A Native American tribe in Oklahoma has denied its Black members access to the covid-19 vaccine and stimulus relief. According to the Seminole Tribe, its Black tribal citizens aren’t Native enough to get the benefits offered to other members.
LeEtta Osborne-Sampson, a Black Freedman leader who sits on the Seminole Nation’s tribal council, was recently denied the vaccine.
When she showed up at the Indian Health Service clinic in Wewoka, the capital of the Seminole Nation, she was turned away. Staffers informed her that she wasn’t eligible because her tribal ID card identifies her as a Freedman, a Seminole citizen who is a descendant of enslaved Black people, BuzzFeed reported.
“It’s a terrible day to find out that your own people will let you die,” Osborne-Sampson said.
Other Freedmen told BuzzFeed that the Seminole Nation had denied them vaccines, health services, and covid-19 financial relief based on the ancestry listed on their tribal ID cards.
Freedmen comprise about one-eighth of the Seminole Nation’s nearly 20,000 citizens and are counted in the tribal census. The federal government used this census to allocate more than $16 million in CARES Act funds to the tribe.
Tribal ID cards issued to all Seminole Freedmen read “Freedman citizen, 0/0 Indian blood” on the front and “Voting benefits only” on the back.
A BuzzFeed reporter posted on Twitter, “I learned so much from this important story by @josephvlee: While the Indian Health Service has been hailed for rolling out COVID vaccines, a Native American tribe in Oklahoma denied vaccines to its Black citizens — because they don’t have ‘Indian blood’.”
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Seminole Freedmen can be traced back to a group of Africans living autonomously in Florida. These communities of freed Black people, runaway slaves and slaves owned by Seminoles developed strong relationships with Indigenous people, namely the Guale, and folded themselves into the tribes, according to Prism Reports.
The Seminole Nation has not responded to the Freedmen accusations.
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