Meet Tuckabache: The Mvskoke legend who won’t stay buried under Tulsa’s dark past
(MUSCOGEE NATION) Described in newspaper clippings as “one of the famous Indian characters of the Southwest”, Tuckabache is the Tvlse legend you’ve likely never heard of.
But you are probably familiar with the land on which he lived and hunted and grew crops: Tulsa’s world-class park, The Gathering Place.
“If you don’t know the story of Tuckabache, of his life, you don't know the history of Tulsa,” Native author J.D. Colbert said. “He really stands out to me as a Native historian as exemplifying the history of Creek Nation and thus of Tulsa.”
Colbert recently landed himself on the best sellers list for his new book “Between Two Fires”, a historical fiction book centered on Allotment Era crime and injustice in Tulsa.
He tells us he learned about Tuckabache while researching Sam Davis, a half-Mvskoke Creek half-white man who went down in history as a land allotment swindler.
Historical records date Tuckabache’s birth year from 1815 all the way back to 1800.
“He kind of just jumped off the page,” Colbert said. “In terms of him being described as having passed away at 110 years old in 1910. So I knew knowing the Muscogee Creek history that he would have been Locvpokv, he would have walked the Trail of Tears, he would have been under the Council Oak Tree when Locvpokv arrived and resettled their town. And lived through even the discovery of oil, the allotments. So this is a guy I need to get to know better.”
Tuckabache was a warrior who fought against assimilation during tribal conflicts and for the Union during the Civil War under Opothleyahola during the Trail of Blood on Ice.
“He was very much looked up to, primarily I’d say, as a warrior, as a well-respected medicine man,” Colbert said. “What we call a heles hayv, and even non-Indians would come to him for medical treatment. So he was clearly a man held in high esteem and respected by his community.”
Despite his prestige, even Tuckabache was not immune to Allotment Era atrocities, which the Indian Rights Association described as “legalized robbery” in their 1924 report “Oklahoma's poor rich Indians”.
“The estates of the members of the Five Civilized Tribes are being, and have been, shamelessly and openly robbed in a scientific and ruthless manner,” the report dictated.
Tatianna “Tanya” Duncan, Tuckabache’s 3rd great granddaughter, founded the Lucinda Hickory Research Institute (LHRI) in 2020 to research and expose Allotment Era crime and injustice.
“What that document did for me was confirm everything I had been told growing up,” Duncan said. “When there’s the whispers of Tom Coney and Lucinda Hickory and the oddness behind their deaths. Reading that document it’s like, it’s true what they say.”
Duncan tells us the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of Tuckabache and his heirs along with the land grabs of their property were textbook Tulsa swindle.
Tuckabache’s wife, Lina, died between 1880 and 1890. He outlived all three of his children, who died relatively young with no record of cause. His son died at just 22 years old. His daughter Sallie died at 36. Her husband Moses Coney died at 42.
All three died around 1900.
Nothing is known about Tuckabache’s third child, Sarah, aside from the fact that she was dead “long before enrollment”.
Following Ned’s death, Tuckabache received his son’s 160-acre allotment and his own.
In 1904, Tuckabache’s guardian approved a right of way easement on his allotted land to the Midland Valley Railroad, what is known as the Midland Valley Trail today.
“I have a newspaper article that reports that Tuckabache fought that easement with everything he had,” Duncan said. “But the railroad went to the government for a right of way easement. And we know that happens.”
Colbert, an LHRI co-founder, says that trail should be known by another name: Tuckabache Trail. And that’s not all.
“Tanya and I have met with the previous executive director of the Gathering Place in an attempt to at least put up a minimal non-evasive historical marker to Tuckabache but we were flatly refused in that effort,” Colbert said.
What’s holding up the recognition?
Rumors that Tuckabache was a slave owner could be a possibility, allegations both Colbert and Duncan deny.
Colbert said during his extensive research, he found zero evidence to suggest Tuckabache was a slave owner, and no evidence has ever been presented to them.
In addition to being a Union soldier who fought against slavery, he said there was no practical reason for Tuckabache to have slaves.
“The full bloods, the traditionalists, they lived in a very traditional way,” Colbert said. “One might even say kind of a hunter gatherer existence. They hunted their property, they grew crops, they fished. They lived in very simple, modest log cabins. They would have had no need for slaves.”
“I’m very careful about what I say in my research,” Duncan said. “And I’m not fond of a lot of people that did my family wrong, but I will have the documents to prove why I believe that. Now if somebody sees it different and thinks that I’m wrong, I’m open to that conversation.”
“There’s no basis for Tuckabache being a slave owner or most traditional Indians. That’s not how they lived their life.”
VNN has been in contact with the Gathering Place since October of last year to find out the status of any efforts to recognize Tuckabache as the land allottee, or any other aspect of its Indigenous history.
Andrea Leitch, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Gathering Place, said they are in conversation with the Muscogee Nation for documentation of the history of the land.
We’re told the Muscogee Creek Nation Historic and Cultural Preservation is currently working on that request.
Be on the lookout for our next Stealing Tvlse story to learn why the deaths of Tuckabache and his heirs were so suspicious, and how the injustice against their family continued even after death.
“Stealing Tvlse” is a collaborative effort between VNN Oklahoma and the Lucinda Hickory Research Institute to spotlight crimes committed against Muscogee people during the Allotment era and how those crimes still impact Muscogee people today.
Learn more about this research and donate to Lucinda Hickory Research Institute at https://allotmentera.wordpress.com/
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