White Americans were not the only ones who kept black slaves in the pre-Civil War era. Until an 1886 treaty that freed their slaves, black slavery was also a part of the Cherokee nation. Generations later, black descendants of those freed slaves, who went on to become part of the Cherokee tribe, are fighting for their right to keep their status as members of the Cherokee nation. Many Cherokee now want to push the freedmen out, unless they can prove they are of blood descent, saying that the treaty of 1866 did not give those freed slaves citizenship.
Marilynn Vann, is the president of the Descendant of Freedmen Association, and one of the Cherokee freedmen who brought a lawsuit against the nation. Circe Sturm, co-director of the University of Texas' Native American and indigenous studies program, is the author of "Becoming Indian: The Struggle Over Cherokee Identity in the 21st Century."