Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Black Seminoles Suffer Defeat In Court by Sam Lewin
A group claiming to be part of the Seminole Nation suffered a defeat in court when the Supreme Court refused to hear their case. Justices dismissed the case without comment.
Attorneys for a group calling themselves the black Seminoles filed the suit. The black Seminoles, also called the Seminole Maroons by ethnologists, claim Indian ancestry and sought to receive tribal benefits, including a 1990 government settlement for $52 million, as well as free school clothes and burial expenses.
Tribal officials were not available for comment.
The ruling, encouraged by the Bush Administration, upheld a previous decision issued last year, when U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange also dismissed the suit. Miles-LaGrange said the black Seminoles should sue the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and not the Bureau of Indian Affairs. However the Seminole Nation’s status as a sovereign nation means they are immune from federal lawsuits.
The black Seminoles sued the BIA for refusing them a certificate of Indian blood. Miles–LaGrange tossed out that lawsuit, saying the black Seminoles did not prove they had exhausted all administrative options within the BIA.
The black Seminoles trace their heritage to the early 1800’s, when runaway slaves from plantations took shelter with the Seminole Indians in Spanish-controlled Florida. Following the First and Second Seminole Wars, some black Seminoles went to the Bahamas and others were removed along with Native Americans to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Ten years later some of them moved to Mexico where their descendants, known as Indios Mascogos, still live. After the Civil War, a group of them moved to Texas, where in the 1870s and 1880s, they served with the U.S. Army on the Texas frontier as the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts.
Note: This article first appeared in The Native Times
Tuesday, June 29, 2004