Wes LeFlore, sixth great-grandson of Chief LeFlore, will speak on “My Loved and Hated Grandfather, the Choctaw Chief Greenwood LeFlore” at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Raymond Frye Complex, 320 N. Jefferson. Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society in Wellington will host the presentation.
From the time he was very small, Wes LeFlore’s grandfather told him the history of his ancestor, Greenwood LeFlore, and his part in Choctaw history.
“Basically, I always knew,” Wes LeFlore, minister of the Wellington Church of Christ said.
“I was proud of it. It was always a neat thing,” LeFlore said. “The county that I lived in was LeFlore County, Okla., and folks would ask me if I was connected to the county, and it gave me the opportunity to tell them the story of Greenwood LeFlore.”
LeFlore said his ancestor, Greenwood LeFlore, was half Choctaw, and sometime during Greenwood’s lifetime, the spelling of their name was changed from LeFleur, which means “the flower” to LeFlore.
LeFlore said that his ancestor was a controversial figure in Choctaw history
“He was hated for the same reason that he was loved,” LeFlore said. “In 1830, he signed the first Indian Removal Act in the United States, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.”
“Some said he never should have signed and hated him for signing, and some understood that the only way to save the Choctaws from annihilation was to sign that treaty,” LeFlore said. “It has been a very mixed reaction.”
LeFlore said that at one time, he believed that the Choctaws had owned nearly one-third of the state of Mississippi. After the treaty was signed, they moved to a smaller reservation in the Indian Territory, which is now in the eastern part of Oklahoma.
“LeFlore County in Oklahoma is a big county,” LeFlore said, “but it is small compared to what it was in Mississippi.”
LeFlore said that his family moved to Oklahoma in 1831, but Greenwood stayed in Mississippi.
“Geographically, the lands are straight across the map from one another,” LeFlore said, “They walked straight across the state of Arkansas to get to LeFlore County, Oklahoma.
“It was hard walking,” LeFlore said, “they were basically blazing a trail.”
According to Wikipedia, Greenwood LeFlore was born on June 3, 1800, at LeFleur’s Bluffs, Mississippi. Greenwood’s mother was Rebecca Cravatt, niece of the chief Pushmataha, and his father was Louis LeFleur, an explorer and French fur trader.
When Greenwood was 12, his father sent him to Nashville to become educated in American schools; when he was 22, he became chief of the western district of the Choctaw Nation when it was still in Mississippi. On March 15, 1830, he became the head chief of the entire nation.
With the election of President Andrew Jackson in 1828, many in the Choctaw tribe realized that they would face removal from their lands or they would face annihilation.
The treaty written by Greenwood provided for the Choctaw who chose to stay in Mississippi to become United States citizens and receive land, but the government did not honor this provision, and Greenwood faced death threats. Even after his death, his body was removed from his grave and buried face down in an unknown location.
Greenwood stayed in Mississippi, settled in Carroll County and accepted United States citizenship. In the 1840s he was elected to the state government as a legislator and senator. During the Civil War, he sided with the Union, even though he owned many slaves.
When LeFlore was 12, his grandfather took him and the family to Mississippi to explore the homeland of the Choctaws.
“My grandpa just told me that it’s important to know where you came and to be proud of where you came from,” LeFlore said. “Those were the two big things he tried to instill in me.”
“The Choctaw Nation was very good about making everyone feel proud to be a descendant of a Choctaw,” LeFlore said.
Wes said that he was “too young” to realize the weight or the gravity of being in his family’s homeland, but they were able to see the remains of Greenwood’s mansion, “Malmaison,” and went to several museums and burial grounds.
“The thing that made the biggest impression,” LeFlore said, “was when I would talk to Choctaws in the museums and on the guided tours. It seemed like all of this history, well over a hundred years ago, they still talked about it like it was yesterday.”
“It was criminal what the nation did,” LeFlore said, “forcing all of the Native American tribes to leave their lands so the colonizers could come in and take it.”
“The biggest impression that I took,” LeFlore said, “is that when history is full of atrocities against human beings, people don’t forget easily.”