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Origins of the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts

Written by Katarina "Kato" Wittich and Edited by Sarah N. Johnson

Return to the United States

Captain Jacob DeGress, the commander at Fort Duncan in Texas, immediately promised the Seminole Negroes safe passage to the fort, and permission to camp there while waiting an answer about further movement to Indian Territory. He did this without approval from his superiors in the War Department or from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), assuming that the moneys being discussed in Congress would apply to the Seminole Negroes as well as to the other Indians. Though the War Department approved his action after the fact, the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not, saying that before the Seminole Negroes came over to the U.S. the Seminole Nation had to give official approval for them to settle on Seminole Lands. Although the War Department now knew that the Seminole Negroes resettlement status to Indian Territory was undecided, they continued to encourage them to cross over to the U.S.


DeGress was soon replaced as commander at Fort Duncan by Captain Perry, who seemed surprised to find out that the Seminoles he was waiting for were Black. , Nonetheless, he planned a trip to Mexico to negotiate their passage and that of the Kickapoo to Texas, en route to a reservation.

Perry had heard rumors that the Kickapoo might refuse to come onto a reservation, and so he suggested to his superiors at the War Department that because  the Seminole Negroes knew the river crossings that the Kickapoo used, they might be useful in preventing raids, if the Kickapoo remained in Mexico . The War Department unofficially agreed that he should find out if the Seminole Negroes would be willing to help the military in some capacity against the Kickapoo and, if they would, he should try to keep them at Fort Duncan as long as they were useful. The War Department was still pursuing the official tactic of negotiating with the Bureau of Indian Affairs about moving Seminole Negroes to Indian Territory, and yet no one in the military gave warning to them that their situation was tentative.

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