The Freedmen: Caesar Bruner was born in Indian Territory as a free man … KEYWORDS: Caesar Bruner freedmen black indians black seminoles black indian leader freemen who lived with Indians Seminole leaders seminole indian history seminole nation Bruner band
A significant number of Afro-Americans escaped or fled from slavery and eventually settled in the West, where they were adopted by Indian tribes and accepted into the tribal structure as equals. Many even assumed roles of leadership. Caesar Bruner was born in Indian Territory as a free man in the 1830’s.
His father was William Bruner, who had once been a slave of Tom Bruner. He was born shortly after the arrival of the Seminoles from Florida, and would live his entire life as a free man. When some of the Seminoles left for Mexico, to escape persecution, he was still a young boy, and his immediate family would not be a part of that migration. However, after the return of some Black Seminoles to Texas in the 1870s, there was a “Bruno” family listed in the Black Seminole Texas settlement, that might have had a connection to the Bruner family of Indian Territory.
Caesar was the son of William and Affie Bruner, both former slaves of Tom Bruner who had manumitted them. In the Federal census, of 1900 the birthplace of his parents is said to have been Alabama. His wife, Nancy was born in the Territory, like her father, but her mother was also listed as having been born in Alabama. By the time of the Dawes Commission, he was the elder leader, having arisen since the death of Abraham as the spokesperson for the Freedman. His interviews were also captured in the 2000 Spring Issue of the Frontier Freedman’s Journal.
Caesar Bruner was called upon to be the voice of the Freedmen like his fellow compatriot, Dosar Barkus, and it was clear that he was respected as he was never challenged. In many of the interviews, it was also clear that he was an integral part of the lives of the persons whom he represented at the hearings.
When Caesar Bruner was asked if he knew the claimants, and deceased relatives of the claimants, he indicated that he was either there at the time of their death, or at the burial of said persons.
The Bruner band carries his name to this day.