Saturday, March 1, 2008

Freedmen vs Cherokee Nation - summary of sorts


The 1866 treaty did not, however, lead to full acceptance of freedmen in the Cherokee Nation. This resistance was largely due to economic factors. In 1880, a census was compiled in order to distribute per capita funds related to recent land sales. In the same year, the Cherokee senate voted to deny citizenship to freedmen who had failed to comply with the 1866 treaty by returning to the Cherokee Nation within six months. However the 1880 census did not even include those freedmen who had never left, claiming that the treaty granted civil and political rights, but not the right to share in tribal assets.[23] Cherokee Chief Dennis Wolf Bushyhead (1877-1887) opposed this action, but was overridden by the Council. The federal government intervened, passing a bill in 1888 mandating that adopted citizens of the Cherokee nation share in tribal assets, and compiled what was known as the Wallace Roll in 1889 to count those who were included (including 3,524 freedmen).[24] The freedmen won the claims court case that followed, Witmire v. Cherokee Nation and United States (30 Ct. Clms. 138(1875)). The Cherokee had already distributed the funds, and the U.S. as co-defendant in the case, was to pay the award. The Kern-Clifton roll completed in 1896 listed 5,600 freedmen who received their portion of the funds in the following decade.[25]

In the midst of all of this, the Dawes Act of 1887 was passed, which converted tribal lands to individual ownership, which was to some degree an attempt at assimilating the Indians. As a part of the act and subsequent bills, the Dawes Commission required a roll which listed people in the Indian Territory under the categories, freedmen, intermarried whites, and Indians by blood. Freedmen were put on the Freedmen Roll regardless if the man or woman had Cherokee blood or not. (those Freedmen that intermarried with Cherokee are indeed listed on the Dawes Roll under Cherokee by Blood, only Freedmen without Cherokee Blood are listed in the Freedmen Roll) The Dawes Rolls of 1902 listed 41,798 citizens of the Cherokee Nation, 4,924 of them freedmen. The 1908 Curtis Act authorized the Dawes Commission to allot funds without the consent of tribal government (both the Dawes and Curtis Acts are seen as great restrictions on tribal sovereignty), and allowed the federal government to extract taxes from white citizens living in the Indian territories. Allotments were distributed, although there have been many claims of unfair treatment,[26] and as the Cherokee Nation was officially dissolved ( Five Tribes Act - April 26, 1906 Section 28: That the tribal existence and present tribal governments of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole tribes or nations are hereby continued in full force and effect for all purposes authorized by law. It is this one sentence set forth by the 59th United States Congress that keeps our Nation in tact today. hmmm, guess this Act just kinda got forgotten) and Oklahoma became a state (1907), by and large the freedmen had self-determination. There were 1,659 freedmen listed on the Kern-Clifton roll were not included in the Dawes Roll[27] who were not given Cherokee citizenship rights. Some have criticized inconsistencies of the Dawes Rolls themselves. For instance, freedwoman Gladys Lannagan in the testimony of members of the Cherokee Freedmen's Association before the Indian Claims Commission on November 14, 1960 reported, "I was born in 1896 and my father died August 5, 1897. But he didn't get my name on the roll. I have two brothers on the roll by blood--one on the roll by blood and one other by Cherokee freedman children's allottees." She stated that one of her grandparents was Cherokee and the other black.[28] Other cases of black Cherokee with at least 1/4 of their grandparents being full Cherokee not being listed as Cherokee by blood have been presented as well.[29]

In 1924, Congress passed a jurisdictional act, which allowed the Cherokees to file suit against the United States to recover the funds paid to freedmen under the Kern-Clifton Rolls in 1894. The result of this suit held that the Kern-Clifton Rolls were only valid for that one distribution, and were superseded by later rolls. The Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946 again stirred interest in the status of the 1,659 freedmen included in the Kern-Clifton but not the later roll.

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