Cherokee Nation Considers Slavery History in New Exhibit

But one of the darkest chapters of Cherokee history had disappeared from its walls until recently.

The Cherokee National History Museum in Tallequa, Oklahoma new exhibition about last month cherokee freedmen, or blacks who were once enslaved by the tribe. Titled “We Are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship,” the exhibit details the decades-long struggle of freedmen and their descendants to be recognized as citizens of their tribes. and is revealed through art, family photos, and registration forms. record.

The exhibit, which greets museum visitors when they first step in, is one of several recent steps taken by the Cherokee to take into account the history of slavery.

“This museum exhibit not only adheres to the legal requirements of equality, but truly embraces the spirit of equality and, frankly, is the latest in an ongoing effort to explore this part of Cherokee history.” For generations,” Chuck Hoskin Jr., chief of the Cherokee Nation, told CNN.

Freed Cherokee slaves were long denied their rights

The history of Cherokee freedmen spans from the late 18th century to the present day.

Although the Cherokee were engaged, captivity Before Europeans arrived in the Americas, white settlers introduced them to the practice of racialized chattel slavery. ‘Civilizing’ indigenous peoplesSoutheastern Cherokee and other tribes Adopted norms and practices of white settlers, including enslaving blacks. When the U.S. government forced the Cherokees to leave their Southeastern homelands and move west of the Mississippi River, enslaved blacks came with them.
Cherokee Legislature Passes Bill emancipation of slaves 1863. 1866, Cherokee signed the treaty The U.S. government abolished slavery and gave freedmen full citizenship.But in practice, freedmen often expelled from the tribe1983, Cherokee Nation stripping freed slaves of their citizenship, began a decades-long legal battle. Then, in 2007, the tribe amended its constitution to limit citizenship to those with “Indian blood,” stripping thousands of freedmen of their rights until they are freed. the change was finally reversed last year.

“I want my children and grandchildren to be proud that for a century and a half the descendants of freedmen have been denied their rights and that we have continued to do so for so long. I want you to grow up in a world that is completely disconcerting to be in,” Hoskin said. “I think we have become a stronger nation by recognizing the rights of free people and the rights of their descendants.”

Today, more than 11,800 descendants of freedmen are registered citizens of the Cherokee Nation. according to the tribe.
Progress was also made within tribal governments.Last year, a longtime freedmen’s rights advocate marilyn van He was the descendant of the first freedmen to hold government office in the Cherokee Nation. And recently, Hoskin appointed a new adviser to his administration regarding its involvement in the freedman community.

Freedmen Finally Recognized as Cherokees

The four walls surrounding the exhibit bear the names of more than 5,000 Cherokee freedmen.

These names are dose rollis a list of individuals eligible for tribal citizenship compiled by federal authorities in the late 1800s. The record lists whether the basis for an individual’s membership was by descent, marriage, adoption, or previous status as a slave, and has since been used to determine Cherokee ancestry. However, they have also been used to eliminate the descendants of slaves.While blacks and indigenous peoples married consanguinity, people of mixed heritage maintained their “blood” ties to their tribes. Without admitting it, he was registered only as a freed slave.

“For a long time, those names and voices were left behind,” said Travis Owens, vice president of cultural tourism for Cherokee Nation Business. It stands out very much.”

The walls are inscribed with the names of Wiladin Johnson’s ancestors.

Johnson’s maternal and paternal great-grandparents walked a trail of tears with Cherokee slaves. She and some of her family members received Cherokee citizenship cards in 2006, but over the years, she said, had to fight to be recognized. On September 3, her family traveled from Kansas City, Missouri, to Tallequua for a special reception to mark the exhibit.

Museum exhibits honor Wiladin Johnson's freedman ancestors.

The Cherokee Freedmen Exhibit showcases many archival materials collected by their descendants. Among them is a certificate signed by his former President Barack Obama honoring Johnson’s great-great-grandfather Rufus Vann, who served in the 1st Colored Infantry Regiment in Kansas. A photo postcard of Johnson’s great-grandmother Phyllis Van Veen is also on display. Since Ms Johnson learned that her family history will be part of the exhibit, she and her family have cried tears of joy.

“It’s really great that our Cherokee ancestry is finally being recognized,” she said in an interview last week.

But for others, the battle continues.descendants of enslaved blacks Muskogee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole Still fighting to regain full citizenship.

The Cherokee Nation has played a leading role in granting rights to freedmen, Hoskin said, but more needs to be done to achieve full equality. He hopes the exhibition will be an important step.

“The healthiest thing for Cherokee society is to face these difficult chapters, face the facts, and reconcile them with what is happening in our lives today.” I think it starts with doing


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