Cherokee Freedmen and the Color of Belonging

Inniss, Lolita Buckner

This Article addresses the Cherokee Nation and its historic conflict with the descendants of its former black slaves, designated Cherokee Freedmen. This Article specifically addresses how historic discussions of black, red, and white skin colors, designating the African-ancestored, aboriginal (Native American), and European ancestored people of the United States, have helped to shape the contours of color-based national belonging among the Cherokee. The Cherokee past practice of black slavery and the past and continuing use of skin color-coded belonging not only undermines the coherence of Cherokee sovereignty, identity, and belonging but also problematizes the notion of an explicitly aboriginal way of life by bridging red and white cultural difference over a point of legal and ethical contention: black inequality.

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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October 31, 2016