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Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Littlefield: Clarifying The Cherokee Freedmen Issue
Director of the Sequoyah Research Center, Dan Littlefield makes it simple as to why the Cherokee Freedmen are citizens of the Cherokee Nation
The controversy over Freedmen citizenship in the Cherokee Nation has led to misunderstanding and misstatement of historical facts. These misrepresentations come from various sources: citizens who are simply unlearned in Cherokee history, politicians who tend to rewrite Cherokee history to serve their own purposes and out-and-out racists.
No matter who causes the misunderstanding or makes misstatements, all promote a distortion of the historical facts, which must be clarified if Cherokee citizens are to make informed decisions. It is time for them not only to face the facts, but honestly to re-evaluate their positions in light of them. Because so much attention focuses on the work of the Dawes Commission and the Dawes rolls, they should consider the background for making Cherokee rolls and what the Dawes Commission did.
The argument that the Freedmen never had full citizenship rights in the CN prior to the Dawes period is spurious. In 1866, for the first time, the Freedmen gained the first citizenship they had ever held. It was the only citizenship they would have until 1901, when the United States made all of the citizens of the CN citizens of the United States as well. The Freedmen's rights in the Cherokee Nation were guaranteed by the Treaty of 1866, which the CN signed and carried out. It did so admirably, considering the racial climate in the adjoining states at the time.