Date of Graduation

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

History

Advisor

Daniel Sutherland

Committee Member

Elliott West

Second Committee Member

Jeannie Whayne

Third Committee Member

Andrea Arrington

Keywords

Cherokee, Freedmen

Abstract

In 2011, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court voted to exclude freedmen (descendants of former slaves) from voting, overturning a constitutional amendment that gave freedmen tribal rights. Cherokee freedmen argue that the Cherokee Nation is ignoring the Treaty of 1866 which granted all freedmen "rights as Cherokee citizens", and they call upon federal support to redeem their rights as equals. The Cherokee Nation, however, claims they are exercising tribal sovereignty and have a right to determine who is a member of their tribe. Using a comparative historical approach, the goal of this paper is to explore the institution of slavery among the Cherokees in order to make sense of the current debate concerning descendants of slaves. Placing the freedmen citizenship debate in a historical context will offer a deeper perspective on the arguments of both sides and a better understanding of African American's place in the Cherokee Nation before and after the Civil War, and in the 21st century.

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