Freedmen with Chief Hoskin

Guest Speaker Melissa Payne at January 20, 2024 Gathering

We are having a culturally significant gathering in January! We invite everyone to join us.

Mark your Calendars now to be sure and attend our first Colorado Cherokee Circle Gathering of the New Year! On January 20th at 10:00am at the Guild we will be honored to have special guest speaker Melissa Payne!

Melissa Payne

Melissa Payne is a community advisor for the Cherokee Nation. Her role on the Executive Staff allows her the opportunity to meet with tribal administrators on a regular basis and to serve as a line of communication between Cherokee Freedmen descendants and tribal leaders.

In her role as a community liaison, Melissa not only works to support engagement with Freedmen communities, but also to ensure compliance with Chief Hoskin’s historic Executive Order on Equality. (That 2020 order prohibits discrimination and requires government departments to increase their outreach to historically disenfranchised communities.)

The Cherokee Nation collaborated with Melissa in the past year to create the “We Are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship” materials recently on exhibit at the Cherokee National History Museum.

The exhibit was created as part of the Cherokee Freedmen Art and History Project with the purpose of broadening Cherokee Nation citizens’ understanding of the Cherokee Freedmen experience through the Freedmen perspective. That perspective is shared from the earliest known participation of chattel slavery in the 18th century and through various historical milestones in the decades that followed, including the adoption of plantation-style slavery among Cherokees, Indian Removal to the West and the American Civil War.

“The ultimate goal for me as the community advisor is equality. And not only equality, but embracement from both parties, the Freedmen citizens and native Cherokee citizens,” Payne said. “I would love for more involvement and inclusion, because we’re all family. The inclusion, acceptance and growth of the Cherokee Freedmen will only create a better and stronger Cherokee Nation.”

Melissa will also be providing information and support materials on Freedmen Genealogy and the process of enrolling Freedmen descendants for citizenship and tribal membership with the Cherokee Nation.

Sunrise over Colorado mountain range

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