Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
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EXAMINE

Like the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, as discussed in the Feature Story section, the Cherokee have also entered into treaty agreements with the U.S. government. Native American participation in the Civil War and the policies of Reconstruction that were used to reintegrate the South into the Union also affected the Native American allies of the Confederacy, perhaps most notably the Cherokee. Because the confederate treaties Native groups had made with southern states were voided after the Civil War, these tribes were required to come to new terms with the Union. As a result, further land settlements, amnesty, emancipation of slaves, and other items were negotiated in Reconstruction treaties. The matter of the Cherokee freedmen, former slaves owned by the Cherokee, was one issue that was addressed. In particular, the Treaty with the Cherokee (1866) contained a provision setting aside a portion of the Cherokee Nation for former slaves and for free blacks who had resided in Cherokee lands prior to the war. In 2011, the issue of the Cherokee freedmen reemerged as they fought to preserve their Cherokee citizenship rights, as stated in the 1866 treaty, when the Cherokee national government excluded them from voting in a tribal-wide election. This action mirrored prior efforts in 1890, 1983, 1985, and 2006 to exclude Cherokee freedmen from tribal citizenship rights and benefits.

After reading the Need to Know, Reference Entries, and the items related at right, consider the following questions:
  1. What is a treaty? What are the components of a treaty?
  2. What does the process of treaty making encompass? What is the role of the federal government? What is the role of the tribal authority? Are their objectives similar?
  3. Did Native Americans allied with the Confederacy during the Civil War benefit from this alliance? Why or why not?
  4. How did Reconstruction affect Native Americans allied with the Confederacy? Cite specific examples.
  5. What type of arrangements regarding land distribution did Reconstruction treaties impose on Native Americans allied with the Confederacy? How were these arrangements similar to past treaties? How were they different?
  6. Examine the Treaty with the Cherokee (1866) in detail. What rights and privileges are granted to the Cherokee freedmen?
  7. How is this treaty characteristic of the nature of treaty making between Native American groups and the federal government?
  8. Given the current dispute over Cherokee freedmen membership in the Cherokee Nation, consider if this treaty fully resolves the matter. Why or why not?

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