Interviewed by Johnson H. Hampton, at Antlers, Oklahoma, July 28, 1937
Interview with Bradley Anderson, by Johnson H. Hampton, at Antlers, Oklahoma, July 28, 1937 for the Federal Writers’ Project for the Work Projects Administration (WPA) (formerly U.S. Works Progress Administration) from 1936-1940. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection.
I was born some time in the fall of 1878, near Tuskahoma, Oklahoma, on Anderson Creek, then Jackfork County, now Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. My father’s name was William Anderson. My grandfather’s name was Reuben Anderson and he lived to a ripe old age. Some of the Indians said that he was about one hundred years old when he died. He and my grandmother came from Mississippi and located near what is now Tuskahoma. He was a Missionary Baptist preacher and went all over the Choctaw Nation preaching to the Indians in the Choctaw language. He had lots of cattle, hogs and ponies, and had plenty of things to eat. He helped many Indians who could not help themselves. He was ready to help at anytime and the Indians used to come and stay with him for several days at a time just to live there and get something to eat.
My father was in the Civil War and was a captain over a company of Indian soldiers; he said that he was in one battle, fighting, I believe, with some Cherokee. He told of having a hard time in getting something to eat. They had no money with which to buy anything to eat, so they just had to get what they could along the road, and sometimes they had to do without water all day long. They almost starved to death for water. He said that he lost some Indian soldiers when they got sick for the want of care, for he did not have the time to get a doctor. They were not prepared to help the sick ones in any way nor to give any medicine, as they should have been, and some of the soldiers froze to death as they did not have sufficient cover to keep them warm during the cold nights. They of course, would build up big fires and sit around them but some of the soldiers would fall asleep and not wake up till the next morning.
My father was elected councilman in the Choctaw Nation several times and served in that capacity for several years. The capital of the Choctaw Nation was located at Tuskahoma about two miles from the present town of Tuskahoma. They would hold the session about 30 days sometime in October, and at that time they passed laws governing the Choctaw, just as our State Legislature does now. We had our Principal Chief, Supreme Court Judge, Attorney General, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House. In fact, we had all the officers just the same as our State has so far as the Council is concerned. Councilmen were elected by the vote of the Choctaws in the county every two years.
Father held several important offices in the Choctaw Nation. He was one of the commissioners appointed by the Principal Chief to negotiate with the Dawes Commission in formulating the Atoka Agreement, which was done and was adopted by the vote of the Choctaws. This was known as the Atoka Agreement. When enrollment time came, he was the interpreter during the selecting of the Choctaw land. He was one that the Indians depended upon for everything that has to be done.
At that time we had two parties. One was called the Buzzard Party and the other was called the Eagle Party. Then after a while the Eagle Party changed to what was known as Progressive Party. My father belonged to the Progressive Party. The Buzzard Party was composed of full blood and half-breeds and quarter-breeds; they sure used to have big fights over their parties. I was enrolled at Tuskahoma when the Dawes Commission came there to enroll the Choctaws. (I don’t remember what year that was). Anyway, all the Choctaws who were living there at the time were enrolled by the Commission. After that time, or several years after the enrollment, we went to the land office which was located at Atoka, and there we selected the land on which we wished to file. Some of the Indians selected their homestead where they lived, and their surplus land in the Chickasaw Nation. The land in the Chickasaw country was some better than the land in this country, and we had the right to select our land in that country as well as in our own.
I did not know that we had an Agency anywhere until in recent years. We might have had one somewhere, but I don’t think that many knew about it until after the Dawes Commission was selected and made their headquarters at Muskogee; in fact, I don’t think that our people had anything to do with the Agency until after the selection of the land. From this time on, we had to look to the Agency for anything that we wanted to do about our land.
Also, if we had any money, it had to come through the Agency. If we leased our land to anyone, the contract had to be approved by the department before we could get our money, then it had to be paid through the Indian Department. In that way I found out that we had an agency for our tribe. I think that it was called the Union Agency at that time and was located at Muskogee, Oklahoma, where it is now. The first payment that the Choctaws had was made in 1893, or thereabout. After several years, I think it was under the Wilson Administration, they got several more payments. The last payment they got was $10.00. They have received no payments since.
My father’s trading post was Fort Smith, Arkansas; he would get up his oxen, put them to a wagon, and go to Fort Smith for our groceries. It would take him several days to make the trip. He would go to Fort Smith about twice a year, in the Spring and in the Fall. He would sometimes take a horse team but most of the time he would hook up the oxen and go. We used the oxen most of the time for hauling or even going to a meeting. After the railroad came through the country, he did his trading at Tuskahoma, which was nearer to our home, and we could get most anything we wanted there.
My father had about twenty acres of land in cultivation where we raised corn for our bread. We did not raise any cotton nor anything else but corn. We made enough corn to make our bread and sell some, getting $1.00 a bushel. Sometime after that a white man put up a gin at this place; then the Indians raised a little cotton and had it ginned there selling it for just what they could get for it, as there was no market for cotton. We raised some vegetables in our garden and also sweet potatoes, putting our potatoes away for the winter. The vegetables we ate during the summer. We did not can anything for winter as the Indians did not know how.
My father had lots of cattle, hogs and ponies out on the range, which did not have to be fed at all during the winter season for the grass was high and we had green grass all the winter. There was cane on the creek banks that they could eat during the cold weather, at which time the cattle stayed in the bottoms. They would come out in the hills for the summer. The country was open; no wire fences anywhere so they were at liberty to go anywhere they wanted to go. They surely did go wild, as there were no one to bother them after they got out on the range. In the Spring, we would round them up, brand the yearlings and colts, and turn them loose again to let them roam where they wanted to.
The Choctaws do not dance any more.
When I was a boy the wild game such as deer and turkeys were plentiful; lots of fish in the creeks, and some bears in the mountains, as we did not have to go out and camp to do our hunting. We just go our gun on our shoulders, went out in the woods and killed a deer or turkey at any time we wanted to; and if we wanted some fish we would go down to the creek with our bow and arrow, kill what fish we wanted and come back home.
The Indians did not waste any of the game; they killed just what they could consume at home. When they got out of meat they would go out and get another animal; in that way, the game was plentiful all the time until the white people began to settle they country; then they just killed out the game so that now there are but few deer and not turkeys at all. I went to school but very little during my life. There were no schools right close, so I had to go several miles to a neighborhood school. I did not learn much from books. I can speak some English, and can read and write a little, enough to get by on, but I can’t read nor write in my own language at all.
I am Choctaw Indian, raised in the Choctaw Nation. My folks are all Choctaw Indians, but we are not full bloods; we are mixed with the white race, I don’t know how much. We have lived here among the Choctaws all of our lives and they are our tribe.
I don’t know of any other tribe that was an enemy to our tribe and we never were enemies to any other tribe. I now live in Antlers, Oklahoma