As Freedmen of the Five Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Nations) now located in Oklahoma, we have precarious relationships with our tribes of origin. Freedmen descend from those enslaved by tribal members in the 1700 and 1800s, as well as Native people who had been tribal members since before European contact and free Black people who were tribal citizens and members at the time of Dawes enrollment in the late 1800s. With the Treaties of 1866, all five of the Five Southeastern Tribes abolished slavery and promised their Freedmen citizenship and equal rights. However, in all of these tribes but the Cherokee Nation, Freedmen are either denied tribal citizenship rights or deemed second-class citizens.
In the Seminole Nation, Seminole Freedmen are enrolled as partial and unequal tribal members and are counted when the Seminole Nation requests federal funding but are excluded from any tribal housing, healthcare, or educational programs or funding on account of their race--a modern Three-Fifths Compromise.
In the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek Nations, “Freedmen” are not only denied housing, healthcare, and educational programs, but are also denied basic citizenship and voting rights on account of their race and their ancestors’ statuses as Black and/or enslaved people. Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek Freedmen are also excluded from protections afforded Native children in the Indian Child Welfare Act on account of being excluded from tribal citizenship. These modern-day Jim Crow policies can no longer be tolerated.