Opinion: Cherokee Freedmen controversy goes back a century

"Following on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation, in February 1863 the Cherokee Nation declared that all slaves within its limits were “forever free.” In 1983, the descendants of these slaves, known as the Cherokee Freedmen, were removed from tribal membership rolls and prohibited from voting in Cherokee elections. A series of protracted legal battles over Freedmen citizenship ensued and continue today.

Questions on the status of the Cherokees’ former slaves in tribal life originated in the complicated landscape of the Civil War in Indian Territory, a story of an internal civil war within the larger conflict. Although the Cherokee Nation had initially joined the Confederacy, Principal Chief John Ross and his supporters began discussions with Northern forces during the summer of 1862. These loyal Cherokees convened a meeting of the National Council at Cowskin Prairie and produced two distinct emancipation acts, documents that reverberate in today’s controversies over the legal standing of the Cherokee Freedmen."

Get the Story:
Melinda C. Miller and Rachel Smith Purvis: The Cherokees Free Their Slaves (The New York Times 2/17)

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DC Circuit allows suit against Cherokee chief in Freedmen case (12/14)