Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Languages Spoken
by Oklahoma's
Black Indians

Most of the Freedmen of Indian Territory who were adults when freed, were bilingual, speaking both English and the language of their Indian slave owners. In some cases some of the Indian Territory slaves, learned English after slavery ended, when meeting members of their families from whom they had been sold. Many of the Black Indians moved easily from English to their Indian mother tongue, while others had their native Indian language as their language of choice. There were others who preferred English though still understanding their Indian language. These excerpts reveal the language and culture in which the African Indians lived.

As told by Lucinda Davis
Creek Freedwoman

What yo gwine do when de meat come in?
Set in de corner wid a greasy chin!
.....And I think I learn dem words long after I been grown 'cause I belong to a full-blood Creek Indian and didn't know nothing but Creek talk till long after the Civil War. My mistress was part white and knowed English talk, but she never did talk it because none of de people talked it. I heard it sometime but it sound like whole lot of wild shoat in de cedar brake scared at something when I do hear it. Dat was when I was little girl in time of de War.

Dey say when he was a little boy he was called HoHopothili which mean "good little boy" and when he git grown he make big speeches and dey stick on de "yoholo". Dat mean "loud whooper."

......Dat de way de Creek make de name for young boys when I was a little girl. When de boy git old enough de big men in de town give him a name, and sometime later on when he git to going around wid de grown men dey stick on some more name. If he a good talker dey sometime stick on "yoholo" and iffen' he make lots of jokes dey called him "Hadjo" If he is a good leader day called him "Imala" and if he kind of mean dey sometime call him "Fixigo".

.......One day three men ride up and talk to de old man awhile in English talk. Den he called me and tell me to go wid dem to find my own family. He jest laugh and slap my behind and set me up on de hoss in front of one de men add dey take me off and leave my good checkedy dress at de house!

As told by Mary Grayson
Creek Freedwoman

(Upon being taken south into Chickasaw country during the war.)Pretty soon we got down into the Chickasaw country and everybody was friendly to us, but the Chickasaw people didn't treat their slaves like the Creeks did. They was more strict, like the people in Texas and other places. The Chickasaws seemed lighter color than the Creeks but they talked more in Indian among themselves and to their slaves. Our master talked English nearly all the time except when they were talking to Creeks who didn't talk good English, and we Negroes never did learn good Creek. I could alway understand it, and can yet, a little, but I never did try to talk it much. Mammy and pappy used English to us all the time.

As told by Henry Henderson
Cherokee Freedman

I done forgot my Cherokee that I heard when I was young. I been living around with the Creeks so long that I picked up some of their words, like "Lag-ashe" when they mean to set down or take a char; "Hum-buc-sha" is the call for meals or come eat; "Pig-ne-dee" is the Creek way of saying good morning, and "Car-a she" is born bread.


As told by Betsey Robertson
Cherokee Freedwoman

I never did see my daddy excepting when I was a baby and I only know what my mammy told me about him. He come from across the water when he was a little boy, and was grown when old Master Joseph Vann bought him so he never did learn to talk much Cherokee. My mammy was a Cherokee slave, and talked it good. My husband was a Cherokee born negro, too, and when he got mad he forgit all the English he knowed.

As told by Chaney Richardson
Cherokee Freedwoman

I've been a good church-goer all my life until I get too feeble, and I still understand and talk Cherokee language and love to hear songs and parts of the Bible in it because it make me think about the time I was a little girl before my mammy and pappy leave me.

As told by Patsey Perryman
Cherokee Freedwoman

My brother Lewis married a full-blood Indian woman and they got lots of Indian children on their farm in the old Cherokee country around Caney Creek. He's just like an Indian, been with them so much, talks the Cherokee language, and don't notice us Negroes any more.

..... My mother had always been with mistress Judy Taylor and she was the only mother my mama ever had, least the only she could remember for her own mother (my grandmother) died when she was three days old. She was raised by the Indians and could talk Cherokee.

The Lives of The Freedmen
Back to Customs of the Freedmen
Back to Main Page