Nunna daul Isunyi (The Trail Where They Cried)
I have to say it is very hard to talk about the Freedman issue in a three minute video. So Now, I will try to go into more details mostly for the benefit of the reader who is not familiar with this issue. For those of you who are, please me forgive my repetitiveness.
First of all let me say I am not a racist. I also think that slavery was wrong, there is no question about it. Many people in this country were treated badly. The sad reality of it was that some of the Cherokee owned slaves, just like there white neighbors.
When the Cherokee were physically removed from their land, in 1838, they took with them their slaves. More than 4,000 Cherokee died on this march from the south to Ok. Once they survivors arrived in their new land, they settled with the slaves. But it would only be a few short years, and the Cherokee freed their slaves, just like the rest of America.
From that time forward, these African Americans would lived among the Cherokee were called freedman. This passed down from generation to generation, and to this day descendants of the freed slaves are still called freedman.
First I would like to explain just how citizenship works. The United States government through its courts has held time and again that Indian tribes have the right to determine their own citizenship. Today Cherokee Nation’s citizenry is bound together by having in common at least one documented Indian ancestor, regardless of what other heritage they may have. Cherokee Nation citizenship is based upon family ties, not color.
By documented, one much provide proof that one of your ancestors names appears on the Dawes Rolls. These rolls were recorded names, of the ones who were removed, and walked the Nunna daul Isunyi (The Trail Where They Cried).
But there were many freedman, because of a loop hole in the law, that were able to register as citizens, even though they did not have one ancestor appear on the rolls. Once the problem was discovered, this issue was corrected and a vote taken. The vote passed by 77% allowing only persons with one ancestor on the roll citizenship. Needless to say, the freedman who had registered as citizens by using the legal loophole, were no longer citizens.
Needless to say, this caused a great division in opinion. But, it is my feeling that the Cherokee are a sovereign nation and have every right to decide who can and cannot be a citizen. This is a issue that the courts must decide, then enter….
The Congressional Black Caucus.
This is an organization representing the African American members of the Congress of the United States. Membership is exclusive to African Americans and its chair in the 110th Congress is Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan.
The Caucus describes its goals as “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation,” and “achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services.”
Senator Obama and Rep. Watson are members of this organization. Rep. Watson’s bill H.R.2824 key objective is to force the Cherokee Nation into giving citizenship to the freedman whose ancestors did not appear on the Dawes Rolls. If this is not done the bill would stop funding to the Cherokee Nation. This would affect our health care, jobs and general economy. Needless to say, many of the Cherokee are poor. This can only make things worse than they already are.
Senator Obama, has stated he does not support this bill. But because he is a member of The Caucus, and a presidential candidate, he would be a great influence on this issue. It must be pointed out that Obama has almost always sided with the CBC. (Congressional Black Caucus).
But, this time he has he has stayed in away from the issue. Making statements, but nothing more. I am sure the reason for this, is due to the politics of the whole issue. Remaining neutral, is less risky than standing up for what is right.
So, the end result of the Cherokee, is that they are today a very diverse tribe. Because of the law, that any can be Cherokee, if they can trace an ancestor to the Dawes rolls, makes for people of all colors eligible. But, I must say it does exlcude many. Not just freedman, but many Americans whose ancestors “passed” or were marked “colored” on the census reports.
The real number of Americans who may have had a ancestor that was a member of the five tribes, could possibly be many, many more than we will ever know. We must remember, that not all were removed. Many ran away, many lived on private land. Some others “passed”. However, if those descendants cannot trace an ancestor to the Dawes Rolls, they cannot be citizens. This is no different than the freedman, and should be treated as the law of the Cherokee Nation is stated.