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Alice Brown Davis
Alice Brown Davis (1852–1935) was the first female Principal Chief of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma.

Background and early life

Brown Davis was born on September 10, 1852 in the Cherokee town of Park Hillmarker, Indian Territory and grew up near Fort Gibson. Her father, Dr. John Frippo Brown, from Scotlandmarker and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. accompanied the Seminoles as a military surgeon during their forced removal from Floridamarker. During this journey, he married Lucy Graybeard, a Seminole from Katcvlke or the Tiger Clan. Four members of Brown Davis' family emerged as significant Seminole leaders from 1832 to 1935.

Brown Davis, like her brothers, was well educated. An influential teacher of hers was Caroline Bushyhead, a Cherokee. After complete her studies, Brown Davis taught, most likely at Mesukey Academy for Boys in Sasakwa. During 1867, when she was 15 years old, a cholera epidemic struck the Seminole tribe and she assisted her father in caring for the sick. After the epidemic, he father died.

Marriage and careers

In 1874 Brown Davis married George Rollin Davis, a European-American merchant from Kansas. They moved to Arbeka, Indian Territory on Seminole Nation lands and operated trading post, then a post office, a general store and the Bar X Bar ranch together until George's death. They were entrusted with the serious duties of disbursing the local Indians' headright money and the Civil War pensions for veterans and widows. Together the couple had eleven children.

George Davis died when Brown Davis' youngest child was still a toddler. She became the postmistress of Arbeka, while running the ranch and trading post. She became the superintendent of the Seminole Nation's girls' school, Emakaha. Built in 1892, Emakaha was a highly modern institution teaching grades one through ten.

Brown Davis belonged to the congregation of the Spring Baptist Church at Sasakwa, Oklahoma. She performed missionary work in Florida and was active in Muscogee Creek, Seminole, and Wichita Baptist Associations.

Tribal governance

The Curtis Act dismantled tribal governmental and civic institutions. The Dawes Act broke up tribal landholdings, distributing much of the Seminole's land to non-Indians. The 1906 Five Civilized Tribes Act finalized US federal government's dismemberment of tribal governments to make way for Oklahomamarker statehood in 1907. During this tumultuous time, Brown Davis acted as an interpreter in court cases, as she was bilingual in English and the Seminole language. In 1903, she traveled to Mexicomarker with a Seminole delegation pursuing land grant claims there. She returned in 1905 and 1910, but the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution destroyed Seminole hopes of Mexican settlement.

In 1922, Davis was appointed Principal Chief of the Seminole Nation by President Warren G. Harding. Although not the first female tribal chief, she was in the Seminole tribe. Her appointment met with controversy, but eventually she won the support of her tribes people.

A key issue of her term was tribal land affairs. The US federal government surveyed Seminole lands in 1910 and shifted Seminole lands, including the grounds of Emakaha School and several Seminole churches, over to the Muscogee Creek Nation. She refused to sign the deeds over the Creeks and said, "If this be the cause of my resignation I will feel that I have done that which is right and just to myself and my people."

Death and legacy

Alice Brown Davis served as chief until her death on June 21, 1935 in Wewoka, Oklahomamarker. After her death, she was inducted in to the American Indian Hall of Fame in Anadarko, Oklahomamarker in 1961 and also Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The University of Oklahomamarker named Davis Hall in her honor. At the 1964 World's Fair on Oklahoma Day, a bronze bust sculpted by Willard Stone of her was unveiled.

Notes

  1. Waldowski, Paula. "Alice Brown Davis: A Leader Of Her People." Seminole Nation, Indian Territory History and Genealogy. 4 Aug 2009 (retrieved 25 Nov 2009)
  2. Lucy's last name has been referred to as Graybeard[1], Greybeard[2], Redbeard, Redbird and ConoHaGe[3]
  3. "Memorial Tribute Page for Alice Brown Davis." A Breath Away. (retrieved 25 Nov 2009)


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