Rachel Purvis

“Reconstructing the Cherokee Nation: Emancipation and Citizenship in a Native Nation”

Recent scholarship in Native American history has generated a great deal of discussion and opened new avenues of inquiry for research. Many new works explore themes or issues of race, citizenship, ethnicity, sovereignty, slavery, inclusion, assimilation, resistance, and US-Indian relations, to name just a few. Scholars have investigated ways native peoples exercised control over their place in or apart from American society. A comparative look at emancipation in the Cherokee Nation and the United States offers a new facet of emancipation not often discussed in the historical narrative. This presentation will examine the 1863 emancipation acts passed by the Cherokee Nation and will trace the process and significance of freedom for inclusion, belonging, and citizenship in the Cherokee Nation in the era of Reconstruction. By emphasizing the parallel experience of emancipation in Indian Territory and the American South, I purpose a different way to view a topic of historical debate that brings the history of the postwar period into conversation with the history of an indigenous nation. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of the legacy of the emancipation acts in the current controversy concerning Cherokee Freedmen citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, which is still being debated in United States courts.

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