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Origins of the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts

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

Settlement in Texas

The military had authorized the return of the Seminole Negroes to the United States, but it had no funds to feed or take care of them, and no land that it could give to civilians. With a maximum of 50 of their men employed as scouts at any one time, they began to spread out looking for work, and to incorporate into the surrounding communities. They were never permitted to use enough land on the military reservation to support the entire community, so they had to find other ways to survive.

Nearly every commander who worked with the Scouts urged the government to give them land to cultivate, either in Indian Territory, in Texas, or even in Florida, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs refused responsibility for them, stating that “as it appeared that these Negro Indians were not induced to return from Mexico by any competent authority, they should not be cared for by the Indian Dept.” [20]

Over time, with the Indian Wars ended, Indian Scouts were no longer necessary and the designation itself began to be shut down. Many discharged members of the Scouts joined the Regular Army and became Buffalo Soldiers.  In 1914, the Seminole Negro Indian Scout detachment was entirely disbanded, and all but a few aged and infirm Black Seminoles were forced to abandon their homes on the military reservation of Fort Clark. The community remained in Texas, letting go of any hope that they would receive the land they had originally been promised in Indian Territory when their ancestors ceded their territories in Florida. 

Despite all the hardships they faced, in both Oklahoma and Texas, the Black Seminoles were resourceful and resilient.  They developed strong and mobile communities and remained relatively insular, viewing themselves as different from other Black Americans. The community continues to thrive today, celebrating and preserving a rich and unique heritage that is maintained among those who are part of a diaspora that has spread to most corners of the United States. 



[20] Dec 16, 1872 letter from Walker to Delano and Feb 21, 1873 letter from Belknap to Delano. Katarina Wittich K and Sarah Johnson, eds.,"Origins of the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts," (Seminole Negro Indian Scouts Historical Society, 2020).

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