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Black Cherokee

Little known information regarding American genealogy.


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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Melissa Slate
Word Count: 460 (approx.)
Labels: Native American 
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The Black Cherokee is an Indian sect whose story is little known. The ancestry of this group is a mixture of African American and Cherokee Indian. In the early part of the 19th Century, Indian tribes of the Southeast sometimes had African American slaves. Intermarriage between the two groups did occur, and children were fathered by Cherokee men and African American slave women. The Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole) were the tribes that kept slaves.

George Washington encouraged the Cherokee to grow crops such as cotton and flax on a large scale to meet economic needs that were not being met with the trade in furs and pelts. This further necessitated the need for labor among the Cherokee tribes.

Between the years of 1831 to 1839, the Eastern Cherokee were rounded up and forced from their homes along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma (Indian) Territory. The government took the lands of the Eastern Cherokee by force when they had refused to give it up willingly. The African American slaves and families of mixed blood ancestry within this group were also removed by way of the Trail of Tears. Some sixteen hundred free men of color also walked the Trail of Tears, alongside the others.

The Treaty of 1866 abolished slavery in the Indian Territory, but most of the persons of mixed and African American ancestry remained. Another fact that is not commonly known is that for the most part the Cherokee fought on the Confederate Forces side during the Civil War, mainly over the issue of slavery. Oklahoma Freedmen made up some of the members of all African American Union regiments during the war.

Descendants of the Black Cherokee today are fighting for recognition among the Cherokee nation. To be recognized as Cherokee, they have to be able to trace Cherokee Lineage through the Dawes roles; however most black Cherokee were excepted from the rolls. Though the Treaty of 1866 gave the Black Cherokee full rights among the Cherokee Nation, they now find it almost virtually impossible to be able to claim their rights. Court appeals by descendants of the Cherokee Blacks attempting to regain their rights are still in the court processes.

The history of the Black Cherokee is quite interesting and quite complicated. There are two many issues and too much information to absorb in one sitting. However, for those researching Native American or African American genealogy, some valuable clues may be found to brick wall ancestors by exploring this avenue. An excellent web site with numerous links to other areas is available at:

Please take some time to look at this forgotten piece of the heritage of all of America, regardless of your ethnic heritage. Genealogy is all about learning and we will all be better for it.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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