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Tribal Freedmen Soldiers

When the Dawes Commission registered the citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes for land allotments, the commissioners registered about 20,000 Freedmen in the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole Nations. The Freedmen were descendants of slaves held by tribal individuals or free blacks who were living in the tribal nations in 1860. Following the Civil War, treaties negotiated with the tribes provided for the adoption of the Freedmen as members of the nations. All of the tribes except the Chickasaws adopted them. The Chickasaw treaty contained a provision that adoption of the Freedmen depended on the Chickasaws’ taking money held in trust for them by the federal government. If they did not take the money, the government would remove the Freedmen from the Chickasaw land. The Chickasaws refused the money, but the government did not remove the Freedmen. The Chickasaw Freedmen lived without citizenship in any nation until 1901.

The Freedmen of all Five Tribes were given U. S. citizenship in 1901, but, just as Indians, those who were tribal citizens retained their membership in the tribes. 

Although the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole Freedmen were citizens of the Indian nations when the United States entered World War I, they were segregated, along with African Americans, into separate units. They were listed on their registration forms as Negro, African, Ethiopian, or Colored, and the registration cards for Oklahoma had a perforated lower left-hand corner that could be torn off if the registrant was black. Removal of the tab made identification of black soldiers easy for the bureaucrats.

Many of the tribal Freedmen served in Pioneer or Engineering units, which did such tasks as hauling, lifting, digging trenches, and stringing barbed wire. Some, however, shod horses and drove wagons. Still others were in service units and worked as barbers, waiters, and cooks.

Below is a list of some Freedmen soldiers who have been identified.

Cherokee Freedmen

Bean, William. 449th Reserve Labor Battalion, Quartermaster CorpsMotto Ross Draft Registration Card

Bradford, Deatrus W. Co. I, 804th Pioneer Infantry Colored

Brown, George. Supply Co., 804th Pioneer Infantry Colored. Killed in Action.

Little, George. Co. L, 804th Pioneer Infantry Colored

Martin, Louis. 8th Co., 2nd Recruiting Battalion

Morris, Joshua. 708.25th Co., 163 Depot Brigade

Riley, Ralph. Wagoner, 317th Engineer Training, 92nd Division 

Rogers, Sharp. Co. B., 804th Pioneer Infantry Colored.

Ross, Edward. Co. L, 162nd Depot Brigade

Ross, Motto. Co. D, 325th Service Battalion, Quartermaster Corps

Thompson, Luther. 805th Pioneer Infantry Colored

Vann, Bert. Service Battalion, Quartermaster Corps

Whitmire, Daniel. 162nd Depot Brigade

Choctaw Freedmen

Boyd, Christopher C. Co. D, 317th Engineers

Clark, Farris. Co I, 804th Pioneer Infantry Colored

Cohee, Washington. HQ Co., 809th Pioneer Infantry

Flax, Pleasant. Co. D, 317th Engineers

Folsom, John. Co. I, 804th Pioneer Infantry

Gardner, Byrd. Headquarters Company, 804th Pioneer Infantry Colored

Moore, Mark. Co. D and Co. L, 809th Pioneer Infantry Colored

Richards, James. Co. L, 804th Pioneer Infantry

Vinson, Claude. Co. D, 317th Engineers

Ward, Edmund. Co. M, 809th Pioneer Infantry

Muscogee (Creek) Freedmen

Brown, George. 158th Depot Brigade

Bruner, George W. Ferrier, 8th Co., 162nd Depot Brigade

Grayson, George. Co L, Development Battalion 2

Griggs, Jim. Co D, 317th Engineers, 92nd Division

Marshall, Eddie. Co 28, 7th Battalion, 163rd Depot Brigade

Patterson, Isaac L. Co C, 414th Reserve Labor Battalion, Quartermaster Corps

Redmouth, Mose. Co. D, 309th Pioneer Infantry

Seminole Freedmen

Bruner, Royal. 158th Depot Brigade

Davis, Israel. Co E, 804th Pioneer Infantry

American Indians in WWI Centennial Commission

Contact: Erin Fehr ehfehr@ualr.edu

American Indians in World War I was created by the Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Contributors: Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Erin Fehr

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