But one of the darkest chapters of Cherokee history had disappeared from its walls until recently.
The exhibit, which greets museum visitors when they first step in, is one of several recent steps taken by the Cherokee to take into account the history of slavery.
“This museum exhibit not only adheres to the legal requirements of equality, but truly embraces the spirit of equality and, frankly, is the latest in an ongoing effort to explore this part of Cherokee history.” For generations,” Chuck Hoskin Jr., chief of the Cherokee Nation, told CNN.
Freed Cherokee slaves were long denied their rights
The history of Cherokee freedmen spans from the late 18th century to the present day.
“I want my children and grandchildren to be proud that for a century and a half the descendants of freedmen have been denied their rights and that we have continued to do so for so long. I want you to grow up in a world that is completely disconcerting to be in,” Hoskin said. “I think we have become a stronger nation by recognizing the rights of free people and the rights of their descendants.”
Freedmen Finally Recognized as Cherokees
The four walls surrounding the exhibit bear the names of more than 5,000 Cherokee freedmen.
“For a long time, those names and voices were left behind,” said Travis Owens, vice president of cultural tourism for Cherokee Nation Business. It stands out very much.”
The walls are inscribed with the names of Wiladin Johnson’s ancestors.
Johnson’s maternal and paternal great-grandparents walked a trail of tears with Cherokee slaves. She and some of her family members received Cherokee citizenship cards in 2006, but over the years, she said, had to fight to be recognized. On September 3, her family traveled from Kansas City, Missouri, to Tallequua for a special reception to mark the exhibit.
The Cherokee Freedmen Exhibit showcases many archival materials collected by their descendants. Among them is a certificate signed by his former President Barack Obama honoring Johnson’s great-great-grandfather Rufus Vann, who served in the 1st Colored Infantry Regiment in Kansas. A photo postcard of Johnson’s great-grandmother Phyllis Van Veen is also on display. Since Ms Johnson learned that her family history will be part of the exhibit, she and her family have cried tears of joy.
“It’s really great that our Cherokee ancestry is finally being recognized,” she said in an interview last week.
The Cherokee Nation has played a leading role in granting rights to freedmen, Hoskin said, but more needs to be done to achieve full equality. He hopes the exhibition will be an important step.
“The healthiest thing for Cherokee society is to face these difficult chapters, face the facts, and reconcile them with what is happening in our lives today.” I think it starts with doing