Many African-American slaves were bought by the southeastern tribes in the United States. Cow Tom earned his name from his ability to work with cattle. He earned money with some cattle he raised on the side to start saving to buy his freedom. He was sent out to be a translate during the Seminole Wars with the understanding that his pay would be put against his price. He had another agenda. His mother had been captured a slave by the Seminoles and he wanted to find her.
The book follows Cow Tom through the war in Florida. The Seminoles did not want to give up their land in Florida and move west. They also treated their slaves as family members and were unwilling to leave without them. White citizens in Florida wanted to be able to keep the slaves when the Seminoles left.
Cow Tom moves through many relocation camps looking for his family. They were moved with the rest of the Creeks to holding camps on the way to Indian Territory.
Because of his facility with language Cow Tom is able to negotiate with the Army on behalf on the Creeks and all the black slaves belonging to tribes. For his service he is named the first black chief in the Creek nation.
He stays in politics as the Creeks decide whether or not to recognize blacks who have lived with them for generations as part of the tribe.
The story moves on to his granddaughter Rose who lives during the Civil War and beyond. She runs a large ranch as a black Creek woman.
I wasn’t crazy about Rose’s story. It got more soap opera like than I cared for when the rest of the book had been so good.
The book is based on a true story. The author started researching a descendant of the family who started an oil business when she realized that the rest of the family was interesting too.
This is a good introduction to the relationship between slaves and the Indian tribes.