Black Seminoles

Blocks to finding your ancestors, DNA can help forge a new path.

Black Seminoles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Black Seminole
19th-century engraving of a Black Seminole warrior of the First Seminole War (1817–8)
Total population
(est. 2,000)
Regions with significant populations
OklahomaFlorida, & Texas in the United Statesthe BahamasMexico
EnglishAfro-Seminole CreoleSpanish
Protestantism and Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Gullah (spoken in South Carolina Today)

The Black Seminoles are black Indians associated with the Seminole people in Florida and Oklahoma. They are the descendants of free blacks and of escaped slaves (called maroons) who allied with Seminole groups in Spanish Florida. Historically, the Black Seminoles lived mostly in distinct bands near the Native American Seminole. Some were held as slaves of particular Seminole leaders; but they had more freedom than did slaves held by whites in the South and by other Native American tribes, including the right to bear arms.

Today, Black Seminole descendants live primarily in rural communities around the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Its two Freedmen’s bands, the Caesar Bruner Band and the Dosar Barkus Band,[1] are represented on the General Council of the Nation. Other centers are in FloridaTexasthe Bahamas, and northern Mexico.

Since the 1930s, the Seminole Freedmen have struggled with cycles of exclusion from the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma.[2] In 1990, the tribe received the majority of a $46 million judgement trust by the United States, for seizure of lands in Florida in 1823, and the Freedmen have worked to gain a share of it. In 2004 the US Supreme Court ruled the Seminole Freedmen could not bring suit without the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, which refused to join it on the claim issue. In 2000 the Seminole Nation voted to restrict membership to those who could prove descent from a Seminole Indian on the Dawes Rollsof the early 20th century, which excluded about 1,200 Freedmen who were previously included as members. They argue that the Dawes Rolls were inaccurate and often classified persons with both Seminole and African ancestry as only Freedmen.

The Lowdown by BlackProGen – Seminole Freedman

The Lowdown by BlackProGen


Benjamin Bruner & Family History, Seminole Freedmen

Posted: 02 Jul 2017 01:17 PM PDT

Source: http://www, access June 4, 2017

From the Seminole Nation comes a cases that clearly illustrates how important it is to go beyond the one document. Benjamin F. Bruner lived in the Seminole Nation most of his life. His mother came from Florida and his father was Creek. On the Dawes enrollment card, he was the only one listed on the card, and one might think that there would not be much more to find beyond the card to reveal details about his life. Yet–there was so much more to truly find.

Thankfully, an obituary, saved by a descendant of Benjamin Bruner leads to the story of a fascinating man. With this obituary and a bit of research more information about a man who lived well into the 20th century, a rich story of his life unfolds.

Benjamin Bruner Obituary, Used with permission of Charles Gibson
Accessed on

This portion of the rich Bruner family history is that of a man born into the Seminole Nation, whose mother was a Seminole by blood and his father was enslaved by a Creek Indian. He lived most of his life in the Seminole Nation, but was educated at a mission school for Indians and former slave children. attended Hampton Institute for a while before returning to his native Oklahoma.

Although the school he attended was not mentioned, there is a strong chance that he attended the Creek Seminole College in Boley.

(courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society)

He was from an extremely dynamic family and his uncle Cesar was the leader of what would become later the Bruner band of Seminoles. The Bruner band continues to exist today as one of 14 bands within the Seminole Nation.

However, to look at his Dawes card, it only contains basic information. In addition, his mother was a Seminole by blood, yet, Benjamin, in spite of his contributions to the tribe and his presence for decades as a citizen, he was placed on the Freedman Roll.

Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes  1898-1914
NAI Number 251747, Records Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group Number 75
Seminole Freedman Card # 828, Field Card #221

(Reverse side of card)

More details about his life and family were also found in his interview that are part of the Indian Pioneer Papers.

The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection, Digital Collections,
Indian Pioneer Collection, Volume 12, Interview with Ben F. Bruner

(Same as above)

(same as above)

Benjamin Bruner was also able to secure land, and his land records reflecting his selection of land are reflected in the interview below., Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets for Five Civilized Tribes, 1884-1934
[database on-line] Provo, UT, USA:  Operations, Inc, 2014

The Bruner family is a distinguished one with a detailed and rich history. It is wonderful that the family remembers his legacy, and that the story of Benjamin Bruner, and his part of the nation to which he was born, can still be told and can be shared.

This is 20th article in a 52-article devoted to sharing histories and stories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.
%d bloggers like this: