TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Examine the history of Black slavery in Cherokee Nation through a new exhibit “We Are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship.”
The exhibit opens this week at the Cherokee National History Museum and details the fight Cherokee Freedmen endured to take back their treaty-protected right to Cherokee Nation citizenship.
“The enslavement of other human beings and the subsequent denial to them and their descendants of their basic rights for over a century is a stain on the Cherokee Nation. It is a stain that must be lifted,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We now have more than 11,800 citizens of Freedmen decent enrolled in Cherokee Nation but our work is just beginning. We remain committed to reconciliation and hope that through this exhibit, we’re able to amplify the voices, stories and futures of Cherokee Freedmen.”
The exhibit is presented as part of the Cherokee Freedmen Art and History Project initiative, established by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., which seeks materials and stories to broaden Cherokee Nation’s understanding of the Cherokee Freedmen experience.
That experience is shared from the earliest known participation of slavery in the 18th century on through various historical milestones in the decades that followed, including: the adoption of plantation-style slavery among Cherokees, Indian Removal to the west and the American Civil War. It also shares how the Treaty of 1866 freed slaves in Cherokee Nation and made them Cherokee Nation citizens.
The exhibit also discusses the steps taken by the tribe to strip Freedmen and their descendants of tribal citizenship and examines the 2017 US District Court ruling that upheld the Treaty of 1866 and reaffirmed Cherokee Freedmen as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.
Cherokee Freedmen stories, histories, images and documents are showcased throughout the exhibit, alongside nine original artworks by Cherokee Nation artists created specifically for this project. The exhibit also features baskets by the late Rodslen Brown, a Cherokee Nation citizen of Freedmen descent.
A special reception will be hosted commemorating the exhibit on Sept. 3 at 2 p.m. at the Cherokee National History Museum. It is open to the public and free to attend.
For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, please call (877) 779-6977 or visit www.VisitCherokeeNation.com.