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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Re: Muskogee Phoenix Freedmen Article

The article shows up if you go to the Muskogee Phoenix opinion link. However, here is the article I submitted prior to editing by the newspaper.

“Not Time For Cherokee Freedmen to Leave Their Nation”
An opinion by Greg Smith makes several misleading statements I comment below:

Smith mentions the “Cherokee Freedmen Nation of Oklahoma “ . I know of no such group ; Cherokee Freedmen plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the BIA are not associated with such group.

Smith alleges the Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit has no basis because the Curtis Act nullified the 1866 treaty which is the basis of Freedmen citizenship rights. The Act abolished tribal courts ; but Cherokee government continued under the Act of April 26, 1906 which authorized US Presidents to appoint Chiefs. Furthermore, Cherokee nation attorneys cite the 1866 treaty in Cherokee Nation Vs Norton which deals with adopted Delawares .

Smith implies that Freedmen lost citizenship in 1901. However The Dawes “Final Rolls” approved by Congress included a Cherokee Freedmen roll . The rights of Cherokee Freedmen were the same as other citizens .. Cherokee Freedmen received allotments and 1961 per capita payments. Title 25 Sec 991 authorized these payments for Cherokee citizens on the “Final rolls”.

Smith ignores that Cherokee Freedmen lost tribal membership without due process or input in 1983 despite the fact that they are Cherokee citizens based on the 1975 Constitution (which limits tribal membership to Dawes enrollees or their descendants) . No other citizens, including adopted Delaware and Shawnee who practice their customs and speak their own languages have been treated so untraditionally.

Smith alleges that Freedmen have been “incorporated into African American society”; as a non-Freedmen, he only speculates. He ignores the emotional harm the Freedmen have endured through disenrollment.
There are few“full-blood” Cherokee nation citizens . According to Dr Sturms book, “Blood Politics” ; in 1996, only 21 % of the Cherokee nation had blood quantums ¼ or greater. Since 1996, many full-bloods have become United Keetowah Band (UKB) members not receiving Cherokee Nation services. In 1996, 29% of the Cherokee nation had blood quantums between 1/64 and 1/2048. I believe many “1/2048’s” had earlier “ incorporated into Caucasian society” ,voluntarily leaving the Cherokee community; unlike Freedmen, who were subject to segregation laws between 1907 and 1960. The Freedmen should have some choice as does the 1/2048 blood degree Cherokee regarding to what extent they wish to be cultural and political Cherokees. Some Cherokee Freedmen are Cherokee speakers.

Smith implies that Cherokee Freedmen number hundreds of thousands. The 1880 Cherokee census indicated “coloreds” were 10% of the tribe, about the same percentage as Dawes enrolled Freedmen in 1907. If current Cherokee membership is 230,000, Cherokee Freedmen potentially number 23,000 . The most instrumental individual in opening services to Cherokees of less than ¼ blood was Chief Swimmer who revoked Freedmen membership cards . No Cherokee officials call for limiting services to those of ¼ blood or greater . If Cherokee officials main concern is for Full-bloods , they should request withdrawal of the Congressional Act passed during Mankiller’s term which gives the Cherokee nation the UKB federal funding and not block the UKB from obtaining Arkansas Riverbed monies.

Smith mentions a “Kern Clifton Blood Roll” Perhaps he means the ”Final Rolls” of Cherokees listed with blood degrees .When Congress determined that Freedmen allotments would be unrestricted , Dawes Commissioners classed as many as possible as Freedmen . Although many “colored” citizens documented Cherokee blood ancestry, Commissioners enrolled almost all of them as Freedmen; with no blood degrees listed . The Cherokee nation does not accept for membership Freedmen descendants who document Cherokee blood degrees from sources other than the Dawes Final roll (examples: cancelled Dawes Census cards, Guion Miller or Dawes interviews) . Smith implies such individuals are not “ Indians” although many can establish blood degrees greater than 1/16 for their Dawes “Freedmen” ancestor.

We disagree with Smiths conclusion that the Freedmen should leave “these people” alone. Cherokee Freedmen are Cherokee people. We will not giveup our Cherokee history, language, Cherokee blood, culture. and citizenship rights. Let tribal member Smith work to change Cherokee policy to assist needy full-bloods instead of working to obliterate rights of Cherokee Freedmen .

Marilyn Vann – President – Descendants of Freedmen

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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