TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced on Saturday a new plan that will explore the history of Cherokee Freedmen. The goal of the plan is to provide a better understanding of Cherokee Freedmen history and enhance how those voices are represented within the Cherokee story.

“Cherokee Nation is a better nation for having recognized full and equal citizenship of Freedmen descendants,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Cherokee society will be further enriched, and the cause of equality enhanced, by celebrating Freedmen history and art as part of a whole and complete Cherokee story.”

In 1863, Cherokee Nation passed an act to abolish slavery in the Cherokee Nation, and later those freed slaves and their descendants were granted “all the rights of native Cherokees” through the Treaty of 1866.  A federal court and the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court declared in 2017 that descendants of Freedmen are full Cherokee citizens under the law.

The Cherokee Freedmen Art and History Project is slated to begin in January 2021 and will harness continued conversations and collaboration with Cherokee Freedmen community advisors to elevate the voice of Cherokee Freedmen.

The project will include comprehensive research for historical materials, references, documents and images, as well as an assessment of current interpretations at all tribal sites. Cherokee Nation will utilize the assessment to identify gaps in its representation and storytelling, and develop new content that shares the Freedmen perspective throughout tribal history.

The collaborative content will help educate tribal citizens and the general public through special projects, including a feature exhibit at the Cherokee National History Museum in 2022.

Chief Hoskin also signed an executive order on equality, reiterating Cherokee Nation’s commitment to equal protection and equal opportunity under Cherokee law.  The order directs the tribe’s executive branch to determine whether barriers to equal access to services exist, to remove such barriers, and to establish plans for outreach to Cherokees citizens of Freedmen descent.

“I appreciate Cherokee Nation’s commitment to equality for all citizens and commend Chief Hoskin on his efforts to reach out to Cherokee citizens of Freedmen descent. Telling the Freedmen history is a wonderful thing,” said Cherokee Nation citizen Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Chief Hoskin announced the Cherokee Freedmen Art and History Project and the executive order on equality at the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribe’s virtual conference on Nov.9.