Native American Slave Owners
History tells us that slavery in the United States lasted for nearly 300 years from about 1619 to 1865, through an African slave and white master lens. However, it fails to address the African slave and Native American master portion that existed throughout those same years. The Native American tribes who owned slaves were known as “The Five Civilized Tribes” composed of the Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes. Theses tribes even established slave codes that protected owners’ property and restricted African rights. Although some of these tribes did not treat enslaved Africans as cruel and as harsh as white slaveholders, African slaves were still treated as an underclass, amongst “The Five Civilized Tribes” due to Native American incorporation of the chattel slavery system.
Being aware that Native Americans also faced European oppression with Africans it may not come across clearly understandable as to why Native Americans enslaved Africans as opposed to become allies to fight the common enemy. Still, some factors that promoted race-based slavery included language barriers and a different true common goal. The Native Americans wanted to peacefully keep their land whereas, African Americans simply sought freedom. Not only this, but when Native Americans realized their own selfish benefits that came with owning African slaves as they observed from Europeans slaveholders; it was not long before Native Americans began to take part in buying and/or capturing African slaves from Europeans. Where after, the slaves adapted to being treated quite similarly to the way Europeans handled enslaved Africans.
First up, the largest tribe in the United States is the Cherokee tribe. They owned more slaves than any other Native American community with a whopping 4,600 enslaved Africans by 1865. It is often argued that they may have owned a greater number of slaves than white slaveholders and treated the slaves worse compared to other tribes and Europeans treatment towards them. For example, during the Trail of Tears, many Cherokee people took their slaves with them and the slaves had a much harder time on this journey. The slaves had to go ahead of everyone to clear the path and fight off any wild animals that could potentially harm anyone and they did die due to cold and sickness like the Native Americans. They were also known to capture African slaves that had run away and were paid 25 dollars by white men. If they could not bring them back, Cherokees would scalp and cut the ears off runaway slaves and bring that back to white men and were paid 20 dollars for that vicious act. The Cherokee also used slaves like the way Europeans used them meaning for labor uses like on cotton plantations. The custom of enslavement flowed so easily to this tribe primarily because, of the rewards they would receive for working with Europeans and because the idea of slavery was not new to Native Americans.
Secondly, the tribe that’s...