy to counter them are also coming to harvest and, hopefully, will reseed in an even greater strain, so that the twenty first century will become a new era of peace and justice. I dream this not because I am a romantic, but because I come from survivor peoples who revere the sacred law. [143]
The “Kituwah spirit” was a way to transcend the differences between political parties, religious beliefs, factional disputes, and even clan affiliations. The goal of the Keetoowah Society was to define a true Cherokee “patriot” as one who clung to traditional lifestyle which included many of the ancient ceremonies, ideals, and spirituality of the “old ways,” i.e. traditional religion.

Although the focus of the Keetoowah Society was upon the “fullbloods,” a proper understanding of this term must be seen within a cultural context, as opposed to a biological or racial one. [144] One can see “fullblood” as a connotation for traditional/conservative and “mixed-blood” as implying assimilated/progressive. [145] Many of those commonly referred to as fullbloods, including many of the leaders of the Keetoowah Society itself, were the products of Cherokee/White intermarriage. John Ross, leader of the full bloods, was only one-sixteenth Cherokee; Stand Watie, leader of the mixed bloods, was a full blood Cherokee. The term mixed-blood often meant intermarriage with whites and those intermarried with free blacks and slaves were classified as black or fullblood. [146]

When the Keetoowah Constitution describes its members as being “only fullblood Cherokees uneducated,” it is referring to those fluent in Cherokee who are “uneducated” in the sense of European language and culture, but educated in the sense of being literate in Cherokee language and culture. [147] It was not a race based of identity for as was discussed above, there was no race-based understanding of identity within the “old ways” of Cherokee culture. If one were literate in the Cherokee language and integrated into Cherokee culture, as many African Americans and some European Americans were, then there were the transcendent bonds of the “Keetoowah spirit” that made you effectively a “full-blood.” [148] Thus, the Cherokee Nation as understood by the Keetoowah, would be one open to all people regardless of race; Keetoowah meetings opened with the expression, “We are all Keetoowah people.” [149]

The Keetoowah Society was essentially a religious organization; it sought to preserve traditional religious beliefs as expressed in the Constitution, “They all came as a unit to their fire to smoke, to aid one another and to protect their government with what little powder and lead they had to use in protecting it.” The centrality of national identity, the sacred fire, and sacred ritual of tobacco smoke were critical elements in the Keetoowah Society. [150] The meetings of the Keetoowah were held at the gatiyo, or stomp grounds, centered around the sacred fire which was reportedly brought with them from the East and kept constantly burning. [151] Critical to the meetings of the Keetoowah Society was the sacred fire:

The sacred ritualism of the original Keetoowah is performed only with the sacred ceremonial fire. When the council of the Keetoowah is about to go in session, the fire keepers start the fire at the council grounds before the sun appears in the east. The fire must not be started with a match but through the old custom. [152]
The fire-keepers built earthen mounds topped with four logs surrounded by seven arbors for seating representing the seven clans. Meetings were often highly ceremonial with opening pipe ceremonies, sacrificial offerings to the sacred fire, songs and dances, and explanations of the sacred mysteries of the wampum belts. In addition, large areas were kept adjoining the central meeting place for ball play. [153]
However, in spite of its relationship to traditional culture and religion, the organization sprung up within the Northern Baptist churches and its leadership were the same men who were the leadership of the Northern Baptist churches. The Head Captains of the Keetoowah Society -- Levi Gritts, Smith Christie, and Lewis Downing were all Baptist ministers; the Keetoowah spread its message and its organization through the nascent Baptist churches in the Cherokee Nation and in the Creek Nation as well. Fullbloods sympathetic to the Keetoowah cause were encouraged to attend the meetings in the churches whether they were Baptists or not; from these organizational meetings Captains and sub-Captains were appointed and Keetoowah meetings scheduled. Trusting their native preachers, the ministers Evan and John Jones allowed Gritts, Christie, and Downing to spread the Keetoowah message by utilizing Baptist organizational principles, the affinity between traditional meetings and Baptist camp-meetings, and congregational tendencies of the Cherokee society to build a potent force for religious revitalization. [154]

It is also critically important to recognize the affinities between the structure and function of the Keetoowah Society and the same within secret societies and mutual benefit/ burial societies which had proliferated among white and blacks before the war. A provision was made in the Constitution of the Keetoowah Society to collect a general welfare fund to provide for the relief of the sick or distressed; for the benefit of poor fullbloods, Cherokee script (similar to Confederate money in the proverbial sense) was accepted at face value. Section 23 of Chapter II of the Constitution of the Keetoowah Society also states:

Be it resolved by the Keetoowah Convention, if any Keetoowah should get sick, or unable to take care of himself, all members of Keetoowah Society who live nearby, shall look after him and visit him. And in case of the death of any Keetoowah they immediately must notify those that live afar and those that receive the message, it shall be their duty to come. All brother Keetoowahs shall march in line to the grave following the dead. And each shall take a shovel full of dirt and put it in the grave. [155]
There is also a striking similarity between the burial ceremony of the Keetoowah Society and that of Freemasonry; Master Masons are called from throughout the district, parade in formation to the grave site, and each cast a spate of dirt upon the grave. The positioning of three captains, a secretary and a treasurer within each lodge is also identical to that of the organizational structure of a Freemasonic lodge. In addition, the practice of transferring lodge membership upon moving from one district to another following explicit procedures with respect to references and recommendations from the previous lodge is also quite similar to that of Freemasonry. With respect to nearly every aspect of organizational structure and function, the Keetoowah society is strikingly similar to that of American Freemasonry. [156]

As much as it was a religious society, the Keetoowah Society was also a political one oriented to the promotion of “patriotism” and nationalism within the Cherokee Nation. Believing that their national identity had come from the divine Breathgiver and that there was a special bond between the “Giver-of-Breath” and the Keetoowah People, there was an intense religious nationalism: “With them the Great Spirit and national patriotism seemed to be synonymous terms.” [157] Historian William McLoughlin describes the movement his new work Cherokees and Christianity 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Resistance: "one key to the power of the movement was that it brought together both full-blooded traditionalists and full-blood Christians in the higher interest of unity and patriotism...[and] demonstrates that religion and politics cannot be separated but they can be transcended in the greater interest of national survival." [158]

The rituals and activities associated with the Keetoowah Society were designed to unite the fullbloods for political action. Its primary goal was to create a nationalist organization that would assure fullblood dominance of the Nation's Council in order to preserve Cherokee sovereignty. [159] In the holistic worldview of the Cherokee people, religion and politics could not be separated: [160]

A few members of men of the society met secretly and discussed the condition of the country where they lived. The name Cherokee was in danger. The Cherokee as a Nation were about to disintegrate. It seemed intended to drown our Cherokee Nation and destroy it. For that reason, we resolve to stop it from scattering or forever lose the name Cherokee. We must love each other and abide by treaties made with the federal government. We must cherish them in our hearts. Second, we must abide by the treaties made with other races of people. Third, we must abide by our constitution and laws and uphold the name of the Cherokee Nation. Right here we must endeavor to strengthen our society. Our society must be called Keetoowah. [161]
T.L. Ballenger reaffirms the above position when he states:
In 1858, when the clash between the North and the South seemed inevitable, and these men saw that at least the slaveholding group of the Cherokees would fight against the Federal Government, they feared the total extermination of the Cherokee nation. It was then that they conceived the idea of forming the full-blood Cherokees, the anti-slavery Keetoowahs, into a large political entity that might be able to salvage the Cherokee lands and other possessions and perpetuate the nation, in case of a Northern victory. Thus came about the writing of the constitution of the Keetoowahs. [162]
William McLoughlin, in his After the Trail of Tears: the Cherokees' struggle for sovereignty, 1839-1880, stated that the “ultimate goal of the Keetoowah Society was to define a `true Cherokee patriot' as a full blood, true to national values, national unity, and Cherokee self-determination through consensus.” [163] Its organizational structure having spread throughout the Cherokee Nation, the Keetoowah Society was able organize a grass-roots political movement among the dispossessed fullbloods in order to provide for majority rule within the Cherokee nation and end the rule of the plutocrats. As its activities were carried out fully in the Cherokee language, the message of the Keetoowah Society carried both a cultural currency and a relative insularity from the larger political discourse.

The Keetoowah Constitution was read and approved, revised and amended, and updated nearly a dozen times between 1858-1861 at Keetoowah conventions spread throughout the Cherokee Nation. Each lodge was responsible for keeping a copy of the Constitution, thoroughly indoctrinating their membership in it, and providing for the implementation of the political organizing strategy expressed in the Constitution. At the conventions, political candidates were recruited to run for National Office and the grassroots membership was organized into a populist movement to redefine the political soul of the Cherokee Nation; those who had lost their voice suddenly found it in a reaffirmation of the “Kituwah Spirit.” A new nation was being born. [164]

In discussing the political idealism of the Keetoowah Society, many recent authors mitigate against the abolitionist nature of the Keetoowah Society with curious statements such as “it was not an abolitionist or antislavery organization, although its members strongly believed that the mixed-blood, educated slaveholders were usurping power and trying to lead the Nation into a fatal alliance with the South,” [165] or “It would probably be more correct to describe the society as not being pro-slavery, rather than being anti-slavery.” [166] However, contemporaries viewed the society quite differently:

[The Keetoowahs are a] Secret Society established by Evan Jones, a missionary, and at the service of Mr. John Ross, for the purposes of abolitionizing the Cherokee and putting out of the way all who sympathized with the Southern State... [167]

It was distinctly an anti-slavery organization. The slave-holding Cherokees, who constituted the wealthy and more intelligent class, naturally aligned themselves with the South, while loyal Cherokees became more and more opposed to slavery.” [168]

While some of the members of the Society were pro-slavery in their sentiments, yet they loved their country more than slavery -- while the majority of its members were positive and strong anti-slavery men. Many were Christians and were opposed to slavery, not only from patriotic motives, but from religious conviction also. [169]

The Keetoowah Society, itself, never stated explicitly in its Constitution that it was opposed to slavery, for to do so would have violated the “neutrality” contained within the articles of the Constitution. However, it made quite clear its position on the issue:
On April 15, 1868, a small number of the leading members of the Keetoowahs got together and discussed the affairs of the Cherokees, the purpose and objectives for which they had always stood. They discussed what the final result probably would be caused by the existing state of affairs in the United States. The people of the United States were divided and it was clear they were about to fight. The Cherokees were situated too far in the South and the men were becoming reckless and seemed to be taking sides with the South, but the leading cause was those who owned Negro slaves. It was plain to be seen that Cherokee people without a full understanding were taking sides with the South. It was plain that the teachers for the North were being objected to and were being forced out of the Cherokee Nation. They believed that if the Missionaries were gone all of the Cherokee people would go to the side of the South, but they were mistaken. These matters were already understood by the Keetoowahs, and the Keetoowahs felt what the final result would be. [170]
The Constitution of the Keetoowah Society also articulated that a nation based upon the institution of slavery was inimical to the interests of the “Kituwah Spirit:”
As lovers of the government of the Cherokees, loyal members of Keetoowah Society, in the name of the mass of the people, we began to study and investigate the way our nation was going on, so much different from the long past history of our Keetoowah forefathers who loved and lived as free people and had never surrendered to anybody: They loved one another for they were just like one family, just as if they had been raised from one family. [171]
In expressing that the Keetoowah forefathers “loved and lived as free people who never surrendered to anybody. They loved one another for they were just like one family...,” the Constitution was dedicating itself to the notion of liberty and egalitarianism in the Cherokee Nation. Any notion of slavery or inequality was contrary to the “Kituwah Spirit.” [172]

Though many people give credit to the Baptist missionaries for espousing abolition among the Cherokee, the notions of liberty and egalitarianism extended far back into Cherokee history. Prior to contact with whites, there was no evidence to support any racial identity based prejudice or mistreatment within the Cherokee Nation. [173] Many of the fullbloods having been slaves themselves in the colonial period and having seen the destructive influences of the slave trade among their own people, it is likely that opposition to slavery existed prior to contact with abolitionist ministers. Finally, the deep historical relationship between fullbloods and Africans that existed with both the temple mound based cultures and the Protestant churches of the Southeastern United States would have even further supported a society based upon freedom and liberty. [174] Finally, the Keetoowah Society believed that the more the Cherokee Nation disestablished its ties with the institution of slavery, the better it could sustain its own national identity and control its own sovereignty. [175]

The Keetoowah Society was ostensibly a secret society dedicated to preserving the interests of fullbloods within Cherokee society. However, at its very heart it was a religious response to the modernist impulses found in the developing racialist ideology, emerging capitalist economy, and universal nationalist identity of the nineteenth century. The conservatives that made up the Keetoowah Society sought to promote traditional beliefs regarding a monogenetic theory of human origins, communal ownership of property, collective responsibility, and cultural integrity among the Cherokee. In the face of the tremendous changes that swept through the country in the nineteenth century, the Keetoowah believed that in tradition lay the power to overcome assimilation and accommodation to the forces of modernity.

Arising from the boiling cauldron of religious, social, and political forces which shaped the Cherokee Nation in the late 1850's, the Keetoowah Society quickly became a potent force in the Cherokee Nation. Arising from just a few members within the Peavine Church, its membership spread rapidly and by the end of the decade as many as 1500 men belonged to the Keetoowah Society. [176] With the formal establishment of the Keetoowah Society in the Spring of 1858, that which had been a critical factor in Cherokee mythology and religion moved from a secret society shrouded in mystery to the forefront of Cherokee civilization. In the coming years, that which had been a secret was to be even further revealed.

The End of Secrecy and the Birth of the “Pins”

The militancy of the Baptist missions on the issue of slavery and the fact that these missions were moving from preaching to organization within the oppressed community became an increasing threat to the political officials responsible for the Indian Territory. Federal Agent George Butler, a member of Fort Gibson Lodge #35, lamented in late 1858: “there are a few Black Republicans, who are the particular fondlings of the abolition missionaries that have been, and still are making themselves officious upon the subject of slavery.” [177] Who these “Black Republicans” were and the role that they played in the upcoming struggle is an issue for conjecture, but one is left to ponder the positions of Joseph Island, Old Billy, Brother Jesse, Monday Durant, Uncle Reuben and the numerous blacks who must have made up the Joneses congregations.

The Fort Smith Times on February 3, 1859 began to take notice not of the “Black Republicans,” but of the Baptist missionaries who were allowing such to operate with freedom and dignity within their churches. Evan Jones was particularly cited as being “an abolitionist, and a very dangerous man, meddling with the affairs of the Cherokees, and teaching them abolition principles.” [178] In late 1859, William Penn Adair (Flint Lodge #74), a member of the Cherokee National Council, declared that they would have the Joneses out of the Cherokee Nation if they had to resort to a mob to accomplish their purpose. Adair, after an earlier struggle with Evan Jones over a “runaway slave,” had stated that Jones's “abolition principles and doctrines...may `gull' a few of the ignorant class...but I think the more enlightened parties would rejoice at his removal.” [179]

On October 16, 1859, John Brown and his cadre of abolitionists raided Harper's Ferry with the expectation of instigating a slave revolt which would spread throughout the South and turn the tide of the struggle against slavery. Though the incident was in Virginia, its implications were felt throughout the land. Abolitionists moved from being a threat to the institution of slavery to a threat to the internal security of the country. Rhetorical abolitionism was a problem for the political authorities; militant abolitionism became an issue for the military ones.

In October 1859, Federal Agent and Freemason George Butler had seen enough and Evan Jones noted that Butler had ordered him “to take my person and effects and remove them out of the Nation.” [180] Butler order the sheriff of Goingsnake District to arrest John Jones by force if necessary and remove the abolitionist minister from the Cherokee Nation. When the sheriff set about to arrest Jones, a word was sent out among the faithful, and the fullbloods in the vicinity surrounded the mission. The sheriff was “deterred from executing the order by fear of the common people.” If the government was acting against the will of the Cherokee Nation, then “the beloved community” must themselves become the will of the government. The Keetoowah Society had taken a profound step towards the building of a new Nation; it had acted in its own self-defense. [181]

Emerging within the Keetoowah Society was a new form of patriot, one whose struggle was not only for the preservation of the old ways but also one who would engage in armed struggle for the preservation of a sovereign Nation based upon the principles of the “Kituwah Spirit.” The “Pins,” or “Pin Indians” as they came to be called, made up the militant branch of the Keetoowah Society. The “Pins” chose the United States Flag as their symbol and wore crossed straight pins (or a single straight pin) on the left lapel of their hunting jackets. The “Pins” developed secret signs such as touching the hat as a salutation or taking their left lapel and drawing it forward and rightward across the heart. [182] When meeting each other in the dark, the first asked the other, “Who are you?” the reply or pass was “Tahlequah -- who are you?.” The proper response was, “I am Keetoowah's son!” [183]

By the middle of 1860, the panic which was sweeping the country made its way to Indian Territory and the source of great concern was the Keetoowahs and the even more fearful “Pins.” The Fort Smith Times (Arkansas) issued the following alarm:

We noticed a week or two ago that there was a secret organization going on in the Cherokee Nation, and that it was among full-blood Indians alone. We are informed by good authority that the organization is growing and expanding daily, and that no half or mixed blood Indian is taken into this organization. The strictest secrecy is observed, and it is death, by the order, to divulge the object of the Society. They hold meetings in the thickets, and in every secret place, to initiate members. We are told that the mixed-bloods are becoming alarmed, and every attempt to find out the object of this secret cabal has thus far proved abortive. The Joneses are said to be the leaders in the work, and what these things are tending to, no one can predict. We fear that something horrible is to be enacted on the frontier, and that this secret work will not stop among the Cherokees, but extend to other tribes on this frontier. The Government should examine into this matter, before it becomes too formidable. [184]
Commissioner of Indian Affairs A.B. Greenwood responded by dispatching agent Robert Cowart, formerly of Georgia, to investigate the Keetoowah Society and to proceed “at once to break it up” because the Society was now deemed a threat to national security:
It is believed that the ultimate object of this organization is to interfere with the institutions of that people, and that its influences will extend to the other tribes upon the Western border of Arkansas. This scheme must be broken up: for if it is permitted to ripen, that country will, sooner or later, be drenched in blood. You are aware that there is a large slave property in the Cherokee country, and if any steps are taken by which such property will be rendered unsafe, internal war will be the inevitable result, in which the people of the bordering states will be involved. [185]
Cowart was also informed that if “any white persons residing in the Nation are in any way connected with this organization he will notify such person or persons forthwith to leave the Nation.”Cowart was also informed “that the Secretary of War will be requested to place such force at his disposal as may be necessary to enforce any order he may deem it his duty to make.” [186]

Upon arriving in Indian Territory, Cowart was to find that his reliance upon the Secretary of War would not be necessary; the forces of the Knights of the Golden Circle were already mobilized to accomplish his goals. Stand Watie and William Penn Adair started a petition among the Knights of the Golden Circle calling for the eviction of John B. Jones from the Nation:

The said Intruder is an abolitionist and as such is scattering his principles of Abolitionism like fire brands throughout the country. It is needless to say...that our whole system of Government recognizes the institution of African slavery...All the doings of this intruder are contrary to our laws, our customs, and institutions, Our present unhappy state of affairs has to a very great degree been brought about by the doctrines that this intruder is daily promulgating under the guise of preaching to the Cherokees the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [187]
The petition further excoriated the Baptist churches for supporting abolitionism by excluding slaveholders from the church; it further accused Evan Jones of preaching the doctrine of abolitionism but, interestingly enough, did not call for sanctions against him.

In his efforts to gain information about the Keetoowah sufficient to call in Federal Troops, Cowart was less successful: “As regards those Secret Societies, I firmly believe, that they are gotten up with a view to aid in conveying those abolition plans of operation, to a successful termination. Allow me to say - that I shall continue to travel in and through the Nation until I establish those charges if it can possible be done.” [188] There were also different kinds of problems associated with interfering with the affairs of the Keetoowah:

Fifty men with guns appeared to watch after Geo. Smith and Chas. Rooster to protect them, though unauthorized by law. These fifty men were “Secret” men, and seemed to present rather a defiant front....They are attempting to run over everything that is in any way connected with us...Times are exciting. Our friends must work. They must. We need not expect any quarters form our enemies. [189]
On September 7, 1860, Cowart wrote a letter to John B. Jones which concluded, “I have petitions by some 500 citizens asking for your removal from the Cherokee Nation by the 25th of this present month...otherwise Military Force will be employed to remove you.” [190] Fearing that the military force would take him to Arkansas where a waiting mob would tar and feather him, John B. Jones and several Keetoowahs set forth upon the path to freedom:
I feel my forceable expulsion from the Cherokee Nation to be a great outrage. I feel that I have been deeply and grossly wronged. I was made to feel the outrage more keenly by being obliged to start and leave my house and home when my wife was so sick that she could not walk from the house to the wagon without assistance, and when she reached it, she was not able to sit up. I had to make a bed in the wagon for about a week before she was able to ride in a sitting position...

We had repeatedly heard that I was to be waylaid when I crossed over into the state of Arkansas. In consequence of these threats, my friends advised me that I should get a few friends to arm themselves and accompany me thro the Indian territory and a short distance into Kansas. I had made arrangements for so doing.

My brother was to take my family on the public highways, and I intended to travel more privately and meet them somewhere in Missouri....But on account of my wife's sickness, I was obliged to travel with my family. My brother and a few of the Cherokees armed themselves and accompanied us a considerable distance on our way. We kept off the main road and inside the Indian Territory as much as we could. We shunned the state of Arkansas all but a few miles.

I have the sympathies of a large majority of the Cherokees. Many of them expressed their great indignation at the treatment I had received. They felt that Colonel Cowart, the U.S. Agent, had usurped authority over their country and was attempting to establish a precedent, which if followed up, would override their government and rob them of their sacred rights. They were reconciled by the hope...that Mr. Lincoln would be elected president and would deal with them in justice and with a due regard to their rights as guaranteed by their treaty... [191]


[1]The Amohee Baptist Church in Tennessee was the first native Christian church formed in the Cherokee Nation when it was established in 1831. It was located sixty miles west of the Valley Towns mission near the Hiwassee River. Its membership consisted of nineteen Cherokee, eleven whites, and one black. (Baptist Missionary Magazine 12: 234) See also Solomon Peck, History of American Missions to the Heathen (Worcester, Mass., 1840); William Gerald McLoughlin, Cherokees and Missionaries: 1789-1839 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 162.

[2]"Keetoowah Laws - April 29, 1859" in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949), 102.

[3] Emmett Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma City, OK: 1921), 480.

[4] Wardell, 18; Thurman Wilkins, Cherokee Tragedy: The Story of the Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People (New York: MacMillan, 1970), 257; Edward Everett Dale and Gaston Litton, Cherokee Cavaliers; forty years of Cherokee history as told in the correspondence of the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), 3-55.

[5] Worcester to Green, June 26, 1839, in American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. “Papers, 1796-1964 (inclusive)”; Grant Foreman, “The Murder of Elias Boudinot,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma, XII, No. 1, (March, 1939): 19-24; Daniel Littlefield, The Cherokee Freedmen: from Emancipation to American Citizenship (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978), 4. See also Elias Boudinot, The life, public services, addresses, and letters of Elias Boudinot, Ed. by J. J. Boudinot (New York, Da Capo Press, 1971); Ralph H. Gabriel, Elias Boudinot : Cherokee and his America (Norman : Univ. of OK Press, 1941); William Gerald McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears: the Cherokees' Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); Edward E. Dale and Gaston Litton, Cherokee cavaliers: forty years of Cherokee history as told in the correspondence of the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1940); Kenny Franks, Stand Watieand the Agony of the Cherokee Nation (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979); Mabel Washbourne Anderson, Life of General Stand Watie : the only Indian Brigadier General of the Confederate Army and the Last General to Surrender (Pryor, Okla. : Mayes County Republican, 1915).

[6] Major Ridge would have known what would be his fate for the relinquishing of Cherokee land for it was he who had drawn up the articles of treason while a member of the National Council in 1829. In 1806, Ridge had assassinated then Chief Doublehead for his participation in the ceding of Cherokee lands to the United States. The son of Doublehead was reputed to have been a member of the Ross party and to have participated in execution of Ridge.

[7] Mankiller and Wallis, 118-119; Grant Foreman, The Five Civilized Tribes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934), 333-334. See also Edward Everett Dale and Gaston Litton. Cherokee cavaliers: forty years of Cherokee history as told in the correspondence of the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1940); Gerard Alexander Reed, The Ross-Watie conflict factionalism in the Cherokee Nation, 1839-1865. (Norman, Okla.: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Oklahoma, 19670; William Gerald McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears: the Cherokees' struggle for sovereignty, 1839-1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); William Gerald McLoughlin and Walter H. Conser, The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: essays on acculturation and cultural persistence ( Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994); Emmett Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians ( Oklahoma City: Ok: 1921); Morris Wardell, A Political history of the Cherokee nation, 1838-1907 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1938).

[8] Works Progress Administration, Oklahoma Writers Project, Interview with Chaney Richardson (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), 257-259.

[9] John Candy to Stand Watie, in Edward Everett Dale and Gaston Litton. Cherokee cavaliers: forty years of Cherokee history as told in the correspondence of the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1940); Wardell, 67.

[10] Sarah Watie quoted in Perdue, 75. See also Edward Everett Dale and Gaston Litton. Cherokee cavaliers: forty years of Cherokee history as told in the correspondence of the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1940).

[11] William G. Mc Loughlin, After the Trail of Tears (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 39; Mankiller and Wallis, 123; Thornton, 87-88; Perdue, 74-75; Roethler, 167-171.

[12] Wardell, 60-66; Perdue, 74; Woodward, 229-230; T. Lindsey Baker and Julie Baker, The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1996), 408-409. See also William G. McLoughlin and Walter H. Conser. The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: essays on acculturation and cultural persistence (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994); Emmett Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma City: Ok: 1921); Morris Wardell, A political history of the Cherokee nation, 1838-1907 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1938).

[13] Mankiller and Wallis, 121.

[14] Betty Robertson in Baker, 356; Alvin Rucker, “The Story of a Slave Uprising in Oklahoma” Daily Oklahoman, Oct. 30, 1932; Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Early History of Webber's Falls,” Chronicles of Oklahoma 29 (Winter 1951-52): 459-460; Daniel Littlefield and Lonnie Underhill, “Slave `Revolt' in the Cherokee Nation 1842,” American Indian Quarterly 3 (1977): 121-133; See also Halliburton, 82; McLoughlin, 134; Wardell, 119. For further information about slave uprisings, see John H. Bracey, American slavery: the Question of Resistance, Edited by John H. Bracey, Jr., August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, (Belmont, Calif., Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1971); William Loren Katz, Breaking the chains : African-American Slave Resistance; illustrated with prints and photographs, (New York : Atheneum, 1990).

[15] Rucker, “Slave Uprising.”

[16] Roethler, 185.

[17], McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 135; Halliburton, 84.

[18] Foster, 45; Mulroy 53-56.

[19] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 135.

[20] Perdue, 82.

[21] Littlefield, The Cherokee Freedmen, 5-7; Roethler, 165-170; Woodward, 238-252; McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 56-121.

[22] ibid.

[23] George Butler, “Report, ” September 10, 1859, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Washington, D.C., 1859), 173; Roethler, 172; Littlefield, The Cherokee Freedmen, 9.

[24] Evan Jones quoted in McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 140.

[25] ibid.

[26] J. M. Gaskins, Black Baptists in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Messenger Press, 1992), 91. See also Jesse Marvin Gaskin, Trail blazers of Sooner Baptists (Shawnee : Oklahoma Baptist University Press, 1953); C. W. West, Missions and Missionaries of Indian Territory (Muscogee: Muscogee Publishing Company, 1990); E.C. Routh, The Story of Oklahoma Baptists (Shawnee, OBU Press, 1932).

[27] Isaac McCoy, History of Baptist Indian Missions (New York: H. and S. Raynor, 1840) 426; Walter Wyeth, Isaac McCoy: Early Indian Missions (Philadelphia: W.N. Wyeth Publishers, 1895), 192-193; C. W. West, Missions and Missionaries of Indian Territory (Muscogee: Muscogee Publishing Company, 1990), 21.

[28] L. W. Marks, “The Story of Oklahoma Baptists,” (Unpublished Manuscript, 1912), 35.

[29] Wyeth, 193.

[30] West, 4. John Davis was not new to the ministry having been educated at Union Mission and been in the employ of the Baptist Church since 1830. He had previously attempted to found a church under the auspices of the American Board with some thirty African American and Muscogeans. [Debo, The Road to Disappearance, 116].

[31] American Baptist Missionary Union, The Missionary Jubilee: An Account of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American Baptist Missionary Union at Philadelphia, May 24, 25, and 26, 1864 with Commemorative Papers and Discourses (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1865), 477.

[32] American Baptist Missionary Union, Annual Report 1840, 9.

[33] Gaskins, 90.

[34] Some of the Creeks were opposed to the spread of Christianity among the Creek Nation. Reverend Lee Compere, an American Board minister, was expelled from the Nation because “Compere insisted upon preaching to the slaves of the Creeks, and their masters felt this would make them unruly.” [McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokees, 217]. However, the issue is hardly so simple. Many of the Muscogee were not opposed to preaching to the slaves, they were opposed to preaching the Christian gospel within the Nation altogether. The traditionalists had consistently opposed Christianity and the Creeks were often seen as the most hostile to the Christian message. In addition, the Muscogee had real reservations about Christianity because of the struggles that they saw between the French and Spanish Catholics and the English Protestants as well as the denominational struggles within the Protestants themselves. If Christians could not solve their own problems, how were they to be of assistance to any one else?

[35] Brother Jesse quoted in Carl Rister, Baptist Missions among the American Indians (Atlanta: Southern Baptist Convention, 1944), 85.

[36] Rister, 84.

[37] Daniel Rogers, quoted in Gaskins, 104.

[38] Robert Hamilton, The Gospel Among the Red Men (Nashville: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1930), 98.

[39] American Baptist Missionary Union, Annual Report 1843, 141.

[40] Gaskins, 92.

[41] Though Bushyhead was considered a slaveholder, the slaves (in accordance with Cherokee tradition) actually belonged to his wife who had inherited them from her father. In addition, the woman had been released from bondage for several years by 1844, provided with a home and clothing by the Bushyheads and allowed to live on their land. Her daughter married a freedman and the Bushyheads provided them with stock in order to begin a business and they settled some 100 miles away. [McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokees, 235]

[42] Evan Jones to Solomon Peck, August 26, 1844, “Indian Mission Papers,” American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, N.Y.

[43] Evan Jones, letters, American Baptist Missionary Union, November 3, 1843.

[44] The struggle within the churches over slavery, even within the Indian Territory, has been the focus of much literature and could at this point be dealt with in great depth. For extensive discussions of this issue, see William G. Mc Loughlin, Champions of the Cherokees: Evan and John B. Jones (Princeton: Princeton University Press,1990); William McLoughlin and Walter H. Conser, The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994); William G. Mc Loughlin, After the Trail of Tears (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); Robert T. Lewit, The Conflict of Evangelical and Humanitarian Ideals: A Case Study (MA Thesis, Harvard University, 1959); Annie Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992); Theda Perdue, Slavery and the Evolution of Cherokee Society 1540-1866 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979); Charles Whipple, Relation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to Slavery (Boston: R.F. Wallcut, 1861); Michael Roethler, "Negro Slavery among the Cherokee Indians, 1540-1866" (Ph.D. Dissertation, Fordham University, 1964); Rudi Halliburton, Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977).

[45] Quoted in William G. McLoughlin, The Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians (Atlanta: Mercer University Press, 1984), 332.

[46] McLoughlin, The Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians, 340.

[47] See C.C. Goen, Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the Civil War (Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 1985). For an analysis of the split within the Baptist denomination see Robert Baker, Relations between Northern and Southern Baptists, (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1947).

[48] John B. Jones letters, American Baptist Missionary Union, May 5, 1858.

[49] ibid.

[50] John B. Jones letters, American Baptist Missionary Union, November 17, 1859.

[51] didahnvwisgi - the religious leaders in the traditional society - “medicine men” or shamans.

[52] J. Fred Latham. The Story of Oklahoma Masonry, Oklahoma City: Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, 195-, 8

[53] Steven C. Bullock, The Ancient and Honorable Society: Freemasonry in America, 1730-1830 (Ph. D. dissertation, Brown University, 1986), 8-9; Lynn Dumenil, Freemasonry in American Culture 1880-1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 4; Mark Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 22-25.

[54] Allen Roberts, Freemasonry in American History (Richmond: MacCoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1985), 8-28.

[55] William H. Grimshaw, Official History of Freemasonry Among the Colored People in North America (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1921), 52-54. The following countries established Masonic Lodges which accepted “colored Masons: ” Martinique (1738), Antigua (1739), Virgin Islands (1760), Bermuda (1761), Nicaragua (1763), Honduras (1763), Granada (1764), Dominica (1773), Bahamas (1785), St. Thomas (1792), Trinidad (1798), Cuba (1804), Mexico (1810).

[56] “Famous Masons,” Freemasonry.Org, revised 06/19/95.

[57] William Muraskin, Middle Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 23.

[58] Muraskin, 162; Dumenil, 7-8.

[59] It is important to note that Freemasonry associates itself with the prevailing religion of the surrounding populace. There are Freemasonic lodges in Muslim countries which use the Qu'ran as the basis of ritual; in Hindu countries, the rituals are based around the Vedic traditions. The central focus of Freemasonry is upon the “Great Architect of the Universe.” Oddly enough, there are even Freemasonic lodges with Buddhist orientations.

[60] Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina, “All Sons of One Father” (Raleigh, N.C.: Grand Lodge of North Carolina, 1986), 3.

[61] The Mormon Temple was founded in the belief that God had given King Solomon he secrets of a holy priesthood, but gradually the rituals--as kept by Freemasonry--had been corrupted. The rites of the Mormon Temple were considered the actual perfected rituals as Solomon had received them. [Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America, 7].

[62] Lynn Dumenil, Freemasonry in American Culture: 1880-1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 4-6.

[63] Albert Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & CO., 1889), 526-527.

[64] Davis, 177-179. Interestingly enough, in spite of Pike's public statements such as the one above, he was very supportive of a segregated Freemasonry and participated in and made significant contributions to the growth of Negro Scottish Rites Freemasonry. He personally donated his own works on Freemasonry to the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rites and they have served as the basis for work and practice of the Prince Hall Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rites. The contributions are greatly valued and still in the possession of the Southern Jurisdiction.

[65] Roberts, 33-39.

[66] Grimshaw, 53-54.

[67] Roberts, 33ff.

[68] Latham, 2.

[69] Winfield Scott quoted in Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 204.

[70] Woodward, 214.

[71] Woodward, 208-212. It is somewhat problematic to speak of Scott's kindness for he himself ordered the execution of Tsali, a Cherokee leader who resisted removal, and his sons. In spite of the fact that Scott ordered his troops to act with compassion, often very little was shown and no real sanctions were provided for those individuals who raped, pillaged, and plundered during the Cherokee removal. Nevertheless, General Scott was roundly criticized by senior officials in the military as well as the general public.

[72] John P. Brown, Old Frontiers (Kingsport: Tennessee, 1938), 511.

[73] Latham, 5. Latham frequently lists as a source for his history materials from Brother H.K. Maxwell, “who spent many years in the preparation of an extensive manuscript on Masonic history and activities in Indian Territory,” which is the property of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. After repeated appeals through many channels, I was informed the chief librarian for the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma that the manuscript had been ordered sealed by the governing board of the Grand Lodge “some twenty years ago.” This was about the time that Latham wrote his history; one can only speculate as to why the Grand Lodge ordered the materials sealed.

[74] Albert Mackey describes a “blue lodge” as: “A symbolic Lodge, in which the first three degrees are conferred, is so called from the color of its decorations.” A “blue lodge” is the common determination for this lodge as opposed to lodges which grant higher degrees such as the Scottish Rites or York Rites. [Mackey, 120]

[75] George Moser, quoted in Latham, 6.

[76] T.L. Ballenger, History of Cherokee Lodge #10, T.L. Ballenger Papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 5 ; see also J. Fred Latham, The Story of Oklahoma Masonry (Oklahoma City: Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, 1978)5- 8; Ted Byron Hall, Oklahoma: Indian Territory (Fort Worth : American Reference Publishers,1971), 257, Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma City: Indian Heritage Association, 1921), 184-185.

[77] The Sons of Temperance modeled its constitution on those of the Freemasons and Odd Fellows and based their organization around simple initiation rituals. As time progressed, the Sons of Temperance and organizations such as it developed increasingly complicated rituals even further aligned with those of the Freemasons. [Carnes, 8]

[78] Ballenger, 6. It is worth noting that the Cherokee Indian Baptist Association, consisting of six “colored churches” held its organizational meeting in the Cherokee Masonic Lodge in 1870. [Gaskins, 118]

[79] Ballenger, 5.

[80] Russell Thornton, The Cherokees: A Population History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 87; Michael Doran, “Population Statistics of Nineteenth Century Indian Territory” in The Chronicles of Oklahoma 53 (Winter, 1975-1976): 492-515.

[81] Grimshaw, 191.

[82] A. G. Clark, Clark's History of Prince Hall Freemasonry (Des Moines, Iowa: Bystander Publications, 1947), 48.

[83] Muraskin, 38-39.

[84] C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African-American Experience (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 52.

[85] Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 205.

[86] Grimshaw, 233.

[87] Perdue, 108; Haliburton, 40; T. Lindsey Baker and Julie Baker, The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1996), 343, 372.

[88] William Augustus Bowles is, along with Albert Pike, one of the most interesting characters in American history. He was born in Maryland in 1763 and joined the British forces at the age of thirteen. When he was fifteen, he fled the British Army and went to live among the African/Creek/Seminole people of Southern Florida. He became the war leader of a Five Nation Confederacy entitled “the nation of Muscogee” and engaged in military struggles against the Floridians. Fleeing pursuit once again, he fled to the Bahamas in 1786 where he sought initiation into the Freemasonic order for a second time (the first time was in Philadelphia in 1783); this time he was admitted. Bowles returned to the United States and in 1790, he and several Beloved Men (including the Cherokee GoingSnake and the Creek Tuskeniah, an associate of Tecumseh) went to England where they were accepted into the Prince of Wales Lodge #259. Bowles was introduced as “a Chief of the Creek Nation, whose love of Masonry has induced him to wish it may be introduced into the interior part of America, whereby the cause of humanity and brotherly love will go hand in hand with the native courage of the Indians, and by the union lead them on to the highest title that can be conferred on man.” In 1795, the records of the Grand Lodge of England showed Bowles as the duly accredited provincial Grandmaster of the Five Nations. [Denslow, 127-129]. In 1799, Bowles returned to the United States and tried to finance a revolution in order to set up a free and independent Muscogee State along the frontier of the colonial United States; in so doing Bowles freely associated with Indians and their African cohorts of the Seminole Nation. [Cotterill, 127-130] J. Leitch Wright credits Bowles with having spread the abolitionist message among the Upper Creek and Chickamaguan Cherokee in the eighteenth century through the use of black interpreters. Both Chief Bowlegs of the Seminole Nation and Chief Bowl of the Cherokee Nation are supposed descendants of William Augustus Bowles. [Wright, Creeks and Seminoles, 58 ff].

[89] Unsigned document quoted by William Sturtevant, “The Cherokee Frontiers, the French Revolution, and William Augustus Bowles” in Duane King, ed. The Cherokee Indian Nation: A Troubled History (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979), 61. Further reading of this article as well as subsequent readings of related materials have failed to elucidate this connection .

[90] Charles Barthelemy Rousseve, The Negro in Louisiana: Aspects of His history and His Literature (New Orleans: Xavier University Press, 1937), 41.

[91] Laennec Hurbon, Voodoo: Search for the Spirit (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995), 31-41.

[92] William Brawley, A Social History of the American Negro (New York: Macmillan Company, 1921), 241; Walter B. Weare, “Black Fraternal Orders” in Charles Reagon Wilson and William Ferris, eds., Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 159; Carter G. Woodson, The African Background Outlined: or Handbook for the Study of the Negro (Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Inc., 1936) 169-170.

[93] Hampton Conference Report, Number 8 quoted in Brawley, 73.

[94] William Muraskin, Middle Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 53. Muraskin also notes as prominent Prince Hall Freemasons who were active in the abolitionist movement as being Peter Ray, Lewis Hayden, Absolum Jones, Patrick Reason, James T. Hilton, James Forten, and Major Martin Delaney.

[95] Moses Dickson, “Manual of the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, containing general laws, regulations, ceremonies, drill and landmarks” in Herbert Aptheker, ed., A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States from Colonial Times through the Civil War (Secaucus: The Citadel Press, 1973), 378.

[96] Vincent Harding, There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Publishers, 1981), 198.

[97] Booker T. Washington, The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery, Volume II (New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1909), 155; E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro in the United States (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1949), 371-372.

[98] Dickson , 379.

[99] Wardell, 118-120; Mankiller and Wallis, 124; Royce 201-203.

[100] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 125.

[101] Various estimates of the Cherokee population range from between 17,000 to 22,000 in the years immediately preceding the Civil War. The total slave population ranges from 2500, 4000, to 9000 depending upon the source. The Eighth Census records 384 Cherokee slaveowners of 2504 slaves. The slave population consisted of 1,122 males and 1,282 females. The largest slaveowners averaged 35 slaves. Throughout Indian Territory, Black slaves comprised less than fifteen percent of the population, and only about one Native American in fifty owned slaves. [Haliburton, 117; Thornton, 87] See also Reid A. Holland, “Life in the Cherokee Nation, 1855-1860” in Chronicles of Oklahoma, 49 (Autumn, 1971): 284-301; Michael Doran, “Population Statistics of Nineteenth Century Indian Territory,” in Chronicles of Oklahoma, 53 (Winter 1975-76): 492-515.

[102] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 145

[103] Haliburton, Red Over Black, 119-120.

[104] I use the term “Blue Lodges” because that is what most of the scholars, including Mcloughlin and Mooney use to describe these lodges. However, the fact that Ross was a Freemason meant that he understood the term “Blue Lodge” quite well and would not have used it unadvisedly. In all probability, these “Blue Lodges” were Freemasonic lodges tied to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. Though Freemasonry is an avowed apolitical organization, there have always been close affiliations between Freemasonry in the South and organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the Golden Circle, and the White Camellias.

[105] McLoughlin, The Cherokees and Christianity, 227.

[106] John B. Jones papers, A.B.M.U., July 12, 1858.

[107] This opinion is supported by evidence that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to recognize the charters of many of the lodges in Indian Territory following the cessation of the Civil War. In addition, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas considered many of the charters “forfeited” and would only grant the lodges new charters if the were reorganized under a different name. Cherokee Lodge #21 became Cherokee Lodge #10 when it was reorganized after repeated attempts for recognition in 1877. Fort Gibson Lodge # 35 became Alpha Lodge #12 in 1878. Flint Lodge #74 became Flint Lodge # 11 in 1876.[Starr, 185]. Muskogee Lodge #93 and Choctaw Lodge #52 also forfeited their charter following the Civil War. The Grand Lodge which refused the recognition was led by J.S. Murrow, the “Father of Oklahoma Masonry,” a Baptist minister who was a Confederate States Indian Agent during the Civil War. [Latham,10; West, 103]

[108] T.L. Ballenger, History of Cherokee Lodge #10, T.L. Ballenger Papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 12; “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905) Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 105.

[109] Latham, 25.

[110] Mankiller and Wallis, 124.

[111] For more information on the Knights of the Golden Circle, see “An Authentic exposition of the "K.G.C.", "Knights of the Golden Circle" or, A history of secession from 1834 to 1861( Indianapolis : n.p.1861) written by a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle; Edmund Wright, Narrative of Edmund Wright: his adventures with and escape from the Knights of the Golden Circle (New York : R.W. Hitchcock, 1864).

[112] James W. Parins, John Rollin Ridge: His Life and Works (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), 180; “Knights of the Golden Circle” in Patricia Faust, ed., in Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1986), 420; “Knights of the Golden Circle” in Charles Reagon Wilson and William Ferris, eds., Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 1506. See also Frank Klement, The Copperheads in the Middle West (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960) and Frank Klement, Dark Lanterns (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984). Mark Carnes in his work, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989, 7) notes that many of the early nativist organizations such as The United American Mechanics, the Know-Nothings and the Copperheads were closely affiliated with the Freemasonic Order.

[113] Franks, 114-115; McLoughlin, Cherokees and Christianity, 258. Of these, William Penn Adair was a member of Flint Lodge, John Rollin Ridge was most likely a Mason [Parins, 191], and Boudinot and Washbourne were Masons from Fayetteville, Arkansas.

[114] Knights of the Golden Circle. Constitution and By-Laws, Cherokee Collection: Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, OK, 1-2.

[115] “Militancy” in this contexts means assaults upon members of the abolitionist movement, breaking up of Baptist religious meetings, and threats to the life and well being of the Northern Baptist missionaries and clergy.

[116] Though the Keetoowah had its formal organization by the Joneses in 1858, most sources refer to the Society as having existed "from time immemorial." See T.L. Ballenger, “The Keetoowahs” in Ballenger papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL.; Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History. (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949); Wilma Mankiller and Michael Wallis, Mankiller: A Chief and her People (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993); Janey Hendrix, “Redbird Smith and The Nighthawk Keetoowahs,” Journal of Cherokee Studies 8 (Fall 1983): 24; William McLoughlin and Walter H. Conser, The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994); James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokees (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1900. Part I); “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry (n.p., 1905), Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL , 105; John Howard Payne papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago IL; Evan Jones, letters, American Baptist Missionary Union records, Rochester, N.Y.; John Jones, letters, American Baptist Missionary Union records, Rochester, N.Y.

[117] It is important at this point to discuss the historical myths regarding the relationship between the Welsh, the Native Americans, and freemasonry. In the late eighteenth century, an intellectual controversy swept through England regarding the possibility of Welsh speaking Indians who were descendants of a colony founded by Welsh Prince Modoc about 1170. These Welsh speaking Indians were identified with the Tuscarora, the Mandan, and ultimately the Hopi. A Freemasonic myth spins yet another yarn regarding the theory: “About 1909 two Welsh miners, looking for gold in Arizona, came across an Indian tribe rehearsing a Masonic ceremony in Welsh. The supposition is that Prince Modoc reached the Americas and taught the Welsh tongue and Welsh freemasonry to the natives.” [Denslow, 7] In addition, when they were in England, William A. Bowles and his Cherokee/Creek diplomats met with enthusiasts of this theory and played along with the idea. There is little doubt that many of these enthusiasts were Freemasons. [Sturtevant in King, 79] I stress these connections to suggest the possibility that the Jones being of Welsh lineage could have played a factor in their easy acceptance among the Cherokee. There might have been the possibility that Jones could have been a Freemason, either made so in London or in Philadelphia. With John Marrant, William Augustus Bowles, and many of the Cherokee leaders being Freemasons, this could also have assisted his rapid integration into the Nation.

[118] Malone, 23; Betty Anderson Smith, “Distribution of Eighteenth Century Cherokee Settlements” in King, 53.

[119] Georgia Rae Leeds, The United Keetoowah Band of Indians in Oklahoma: 1950 to the Present (University of Oklahoma: Ph.D. dissertation, 1992), 4.

[120] David Whitekiller quoted in Leeds, 4-5.

[121] ibid.

[122] Mooney, 183; “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry (n.p., 1905) Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL , 105.

[123] Tom Hatley, The Dividing Path: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Revolutionary Era (New York; Oxford University Press, 1995), 92.

[124] Verner F. Crane "The Lost Utopia on the American Frontier" Sewanee Review, XXVII (1919): 48. Contemporaries and later historians have seen Pryber's description as a concoction of his own utopian vision for a “communistic establishment” rooted in Enlightenment thought. However, the utopia which Pryber claimed to be his own was more likely a description of Cherokee society before its transition as a result of European contact.

[125] Hatley, 225.

[126] Mankiller and Wallis, 124.

[127] See Almon Lauber, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times within the Present Limits of the United States.(New York: Doctoral Dissertation. Columbia University, 1933); Barbara Olexer, The Enslavement of the American Indian (Monroe, N.Y.: Library Research Associates,1982); J. Leitch Wright, The Only Land They Knew:The Tragic Story of the American Indian in the Old South. (New York: Free Press, 1981); Gary Nash, Red,White and Black: The Peoples of Early America, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1974); Tom Hatley, The Dividing Path: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Revolutionary Era. ( New York; Oxford University Press, 1995); Sanford Winston, “Indian Slavery in the Carolina Region, “ Journal of Negro History, v. 19, n. 1, (1934), 431-439. William Snell, “Indian Slavery in Colonial South Carolina.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Univ. of Alabama, 1972.; Patrick Minges, “Evangelism and Enslavement.” (Unpublished Manuscript,1992).

[128] Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949), 27.

[129] Leeds, 3.

[130] Hendrix, 6.

[131] Tyner, 27.

[132] Hendrix, 6.

[133] Tyner, 28.

[134] Theda Perdue, Nations Remembered: An Oral History of the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles in Oklahoma 1865-1907 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), 98.

[135] Tyner, 29; Leeds, 4.

[136] Tyner, 30. This myth is particularly interesting because it resolves several important issues and leaves open an interesting possibility. The Cherokee are of an Iroquoian linguistic stock but are primarily of the temple mound culture similar to the Muscogean and Natchez people of the deep South. If the Keetoowah people were of the temple mound culture but settled among the Iroquois, then this helps to explain a mystery of origins that has riddled anthropologists since their initial contact with the Cherokee. It also opens up the interesting, if however remote, possibility that the Cherokee could have been in contact with Africans prior to their meetings with Europeans. Being from “ an island somewhere east of South America in the Atlantic Ocean ” surely offers the possibility of transatlantic contact with Africans. The relationship between the temple mound culture with its pyramids full of dead ancestors and those of Egypt and North Africa is quite interesting, but will be left to the Afrocentrists to explore.

[137] Tyner, 30; “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905), Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL, 105.

[138] Ballenger, 106.

[139] "The Keetoowahs" in T.L. Ballenger Papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago IL. 105

[140] “Keetoowah Laws -April 29, 1859” in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History (Master's Thesis, University of Tulsa, 1949), Appendix A.

[141] “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905), Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 105.

[142] "Keetoowah Laws - April 29, 1859" in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History. (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949), Appendix A.

[143] Marilou Awiatka, Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom (Golden, CO.: Fulcrum Publishing, 1993), 37.

[144] McLoughlin, Champions of The Cherokee, 345; May, 83; Littlefield, The Cherokee Freedmen, 8.

[145] Many of those “progressives” and mixed-bloods, especially those intermarried with whites, came to be known as “White Indians” and play a critical role in Cherokee history. Though the “White Indians” are often treated inadequately, (as in this paper itself) theirs is a truly unique story which has yet to be fully explored. I would like to recognize and thank Ken Martin, who has helped me to recognize the limitations of my understanding of the story of the “White Indians.”

[146] The story of mixed-blood blacks or Black Indians within Cherokee Society seems to fall outside of the cultural contexts of mixed blood/full blood definitions. However, we must assume that since most of those who intermarried with Blacks were traditionalists who clung to the “old ways,” many of those who were defined as full bloods were often black. One of the purposes of this dissertation is to show the affinity between full bloods and African Americans throughout Cherokee history.

[147] The profound impact of Sequoyahs syllabury must be stressed at this point.

[148] This is a central point and speaks to the purpose of this dissertation. Most writers on the Cherokee Nation, including William McLoughlin and Katja May, are willing to accept that there were full-bloods, mixed-bloods, and even whites in the Keetoowah Society, but are unwilling to acknowledge the presence of African Americans as members of the Keetoowah Society. McLoughlin, when he describes the presence of African-Americans within the Cherokee Nation, mentions them as “slaves,” “runaway slaves,” and “freedmen.” They are always the object of concern, but seldom the subject of our discussion. May uses the post-reconstruction observations of “several” Nighthawk Keetoowahs exhibiting an “anti-freedmen” sentiment to support a wider position “against blacks” among the Keetoowahs at large. She largely ignores the historical relationship between Blacks and Native Americans within traditional culture, the Christian community, the United States Army, and the post Civil War politics. She consistently articulates contending viewpoints to support her theory of “collision and collusion” and does little better than McLoughlin in providing a thick description of Cherokee history with respect to race relations.

[149] Mooney, 225.

[150] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 155-156.; May, 80-81; Ballenger, 106; McLoughlin, The Cherokees and Christianity, 241; Wardell, 121.

[151] There is some disagreement over this issue. John Smith, son of one of the founders of the Society, states that “In the removal of the Cherokees from Georgia, the Keetoowah fire went out.” [Perdue, Nations Remembered, 99]

[152] Perdue, Nations Remembered, 98.

[153] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 156.; May, 80-81; Ballenger, 106; McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokee, 347.

[154] McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokee, 346; Littlefield, The Cherokee Freedmen, 8.

[155] "Keetoowah Laws - April 29, 1859" in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History. (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949), Appendix A.

[156] This, by no means, precludes the probability that many of these same organizational methods and structures did not have their corollary in Cherokee traditional society or Baptist polity. A spirit of community, promotion of the general welfare, rites and rituals, organizational structures and relationships are basic principles within the institutions of any culture. If I am asserting anything, it is that the Keetoowah Society was syncretic indeed but that the principles an practices of Freemasonry are an often ignored component of that syncretism.

[157] "The Keetoowahs" in T.L. Ballenger Papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago Il., 106; “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905), Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 105.

[158] William G. McLoughlin, Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994), 219.

[159] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 156.

[160] May, 80.

[161] "Keetoowah Laws - April 29, 1859" in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History. (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949), Appendix A.

[162] "The Keetoowahs" in T.L. Ballenger Papers, Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago Il., 107.

[163] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 156.

[164] McLoughlin attributes the power of this political movement to the “high level of acculturation for the full-bloods” at the hands of the Baptists and the “congregational nature of evangelical churches.” No one can doubt this truth, but I would also argue that in structure, if not in function, the Keetoowah Society bore a closer resemblance to the lodges of Freemasonry with their internal organization, measures of security, episcopal structure, political idealism, and subversive nature.

[165] McLoughlin, Cherokees and Christianity, 223.

[166] Haliburton, 144.

[167] “Albert Pike to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs” (February 17, 1866) in Annie Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 135

[168] Dr. D. J. MacGowan, “Indian Secret Societies,” in Historical Magazine 10 (1866).

[169] Cherokee Nation, Memorial of the Delegates of the Cherokee Nation to the President of the United States and the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress, (Washington, D.C.: Washington Chronicle Print, 1866), 7.

[170] "Keetoowah Laws - April 29, 1859" in Howard Tyner, The Keetoowah Society in Cherokee History. (MA, University of Tulsa, 1949), Appendix A.

[171] ibid.

[172] “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905), 105.

[173] Theda Perdue, Slavery and the Evolution of Cherokee Society 1540-1866 (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1979) 12-18; Tom Hatley, The Dividing Path: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Revolutionary Era ( New York; Oxford University Press, 1995), 233; William McLoughlin, The Cherokee Ghost Dance, 244; Kenneth W. Porter, Relations Between Negroes and Indians Within the Present United States (Washington, D.C.: The Association for Negro Life and History, 1931, 16.

[174] Once again, it is my belief that one of the major problems in the historical analysis of the Cherokee Nation lies in an ignorance or misunderstanding of the diverse nature of Cherokee Society. To focus solely on red/white blood intermixture and to understand full-blood in a racial sense as opposed to a cultural one is to proliferate a simplistic understanding of an increasingly complex history. An understanding of the notion of “Ani-Yunwiya” or the “real people” transcends not only racial distinctions, but national ones as well. A sense of Pan-Indian, Pan-African identity swept through the United States in the early nineteenth century; the Civil War was only a logical extension of this struggle for an identity based in a common culture.

[175] Mankiller and Wallis, 125; James Duncan, “The Keetoowah Society.” Chronicles of Oklahoma 4 (1926): 251-55.

[176] McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears, 158.

[177] Wardell, 120.

[178] Fort Smith Times, quoted in Abel, The Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, 47.

[179] William Penn Adair quoted in McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokee, 366.

[180] McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokee, 368.

[181] ibid.; McLoughlin, Cherokees and Christianity, 233-234.

[182] “Pin Indians” in Robert Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905), 105.

[183] Mooney, Myths of the Cherokees, 226.

[184] Fort Smith Times, quoted in Abel, The Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, 293.

[185] A.B. Greenwood to Elias Rector, in Abel, The Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, 292.

[186] ibid.

[187] “Miscellaneous Documents” quoted in McLoughlin, Champions of the Cherokee, 372.

[188] Robert Cowart to Elias Rector, in Abel, The Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, 294.

[189] William Penn Adair to Stand Watie, quoted in McLoughlin, Cherokees and Christianity, 260.

[190] Robert Cowart to John Jones, September 7, 1860, in the John B. Jones Papers, ABMU.

[191] John B. Jones, letters, A.B.M.U., October 25, 1860.

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Beneath the Underdog
Are You Kituwah’s Son?
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five

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