Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole and Chickasaw) and their supporters will demonstrate outside the Muskogee Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building at 3 p.m. Friday. The building address is 3100 W. Peak Blvd.
The focus of the demonstration is to highlight BIA refusal to enforce 1866 treaty rights of Creek Freedmen by litigating on behalf of the freedmen in federal court. The BIA has a legal responsibility to protect the rights of individual tribal members and descendants of tribal members protected by treaties between their tribe and the U.S. government.
Creek freedmen descendants' ancestors were enslaved by tribal law solely due to their race prior to the Civil War but were granted citizenship in the tribe in 1866 by treaty agreements between the U.S. government and the tribes. The freedmen after the Civil War were registered as tribal members by the U.S. government Dawes Commission approximately 110 years ago when tribal lands owned in common by all tribal members were divided into individual allotments. In prior years, Freedmen not only voted but held tribal political offices and served as tribal judges.
BIA officials – who prior to the late 1970s protected political and economic rights of the black Creek freedmen – approved a constitution in 1979 allowing disenrollment of Creek freedmen tribal members and the Creek freedmen descendants since then have been denied the right to vote, hold office and receive federally funded tribal services.
"On June 14, 1866, the treaty between the U.S. government and the Creek Nation guaranteed permanent citizenship to the Creek freedmen and their descendants including rights of voting, office holding and property rights," said Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen Association. "It is the duty of the BIA to protect the freedmen from disenrollment, racism, and discrimination. Ancestors of Creek freedmen descendants crossed the Trail of Tears and now have crossed the second trail where the tribe has rewritten history and denied the rights of widows, preachers, deacons, and veterans whose ancestors served as tribal councilman and protected the tribe during the Civil War while serving in the Indian Home Guard. Voting rights are as precious to Creek freedmen descendants as to any other tribal member.“
All persons who oppose racism and support treaty rights are encouraged to bring their signs and to demonstrate with the freedmen descendants.
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