Holmes Colbert (Chickasaw) was a leader of the Chickasaw Nation in what would become Oklahoma. Of mixed European and Chickasaw ancestry, Colbert was born to his mother's Chickasaw clan and gained status through them, as the tribe was matrilineal.
in an American school, he also learned of European-American culture and
contributed to his tribe. He helped write
Holmes Colbert was of mixed
the son of Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Colbert, of mixed race, and a
Chickasaw mother. He was a descendant of James Logan Colbert, a Scouts
trader from North Carolina
who settled in Chickasaw country in the mid-18th century, and his third
wife, who had a Chickasaw mother and belonged to her clan. They had six
Other sources say the Colberts had five sons. Because the Chickasaw
have a matrilineal
system, children are considered born into their mother's clan
and they gain status in the tribe through her people, including any
hereditary leadership positions. The status of their mothers, combined
with their father's access to trade goods, led to the Colbert men
becoming prominent landowners
Colbert married Betsy Love, who was also of mixed race. They were both well educated, having been sent to schools out of state. Their mothers' clans were influential families in the Chickasaw Nation who were grooming their children for the future. They had three children together, but two died before the American Civil War.
The Colbert sons were William, George, Levi, Samuel, Joseph, and Pittman (or James). For nearly a century, the Colbert men and their descendants provided critical leadership during the Chickasaw tribe's greatest challenges.
The Chickasaw allied with the United States during the War of 1812. William Colbert served with General Andrew Jackson against the Red Sticks during the Creek Wars of 1813-14, which became part of that conflict. His brothers George and Levi also served. The brothers were prominent landowners and a political force within their clan and the Chickasaw Nation. George and Levi Colbert were negotiators and interpreters during the tribe's negotiations with the US government related to Indian Removal.
Third-generation Colberts, such as Holmes and Winchester, created the governmental foundation of the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Territory (now known as Oklahoma). In the 1850s, Holmes Colbert helped write the constitution for their government.
Colbert and his wife owned about 100 acres (0.40 km) of cleared land, with more in timber, and held numerous adult enslaved African Americans and several children in what is now Oklahoma.
After the American Civil War,
the US required a new treaty from the Chickasaw, who had supported the
Confederacy. One of
"My mother died when I was real small, and about a year after that my father died. Master Holmes [Colbert] told us children not to cry,
that he and Miss Betsy would take good care of us. The did, too. They took us in their house with them and looked after us just as
good as they could colored children. We slept in a little room closest to them and she always seen that we was covered up good before
she went to bed."—- Polly Colbert, former slave, Interview: Polly Colbert, 1937
Elaine Nall Bay