Posted on May 29, 2021

Descendants of Blacks Enslaved by Indigenous People Push Back Against Renaming Columbus Day at County Hearing

Stefano Esposito and Nina Molina, Chicago Sun-Times, May 24, 2021

Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore said Monday that before a vote can be taken on whether the county should change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, major tribes in the U.S. should “acknowledge their role in the rich history of Black slaves.”

Moore, who said he is a direct descendant of a Choctaw Freedman, said tribes have unfairly denied descendants full tribal membership — and are excluding them from such benefits as education and housing assistance and casino profits.

“They are discriminating against us, and if they do not want to recognize the Freedmen and their descendants, they should no longer accept nor receive federal taxpayers’ dollars based upon the census population of the Freedman,” Moore said in a statement.


The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee [Creek] and Seminole nations were referred to historically as the Five Civilized Tribes, or Five Tribes, by European settlers because they often assimilated into the settlers’ culture, adopting their style of dress and religion, and even owning slaves. {snip}

Today, the Cherokee Nation is the only tribe that fully recognizes the Freedmen as full citizens, a decision that came in 2017 after years of legal wrangling.


Other descendants of Freedmen, mostly from Oklahoma, attended the meeting virtually and proposed postponing the vote. Many told their ancestors’ histories and their own encounters with racism perpetuated by their tribes.

“I am extremely sensitive to the horrific treatment of indigenous people. In fact, Columbus himself is a powerful sign of white supremacy,” said Kristi Williams, a Creek Freedmen descendant and committee member for the Greater Tulsa African-American Affairs Commission. “But how can I be in support of commemorating the history and culture of my ancestors’ slave master?”