Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Removal of Freedmen - Official & Ongoing since 1938

The recent actions this week of the Cherokee Nation to remove the Cherokee Freedmen once again, and just prior to a runoff election of a chief who has worked diligently for their removal brings back interesting memories of days of segregation, voting rights and voting prevention by those in power.

However, looking at historical records, it is also clear that such sentiments have interesting origins emanating from the Bureau of Indian Affairs over 70 years ago.

There was a fear that Freedmen-descendants of slaves held by the Five Tribes would eventually outnumber the other members of the tribe--and so to prevent any power to emerge from Freedmen and their descendants, official anti-black policies were established by the BIA, and expressed in written documents.

This sentiment was a national one, was one in which persons with African Ancestry regardless of other mixtures in their lineage--were to be excluded systematically and officially in all aspects of American life. This was warmly embraced in the Five Slaveholding Tribes.

The actions of exclusion in 2011 are merely following a seven-decades old policy that is now perceived to be logical, in spite of its illogical and illegal nature.

Further documents from the BIA:


The most interesting documents reflect the numbers that the BIA had presented as the current population of Freedmen.  Keeping in mind that this document was created in the 1930s, in the years prior to World War II, it appears that until that time, the numbers of Freedmen descendants was still being kept. They had significantly grown since the numbers admitted during the years of the Dawes Commission.

There is a tremendous lesson, in particular the need to learn the history and the facts that reflect the efforts of the descendants of former slaves from Five Tribes which held them in bondage and their efforts to find a place and meaning in a land where history has forgotten them.

 Their stories are important and like all stories, deserve to be told.

1 comment:

kcooper said...

Thanks for posting this, Angela, though the memo does seem to say the Cherokee Nation can do what it has just done--eject Freedmen on blood quantum grounds. 1938 was a different time than now in America; I doubt a federal court--even the conservative Republican Supreme Court would count such a blatant racial distinction. The US Senate should be upset that a treaty it approved has been unilaterally abrogated.