Story at a glance

  • A commissioner in Illinois’s largest county said Monday that major tribes in the U.S. should “acknowledge their role in the rich history of Black slaves,” before the county decides whether to formally change the name of Columbus Day.
  • Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore, who says he is a descendant of a Choctaw Freedman, argued that major tribes discriminate against descendants and have denied full tribal memberships to Freedmen.
  • Descendants of Freedmen are excluded from housing and education benefits and casino profits, according to Moore.

A commissioner in Illinois’s largest county said Monday that major tribes in the U.S. should “acknowledge their role in the rich history of Black slaves,” before the county decides whether to formally change the name of Columbus Day. 

Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore, who says he is a descendant of a Choctaw Freedman, argued that major tribes discriminate against descendants and have denied full tribal memberships to Freedmen, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. Descendants of Freedmen are excluded from housing and education benefits and casino profits, according to Moore. 

“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 paper reported. 

The Cherokee Nation is the lone tribe that fully recognizes Freedmen as full citizens, according to the Sun-Times. 


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Moore presented the issue as the Cook County Board debated whether to change the name of the October holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. The issue has led some groups to fear their own omission from cultural celebrations and others to support the addition of a separate holiday, the Sun-Times reported. 

“We have an opportunity today to put a spotlight on the injustice that is happening to our brothers and our sisters,” Moore said. “We will not stop until all the Five Civilized Tribes honor the sacrifices of their black slaves.”

“If we decide that it’s more important that Black Freedmen lives do not matter, and I will have to urge a ‘no’ vote,” Moore added. 

Virtual meeting attendees were offered the opportunity to voice their concerns.

“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?”

County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who sponsored a December resolution to change the holiday’s name, said last week that it is “well past time that we recognize” the “failures and ills of the real history of this country.” 

“As long as we are celebrating and using tax dollars to give people the day off to honor, to give homage, to someone like Christopher Columbus, that’s a failure of our political system,” he said.

The committee plans to vote on the resolution June 23. 


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Published on May 25, 2021