Friday, September 30, 2011

Deny Their Indian Blood

Present day officials in the Five Slave Holding Tribes have expressed their willingness to enroll as citizens anyone who has demonstrated they have “Indian blood” with an ancestor on the Dawes Roll.

I have always found this statement disingenuous.  It is clear the history of the Dawes Commission demonstrates how the enrollment process was steeped in controversy over the issue of mixed African-Native people being included on the citizens by blood rolls.

Most, if not all genealogists understand the issue of "lineal descent" and how that should have dictated anyone, ANYONE with Indian blood being placed on the "citizen by roll." However the Dawes Commission and the Five Slave Holding Tribes established a roll that willfully omitted thousands of people who possessed Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Muskogee and in some rare cases Seminole blood.

Senate Document 5013 (59th Congress, 2nd Session Vol. 1) p938
"As for these persons the most that can be contended for them and the most that is contended, is that they are the children of slave women, illegitimately begotten by Indian men.”



It was this statement that guided the Dawes Commission to omit people who they knew had Indian blood but chose to ignore.

Evidently in 1907 the Five Slave Holding Tribes could not conceive that the children of Indian men possessed the blood of their father’s so they could be included on the citizenship rolls.

Actually when you read the excuses the Dawes Commission used based on the "Indian laws, customs, and usages they must take the status of their mother" it in no way eliminates the fact these children possessed Indian blood. Their actions only meant the United States government and the Five Slave Holding Tribes continued the stigma (badges) of slavery.

It would appear those in control of the Five Slave Holding Tribes are continuing this immoral and wrong headed practice in the twenty first century.



"While Assistant Attorney General Campbell commented on this fact, he based his decision upon the alleged fact that they were the children of an Indian man and thus made his decision applicable to this entire class of persons numbering some 1,500 people"

This was one of many decisions by the United States Attorney General's office that flipped back and forth on the issue of mixed blood African-Native people. The Joe and Dillard Perry citizenship case became the benchmark for all the cases that followed of mixed African-Native citizenship.

This passage above illustrates to what lengths the Dawes Commission and Five Slave Holding Tribes would go to deny the citizenship of people who they clearly knew had "Indian blood." It also shows to what lengths the Commission, the tribes and their lawyers went to deny these 1500 people their rightful citizenship. 

All of these actions were clearly an exercise in denial and is the reason today thousands of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen descendants are considered non-Indian. When tribal officials pay lip service to the notion the way to citizenship is to demonstrate you have Indian blood and an ancestor on the "Dawes Roll" these people will always be denied citizenship based on the false premise "race" is determined by your mother.

Here we are over one hundred years later and the Five Slave Holding Tribes arrogantly state that to be a citizen in their nation you have to possess “Indian blood.” I wonder if they understand or care just how they are continuing the sad legacy of slavery that denied thousands of people as citizens because their ancestors had an enslaved mother and an Indian father?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Links to Cherokee Freedmen Articles in the News

The following links and articles concerning recent media outlets coverage of the Cherokee Freedmen citizenship issue.

The attention on this issue is unprecedented and deserves the attention of my readers who may not be aware of the various articles and news programs.

About ten years ago Marilyn Vann requested several individuals including yours truly to meet in Tulsa, Ok to discuss forming an organization of concerned historians, genealogist and Indian Territory Freedmen researchers; since that time there has not been this amount of attention and traction on this little known story.

Clearly there are different points of view on the topic of citizenship for the descendants of slaves own by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee Creek and Seminole Nations.

The fact that it is now becoming known to a wider audience only goes to demonstrate the strength and moral imperative of this issue. It has also been a direct result of the determination of Marilyn Vann and others who have continued to research and write about the history of the Indian Territory Freedmen.



Links to the New York Times piece on the Cherokee Freedmen citizenship issue.

Define "Real Indians"

"It's About Ancestry"

A Weak Sovereign 

The Role of Blood Quantum

My Cherokee Identity

Slavery's Long Shadow

Why The Freedmen Fight


The True Meaning of Sovereignty

The link below is for a discussion to on air later today with Professor Tiya Miles at 3:00 ET
America's 2nd Largest Indian Tribe Expels Blacks

Tombstone Tuesday: Babyland~Union Cemetery Episode Three

The final episode in the series that is dedicated to the children who were with for such a short time but live on in the hearts and minds of their parents.


Friday, September 16, 2011

"Rights As Native Cherokee?"


As the struggle continues for the citizenship of Cherokee Freedmen it is important that the historical record reflect the truth to their claims as Cherokee citizens. The Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court has interpreted the 1866 Treaty as only giving the freedmen and their descendants “rights as Native Cherokee.”

Senate Document 239 (63rd Congress, 1st Session pg3)
Through some reasoning that defies established law and historical precedent this ruling claims the freedmen descendants were not given citizenship. In the past I’ve used actual documents from the Congressional Record Serial Set to illustrate how ridiculous that claim appears.

In the 63rd Congress , 1st Session the Cherokee Freedmen presented a memorial to Congress for the purpose of enrolling individuals who were left off the final rolls of freedmen citizens.

Senate Document 239 (63rd Congress, 1st Session pg4)


In their memorial to Congress, the Freedmen gave voice to their determination to be included in the nation of their birth and fought to have additional people enrolled who were left off the roll by the machinations of the Dawes Commission.

The freedmen correctly assert, that the Act of Congress of June 10, 1896 “the rolls of citizenship of the several tribes, as they existed.”

There could be no clearer language that an act of Congress established confirmed the citizenship of Freedmen in the “several tribes” known as Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek (Muskogee) and Seminole, for the Cherokee Nation to come up with a definition that dubious at best is only a self serving attempt to deny the actions of Congress and the legal supremacy of the Treaty of 1866.
Senate Document 239 is  only four pages in length gives provides additional insight into the matter and must be included as part of the historical record that established the citizenship of the Cherokee Freedmen descendants.


Senate Document 239 (63rd Congress, 1st Session pg4)


This portion of Senate Document 239 illustrates at least two factors concerning the citizenship of the Cherokee Freedmen.

 First, the Secretary of the Interior gave clear and specific instructions for the Dawes Commission to include the names of certain freedmen and their descendants on the final rolls as citizens of the Cherokee Nation. The secretary did this to correct and protect their rights which were “wrongfully denied membership (citizenship) in said nation.”

All of this is quite plain language and continues to demonstrate that the Cherokee Freedmen had been given citizenship with all of the privileges of citizenship as “Native Cherokee’s.” For the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court to rule otherwise is testament to their violation of the rights that were established by the Treaty of 1866.

In the next portion of the memorial the rights to citizenship is illustrated by the cultural and political context the Cherokee Freedmen established by their continued residence in the nation of their birth.

Senate Document 239 (63rd Congress, 1st Session pg4)
Clearly the Treaty of 1866 has remained in force and therefore the rights and privileges of citizenship remain in force for the Cherokee Freedmen.

What is astounding is the rationale for the removal of citizenship by the Cherokee Nation when they attempt to establish citizenship based on the amount of Cherokee blood an individual has.

It is clear from much of the documentation that the Dawes Rolls were never done to establishment “citizenship” by way of Cherokee blood; the rolls were a segregated census of ALL the citizens entitled to land allotment. Today these same rolls are now being abused to perpetuate some kind of racial superiority test for having “Cherokee blood.”

Additionally, anyone who takes the time to actually study the rolls and other documents will know that it would be virtually impossible for any freedmen descendant from any of the Five Slave Holding Tribes to “prove” they have “Indian blood.”

The Dawes Commission made it clear anyone with a mother of African descent or a slave; her children would be considered a slave, or in the words of the former Cherokee Chief “non-Indian” no matter how much “Indian blood” that individual possessed.

This is the standard argument for all of the Five Slave Holding Tribes and they should be called on it. The morally right thing to do would be to honor the Treaty of 1866 and stop the canard of an Indian race when speaking of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek Indians; the Seminoles are a different story.

For more on this story an interesting online debate on the New York Times website is a good read click the link below:








Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Those Who Fail to Learn Their History Are Bound to Repeat It


With the recent ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court denying the Treaty of 1866 granting citizenship to the former slaves and their descendants of the Cherokee Nation;  I was reminded of an interesting document from the Congressional Record Serial Set.

The Cherokee Supreme Court ruling struck me as curious because it was eerily similar to an action taken by the Cherokee Legislature in 1888 when they passed a law over the veto of the Chief to make per capita payments to “Cherokee by blood citizens” only. That statement alone would seem to indicate there were at least two different classes of citizenship, Cherokee by blood and non-blood citizens for them to make that distinction.

As you look at the document further, it becomes clear that the Cherokee Nation today has failed to adhere to the old Cherokee Freedmen proverb; 

those who fail to learn their history are doomed to repeat it.

House Report 844 (50th Congress, 1st Session)
House Report 844; 50th Congress, 1st Session was a report that demonstrates just how much the Supreme Court has violated the United States Constitution and ignores the power of Congress in the matters of enforcing the rights of citizenship granted the former slaves and their descendants of the Cherokee Nation.

This report in 1888 and the bill H.R. 5066 clearly demonstrate that the legal standing of citizenship and the treaty of 1866 remains in effect contrary to the decision of the Cherokee Supreme Court.

This report includes language that clearly demonstrates the right of citizenship granted in 1866 to the Delaware and Shawnee tribes was also granted to the Cherokee Freedmen at the same time when they all were adopted into the tribe with “all the rights of Native Cherokee. “

That last statement is the very statement today that the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court is not so cleverly trying to deny is the basis for the adopted slaves and their descendants having citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.


“Hammons added that the court distinguishes that the Treaty of 1866 did not grant citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.

“I think we all understand that,” Hammons said. “I think what the Treaty of 1866 granted to Freedmen and their descendents (sic) were the rights of Native Cherokees. All of us as Native Cherokees could have our citizenship affected at any time by constitutional amendment. We argued that in the case.”

The court also found that the Treaty of 1866 only granted to Freedmen the rights of native Cherokees but that it was the constitution of the Cherokee people that granted them citizenship, she said. “



 For the Cherokee Supreme Court to rule in this manner is perplexing because the evidence is overwhelming that the Freedmen received citizenship at the same time the Delaware and Shawnee and they all fought to be included in the per capita payment based on their citizenship.

House Report 844 provided additional information to demonstrate the Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants received citizenship by making the argument if the Cherokee legislature made payments to Cherokee by blood citizens only it would be in violation of the Treaty of 1866, and “at war with all principles of law and common justice.”

 If you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it.

It is very clear the Cherokee Nation wants to have  nothing to do with the Treaty of 1866 because the nation would be held in violation of the United States Constitution when it violates the rights of “all” of it’s citizens by denying citizenship to the descendants of their former slaves.

The other crucial aspect of the Treaty of 1866 which would apply to all of the tribes makes it clear the Nations are bound by the laws of the United States AND provides the President of the United States along with Congress a fiduciary responsibility to protect the rights of ALL Cherokee citizens including the descendants of the former slaves. 

” If you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it.”

This brings up some very interesting questions for freedmen descendants today. It is clear the President of the United States has a responsibility to protect the rights of citizenship of the freedmen and there was a precedent for such actions by President Grover Cleveland.



” If you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it.”

Clearly in 1886 the issue of citizenship based on the treaty of 1866 was being fought as it is being fought today and the evidence is compelling. Not only was the President obligated to “secure” the rights of the freedmen and OTHER citizens of the “Cherokee Nation by adoption AND incorporation.” 


You will also note, the letter from President Cleveland included the phrase; "securing to the Cherokee freedmen and other citizens of the Cherokee Nation by adoption and incorporation." This was an affirmative statement for the citizenship of the freedmen, period!

The decision by then Secretary of the Interior also demonstrates he had a responsibility to “remedy any wrong” done to the Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants and I can only imagine that responsibility exist today.

This all becomes more interesting when you consider that Rep. Barney Franks is reported to have sent letters to various government officials to with hold funds from the Cherokee Nation until the Cherokee Freedmen are reinstated as citizens of the nation.

“I do not believe the federal government should continue to fund the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma if it is blatantly violating the rights of some members,” U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., wrote in a recent letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. The congressman asked Donovan to “act appropriately to prevent any funding from the federal government for tribal housing.”


Frank sent another letter to Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, asking that he “take appropriate action to protect the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen.” Echo Hawk has not publicly responded.

So it would seem Representative Franks, Congress and the President of the United States has every right to take action to protect the rights of freedmen descendants in the Five Slave Holding Tribes when it comes to their citizenship.



There could be no question the Treaty of 1866 is the law that has determined the citizenship status of freedmen and their descendants, the question is will they defend the Constitution by enforcing the laws of this country and deny any further funding to the Five Slave Holding Tribes until they comply with the law?
















The last lines on this page sums up the situation for the Cherokee Nation and their denial of citizenship to the descendants of their former slaves:

"they were denied a right GUARANTEED them by an agreement entered into under a SOLEMN TREATY STIPULATION."




” If you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it.”


Tuesday, September 6, 2011