Column: Freedmen dispute a sad story for the Cherokee Nation

"Recently I saw a fascinating story in the news: the Cherokee Nation had just voted to expel the descendants of freed slaves from their tribe.

Reading on, I discovered layers of suffering spread across multiple generations. When the Cherokee were expelled from their homelands in the 19th century and forced to resettle in what would become Oklahoma, the richer members of the tribe brought their black slaves with them. This doesn’t quite fit the modern image of the Indian as a New Age guru spouting wisdom about buffalo and rivers, but then again, the myths constructed by guilty white folks to compensate for past sins always disintegrate upon contact with reality.

The story gets a lot more complex. In 1866- having fought on the side of the slave owning Confederacy in the Civil War- the surviving tribe members signed a treaty with the Federal Government, granting their freed slaves equal rights as members of the tribe, and soon after they were recognized in the Cherokee constitution as citizens. Thus there were around 2800 “Cherokee” of African descent in 2007, when they were suddenly expelled as a result of a referendum, a decision which was just upheld by the Cherokee Supreme Court.

At once the black Cherokee lost their identity, access to benefits, and the right to vote in tribal elections. Meanwhile the Cherokee Nation is about to elect its principal chief- and one of the candidates has been campaigning to get the Freedmen kicked out for ten years. Easier to win now, that their votes have disappeared, perhaps…"

Get the Story:
Daniel Kalder: Transmissions from a Lone Star: Cherokees versus African Americans in the 21st century (RIA Novosti [Russian site] 9/23)

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Decision:
Cherokee Nation Registrar v. Nash (August 22, 2011)

Related Stories:
Judge approves order for Freedmen vote in Cherokee election (9/22)
Cherokee Nation allows Freedmen to vote in Saturday's election (9/21)
Federal judge to hear arguments in Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit (9/20)
NPR: Cherokee Nation facing scrutiny for ousting the Freedmen (9/20)
Cherokee Nation starts sending provisional ballots to Freedmen (9/16)
NYT: Tribal rights vs. racial justice in Cherokee Freedmen battle (9/16)
Blog: Rush Limbaugh offers take on Cherokee Freedmen dispute (9/16)
Steve Russell: The circus that has become the Cherokee Nation (9/15)
Cherokee Nation to allow Freedmen to cast provisional ballots (9/15)
Editorial: Cherokee Nation faces pressure on fate of Freedmen (9/15)
Acting Cherokee Nation chief vows to protect tribe's interests (9/14)
BIA warns Cherokee Nation about disenrollment of Freedmen (9/13)
Lawmakers want HUD to restore funding to Cherokee Nation (9/12)
HUD won't release funds to Cherokee Nation in Freedmen flap (9/8)
Judge sets hearing on Freedmen motion for Cherokee election (9/6)
Freedmen eye lawsuit in federal court over Cherokee election (8/30)
Freedmen seek appeal for loss of Cherokee Nation citizenship (8/29)
Jay Tavare: Divide and conquer -- disenrollment among tribes (8/25)
Turtle Talk: Tribal courts, treaty rights and treaty rights disputes (8/25)
Cherokee Freedmen lose right to vote in upcoming chief election (8/24)
Decision allows Cherokee Nation to remove Freedmen from rolls (8/23)

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