Saturday, April 12, 2014

Henry Battiest - Choctaw Life Told In Pioneer Interview

1st page of Pioneer Interview with Henry Battiest.

Source: Interview with Henry Battiest, Indian Pioneer Papers, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.

Henry Battiest was the son of Choctaw citizen Jack Battiest, and a Cherokee Freedwoman Jane Battiest. He spent his entire life in the southern part of the Choctaw Nation, and lived in a quiet Choctaw Freedman community known as Beaver Dam are. The closest town was Antlers.

In the 1930s he was interviewed by the Indian Pioneer project and he described his life in the 1880s and early 1900s in Choctaw Country. He received a 40 acres allotment and shared aspects of his life around Choctaws, few whites and of course the Freedmen in the community.

His interview describes life in small communities and he described their daily life, farming life, the social atmosphere between people of color and others, as well as traditions such as the funeral "cries". In addition, other traditions from farm life to tribal life were described by Battiest.

The rich data he shared can open the door to one's research, and in this case, life in Choctaw country among those considered "black" should be read in proper historical context from which they came.

The rest of the interview continues: 

Henry Battiest was born after the Civil War, but his parents Jack and Jane had been enslaved in Indian Territory. Though described as having an Indian father, his father Jack was once enslaved by the Grigg's of the Choctaw Nation and his mother Jane was a slave of the Lowerys of the Cherokee Nation. It is not known why she was not a Cherokee Freedman. 

Dawes Card of Henry Battiest
NARA Publication M1186 - Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes
Choctaw Freedmen Card No 1542

His sister Mary was also enrolled as a Choctaw Freedman.
Dawes Card of Mary Battiest, sister to Henry

Source: NARA Publication M1186 - Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes
Choctaw Freedmen Card No 1543

The interviews of Henry and Jane Battiest addressed more of their parents' status of having been enslaved than their being citizens of the nation. 

The Pioneer Interview of Henry Battiest, which is part of the Western History Collection,  gives testament to the fact that all resources should be explored when making the effort to tell the family history. In this case, the Battiest's were more than a family once enslaved. They lived upon the land and lived among those who shared the same historical landscape.

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