Published on September 1, 2013 by Amy
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.
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Educated in an American school, he also learned of European-American culture and contributed to his tribe. He helped write the Chickasaw Nation’s constitution in the 1850s after its removal to Indian Territory and reorganization of its government. Colbert served as the tribe’s delegate to Washington, DC after the American Civil War.
Holmes Colbert was of mixed race, the son of Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Colbert, of mixed race, and a Chickasaw mother. He was a descendant of James Logan Colbert, a Scots 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 sons. 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 and leaders in the Chickasaw nation.
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.