OKLAHOMA CITY — The Choctaw and Muscogee nations in Oklahoma are considering changes to their constitutions that would allow descendants of Freedmen, Black people once enslaved by tribal citizens, to become tribal citizens.
“The story of Choctaw Freedmen deserves our attention and thoughtful consideration within the framework of tribal self-governance,” Choctaw Chief Gary Batton said in a letter posted on the tribe’s website Thursday.
“To be successful, we’ll have to tell the story of why we believe this is necessary and listen to tribal members’ input,” Batton wrote.
The Muscogee Nation called the question of allowing citizenship to the Freedmen descendants complicated.
“Our shared history has to be acknowledged and discussed,” according to the statement. “This is a challenging issue, with implications that cut to the core of self-determination and will require a thoughtful conversation among our citizenry.”
The issue of tribal citizenship for Freedmen has long been the subject of litigation for the Five Tribes, known historically as the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee and Seminole nations.
The Cherokee Nation earlier this month became the first to grant full citizenship to its Freedmen after its new constitution was approved by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Some descendants of the freed Black people enslaved by Native American nations also once owned much land in Tulsa where a violent attack by white people in 1921 left an estimated hundreds dead.
A commemoration of the May 31-June 1 violence is planned in Tulsa.