The U.S. Senate held a hearing on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at 1:30 pm (CST). The hearing’s focus was on Freedmen’s status and rights as full citizens in their respective tribal nations. The full name of the hearing was the Oversight Hearing on Select Provisions of the 1866 Reconstruction Treaties between the U.S. and Oklahoma Tribes.

As focus of that hearing examined the status of Freedmen in the five civilized tribes, only one Freedmen person had been invited to speak before the panel. It is noted that representatives from all 5 tribes were also invited to speak.

The lone Freedmen rep is Mrs. Marilyn Vann who is a Cherokee Freedmen and has 5 minutes to relate over 155 years of disenfranchisement in five separate tribes. She is known for being the main litigant in the lawsuit filed against the Cherokee Nation concerning the Freedmen. Ms. Vann and the Cherokee Freemen were victorious in that suit in 2017 and the Cherokee tribe has been re-enrolling their Freedmen citizens.

Conversely, the other four tribes Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminoles, still remain adverse to re-enrolling their Freedmen as full citizens. Additional reasoning for the hearing is to determine the relevance of changing the language in the Native American Housing and Self Determination (N.A.H.A.S.D.A.) bill which funds housing for Indians. Basically, to prevent tribes from using federal funds to practice racism. A number of questions come up when considering fair and equitable treatment for the Freedmen in these processes. Why was only one Freedmen representative chosen when there exist a bevy of qualified, articulate Freedmen representing all five tribes? Why were the tribes given early notice about this hearing while Ms. Vann only received about 2 weeks’ notice? Why is so much attention focused on the Indians who may lose housing money and no one cares about the generations of Indian Freedmen who’ve been consistently denied any assistance for several generations?

Kenneth Ford