One of the largest Native American tribes in the U.S. is trying to amend its connections to the historic slavery of Black people.
Chuck Hoskin Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, acknowledged that Cherokee people once participated in the enslavement of Black people years ago to mirror the norms of white settlers, according to an interview with Axios. Now, tribe officials are looking for descendants of Freedmen, formerly enslaved Black Americans, to share the stories of their ancestors.
This is another huge shift in the discussion over Freedmen descendants in the Cherokee Nation. In February 2021, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled to remove certain language from their tribal laws, allowing Freedmen descendants to officially be recognized by the tribe. There are around 8,500 enrolled citizens of Freedmen descent, according to NPR.
They also say this is a way to atone for their past actions.
"The act of slavery, which was condoned by a Cherokee law, was wrong and a stain on the Cherokee Nation," Hoskin says. "As chief, I apologize that we did that, and then we're taking affirmative steps to remedy that."
Cherokee nation launched the Cherokee Freedmen History Project last year, which aims to give a voice to Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants. Officials have sought oral stories, photographs, and memorabilia from Oklahoma and California families for the project. Reporters say the goal is to bring an exhibit focused on Cherokee Freedmen to life in the Cherokee National History Museum.