Cherokee Nation faulted for ousting Freedmen
Indianz.Com > News > Cherokee Nation faulted for ousting Freedmen A former leader of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma faulted his tribe on Friday for ousting the descendants of former African slaves.
Former principal chief Joe Byrd said the tribe's March referendum to deny citizenship to the Freedmen smacked of racism. He called on his successor, Chad Smith, to "do the right thing" and put an end to an issue that has generated significant national legal and political controversy.
"We were all created equal," Byrd said at a Congressional Black Caucus panel in Washington, D.C. "Do not look at the color of ones' skin to justify or try to rationalize your decisions."
Byrd said tribes have a right to define their membership. But the Cherokee Nation's 1866 treaty with the United States requires the Freedmen and their descendants to be treated just like other Cherokees, he said.
"The Freedmen came with us on the Trail of Tears," he recalled. "They delivered babies with us. They died with us. They ate with us. They buried our dead. They were one of us."