Good Evening Oklahoma Elected Officials…
My name is Bob Harrison, and I am an African American historian and reenactor with the 37th Texas Cavalry. I have recently become aware of a situation involving the unit flag of the Cherokee Braves. It also my understanding that a compromise was recently reached to fly the Cherokee Braves flag at the Oklahoma History Center in a display with 13 other flags. My concern, however, centers on some very discriminatory comments made by House Representative Kevin Cox in regard to the Cherokee Braves, their flag, and Confederate heritage in general. I will deal with each statement one at a time.
On January 9, 2003, the Oklahoma press reported that Representative Cox compared the flags of the Confederacy to such things as strains of smallpox, anthrax, death and destruction, and terrorists of today. While I fully agree some folks do use some symbols of CSA heritage to represent hate, to paint such a deep and rich history with the same brush shows a great deal of linear thinking and understanding of true history, especially that of the Confederacy. Fact number one is that the institution of slavery, was Northern-based with Northern money being strongest in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. It was a legally recognized institution in all states, first legalized in the colony of Massachusetts. EVERY SINGLE slave ever brought into this country came under the US FLAG, and not under ANY CSA flag. Slavery existed for 224 years, out of which the CSA existed 4 of those years. People of color supported the CSA in a myriad of support and combat roles BEFORE that of the US with the SAME PAY unlike those of the Union and precisely the USCT. If any blaming or finger pointing is to be done, the Federal government should get the lion’s share. Aside from being the main culprit behind slavery, all one has to do is look at the treatment of the USCT and see what their real agenda was. The use of the 54th Massachusetts at Battery Wagner, and the bayoneting of USCT during the battle of the Crater by their so-called "white Union brethren" is proof enough that the US flag and its government was one of a grand stranglehold on the people. Keep in mind that blacks "found" by Union troops were NOT welcomed, but labeled CONTRABAND and held subjected to racist rhetoric and abuse of the most heinous kind. What is good for the goose is good for the gander I have heard some folks say. As far as destruction is concerned, there was never ANYONE more destructive than Union General William Tecumseh Sherman who laid wasted to Southern people throughout the South regardless of their ethnicity.
In that same article Representative Cox went on to say, "I don’t know why we are honoring a treasonous group that tried to overthrow the United States government." Nothing could be more false than such a statement about the Southern cause. When the United States was formed, it formed a Union of States to form a body responsible for dealing with issues common to all of the states such as "common defense and general welfare." However, by virtue of the 10th amendment ALL states retained ALL powers they did NOT delegate to the central government. No one joins a conglomeration surrendering all of their sovereignty not giving themselves the means by which they can leave such a conglomeration if it no longer lives up to their expectations. Like it or not, we live in a country that was based on secessionist philosophy. Our ancestors left the United Kingdom when it no longer served to represent the wishes of the people. They seceded from Britain. They did NOT try to overthrow any government. They simply sought to be left alone to govern themselves as THEY saw fit. It is also important to realize that the blacks, free and slave, who chose to fight for the Colonists did so of their own free will even though they were offered complete freedom from England. The same situation existed during the "Civil" War. Not one single Southerner of ANY ethnicity mentioned or organized to overthrow the federal government. They legally withdrew from this "Union" that had grown well beyond its constitutional boundaries and authority. The states formed the central government; not the other way around. Just as today if any state wishes to leave the Union, it may do so if it chooses. I call your attention to the states of Arizona and New Mexico where legislators are discussing secession-based statutes.
Finally there is the issue of the flag of the Cherokee Braves representing hate. Brigadier general Stand Watie, last CSA commander to surrender, a proud Cherokee warrior along with other Cherokee freely fought with the South against a government that was already showing its colors with the maltreatment of Native American people. >From that awful time to the present, Native Americans have continually suffered hateful actions at the hands of the federal government. All one needs to do is read about the Trail of Tears or about the so-called "battle of Wounded Knee" where hordes of Federal troops butchered and massacred old men, women, and children. There is also, the Tennessee Valley Authority, began by the Federal government under the FDR administration which built damns to make hydroelectric power, but neglected to take into consideration that ancient burial grounds of the PROUD Cherokee people would be lost forever under gallons of water. Ask the Cherokee people of your own state how they feel about the US flag and its government when they think about all of their ancestors who were FORCED to march along the Trail of Tears during which MANY native peoples died brutal deaths. As I have already said, what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander.
Before you decide I am a hate monger who is anti-American, let me explain a few things. I am the son and nephew of Korean War veterans, both of whom were trained at Fort Sill, OK to artillerymen before they FOUGHT in Korea.¬Ý I have an uncle who served in Africa during W.W.II, and two more uncles who served in occupied France and Germany. There is no one who loves this country more than I. However, the government has far gone past its Constitutional limits and boundaries in terms of what it is allowed to do. It does not represent the will of the people any longer. Slavery was an awful time in the history of this country. yes, SOME Southern masters mistreated their slaves. However, that is not to say every slave was mistreated, and it certainly does not mean that the North and its government welcomed all blacks with open arms. From the Time of the Boston Massacre to the present, blacks have served the Federal government faithfully only to be subject to the level of hate everyone almost always assumes is strictly a Southern institution. I grew up in the Philadelphia area of PA, and there is NO State in the Union more hateful than my native PA. In fact, the further North you go the deeper the hate gets. Black Confederates or Black Unionists, all made their choices of their own free will, based on their life experiences.
I said before I am a historian and reenactor with the 37th Texas Cavalry. We are a gathering of professional and amateur historians who are dedicated to defending history. We have put together a website filled with documented historical facts both in text and photos. If you wish, please visit us often at http://www.37thtexas.org. You will see we have well over 100+ pages and growing. All we ask is that you visit us with an open mind and heart. We do not tell you what to think, but only that you consider other resources you might not be aware of at this time.
In conclusion, the remarks made by Representative Cox towards the Cherokee Braves flag and subsequently the brave Cherokee who fought under that banner are highly bigoted to say the least. At the very least, Representative Cox should show honor and courage giving the entire Cherokee nation a big PUBLIC apology that they clearly deserve. While I respect the ordeal his ancestor went through, as well as all of those descendent from those who did experience hateful masters, the generalizations and judgments based on them are just as wrong and do more damage than good. History serves as a lesson, not to be used to exploit people NOW for what happened long ago. I speak with sincerity with malice towards none. Let us all sit at the table of brotherhood and learn from another of our differences, instead of immediately condemning that which we do not comprehend.
Bob Harrison, 1st Sergeant
37th Texas Cavalry, Company B, CSA