Cherokee Nation Announces New Initiative to Explore Freedmen History

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Flag of the Cherokee Indian nation of Oklahoma waving unfurled with blue skies in the background

The Cherokee Nation introduced a plan on Saturday aimed at exploring the history of Cherokee Freedmen, or African Americans who were enslaved by the Indigenous group from the early 1700s until 1863.

“Cherokee Nation is a better nation for having recognized full and equal citizenship of Freedmen descendants,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. “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.”

Through the Cherokee Freedmen Art and History Project, which is set to begin in 2021, the Cherokee Nation will collaborate with Cherokee Freedmen community advisers to highlight the plight of the formerly enslaved.

The project will feature comprehensive research, historical materials, and resources to identify exclusions of Freedmen history in storytelling and develop new content that is inclusive of Freedmen perspectives.

The 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, according to a Cherokee Nation press release.

The new initiative comes at a time when the Trump administration has denounced education on the history of slavery and oppression and more notably discredited The New York Times ‘1619 Project,’ which explores America’s history of slavery.

“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,” Cherokee Nation citizen Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes said in statement.“Telling the Freedmen history is a wonderful thing.”