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Study of historical facts clarifies Freedmen citizenship issue

BY Phoenix Archives
03/21/2007 09:21 AM
The controversy over Freedmen citizenship in the Cherokee Nation has led to misunderstanding and misstatement of historical facts. These misrepresentations come from various sources: citizens who are simply unlearned in Cherokee history, politicians who tend to rewrite Cherokee history to serve their own purposes and out-and-out racists.
No matter who causes the misunderstanding or makes misstatements, all promote a distortion of the historical facts, which must be clarified if Cherokee citizens are to make informed decisions. It is time for them not only to face the facts, but honestly to re-evaluate their positions in light of them. Because so much attention focuses on the work of the Dawes Commission and the Dawes rolls, they should consider the background for making Cherokee rolls and what the Dawes Commission did.
The argument that the Freedmen never had full citizenship rights in the CN prior to the Dawes period is spurious. In 1866, for the first time, the Freedmen gained the first citizenship they had ever held. It was the only citizenship they would have until 1901, when the United States made all of the citizens of the CN citizens of the United States as well. The Freedmen's rights in the Cherokee Nation were guaranteed by the Treaty of 1866, which the CN signed and carried out. It did so admirably, considering the racial climate in the adjoining states at the time.
Following the Treaty in 1866, the Cherokee National Council amended the constitution to guarantee the freedmen full rights as citizens. The Nation's own citizenship court and Supreme Court subsequently admitted large numbers of additional Freedmen applicants to citizenship. These were primarily Freedmen who had not returned to the CN within the six-month limit set by the treaty. A good example was the Supreme Court's action on June 21, 1871, which "admitted to Cherokee Rights and Citizenship" 34 Cherokee Freedman households. Without doubt, the court realized the implications of its action: not only those admitted but their hundreds of descendants would be future citizens of the Nation. This was only one of a number of such decisions.
In taking its censuses, the CN listed citizens according to the basis for their rights to citizenship: by blood or by adoption. In the latter category, they listed four groups: Shawnees, Delawares, Freedmen, and intermarried whites. No matter what category a person was in, he or she was still a citizen of the CN.
If the CN did not want the Freedmen as citizens or did not recognize them, why did it, year after year for decades, guarantee their rights by law; willfully admit more of them to citizenship and consistently list them as citizens of the Nation while at the same time keeping separate lists of intruders or people who had doubtful status as citizens? The Cherokee Nation was, in fact, a multi-racial, multi-cultural constitutional nation, whose citizenship was based not on blood or culture but on either birth or adoption.
The freedmen also participated in the economic, social and political life of the CN. Like other citizens, they had access to land under the improvement laws that guaranteed Cherokee citizens the right to occupy as much of the public domain as they could improve so long as their improvements were at least one-quarter of a mile from the next citizen's. Like other citizens, they had elementary schools and a high school, built and supported by the CN. Like other citizens, they were subject to the courts of the CN. In contrast, those black, white and Indian residents in the Nation who were not citizens had none of these rights and privileges and were subject to the United States court at Fort Smith.
When a Senate investigating committee visited the CN in 1878, the senators interviewed Freedman Jesse Ross among others. In response to their questions, Ross testified that the Freedmen had the same rights as other Cherokee citizens: access to as much land as they needed, schools, right to sit on juries and the right to vote. Ross's testimony makes clear that Freedmen participated in the political process.
In 2003, the press quoted the late Julian Fite as saying that the Freedmen had never voted in the CN. Whether Fite made the statement or not, the contrary was true. Like other Cherokee citizens, they voted and ran for political office. Cherokee historian Emmett Starr lists six who were elected and served in the National Council: Joseph Brown, Stick Ross, Ned Irons, Frank Vann, Samuel Stidham and Jerry Alberty. There were probably more. The historical record shows that numerous others from various districts were nominated and ran for office under the banner of one of the two major political parties. A cursory reading of the Cherokee Advocate and other papers from the Nation in the late 19th century shows that Freedmen voters were main players in every election. Cherokee political cartoonist Roger Eubanks even made political hay out of those politicians who courted the Freedman vote. If the Freedmen could not vote, how could they run for political office and be elected?
Contrary to what some people say, in the Dawes period the citizenship of the Freedmen in the CN was not questioned. The argument that the Dawes Commission somehow "palmed" the Freedmen off on the Cherokee Nation is a distortion of the historical record. So is the idea that blood quantum on the Cherokees by-blood roll had some special meaning in determining exclusive citizenship in the Nation.
The CN's agreement with the Dawes Commission was ratified by the Cherokee electorate - including the freedmen - on Aug. 7, 1902. Regarding the making of rolls it stated, "The roll of citizens of the Cherokee Nation shall be made as of September first, nineteen hundred and two, and the names of all persons then living and entitled to enrollment on that date shall be placed on said roll by the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes." It did not say "citizens by blood" or "citizens and Freedmen" or "citizens and others."
The roll that the Dawes Commission made was a roll of Cherokee citizens according to the means by which they acquired citizenship: by blood or by adoption.
The Dawes Commission had actually begun enrolling Cherokee citizens in 1896, at which time and thereafter the CN insisted that the Commission use the CN's own authenticated roll of 1880 as the base roll for enrollment. The 1880 authenticated roll listed five categories of citizens according to the means by which they acquired citizenship: Cherokees by blood, adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, adopted Colored and adopted Whites. The Dawes Commission simply followed the CN's directions in making what became the final roll of citizens. Thus as of Sept. 1, 1902, the Freedmen were citizens of the CN, according to the CN and the Dawes Commission. In the last elections held in the Nation before 1906, the Cherokee Freedmen, like other citizens of the Nation, voted for the offices of chief and national council, just as they had done in decades past. The form the Dawes roll took made no change in their status.
Much is made of the blood quantum - or lack of it - listed on the Dawes rolls. Blood quantum was a method devised by Indian policy makers, such as the Dawes Commission, to lay the groundwork for separating the citizens of Indian nations from their assets. It was rooted in the virulent racism of the late 19th century, which said that the whiter one was, the more civilized he was. By the time of Cherokee enrollment, the theory was commonly accepted. It laid the basis for restrictions on the sale, or alienation, of homestead allotments. The idea was that those who were more than half Cherokee were incompetent to manage their own affairs and would therefore become wards of the Department of the Interior.
In recent years, full blood has held a premium value. Cherokee family stories commonly tell how an ancestor on the Dawes roll is listed as half blood when he or she was really full. Most of those stories are probably true. Knowing that they would likely be labeled incompetent, many Cherokees probably chose voluntarily to lower their blood quantum.
Subsequent historical events suggest that the Dawes Commission could also have had a motive to do so. Congress's primary purpose in creating the Commission was to guarantee the transfer of land from the common Cherokee National title to individual ownership. That was a preliminary step to the ultimate goal: to transfer the land from Cherokee hands to the hands of "real" American settlers, as whites were generally called by the politicians of the day.
The blood quantum designation had no useful purpose in determining who was a Cherokee citizen or who received an allotment. It was simply a device to determine which Cherokee citizens would become the first marks for American land buyers and which citizens would become wards of the Interior Department, which would manage whatever resources might be on or below the surface of their allotments. By the time the Cherokee Nation-Dawes agreement was drawn up, there was a public clamor for removal of restrictions on the sale of allotments in Indian Territory. In 1904, only two years after the agreement, restrictions were removed from the allotments of Freedmen and intermarried whites. The next land to go in the CN was allotments of Cherokees listed as half blood or less, from whose allotments the restrictions were soon removed.
Removal of restrictions did not affect the citizenship of the allottee. When the Five Tribes Act was passed in 1906, it applied as much to the Cherokee Freedmen as it did to the adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, intermarried Whites and Cherokees by blood. If the "full force and effect" clause of the act has validity for Cherokee descendants today, it has validity for descendants of the four other classes of Cherokee citizens in 1906. If the CN rejects the descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen without simultaneously rejecting the descendants of the adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, and intermarried whites, it will be guilty of attempting to legalize racism, for all were equal participants in the CN according to the Dawes rolls of citizens.
It is only through a knowledge and understanding of Cherokee history that a resolution of the impasse now facing the CN can be bridged. Nothing is to be gained from a repudiation of that history without giving it a hearing. Could all of the Cherokee leaders who averred the Freedmen's right to citizenship from 1866 to 1906 have been wrong? Both sides must become as informed as possible and must raise public awareness and understanding of the subject. Sadly, court decisions are rarely about morality or right or justice. They are about what words mean. As the Freedmen mark the 140th year of their citizenship in the CN, it behooves everyone to seriously consider the words of the historical records.


Dan Littlefield is the director of the Sequoyah Research Center, which houses the American Native Press Archives, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has written "The Cherokee Freedmen" (1978), "Africans and Seminoles" (1977), "Africans and Creeks" (1979) and "The Chickasaw Freedmen" (1980). He will complete a book on the Dawes Commission during the next two years.
Dr. Littlefield has been called on to discuss the subject of the Freedmen of the
Five Tribes on numerous occasions and was called as an expert witness in the recent Creek-Freedman case in Muscogee (Creek) District Court in August.

Opinion

BY BILL J. STRATTON
University of Denver
05/01/2017 02:00 PM
At President Donald Trump’s request, a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson now hangs in the Oval Office. Commentators have cast Trump’s populist appeal and inaugural address as “Jacksonian,” while others have tried to emphasize their differences. One writer lauded Jackson as “the president who, more than any other, secured the future of democracy in America.” However, these comparisons overlook experiences of marginalized people while defining history in terms of the ideologies of progress and American exceptionalism. Jackson’s intolerant attitudes and harsh treatment of African-American and Native American peoples have not gone without mention. They are indeed inescapable. As a scholar who has written about Native American history and literature, I am aware of how often the perspectives of Native people are neglected in conventional historical discourse. The criticisms Trump has directed against Indian casinos in the 1990s, along with his insult of calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” casts his veneration of Jackson in a particularly disturbing light. Jackson was a staunch supporter of slavery and policies that forcibly removed Indians from their lands. The passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act was aimed at isolating Native peoples to prevent conflict over territory and allow increased settlement. The solution, originally conceived by Thomas Jefferson, was to empower the government to evict Native peoples living east of the Mississippi River from their lands. Those subjected to removal would be moved “beyond the white settlements” to distant reservations in the West, known at the time as “Indian Territory.” It was a form of segregation. In 1832, the Supreme Court struck down Georgia laws aimed at depriving the Cherokee people of their rights and property in Worchester v. Georgia. The court affirmed a degree of Native political sovereignty and annulled state jurisdiction over Native lands. It was the final case of the so-called Marshall trilogy, named for Chief Justice John Marshall – the author of the majority decisions – and established major precedents of federal Indian law. The immediate effect of the decision was to grant protections to the Cherokee Nation, and by extension to other tribes. It could have prevented forced removals, but Jackson was reportedly indignant at the result. According to the famed journalist Horace Greeley, Jackson was said to have responded, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Whether Jackson spoke those words has been contested by historians ever since. But his strong support for removal policy and subsequent refusal to enforce the court’s decision made his position clear. The response was a stern rebuke of the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, the doctrine of the separation of powers, the rule of law and ultimately the Constitution. The result was the Trail of Tears, in which Cherokee and other Native peoples of the Southeast were forced at gunpoint to march 1,200 miles to “Indian territory.” Thousands of Cherokee died during the passage, while many who survived the trek lost their homes and most of their property. Ironically, much of the land on which the Cherokee and other removed tribes were settled was opened to homesteading and became Oklahoma some 60 years later. Yet, the violent manner by which removal was carried out had been ruled illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the Worchester case. New assault on native rights? The new administration is showing similar malice toward the legal status and rights of Native peoples secured in American law. For example, Trump recently lifted President Obama’s injunction halting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The eviction of pipeline opponents from Sacred Stone Camp, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, under threats of arrest has led to renewed uncertainty about Native rights. Statements by Trump’s advisers and government officials calling for the privatization of Native lands guaranteed by treaties to seize natural resources have only heightened these concerns. This rhetoric echos policies that oppressed Native people in the past. These include allotment, extending from 1887 to the 1930s, which eliminated communal ownership and led to the taking of millions of acres of Native land. This was followed by termination and relocation of the 1950s, aimed at eliminating the legal status of Native people while sending individuals from reservations to urban areas, further depriving Native peoples of their lands, liberty and culture. Native treaties are unequivocally assured in Article 6, the Supremacy Clause, of the U.S. Constitution. It states: “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land…” Tribal leaders negotiated treaties in good faith to reserve what amounts to a fraction of their original lands, with all attendant rights. Privatizing tribal lands would be a violation of these treaties. The casual rejection of these covenants heighten the insecurity among Native people evoked by Trump. His esteem for Jackson and their shared attitudes toward their legal rights and status should give us pause. That journalists and historians continue to offer positive views of Jackson’s presidency in light of this legacy underscores how the suffering of Native people continues to be ignored.
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
05/01/2017 12:00 PM
Oklahoma’s core is firmly rooted in its 38 federally recognized tribes. Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma have a unique history based on our shared identity and heritage. According to a new study commissioned to the Oklahoma-based Economic Impact Group, our tribe and its businesses are responsible for more than a $2 billion impact annually on the Oklahoma economy. Today, more than ever, the Cherokee Nation is an essential part of the economic fabric of our great state. As the largest tribal government in Oklahoma, there is no doubt Cherokee Nation makes undeniable and positive impacts on the state. Cherokee Nation supports more than 17,000 jobs, and more than 11,000 of those jobs are through direct employment with our tribal government or one of the tribe’s businesses. We have more Cherokees working for the tribe than ever before, and we are proud of that. During the past year, we invested millions of dollars in expanding our economic footprint in northeast Oklahoma, which is essential to developing stronger and safer communities across Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction. The success we are experiencing today will have a positive impact for years to come. As a sovereign tribal government, Cherokee Nation makes positive differences in the lives of our citizens, which helps alleviate the burden on state finances and resources. Cherokee Nation Businesses, the tribe’s corporate holding company, generated a record-setting $1.02 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2016, the year studied by economists. The profits allow the tribe to continue to expand essential services to the Cherokee people. Oklahoma is our home, and we are proud to be a partner in its success. We invest in roads – 77 miles in our 14 counties; public schools – $5 million to 107 public school districts; health care – more than 1.1 million patient visits annually to Cherokee Health Centers; higher education – more than $13 million for academic scholarships this year; and infrastructure – public water line repairs and installations. During my time as Principal Chief, I’ve seen firsthand the changes we are making in families and communities throughout northeast Oklahoma. Just some of the examples include: • In Delaware County, we invested $30 million in a new casino that created 175 new jobs. In South Coffeyville, we collaborated with the state to attract Star Pipe, a manufacturing company, creating another 75 quality jobs. • In Tulsa County, our Career Services Department continues to help Macy’s fulfillment center with staff recruiting and training. • In Cherokee County, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, we attracted several new businesses, announced the construction of a $200 million health facility, preserved our iconic capitol building and expanded the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex. Those activities don’t just benefit Cherokees; they represent an investment in our home, Oklahoma. A strong Cherokee Nation equals a strong Oklahoma. Our success is the state’s success. Cherokee Nation remains strategically positioned to lead Oklahoma into a brighter and better future. As we prosper and create jobs, we play an essential role in keeping Oklahoma strong and vibrant, ensuring it remains the best place to live, work and raise a family. That symbiotic spirit improves the lives of everyone throughout northeast Oklahoma. We are expanding our businesses and increasing our profits to do more, help more citizens improve their lives and make more of a difference from one generation to the next.
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
04/01/2017 12:00 PM
Historically, the Cherokee Nation has been a matriarchal society and has always looked to strong women for guidance and leadership. Cherokee women are proud and powerful and fuel our success as a tribe. This fact is as true today as ever. We are honor and celebrate the enormous contributions Cherokee women have made throughout our history and in our modern government and business endeavors. As Principal Chief, I strive to place talented women in leadership roles within this administration and at Cherokee Nation Businesses. In fact, there are more women in management at CNB and Cherokee Nation than ever before. Many of our tribal programs and departments are led by women and our tribal government’s workforce is dominated by women. Of the 3,665 employees we have at Cherokee Nation, 2,597 are female. That represents more than 71 percent of our staff. We have created a more female-friendly work environment at Cherokee Nation by establishing a fully paid, eight-week maternity leave policy for expectant mothers who work for the Cherokee Nation and by raising the minimum wage for all employees, allowing our employees to continue working for the Cherokee people while meeting their family obligations. The tribe’s legislative body, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, is shaped, in part, by Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez and Councilors Frankie Hargis, Janees Taylor and Wanda Hatfield. Their leadership and vision are helping drive the Cherokee Nation into a brighter future. Recently, we also recognized the fourth anniversary of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. At Cherokee Nation, we remain committed to protecting women and children from the epidemic of domestic violence. We created the ONE FIRE Victim Services office to be a beacon of hope and safety for women and families within our tribal jurisdiction.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
03/09/2017 04:00 PM
I'm going to share some “feels” with you. I'm not going to weep all over the page, but I will share with you what this job has meant to me, what it’s done for me and how I come to spend nearly 10 years doing it. This job has shaped not only my career but also my life. I wasn’t one of those kids who had their tribal heritage shared with them as they grew up. I mean my story isn't that different from a lot of people. I was Cherokee. I knew that, but I missed out on the cultural aspect of being a tribal citizen. This job gave me the opportunity to not only grow and establish a career, but I grew to understand my culture, where I came from and what the Cherokee people have overcome. I learned of a tumultuous history that my ancestors faced as well as a personal history regarding my direct ancestor, Anderson Springston. I even wrote a column about it explaining the roles my people played in the killing of three prominent Cherokees: Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. I also learned of the connection the son of that ancestor, John Leak Springston, had with the Cherokee Phoenix. He was known to be an Indian activist, an interpreter, newspaper editor, attorney and Keetoowah revivalist. There have been so many stories that have left a mark on me. I’ve covered countless meetings, several tribal elections, as well as your basic health, education, cultural and people stories, and they all served a purpose of educating, entertaining and informing the Cherokee people. It’s been nearly 10 years since I started here, and I have loved having the opportunity to work for such a historic newspaper. I’ve met some great people and made lasting relationships, but my most favorite aspect of working in this capacity has ultimately been helping people by both informing them of what their government is doing, as well as giving our Cherokee people a voice - something that has been taken from them time and again. My concern for the Cherokee people and their involvement in the goings-on within their government is something that during the past several years I’ve noticed is most important. So I’ve tried to do that. It’s important to become educated in your government. You should want to have a say in what happens within your tribe. We’ve seen in our history what happens when we allow others to decide for us, and we’re a stronger people than that. I personally missed out on being involved with my tribe while growing up, but that will not be the case any longer and neither will it be for my children. I buried the lede with this one friends, but on purpose, because once I’ve written it and once you’ve read it, it’s real. I have tendered my resignation from the Cherokee Phoenix effective April 8. I have accepted a job with the city of Tahlequah. Although I’m sad, scared and nervous for what is coming I know this is the best move for me. This change will afford me the chance to reach for goals that working for the tribe will not allow. Although those goals may be far down the road, I need to give myself a true shot at accomplishing them. But new is always scary. I hope the Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper that has been at the forefront and example for excellent tribal journalism, will continue to be what it was created to be, what it should be – a true voice of the Cherokee people. One that stands up for what is right by its citizens and one that the Cherokee people can count on to be a real representation of the what happens within our tribe, not just what you need to know. You are the Cherokee Nation. No voice is too big or small and at the end of the day the Cherokee Nation is not a thing, it’s a people and those people should be treated with respect and love like all people. I wish all my fellow staffers, current and former, the best. You made me better, smarter and definitely more quick-witted. So with that said, I bid you a fond farewell. Much love to anyone who played a part in the stories I’ve told over the years. This isn’t goodbye. If I can be of any help to someone in the future, you can email me at <a href="mailto: jamilynnmurphy@gmail.com">jamilynnmurphy@gmail.com</a>. Do-na-da-go-hv-i.
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
03/01/2017 12:00 PM
A new day has dawned for health and wellness in the Cherokee Nation, as we recently broke ground on a new state-of the-art outpatient health care facility, located at the W.W. Hastings Hospital campus in Tahlequah. When complete in the fall of 2019, this nearly 470,000-square-foot facility will be full of cutting-edge medical technology, more doctors, nurses and specialists, and will be known as the largest American Indian health center in the country. I can’t tell you just how monumental this milestone is and what it will mean for future generations of Cherokees and other Natives. It will also be transformative for northeast Oklahoma. Between W.W. Hastings Hospital, this new outpatient facility, Northeastern Health System next door and our partnership with OSU Health Science Center to train residents, Tahlequah is set to be a hub for medical technology in rural Oklahoma. We have worked aggressively to improve access to quality health care and the wellness of our tribe, both individually and collectively, since the day I took office more than six years ago. Since then we’ve built new health centers in Jay and Ochelata and expanded health centers in Stilwell and Sallisaw. As the final piece of our health care capital expansion plan, the new outpatient facility is definitely the crowning jewel. For our nation to achieve so much in just a few short years makes this mission extremely personal for me. It means our health services can now adapt with the needs of our tribe, and we can continue to improve the gaping health disparities between our Indian people and other ethnicities. Thanks to our historic joint venture with Indian Health Service, they will provide about $80 million annually for operating costs and staffing doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. With IHS’s arrangement to pay salaries, we will be able hire more than 800 new medical personnel, almost tripling our current staff. Cherokee Nation will pay to construct the $200 million facility, which will have 180 exam rooms, a new surgical center with additional capacity for MRIs and endoscopies, and expanded dental, optometry and auditory testing that will revolutionize the services we provide for our people. Much of this is technology we haven’t offered in the past due to space and budget constraints. It is the largest project IHS has ever helped a tribal government achieve, and it was so badly needed. Cherokee Nation already operates the largest tribal health system in the United States. Our current 190,000-square-foot hospital in Tahlequah is more than 30 years old and was built to handle only one-third of the current patient load it sees every day. That puts a tremendous workload and unjust pressure on our staff and the antiquated building. We have simply overburdened W.W. Hastings Hospital for too long, which has been serving as a health center and a hospital. In addition to new health care jobs, we anticipate construction of the facility to generate more than 350 construction jobs. New jobs, shorter wait times and better services will positive impact so many lives. In late 2019, we will gather once again to dedicate this new world-class health complex. And when we do, we will know that the next several generations of Cherokees will have a better future. Our Cherokee people will be able to live longer and healthier lives because they will have real access to modern medicine. This is a wonderful moment in our tribal history and the start of a brighter, better future ahead.
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
02/01/2017 12:15 PM
The Cherokee language is one of the most vital elements of our tribal culture. We have invested in preservation efforts and youth education endeavors, including the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, which is a renowned global example for developing youth speakers. Today, there are an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 fluent Cherokee speakers, and many others who are conversational second-language learners of Cherokee. While we have elders who are fluent and the emerging youth who will be, there was a void in the development of young adults. That is why, two years ago, we launched the Cherokee Language Master-Apprentice Program. The goal of this program is to create new adult Cherokee language teachers. We selected four young adults to be the first class, and I am proud to say two of the students recently graduated and one of them will soon be teaching at the Immersion School. When the selected students came into the program, they had little to no knowledge of the Cherokee language. However, upon graduating two years later, they have achieved high conversational levels. That is truly amazing. The Master-Apprentice Program is an everyday effort. The students perform general, everyday activities but speak nothing but Cherokee. No English is spoken all day. They cook, look for wild onions and mushrooms and have general daily conversations in Cherokee. The approach is to do the everyday things, simple activities that are second nature to speak about in English, but do so only in Cherokee. The Cherokee language immersion environment is eight hours each day, five days per week. The students are paid an hourly wage to attend the program and are selected through an essay and interview process. The students are referred to as apprentices, and these activities and classes are led by fluent, first-language speakers called masters. The program tries to identify young adults and older learners. This method has been adopted by many tribes in California and has proven to be effective in producing fluent second-language learners. The evidence-based strategy integrates the Cherokee language and our staff has secured multiple grants to help fund the Master-Apprentice Program. Our success in the past year reinforces this effective learning method. Language immersion may be difficult and disorienting initially, but through perseverance and patience, students begin to grasp and learn Cherokee communication structures. Our mission is to develop Cherokee speakers who will have the knowledge to continue learning and teaching throughout the student’s life and ensure language preservation. A third class of eight participants was selected in late 2016, bringing our total to 16 students. Increasing our number of speakers means preserving our unique culture. Our goal is to provide a seamless path for Cherokee language achievements that result in cultural preservation and eventually finding employment utilizing the Cherokee language. With this effort, coupled with our Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the work of our Cherokee translation department, which has helped develop the Cherokee language for new technology that our citizens can use to text and email in Cherokee, we have set the bar for what it means to invest in language development. Cherokee Nation is a leader in Indian Country, and we are committed to preserving and growing our language. The tribe is proving we can cultivate more Cherokee speakers and enhance our language programs. For more information on the Master-Apprentice Program, contact the program’s manager, Howard Paden, at <a href="mailto: Howard-Paden@Cherokee.org">Howard-Paden@Cherokee.org</a>.