Appraising tribal history

Appraising tribal history
(Liz Gray/Reporter) Muscogee (Creek) citizen Virginia Thomas is set to appear on an episode of ‘Antiques Roadshow’ with her grandparents’ original allotment deeds.

Liz Gray/Reporter

Citizen filmed by ‘Antiques Roadshow’

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Papers fluttered out of a book when Virginia Thomas separated the pages to see what was inside. The book had belonged to her aunt who had passed away.

“When I opened them up, I couldn’t believe it,” Thomas said.

The papers were her grandparents’ original allotment deeds signed by Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief Pleasant Porter.

Thomas’ home is filled with her family’s history, she can tell you a story about every person and building in the photos that hang on her walls. She understood the importance of the century-old documents and framed them for display.

They hung on her wall until a rare opportunity presented itself to Thomas.

The television program that everyone’s grandma loves, ‘Antiques Roadshow’ was coming to the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa in April for a special filming. The tickets were limited, but Thomas said a friend had managed to score a couple and invited her along to the event.

Thomas said she brought a ring once belonging to her aunt and the allotment deeds.

“I had these frames and they were wrapped up in a towel, real ‘cate’ (red) that I am,” she said. “Nothing fancy.”

When it was her turn to have her items appraised in the Native American arts and artifacts line, the appraiser assumed what lay underneath the cloth were Jerome Tiger paintings, but when he revealed the frames he informed Thomas that she was in the wrong line.

“He said, ‘you need to go to the rare books and documents line,’ ” Thomas said.

She approached a man who had no one in his line.

Thomas said when she showed him the framed deeds he excused himself to consult with a colleague. He asked if she would be willing to meet with the executive director and she agreed.

The executive director approached her and spoke with Thomas about the deeds’ relation to Oklahoma history.

“She said, ‘I think we need to go on camera with this and let people see what these are,’ ” Thomas said.

The frames got the star treatment of being shined up for the cameras with no one being allowed to touch them.

Thomas said the appraiser was fascinated by the deeds during filming, captivated by the rare signature of Pleasant Porter.

She said the overall experience was amazing and she was treated well by all the staff of the show. This adventure has led her to encourage Native people all over Oklahoma to find their family’s documents and keep them safe.

“We have this and we should be proud,” Thomas said.

Another rarity regarding the allotted land deeds is Thomas’ family still owns the land today.

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