Freedmen History
By David Cornsilk:

The freed slaves of the Cherokee were first put on a roll in 1870 they had to have testimony from their master or slave-owning Cherokee family that they had actually been a slave of a Cherokee and they had returned to the Cherokee Nation by February 1867 to meet the requirement of the Treaty of 1866. That roll is called the Tompkin Roll. Another roll was made of the freed slaves and their children born after slavery in the 1880s called the Kern-Clifton Roll It was made to give a payment to adopted Cherokee including Shawnees, Delawares and freedmen.

The Cherokees disputed the accuracy of this roll and it was never used again. A second roll was made in an effort to be more accurate and its called the Wallace Roll The number of freedmen on it was reduced by about 1,000 and the Cherokee Nation accepted it as accurate. In 1880 the Cherokee Nation had made a census of its citizens, listing them according to the origin of their citizenship, ie native (by blood) or adopted. The freedmen who were recognized by the Cherokee Nation were placed on that roll as either "adopted colored" or "native colored" depending upon whether they were recognized to have Cherokee blood or not. Some who ended up on the Dawes Roll as freedmen are actually listed as "native Cherokee"
in 1880. 

The Cherokee Nation took two more major census before the Dawes Roll; one in 1890 and the final one in 1896. Both rolls enumerate the freedmen as citizens of the Cherokee Nation. When the Dawes Commission was creating its final roll of Cherokee citizens a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court styled Redbird Vs. U.S.
Daniel Redbird, a Keetoowah full blood alleged that the intermarried whites and freedmen had no right to a share in the lands of the Cherokee Nation. Even though the Cherokee Nation was the plaintiff in that case and the federal government was not a party, they both helped Redbird make his case. The Supreme Court ruled that the freedmen were citizens of the Cherokee Nation, the words of  the Treaty of 1866 granting "equal rights to Native Cherokee" meant that with their citizenship they got both a right of soil and suffrage (vote) just like Cherokees by blood.

The court also ruled that the intermarried whites were split in half. Those who had married a Cherokee Indian before Nov. 1st 1875 had acquired both a right of soil and suffrage, but those who had married after only got suffrage. Those who married after that date were stricken from the roll. This was due to a change in Cherokee law governing the rights of intermarried whites to acquire land. The Dawes Commission took great care in listing the freedmen on the roll. Cherokee Nation lawyers witnessed each enrollment and challenged those that were questionable. In an agreement between the Dawes Commission and the Cherokee Nation only those freedmen who had been previously accepted by the tribe on the Wallace Roll, 1880 Roll or 1896 Roll would be considered. The Kerns-Clifton Roll was rejected completely. Just like other Cherokees, each freedmen had to prove he/she was listed on one of the previously accepted rolls and that he/she had been a bonefide resident in the Cherokee Nation for no less than ten years. The Dawes Rolls for all classes of Cherokee citizens were closed by an Act of Congress on March 6, 1906.

There is much mythology that has grown up around the Roll. One of those was the notion that the degree of blood mattered in regard to land. The Cherokee allottment agreement provided that ALL allottments would be restricted (protected from sale or incumberance) for a period of 25 years.

This restriction was placed on the land of every class of Cherokee citizen including freedmen and intermarried whites. The 1904 Goat decision in the federal court removed the restrictions from the freedmen allottments because the courts ruled they were, not being stupid Indians, capable of handling their own affairs. This freed up thousands of acres of land for sale, graft and white settlement. The intermarried whites were next when their protections were legislated away.

The freedmen tried to restore their restricted status in the Sango case but the federal court ruled that a freedmen, even though Sango was 7/8 Creek by blood, was still a freedmen is listed that way on the roll. The court ruled that the Dawes Roll was created to determine the disposition of land, not citizenship and thus, someone might be Indian for one purpose, but not Indian for another. Immediately following Oklahoma statehood two Cherokees serving in Congress introduced bill after bill stripping by blood Indians of their protections. By the 1930s the only tribal members still protected were those of 1/2 blood or higher.

The tribal allottment agreements, particularly that of the Cherokees, was shredded to pieces. Congress made the restrictions on the land of 1/2 bloods or higher permanent and removeable only by a court order in the 1950s. So with this knowledge we can easily dismiss the myth that our ancestors listed themselves as anything other than the degree of blood they actually were, or very close to it because the enrollment came before the agreement.

The freedmen voted in all Cherokee elections up to the close of the tribal government in 1906. At least six freedmen were elected to the tribal council during that period, gaining the vote and confidence of both freedmen and Cherokees by blood in their districts. The first freedmen elected to council was Jerry Alberty in 1883. The last was Stick Ross from Tahlequah in 1893. After 1906 there were no votes taken for Cherokees until 1970. In 1970 then principal chief W.W. Keeler held an election for chief where about 2000 Cherokees voted, of which about 200 were freedmen. Cherokees then went to the polls every four years and there is ample evidence freedmen participated in each election in small numbers, usually around 200-500 votes.

In 1983, in a contentious election between Ross Swimmer and his deputy chief Perry Wheeler, Swimmer became convinced the freedmen were going to vote in a block against him, so he booted them out just before the election, which is what happen this time too. Their expulsion in 1983 lead to a federal court case which directed the freedmen to file their case in tribal court. The plaintiff in the federal case died. A few years later a freedman named Bernice Riggs filed suit in tribal court trying to both prove she had Cherokee blood the Dawes Commission ignored and that as a freedmen, she had a right to vote.

Chad Smith had already become chief and appointed a new court who, like this most recent Chad court, ruled against the freedmen. The Riggs court did take note of the fact Bernice Riggs proved she had Cherokee blood, but said since the BIA won't give her a CDIB card, she was not eligible. A few years passed and the freedmen attempted to vote in 2003, but were denied. They filed a federal suit, which is the one that has permitted them to vote this time. Meanwhile, in 2004 Lucy Allen, a freedmen,  filed suit in tribal court court against the council for violating the Cherokee constitution by adding an extra requirement to enrollment, the CDIB card. She alleged and the court agreed, that anything added to the constitutional requirement of just having a Dawes enrolled ancestor was unconstitutional. Chad Smith tried to get the council to put the question of freedmen membership on the ballot, but that failed.

So he used his employees to carry a petition against the freedmen. In a case before the tribe's supreme court the freedmen proved that petition was filled with fraud and fogeries, but Chad's handpicked judges approved it anyway. A vote was rushed by Smith before the 2007 general election so that he could expell the freedmen before he had to face their votes, just like Swimmer did in 1983. Little time was give for freedmen to register or to educate the Cherokee voters about the freedmen.

Smith began calling them non-Indian freedmen, ignoring the fact that his own court had noted they had Cherokee blood ignored by the Dawes Commission  in 1906. He painted them as newcomers and only after our casino money, even though their fight for rights centered mostly on voting and began long before we had casinos or much money at all. The freedmen have been with us for over 140 years. As members of the tribe before their expulsion in 1983 their numbers were counted for federal funding, which brought money to the tribe. As members now, that will be the case again. And they will be eligible for car tags, which will bring even more money to the tribe's treasury. Certainly some will be eligible for services based on poverty, but their numbers will increase the funding base to accomodate them.

In a study done by Chad Smith's health employees back in 2005 it was shown that the number of freedmen eligible for services will not significantly impact the tribe because of the money they will bring in and the fact that they, like our own population, have doctors, lawyers, educators and other professionals who won't need or be eligible for services. In my own research into the ancestry of the freedmen listed on the Dawes Rolls, I have found a significant number of them had Cherokee Indian blood the Dawes Commission ignored. They were made to appear as non-Indians because the racist view then was negro blood so tainted you that you could not be anything but black if you had one drop of black blood. I find it funny that we today, even those of us who are higher blood quantums, will easily accept a thin blood such as Cara Cowan Watts with 1/256 blood quantum as a Cherokee, but we won't accept a 1/2 blood with negro features as a Cherokee. Not much has changed since the era of racism and segregation I guess.