Photo of Marilyn Vann (Cherokee Freedmen descendent) President of
the 5 tribes Freedmen Association.
This turned up on my talk board, it was taken at the Cherokee Council
meeting, the one with all of the controversy about Marilyn being
barred from speaking like all othere Cherokee that desire can and have.
Comment by David Cornsilk:
Titled: "Interesting Background."
wonderful picture of Cherokee
citizen Marilyn Vann. She is a hero for standing up for the rights of
Cherokee people and putting a face to the heartless oppression heaped
upon the Black Cherokees by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Since 1983 the Freedmen descendants have been fighting for their civil
rights in the CNO. While the whites in Southern states have, at least
in a legal sense, moved beyond their archaic racist attitudes, the
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma clings to a notion of racial purity and
segregation that denies human dignity to our own citizens whether we
are the oppressed or the oppressor.
The population of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is over 90 percent
less than 1/4 Cherokee blood. The most common degrees of Cherokee blood
today are 1/16 and 1/32. The lowest degree of blood enrolled in the CNO
is 1/4096 (a child descended from the lowest degree of blood on the
Dawes Roll of 1/256). Marilyn Vann is 1/8 Cherokee along with some
Chickasaw and Choctaw ancestry, some white ancestry and some African
ancestry. Her degree of Cherokee blood is higher than most of the
members of CNO and higher than some members of the current CNO Council.
Yet, she is not allowed to prove that blood because her ancestors were
listed on the Dawes Roll without their degree of blood. WHY? Because
they had black features, black ancestry, because in the unenlightened
state of the times (1896-1906) it was believed that anyone with black
ancestry was inferior. But there was something even more sinister at
play and that was white greed and access to Cherokee land holdings.
While the 1901 Cherokee Allottment Agreement made all Indian
allottments inalienable, the allottments of the Freedmen and
intermarried whites would not be so restricted and were subject to
sale, taxation, mortgage, forclosure and ultimately, loss. In an effort
to get at more land, the whites attempted to give allottments to all
intermarried whites. Daniel Redbird took the matter to the U.S. Supreme
Court and it was ruled that only those whites married on or before
November 1, 1875 could get land.
It became incumbent upon the grafters in charge of the Dawes Commission
enrollment, both Cherokee and white, to make as much land as possible
available for sale. The only other way to do this was to make as many
Cherokee Indians as possible sign up as Freedmen. Without their
knowledge or consent, the Cherokee citizens of black ancestry, who were
listed as Cherokee Indians previously, suddenly found themselves in a
new category, Freedmen.
There is evidence of Cherokee Indians with black ancestry being placed
on the Freedmen section of the Dawes Roll, even though they did not
belong there. The Dawes Commission and their Cherokee Nation
collaborators applied a rule to the black Cherokees that did not apply
to white Cherokees, that being if their mother was black (no matter how
thin the strain and even if the father was a full blood Cherokee
Indian), the child would be black and placed on the Freedmen section.
There are instances of persons with thin strains of black ancestry,
being mostly Cherokee Indian and/or white being relegated to the
Freedmen section of the Dawes Roll. All of this so that white people
could gain access to more and more Cherokee lands.
But the heinous crimes against the humanity of the black Cherokees
continues today. They are barred from the enjoyment of their Cherokee
citizenship because the racism and greed of the past put their
ancestors on the Roll as Freedmen. The legacy of racism handed to the
Cherokees and taken up by us lives on through the hateful and hurtful
laws governing the registration process of the CNO. The Freedmen
descendants, Cherokee in their own right, have a place in the Cherokee
family, just the same as all other Cherokee citizens.
p.s. The two people in the background of that picture are Freda Vann
(on the left) and Gwen Grayson (non-Indian wife of Joe Grayson Jr., CNO
Deputy Chief). How interesting for them to appear so clearly in the
background, given both of their 'background' activity throughout the