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.”

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page




thechief's picture
So youre neither a cherokee or a freedmen, correct? Do you think a foreign government should make decisions on citizenship of another foreign nation? I think thats what the other readers are pointing out. Sovereignty should be respected. Do you think we are racist or protecting our soveignty?
wisgriz's picture
KHorton Are you aware of the Indian Civil Right's Act of 1968? Do you even know this exist's? I went through it and I believe the Cherokee did the proper protocol in their process with the people in question. My understanding is limited about the Freedmen. I asked my professor about this topic. He said that Andrew Johnson forced this on the Cherokee because they sided with the South during the Civil War. The Freedmen were slaves with no Indian lineage. The Treaty forced the Cherokee to take them as citizen's of their nation. Because they sided with the South. My understanding of the Cherokee during the Civil War was that the nation was divided about the war. The Cherokee nation suffered greatly during the Civil War. Was the 1866 Treaty a punishment to Cherokee because they sided with the South? May I remind you Andrew Johnson was a Southerner. I value my professor's longevity. I learned well from him and other's. I have my B.A. in Native American Study's from the University of Montana. Are you aware Congresswoman Diane Watson (C.A.) wanted to do to the Cherokee? She wanted to abolish their treaty after Obama got into office. Dianne Watson also said she was descended from Pocohanta's. How condesending and patronizing is that! Are you aware of this comment she made?How come she didn't go after the tribe's in California for disenrollment John Lewis went and investigated this issue. He came away after investigating both sides that the Cherokee didn't nothing wrong. Why didn't you right on that or didn't you know about that Why do Blacks (CBC) have such pull that they can do whatever they want? Did King forget about Indians? How come Blacks don't have any depth of who we are as a people. Has assimilation clouded your view's of our standing in the country. WE ARE NOT BLACKS. Cherokee exercised their sovreignty. John Lilly is white not Indian. As a sovreignty people we decide our path to exist as a nation. You need to take some NAS course's. Griz509
rainy's picture
Tha fact that the Feds disagree with the Freemens issue, and have suspended $33 million and won't recognize the newly elected Chief, is colonization at its best or worst depending on how you look at it. I empathize with African Americans in their fight for equality. But also African Americans must understand that Indigenous people have been fighting for the land for generations and we don't want to be equal to any one, specifically the Euro-Americans. But the fact that the Feds want us to be good Native Americans and good African Americans is an insult to every Native and African American through out America. The Feds have always had control of our destiny and they always will. They have conditioned us so well that we're led to believe we are the problem. We are not the problem. The fact that we are colonized makes it a problem for every Native American and every African American. De-colonized your thoughts and accept the situation for what it is...there is a solution!
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
thechief's picture
Seriously, can't ICT get an author that can actually confirm there indian blood. Last year they had a Choctaw/African American woman who also had an African Alias name claim that she got kicked out of a powwow because she was black. Seriously, what did she expect she didn't even know she was indian until she did a study on her lineage. Now, we have this woman whose choctaw grandpa had to fight his whole life just to be prove he was indian. What were her parents? Choctaw or black? To make matters more complicated she's not even cherokee or a freedmen. She only has "ties" to the choctaws, whatever that means. If ICT wants an actual half black/indian person their are alot around that can easily be identified and can easily be confirmed that they are in fact part native. i have a few cousins that are. I can have them write a few articles about us racist natives.
zelbe1's picture
It is unfortunate that the Cherokees have taken this route of disenfranchising a historical mark in the chapter of native America with regards to the Freedmen cause. As a full blooded native, being enrolled in the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, does not give much room for being native either. You see, I too, receive no quarter or recognition for being Kiowa. I am discouraged and eliminated from participating in tribal affairs and elections also, so I know what disenfranchised means, even as a full blood. In the Kiowas case, the tribe has never been able to expand outside of Carnegie Oklahoma. Its revenues, jobs, programs and services are contained in this small rural community in southwest Oklahoma even though many tribal members live across the nation in many states. I do not believe however, that this problem is simply a Kiowa or Cherokee phenomenon. I believe it to be an Oklahoma thing. Oklahomans and the State government of Oklahoma have done a real successful job in keeping that state and its people, non-natives included, in an acceptable and perpetual state of segregation and division. Divided by the strongly conservative and religious rule has kept and continues to keep Oklahomans in the dark ages with racism and white supremacy, not on the ground levels, but in its leadership and economic structures. An Obama presidency seems to keep its main publisher, the daily Oklahoman in a fit of discomfort, tossing and turning on a bed of ashes praying for the demise of our first black president. Its very painful for them, and sadly along with this racism is the added native populations and their leadership that has always been in bed with the good ol'boy system, especially the more expansive tribes in the eastern part of the state like the Cherokees and Choctaws, that represent, cater to and ignore whats left of their full bloods. In my case, the Kiowa have done the same. They have caved in to their oppressors religious and political conservative enemies votes and loyalties against one another. The whiteman has conquered the Cherokees and the Kiowas because they are actively and successfully divided within and without for their decisions to exclude and isolate tribal members that do not live around Talequah or Carnegie so we can therefore name these tribes, the Carnegie Tribe of Oklahoma and the Talequah Nation of Oklahoma?
rezzdog's picture
Settle down there Chief. Don't sugar coat it, tell us what you really think. Send me your documents, your papers, as per your own suggestion, but who will sit in judgement to decide if being an IRA, Federally Registered, BIA card carrying Indian makes you any wiser than the next shmoe who comes down the pyke with a point of view they want to share in our comments section. As of now, you shared nothing of relevance other than your anger, but, anger at what? The woman shared her view, so what? What is it you really want to say? Take your time. Ray Cook, ICTMN Op/Ed Editor
thechief's picture
Let me put it into something you might understand. If she made moccasins and wrote "Indian Made" would she be in violation of the Indian Arts and crafts Act?