How can this great nation of the United States of America allow Freedmen Descendants to be treated in such a racist and discriminatory manner? Over and over again the rules have been changed by Cherokee Tribes, and then readily accepted by the United States Courts in order to assure that most Freedmen will have no rightful place in Native American tribes. For decades, one Cherokee chief after another has implemented long-standing racist behaviors in order to assure that most Freedmen are excluded from voting and other privileges offered to Cherokee citizens.
I am a direct descendant of a Freedman/Black Indian. My grandfather, grandmother, great grandfather, and great grandmother were Freedmen and are listed on the Dawes Rolls. My mother was born in Nowata, Okla., in 1927. My ancestors had strong ties to the Cherokee Nation and shared the customs, traditions, and often times the language of these people with whom they were racially mixed.
Many children were born because of miscegenation and slavery, and they occasionally inter-married with the Cherokee people in Oklahoma territory. Although these facts have been proven through written and oral history, this seems to mean nothing to the United States government. What will America do to right this wrong, specifically under the protection of the 1866 Treaty for Freedmen and Black Indians?
The “land of the free, home of the brave,” doesn’t seem to apply to those of us with any degree of African ancestry, and we don’t seem to have protection under the law especially in relation to the Treaty of 1866.
My grandfather was born in Chelsea, Okla. in 1897. He was granted 60 acres of land by the Cherokee Nation. He and his brothers and sisters were listed on the Dawes Rolls as Cherokee Freedmen. His wife’s family, my grandmother, was on the Kern Clifton Roll. They were both mixtures of Cherokee, African, and White blood lines, which is not uncommon for most African Americans in the United States. We know that according to the Treaty of 1866, my grandfather was entitled to have received his land, along with an Individual Indian Money Account. Needless-to-say, he never received any of these things. My grandfather, was an uneducated man, and could not read or write. This was due to the phenomena of illiteracy, poverty, and fear, the evil by-products of the legacy of slavery. Sadly enough, these conditions still exist today among many African Americans and other people of color, who much too often, continue to suffer from discrimination.
Years ago, my family and I set out on a massive ancestral search, as we began looking for answers.
We had hopes of getting the same equitable treatment which had been granted to those “full blooded” Cherokee members who happened to be listed on the Dawes Rolls as full blooded. There were no DNA tests done in the late 1800’s, and we have never understood how the determination of Cherokee blood degree was proven. Our family knew that we were supposed to receive assistance with educational costs, and other benefits which were granted to Cherokee citizens, particularly the return of our family lands. To our dismay, we were informed that we were not entitled to anything, because we were descendants of the slaves of the Cherokee–“Freedmen” which means we have mixed Black (African) ancestry.
Although the family now has access to our grandfathers’ land deeds, which clearly stated (unbeknownst to him), that he owned lands that were granted to him by the Cherokee Nation, we have been unable to this day, to have this land returned to our family.
Our family is also in possession of a deed of sale (the sale of the land that our grandfather never knew he owned). This land was stolen and illegally seized from him, when he was nearly 22 years old–land which was, and still is, very valuable and rich in minerals, lakes, oil and other valuable assets.
We, the descendants of our grandfather, who are very well educated, and can read and write, do not accept this illegal presupposed deed of sale of our grandfather’s land; a deed of sale which has no signatures anywhere on it, from my grandfather or anyone else.
We have tried unsuccessfully to schedule a meeting with Senator Barbara Boxer in our native state of California to show her the important information we possess, hoping that this would help encourage her to sponsor legislation for Freedmen or to add a rider to the current legislation for Native Americans, to include people such as ourselves, who are the descendants of Freedmen and Black Indians.
We specifically asked for an opportunity to show Senator Boxer proof and evidence of the injustices that have been done to our family and Freedmen across the country. However, she was unable to meet with us. Although her legislative aide could meet with us in Senator Boxer’s Los Angeles Office, we know that only the Senator can make this type of important decision to carry legislation which would rightfully include Freedmen. We are presently asking several Congressional members to consider carrying “stand-alone legislation” to compensate Freedmen plaintiffs for this long-standing injustice.
It seems as if the majority of U. S. Congressional Representatives are concerned only with the pending Cobell vs. Salazar Settlement which contains a $3.4 billion award for Native Americans and the return of their land. We have been told by Senator Boxer’s office that the Cobell case would be invalidated, if Freedmen/Black Indians are given companion/rider legislation giving them “equal civic status” as all other Cherokee citizens have had for the past 140 years per the Treaty of 1866. However we question the veracity of this supposition.
Will Chavez, staff writer, indicates in his article: “Freedman Attorney states that the Treaty of 1866 is in Effect (See web site: http://mytwobeadsworth.com/Cherokeefreedmen1866.html.
The Cobell vs. Salazar settlement, as it stands, is racially discriminatory. The bottom line is this: Introduce legislation to include the Freedmen, as is our just due. Fulfill the requirements of the Treaty of 1866. Live by the laws that this great country stands on, as they were created by the United States government. Do not violate the 13th and 14th amendments.
Apparently, the Cherokee Nation does not respect these amendments, but let us, as Americans prove how precious they are to us. “The land of the free, home of the brave” must include everyone. Therefore any legislation for Cobell must have a “me too” clause for Black Indians and Freedmen to fulfill the Treaty of 1866.
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