A Letter to the Editor Regarding the Cherokee Freedmen

Kimberly Horton

The Cherokee Nation based out of Tahlequah, Oklahoma has decided to strip “Freedmen” of their Cherokee rights and to expel them from their nation. Freedmen are African American descendants of slaves. The decision to expel them is based purely on the fact that they cannot prove their Native American heritage. The United States government openly disagrees with this issue and has already suspended more than $33 million in funding to the Cherokees and declined to recognize their appointment of a new Tribal Chief that is to take place later this month.

The issue with their decision is that they are basing this purely on race which is promoting segregation from a people who have fought with and supported them in their struggle to remain in existence throughout history. The issue of racism and segregation are pivotal points that the American people have worked so hard to overcome throughout the years. It is also known that some of the Freedman do actually have Native blood, but cannot prove this simply because they were listed as Black on the Dawes Roll. The Dawes Roll was created with the intent of separation and succeeded in that goal to the extent that it is still now affecting the fair and balanced treatment of Cherokee Nation citizens. At the time of the Dawes Roll creation, many governments operated under the idea that if you possessed one drop of Black blood in your veins you were considered Black and nothing else, which was an example of racism in its purest and most malicious form. Because of this incompetent type of thinking, children born in unions between former slaves and Native American Tribal members were recognized and listed as Black on the Dawes Roll.

If the Cherokee Nation chooses to go this route, the perception of Native American culture will drastically change. In recent online news articles I have already begun to observe comments from readers referring to Natives as “racist” and “egocentric.” As a Native American descendant who is also African American and a descendant of slaves I resent this passionately and am almost ashamed to say that I am of Native blood. I have been taught throughout my life by my Grandfather Joe Homer, who is Choctaw, that being Native American is something to be very proud of. My Grandfather fought his whole life to prove that he is a Native American and died fighting to a court system that dishes out the same racism that the Cherokee Nation is forcing upon its loyal people (“Loyal” being the keyword here not BLACK). As someone who has always been proud of my Choctaw heritage, I am hoping that the Cherokee Nation will rescind this hateful act against the people who have long fought with them and not turn into a replica of the very people who they fought from expelling them, simply because they were different.


Kimberly Horton

Kimberly Horton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and is of African American and Native American descent, with ties to the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes. She is a college student working towards her Bachelor’s of Science in the Journalism field and aspires to have a career in communications. Kimberly is motivated by her passion to make a change and adheres to the quote by the philosopher and writer John Lilly that, “our only security is the ability to change.”

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dbender's picture
You mean the David Yeagley's of the world?
iknowthatword's picture
good morning, i've just learned that my ancestor are cherokee indian, and one was listed as freeman. what concern me is when man chose only one race. that's not ony here in america, i found that's all over. if the color of your skin is not fair, or light, can't say white because that's a color.. G-d made a lot of dark complex people even in the indian culture and some is so dark, we which to denie what the creator made. indian tribe alway believe in the higher spirit, now they let man influence whose indian and whose not. i've been searching about my heritage and i know i'm indian and man can't take that away from me. the spirits will be on my side and what's for me i will recieve. man has been races for a long time. this has to stop!!! maryam abdullah
cdhershey's picture
I am a descendant of one Sig Markham. He was listed as native Cherokee on the Cherokee census and as a freedman on the Dawes rolls. Why should I lose my heritage because of someone's past lie? If this was truly a sovereignty issue would it not make much more sense to use the census that was taken by the Cherokee Nation rather than the one taken by another government. The Dawes rolls were done with the thought of grabbing land? Members listed on the Cherokee by blood part of the Dawes rolls couldn't sell the land, however those on the Freedman rolls could. The members of congress wanted open up more land to settlement by people of European decent and quote unquote civilize the land. To take more of the land without a battle they proceeded to register any darker Cherokee as a freedman and sometimes placing them on the freedman Dawes rolls more than once