Don Cheadle’s History Lesson and Connection to Native Americans

Check out this article from The Root on Don Cheadle’s connection to Native Americans. The Root editor-in-chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. details the history of Native Americans owning slaves, the Dawes Commission and the few blacks that were able to get the promised 40 acres, not from white slave owners but Native Americans. Here’s an excerpt:

“We found a letter written by Jonas Wolf, the Chickasaw governor, in 1885. He explained the tribe’s views succinctly: ‘The Chickasaw people cannot see any reason or just cause why they should be required to do more for their freed slaves than the white people have done for theirs. It was by the example and teaching of the white man that we purchased at enormous prices their slaves and used their labor and was forced by the result of their war to liberate our slaves at a great loss and sacrifice on our part and we do not hold or consider our nation responsible for their present situation.’

These words are an important reminder of the essence of slavery: It is an economic relationship. In Wolf’s view, the slaves had been obtained for a significant cost and were playing a significant role in his tribe’s economy.

They had been freed not for humane reasons but rather because the tribe had been forced to free them by virtue of the outcome of the Civil War. Extending rights to the freedmen would only further the economic loss that the Chickasaws had sustained. There were no human rights issues at play here at all — just economics, hard and cold.”


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