Women (left to right): LeEtta Osborn Simpson (Seminole); Rhonda Grayson (Muscogee); Sharon Linzy Scott (Muscogee), Marilyn Vann (Cherokee), Rosie Khalid (Cherokee); Angela Walton-Raji (Choctaw)
(This group met in Senator Schatz's office after the Senate Hearing)
No others were present at the Senate building, except the Freedmen descendants and invited speakers.
Lto R: Doris Burris Williamson, Terry Ligon, Sharon Linzy-Scott, Calvin Osborne
Terry Ligon, and Calvin Osborne
The hearing began with Congresswoman Maxine Waters addressing the Senate Committee. She was then followed by others representing the BIA, and the various tribes. The only speaker on behalf of the Freedmen was Marilyn Vann long time Freedman advocate, and now an enrolled Cherokee citizen.
Panelists listen to Congresswoman Waters address.
Other speakers spoke about blood--ignoring that they also prevented Freedmen who were connected by blood to them, from being placed on the blood rolls. One after another they spoke, some never answering the questions asked, and others simply clinging to their security blanket of "sovereignty" as sssomething to hide their race-based biases behind.
Note taking during the hearing.
Reflections After the Hearing
Freedmen descendants are those whose ancestors lived with them, were enslaved by them, remained with them when later freed, abided by the same laws created by them, and were part of them. However, today---the descendants of only those who have a certain "blood" are allowed to be a part. Sadly that blood policy also means that if you have a blood tie to a slave, then you are less than they and are to be shunned and forced to remain so--forcing people to carry a "stain" of slavery--a status they never sought.
In Oklahoma today in these nations, educational doors are opened for children, summer camps prevail, STEM educational training abounds, and scholarships and educational grants, are offered, and so much more. There are health benefits for the elderly, housing assistance for those in need, mental health assistance for those also in need, all of which are funded by US Federal dollars.---but the black children have no such access, nor do the elderly black people, many of whom are related to their lighter-skinned enrolled tribal members. Those light to white skinned members are welcomed into the nation, and live with these enriching benefits because they are allowed to have association with the tribe of their ancestors. But the Freedmen cannot have association with the tribe of their ancestors---some of whom are the same as enrolled members. That is the irony and the bittersweet aftermath of American slavery and Indian tribal practice of black chattel slavery.
Today the struggle continues. It is noted that when post Civil-Rights years-- in the 1970s and 1980s these former slave-holding tribes had now embraced the the same "old-south" racist feelings to black citizens, and with the aid of friends and colleagues who had become federal BIA workers. They simply changed their constitutions and quietly removed descendants of slaves from eligibility.
Since then, these same tribes have been able to execute racist policies in the name of "sovereignty" and have been able to ride on national sympathy as victims of the Trail of Tears, bringing in millions of tourist dollars and wealth from casino monies. Their wealth is enhanced by federal funds, and now these slave-holding tribes have become wealthy, large employers, and "good neighbors" to Oklahomans, as long as the neighbors are not Freedmen descended people.
The resilience of the Freedmen from the past is found in the resilience of their descendants today. The fight for equal opportunity continues to fight for the same opportunities that are their birthright. Freedmen never imposed themselves upon tribes it was the tribes that imposed their laws and culture upon them. Today thousands of Freedmen descendants still have a strong identity to the same tribes--simply because that is what they are.
Descendants seek to live full lives complete with the same opportunities that their fellow neighbors, friends and even kin have. This struggle continues because "it is the right thing to do."