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You won't see this in a documentary

Osiyo ginali (Greetings friend),

Nice to meet you -- I am Marilyn Vann, and I'm a proud Cherokee of Freedmen descent. I remember first learning about my Cherokee heritage when I was five years old. I applied for tribal membership in 2001 and was denied because of my Freedmen heritage. But rather than give up, I got to work. In the last 20 years, I've fought to ensure every Cherokee of Freedmen descent can exercise their rights -- and I want to tell you our story.

This Saturday, 2/19 at noon CT, I'll join several guest speakers to discuss the history and legacy of the Cherokee Freedmen. I hope you'll RSVP to join me this Saturday for "ᏣᎳᎩ: Wherever We Are - Cherokee Freedman Edition."

When history books or documentaries portray Native People, you never see people of African ancestry -- but we were there. Cherokees bought, owned, and sold enslaved Africans as early as 1755. During the Removal, Cherokees brought enslaved Africans to Indian Territory and kept most of them in bondage until the Cherokee council passed laws to free slaves in 1863. The Treaty of 1866 permanently ended slavery and granted them full tribal citizenship.

Still, for the next century and a half, our tribal government frequently denied Cherokee of Freedmen descent their rights -- until we took action.

Starting in 2001, I started a movement to challenge the Cherokee Nation's denial of tribal citizenship to Freedmen. I did legal research, founded the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association, and ultimately brought a successful court challenge in U.S. District Court. That case (Vann et al v. Zinke) and a subsequently filed case -- Cherokee Nation v. Nash and Vann -- upheld Freedmen tribal rights for good.

Since then, I've kept up my work fighting Afro-Indigenous discrimination and became the first Cherokee of Freedmen status to serve in our tribal government since the 19th century. It's my honor to join Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner, historian Catherine Foreman Gray, Freedmen historian and advocate Gerome Riley, and other special guests to discuss this important piece of the Cherokee story. Will you RSVP to "ᏣᎳᎩ: Wherever We Are, Cherokee Freedmen Edition" today? I hope to see you this Saturday, February 19 at noon CT.

Wado (Thank you),

Marilyn Vann
Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission
President, Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association

P.S. Would you like to hear Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. answer your question live on air? Respond to this email with your question about Cherokee Freedmen and then tune in on Saturday to see if your question was chosen.


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