Freedman Burial Sites
This page is devoted to the preservation of burial sites of the Freedmen of Indian Territory. These are persons who arrived in the Indian Territory with those relocated on the forced migration from the southeast. Many arrived as slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes, others arrived as free people of color and others were born in Indian Territory, and spent their entire lifetime as citizens of their respective nations. Few historians, preservations, and anthropologists of Indian Territory have ever even acknowledged the rich and dynamic history of the Freedmen, the most documented group of "Black Indians" in north America. Their historic legacy lies in more than 20,000 historical records from the Dawes Commission to the post Civil War records in the 1860s such as the Loyal Creek claims.
As much as the Freedmen are extensively documented, there are many disputes to their rights to claim their own historical legacy. Documented in more tribal records across five nations, much of their rich history is fading quickly as the true evidence of their presence is being erased as many of these cemeteries are not preserved. Many of the final resting places of the Freedmen are now in serious deterioration, due to neglect, "progress" and passing of time. Only a handful of persons are working to at least document these burial sites, and their efforts are appreciated. Among those participating in this effort are: Tonia Holleman, Ronald Walton, Susie Moore, Verdie Triplett, Charles Gibson, Sue Tolbert.
Ross Cemetery Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Cherokee Freedmen)
Leard Cemterey (Choctaw Freedmen portion)
It should be noted that none of these persons receive payment of any kind for their work. They have made personal commitments to the documentation and preservation of this history.
They are honored here for what they have done.
Tonia Holleman who has documented easily over 9,000 burial sites. Among those are over 20 cemeteries of African American burials in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas including several hundred Black Civil war Soldiers whose headstones she has personally photographed. All of the images of Freedmen burial sites rest on the African-NativeAmerican Genealogy website, and many more of the burials that she has documented rest on Find a Grave. In addition, she has worked diligently with Ronald Walton in New York, to upload hundreds of images in Freedmen Cemeteries in the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creek nations.
Ronald Walton resides in New York City and has worked with Tonia Holleman in Van Buren Arkansas to upload several thousand images of African American burial sites. He has uploaded most of the Freedmen images that rest on the African-Native website and Find a Grave.
Verdie Triplett of Ft. Coffee, Oklahoma has become a valuable friend in the effort to find undocumented gravesites, and cemeteries. He has accompanied Tonia Holleman, and Angela Walton-Raji to cemeteries in the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations. He is continually speaking with members in the community to identify new burial sites to be documented in the northern part of the Choctaw Nation.
Susie Moore Oklahoma City is an independent researcher who has contributed much in the effort to document the histories of the families of Chickasaw Freedmen. She has identified several hundred burials from the Stonewall Oklahoma community and has documented the burial sites of Freedmen in those communities.
Charles Gibson has contributed to the preservation of burials of Seminole Freedmen. He has identified the burials sites of several critical leaders from Seminole history including Caesar Bruner, and possibly finally brought to light the exact location of historic Brunertown Cemetery where the remains of Negro Abraham are resting.
Sue Tolbert of Muskogee Oklahoma is to be especially commended for incredible work to preserve Old Agency Cemetery. She has single-handedly organized a team of persons who work towards the cleaning up of this historic Creek Burial Ground that will take another 2-3 years of work.