Red over Black: Black Slavery among the Cherokee Indians

By R. Halliburton Jr. | Go to book overview

Section 7 was amended to read:

All male citizens, who have attained the age of eighteen years, shall be deemed qualified electors of the Cherokee Nation, and there shall be no restrictions by law, save such as are required for persons convicted of crime, or for such limit as to residence, not exceeding six months in the district where the vote is offered, as may be required by census or registration.

Article VII was then appended and Section 1 read:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, shall ever hereafter exist in the Cherokee Nation, otherwise than in the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and any provision of the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation conflicting with the foregoing section, is hereby annulled.29

Cherokee slaves apparently were less cognizant that freedom would be a result of a Union victory than their southern counterparts. Many Cherokee slaves had been taken from the Nation to "safety," others had fled to freedom. Therefore, sizable numbers of freedmen were ignorant of the treaty clause which provided for their right of incorporation into the tribe if they returned within six months. Consequently, large numbers either did not return or returned too late to qualify for the benefits stipulated in the treaty. Refugee freedmen who returned after January 19, 1867, discovered that they were not citizens, but intruders.

Cherokee freedmen observed August 4 as the anniversary of their freedom. Emancipation actually occurred during February 1863, but for unknown reasons August 4 continues to be observed. Picnics, oratory, singing, and "bountiful repasts" have always been a part of the celebration observed across the old Cherokee Nation.30


NOTES
1.
H. M. Rector to John Ross, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 129 vols. ( Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1900), series I, vol. 13, pp. 490-491. Hereafter cited as Official Records.
2.
Ibid., pp. 491-492.

-136-

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