FILE – Waynetta Lawrie, left, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, stands with others at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City during a demonstration by several Cherokee Freedmen and their supporters, March 27, 2007.
Freedmen want greater voice in Senate committee hearing
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have invited representatives of the Five Tribes to testify at a July 27 hearing on the status of their Freedmen, the lineal descendants of enslaved African Americans who in the early 1800s accompanied their Native American slaveholders along the Trail of Tears to present-day Oklahoma.
As VOA reported in 2021, the Five Tribes signed treaties in 1866 agreeing to abolish slavery and give the Freedmen “all the rights and privileges of native citizens.”
Detail from Article Two of the ratified Indian Treaty with the Creeks, signed in Washington, DC, June 14, 1866. It calls for Freedmen to ‘enjoy all the rights and priviliges of Native citizens.’
But Freedmen descendants in four of the Five Tribes are not permitted to vote or run for office in tribal elections and are denied federal housing, health and education benefits.
Freedmen advocates complain they were the last to know about the hearing.
“The Tribes knew about it two or three weeks before we did,” according to Eli Grayson, a descendant of Muscogee Creek Black Freedmen.
He told VOA that only one Freedmen spokesperson was invited to testify: Cherokee citizen Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association.
According to the Committee’s invitation, dated July 20, which Grayson posted on Facebook, Vann will be given five minutes to speak about the plight of Freedmen in all Five Tribes and must submit written testimony by July 25.
“It sounds to me like they want to talk to the Tribes and not to Freedmen,” said Grayson, who said three tribal leaders have so far accepted invitations to speak.
VOA reached out to a panel spokesman, who said it isn’t known who will attend.
“When we do know, we will post it on the committee website,” he said.
Five Tribes to testify at Freedmen hearing in U.S. Senate
Pope Francis speaking after the Angelus noon prayer from his studio window overlooking St.Peter’s Square, Sunday, July 17, 2022.
Pope Francis to make ‘penitential pilgrimage’ to Canada
Addressing crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on July 17, Pope Francis characterized his upcoming trip to Canada as “a penitential pilgrimage.”
Francis will travel to Canada on July 24, where he is expected to apologize for the abuses against Indigenous peoples in Catholic residential schools.
“Unfortunately, in Canada, many Christians, including some members of religious institutes, have contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation that in the past have severely harmed Native communities in various ways,” the pope said. “For this reason, I recently received some groups in the Vatican, representatives of Indigenous peoples, to whom I expressed my sorrow and solidarity for the harm they have suffered. And now, I am about to embark on a penitential pilgrimage, which I hope, with God’s grace, will contribute to the journey of healing and reconciliation already undertaken.”
According to the National Catholic Reporter, when Francis arrives in Edmonton, Alberta, he will not be greeted by political leaders but by First Nations elders and survivors of residential schools. From Alberta, he will travel to French-speaking Quebec City and Iqaluit, in the Arctic Canadian territory of Nunavut.
Earlier this year, from March 28 to April 1, Francis met with First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegations at the Vatican, and after hearing their testimony, he expressed “pain and shame” for the abuses they suffered at the hands of Catholic Church leaders.
The Pope’s words at the Angelus prayer, 17.07.2022
Native American woman participating in NDN Collective protest against racist businesses in Rapid City, S.D., April 20, 2022.
NDN Collective calls on Washington
Representatives from the South Dakota-based Indigenous-led NDN Collective were in Washington this week for talks with administration officials, lawmakers and federal agency leaders to discuss ways in which Indigenous communities can have a greater say in how public land is managed.
“We’ve heard commitments and recommitments to support bills – such as the Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Land Act and the Environmental Justice for All Act – that protect our sacred sites and double-down on consent and consultation in issues that will directly affect Tribal people and our communities,” a spokesman for the group told VOA via email.
On Wednesday, the group called on President Joe Biden to take “bold action on climate” by declaring a climate emergency and listening to decades long calls “to put an end to the era of fossil fuel extraction on our public lands.”
NDN Collective was founded in 2018 in Rapid City, South Dakota, with a stated mission to “Defend. Develop. Decolonize.” In 2020, the group received $12 million from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Earth Fund. In March, the group filed a lawsuit against a Rapid City hotel owner and called for a citywide boycott of businesses with racist policies and practices.