We Are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

We Are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship

Cherokee Nation has partnered with the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities to further share the story of the Cherokee Freedmen and explore the tribe’s history with Black slavery. This exhibit, “We Are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship,” is now open at 101 E. Archer St.

“This exhibition showcases the journey of Cherokee Freedmen, illuminating an unwavering determination in the face of adversity,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “It serves as a tribute to the enduring spirit of our Freedmen brothers and sisters, and reaffirms our commitment to reconciliation, honoring the deep bond that unites us as Cherokee people.”

The exhibit first debuted in Tahlequah at the Cherokee National History Museum last year, with an impactful narrative that details the fight Cherokee Freedmen endured to take back their treaty-protected right to Cherokee Nation citizenship. The exhibit is presented as part of the Cherokee Freedmen Art and History Project initiative, established by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., which seeks to broaden Cherokee Nation’s understanding of the Cherokee Freedmen experience and ensure that it is included in the greater narrative of Cherokee history.

That experience is shared from Cherokee people’s earliest known participation in chattel slavery in the eighteenth century on through various historical milestones in the decades that followed, including: the adoption of plantation-style slavery among Cherokees, Indian Removal to the west, and the American Civil War. It also shares how the Treaty of 1866 granted freed slaves in Cherokee Nation the same rights as native Cherokees. 

The exhibit also discusses the steps taken by the tribe to strip Freedmen and their descendants of tribal citizenship and examines the 2017 US District Court ruling that upheld the Treaty of 1866 and reaffirmed Cherokee Freedmen as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

“TU’s Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is proud to once again partner with the Cherokee Nation as we seek to tell the stories of this land and those who call it home,” said university President Brad R. Carson, who is a Cherokee citizen. “As the region’s premier institution teaching and examining the arts and humanities, The University of Tulsa is committed to supporting the diverse voices that enrich our city and our state. We value our role in creating community access through our venue in the Tulsa Arts District for organizations like Cherokee Nation to share their programs.”

The exhibit debuts during the First Friday Art Crawl. It will remain on display through Sept. 23, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12 to 5 p.m.

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