Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cherokee FREEDMEN Demonstrate Outside BIA

Descendants of Freedmen and Supporters Demonstrate outside Bureau of Indian Affairs Office in Muskogee Oklahoma for Treaty Rights on September 19 2008

On September 19 2008, Black Descendants of Freedmen and their supporters demonstrated outside the Muskogee Oklahoma BIA office. The freedmen are persons of African descent whose ancestors were enslaved by Indians of the “Five Civilized Tribes” prior to 1866. The tribes (Cherokee, Creek Seminole, etc) declared war on the United States in order to keep persons of African descent enslaved. The former slaves and their descendants were guaranteed tribal citizenship and rights to tribal programs, per capita payments, rights to vote and to hold office by both the US Government and the tribes through the 1866 treaties. Currently the freedmen have been disenrolled or face disenrollment proceedings in the tribes and also face discrimination in accessing tribal benefits such as health services or educational benefits provided to members of federally recognized Indian tribes by the US government.

The black freedmen and supporters carried signs demanding that the BIA enforce treaty rights of the black freedmen. Other signs reminded the BIA that only Congress can change treaties.
The majority of persons demonstrating were Cherokee freedmen tribal members whose tribal memberships are currently deemed by the tribe to be “temporary” after a freedmen disenrollment movement led by Principal Chief Smith resulted in a vote to expel the freedmen in which less than 9,000 persons voted out of a tribal membership of 280,000 people. Almost none of the freedmen people were permitted to vote. The tribe, which receives 80% of its budget (more than 300 million dollars) from the US government (ie the US taxpayers) has spent millions of dollars in lobbying and legal actions to discourage Congressional intervention, build public support for its freedmen removal campaign and shut down a lawsuit regarding the rights of Cherokee freedmen filed in the Federal courts in 2003 (Vann versus Kempthorne).

The tribe has refused to register as recognized tribal members more than 23,000 descendants of Dawes enrolled Cherokee freedmen tribal members – persons who are currently barred from participating in educational and health service programs, etc.

Angela Molette, President of the Enid NAACP branch and a disenrolled Choctaw freedmen descendant reminded attendants of continuing support of the NAACP for freedmen treaty rights. Marilyn Vann, a “temporary Cherokee freedmen citizen”, and Ron Graham (a disenrolled Creek Freedmen descendant), as Descendants of freedmen Association officers, exhorted attendants to continue to fight for treaty rights through lobbying, economic action, etc. They encouraged attendants to come to Washington DC to attend the September 26th panel on Freedmen issues sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Panel participants include Marilyn Vann, attorney Jon Velie and Mr Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Chief.


Anonymous said...

What has the BIA done for any of the Native American Indian tribes who have experienced the same sort of ethnic cleansing that the Freedman have experienced? Where can you turn when even your appointed bureau does not care? Who can best step in to rectify all this inconsistency and misrepresentation?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts about how Temecula, the surrounding area, and the tribe itself would be different today if the wrong done to hundreds of Pechanga's members had never happened.

Creeper said...

Those who where in the endless moratorium would really like to know the answer to that question.
How would it be today?

just do it said...

Those of Us who are no longer patronizing the PECHANGA CASINO
are asking this question...
how would you have done things differently?
How would you have improved this
Tribes bad behaviour?
Would you have embraced all your relatives?
Would you have elected Tribal leaders with good moral judgement?
The Tribe had many chances to undo
the harm they've done, but current leadership failed to do so.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it make us awear of the importance of each moment's decisions. There's very little room for error when we have our people's lives and hearts at stake!
Can we take this lapse to prepare for the next time; to teach our children the significance of sound leadership and accountability? There will be a next time, we must be ready.
To give these thoughts that come from the many hours of soul searching to our congressmen may be important. Especially when they can see the difference a people who care for their relatives, their neighbors, their land could make this time!

The Local Crank said...

The Freedmen had a float in the Cherokee National Holiday float. My boys and I cheered for them. At least they seemed to be received politely by the crowd, by which I mean no one threw anything at them. Unfortunately, unless the DC Court of Appeals decision is reversed by the Supremes, Chad Smith will likely get away with his redwash of Cherokee history.

Anonymous said...

Smith won't get away with it if the Freedmen of all tribes keep together and get more of their people into the fold.

All Indians that have been denied their civil rights should stand up with the Freedmen in their struggle.

Rep. Diane Watson needs to look into what is going on in her own state as well.

US Migrant said...

The Cherokee Nation accepts this outcome, but reaching this conclusion was not easy and will not be easy for some to accept. There are some within the Cherokee Nation and Indian country that insist we should continue to fight to protect a right to exclude the Freedmen descendants from citizenship in the Nation, feeling that accepting the federal court’s interpretation of the treaty limits our Nation’s “sovereignty” and inherent right to self-determination.