Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865
The situation of enslaved Indians varied among the tribes. In many cases, enslaved captives were adopted into the tribes to replace warriors killed during a raid. Enslaved warriors sometimes endured mutilation or torture that could end in death as part of a grief ritual for relatives slain in battle. Some Indians cut off one foot of their captives to keep them from running away; others allowed enslaved captives to marry the widows of slain husbands. The Creek, for example, treated the children born of slaves and tribal members as full members of the tribe rather than as enslaved offspring. Some tribes held captives as hostages for payment. Other tribes practiced debt slavery or imposed slavery on tribal members who had committed crimes; but this status was only temporary as the enslaved worked off their obligations to the tribal society.
After 1800, the Cherokees and some other tribes started buying and using black slaves, a practice they continued after being relocated to Indian Territory in the 1830s.
The nature of slavery in Cherokee society often mirrored that of white slave-owning society. The law barred intermarriage of Cherokees and blacks, whether slave or free. Cherokee who aided slaves were punished with one hundred lashes on the back. In Cherokee society, blacks were barred from holding office, bearing arms, and owning property, and it was illegal to teach blacks to read and write.
By contrast, the Seminoles welcomed into their nation African Americans who had escaped slavery (Black Seminoles).