Listen to this article here
Two organizations devoted to seeking justice and full citizenship for descendants of freedmen formerly enslaved by the so-called Five Civilized Tribes have scheduled a virtual conference for November 4th from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT.
The Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association and the African Indians of the 5 Civilized Tribes Foundation will jointly host their second virtual conference, according to a press release.
“Many descendants of tribal freedmen now face discrimination in registering as tribal citizens/tribal members, and accessing benefits such as housing and education available to members of federally recognized Indian tribes,” the organizations stated. “Many tribal freedmen descendants battle disenrollment movements led by tribal leaders.”
To register for the conference, visit Eventbrite.
Freedmen descendants fight for their rights
The second annual virtual conference comes less than two months after Freedmen descendants of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation won a historic lawsuit.
On Sept. 27, Muscogee (Creek) Nation District Judge Denette Mouser ruled the Citizenship Board violated the law when it denied citizenships to Freedmen descendants who were able to trace their lineage to the Dawes Roll.
“It’s important to me because it’s my birthright,” Freedmen plaintiff Rhonda Grayson told Muscogee Nation District Judge Denette Mouser during the April trial.
The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole and Creek Nations all, to varying degrees, engaged in slavery and supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.
As a condition for maintaining their land and tribal sovereignty, the U.S. government entered into a series of treaties with each tribal nation known as the Treaties of 1866.
As of 2023, only the Cherokee Nation is fully abiding by the treaty, which mandated that Freedmen descendants shall have full citizenship rights and benefits along with any other tribal member.
Cherokee Nation leads by example
The Cherokee Nation has fully embraced Freedmen descendants into the nation and established a museum exhibit dedicated to telling the truth about the enslavement of Freedmen and the contributions they made to the nation.
Progressive Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. appointed Freedmen descendant Marilyn Vann to the Environmental Protection Commission in 2021. She became the first Cherokee Freedmen descendant in modern history to hold a government position in the Cherokee Nation.
“Well, it makes me feel good that I’m able to use my talents and education hopefully to benefit the tribe,” Vann told High Country News. “And I’m hoping that there are going to be more young people in the Cherokee Nation that are going to go into STEM positions or professions. So, yeah, I feel good. I feel good, and I want to add value.”
Meanwhile, the other four large tribal nations continue to deny full rights to their Freedmen descendants.
Second Virtual Freedmen Descendant Conference
Conference Presenters will include:
- Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
- Attorney and Author Hannibal Johnson.
- Law Professor Carla Pratt.
- Genealogist and Author Angela Walton Raji.
- Genealogist and Historian Nicka Smith.
- Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Kenneth Cooper.
- Attorney Bryan Shade.
- Descendants of Freedmen Association President Marilyn Vann.
Topics will include: The 1866 Treaties, Dawes Tribal Land Allotments, North Tulsa/Greenwood, and Black Indian Territory Soldiers in the Civil War.
Tickets are available through eventbrite. Participants can also donate to the organizations via cash app ( $dftcta ) and paypal (email@example.com ).