The photo above was taken on October 22nd, 2016, on the banks of the Apalachicola River, in Florida. The single tall flag pole to the right of the seven people facing the audience, marks the spot within the Negro Fort Sacred Battlefield where on July 27th, 1816 a red-hot cannon ball fired by U.S. Gunship # 154 fired a shot into the Negro Fort’s ammunition magazine, instantly killing 270 defenders and occupants of the “Fort Negro”.
That was 200 years ago and yet, the fact of it, still holds tremendous significance. The location has been called many names and occupied by many owners. The British Post, Fort Gadsen, Fort Blount ,to name a few. Today, the United States Forest Service, the government agency who is it’s guardian, calls it the “British Fort National Historic Landmark”. The program pictured above is the first official state sponsored Commemorative Event that publically recognizes : “The Negro Fort Battle and Massacre of 1816”.
Of the 300 plus defenders who eventually died as a result of the combined attack made by the U.S. Military and their Creek Indian allies, approximately 270 were Maroons. It has been determined that 200 of this number were women and children, including 70 Maroon males and 30 plus Seminole and Choctaw Warriors. I describe these people as Maroons because Maroons are Freedom Fighters and when asked to surrender ,meaning a return to SLAVERY, they refused. The first 3 people (on the Rt.) in the photo are two children and one male. For me in my way of thinking, the children in the picture symbolically represent the children who were in the fort when it was destroyed. The male represents the Maroons , I am the male and my g-grandfather Caesar Bruner was married to Prophet Abraham’s daughter Nancy. My grandfather Pompey Bruner Fixico was “Papa” Caesar’s son by a Mikasuki Seminole Women , Dinah Fixico Wind Clan Dawes Rolls Oklahoma Seminole Nation #900 Full-Blood. This relation made my grandfather a half brother to Abraham’s 8 grand children by “Papa” Caesar and “Mama” Nancy’s (7 boys and 1 girl).
Prophet Abraham was known to have been in and around the Negro Fort and very likely a member of the British Corp of Royal Marines. He went on to become the highest ranking Seminole Maroon in the First and Second Seminole War. In addition, it was he who interpreted and negotiated with Gen. Jesup , America’s 1st Emancipation Proclamation known as “Jesup’s Proclamation” in 1837 . It gave the Maroons the right to go FREE to Indian Territory. Since Abraham lived in the Bruner Band he obviously trained my g-grandfather Bruner Band Leader Caesar Bruner and Robert Johnson to become Interpreters and Negotiators. It was they, who helped interpret both the 1865 Fort Smith Truce that became the Seminole 1866 U.S. Indian Treaty. This of course was after they had fought in the U.S. Civil War , Where they served as members of the First Indian Home Guard, which fought in 21 battles during the war. I as their descendant and as the President of the Semiroon Historical Society spoke on this day for my Maroon ancestors.
The gentleman seated in front of the podium ,is the Muskogee Creek Principal Chief Mr. James Floyd. Who by his own admission in his speech, said that his people fought on both sides of the battle. The Gentleman,to Chief Floyd’s right, is Mr. Tony Tooks representing the United States Forest Service, he is the Regional Manager for the Southeastern U.S.. Seated on Mr. Tooks right is Mr. Joe Frank who was sent by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to represent his Seminole Ancestors. Sadly ,I didn’t get the name of the young man to Mr. Joe Frank’s right, he represented the Choctaw Nation. We all assembled on that historic and Sacred Battlefield to seek Healing and Reconciliation. Those who attended supplied the important ingredient of MERCY.
The U.S. Indian Territory Truce and Treaties were in part interpreted and negotiated by Caesar Bruner and Robert Johnson. The treaties were equal to the 13th,14th, and 15th amendments for Black Indians. Yet ,today we have dis-enrollment attempts and 2nd class citizen rights and benefits for Black Indians. However, the event sponsored by the USFS was responsible for giving the Descendants of Indian Removal and the TransAtlanticSlave a chance to come together in recognition of our joint History. this event was far beyond my wildest dreams because of the potential that it demonstrated.
Many of my relatives are angry with the Five Civilized Tribes because they feel that the Tribes have not lived up to the words agreed upon in the U.S. Treaties. I was not raised in any Black Indian Community and only learned of my ancestry 17 years ago at age 52. Since I had no deep seated sense of entitlement, I created a one man organization, called the Semiroon Historical Society. I operate it under the principal of “TRANSCENDANCE”.
Transcendance, is one of 4 responses, mentioned in a thesis called Estelusti Marginality ,by Dr. R.V. Robertson. Dr. Von Robertson is a Pan-Africanist Professor at Lamar University in Texas. In his article, he discusses, the reaction of Black Indians , when By-Blood Indians reject their attempts to join Indian nations. The essay states that , Blacks usually respond in one of of four ways , they are called; Return- Blacks return to their own groups, Poise- “I know what I am ,whether By-Bloods accept me or not”, Assimilation- usually means overcoming the target groups non-acceptance to “fit in” and finally ,Transcendance- To rise above the rejection and what Black Indians feel is owed to them , by forming our own Indigenous-like groups. I have the necessary documentation and evidence linking me to a direct female ancestor on the Dawes rolls. Yet, I have not applied for membership and I remain in solidarity with those who only have Oral History. I further believe, that anyone, who wants to Celebrate this culture, for cultural purposes shouldn’t hesitate to do so.
Finally, Native Americans make up about , 1.5 % of the US population and African-Americans represent ,about 12.5 %. My experiences lead me to believe that at least 60 % of African Americans, THINK that they have either Native American ancestry or Shared History. We (African-Americans), undeniably have the numbers, so why don’t we just start out using and enjoying the culture, on our own turf, while we work, to create our own African-Native American groups. We can do this by beginning an all-Inclusive Cultural Renaissance, similar to the Harlem Renaissance where instead of using the “New Negro” as the protagonist for our Renaissance we use African-Native American Maroon Freedom Fighters as our Heroes and Sheroes role models in our cultural movement. The Smithsonian Institution’s Book and exhibit ,entitled: “indiVisible”: African-Native American Lives in the Americas ( my story was written and researched by Dr. Kevin Mulroy) and the book, Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage by author William L. Katz will make great road maps to guide us along our journey.
In closing , I will say that if I had not been following the principle of “TRANSCENDANCE”, I would not have been invited to participate in this great and historic commemoration at “Fort Negro”.
Honor and Respect, Phil “Pompey Bruner” Fixico, Seminole Maroon Descendant
P.S. There are 3 officials of the USFS, who will forever remain dear to me, they are: Ms. Rhonda Kimbrough , Heritage and Tribal Program Manager ,USFS, Ms. Erika Davis, Staff Supervisor and Ms. Kelly Russell, Supervisor of the Forest, without their intense stewardship of this project my involvement in it would never have taken place. May the good Lord Bless and Keep them for their Hard work and tender mercies! Amen.