TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs invited representatives from five Native American tribes to a hearing to discuss the status of their Freedmen.

Freedmen are the descendants of slaves who were held by Muscogee, Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw Nations.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. will provide testimony before the committee on Wednesday. It’s all part of an oversight hearing on “Select Provisions of the 1866 Reconstruction Treaties between the United States and Oklahoma Tribes.”

A 2017 federal court ruling in Cherokee Nation V. Nash, determined Freedmen citizens have full rights as Cherokee citizens based on the Treaty of 1866.

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court later ruled the language “by blood” is void, and should be removed from Cherokee Nation’s tribal laws, including provisions within the Cherokee Nation Constitution. The U.S. Department of Interior Secretary also approved the tribe’s constitution.

“For more than a century, Freedmen have been disconnected from Cherokee Nation, and unity doesn’t simply happen overnight. Many in the Freedmen community did not have the same experiences, the same access to services, the same opportunities, the same understanding of citizenship as non-Freedmen citizens,” according to Chief Hoskin’s prepared oral testimony to be given Wednesday. “It is essential that we work to bridge that gap. I also directed my administration to determine whether barriers to equal access to services exist, to remove such barriers if they do, and to establish immediate plans for outreach to citizens of Freedmen descent and other historically excluded communities within our tribe.”

The Cherokee Nation currently has about 11,800 citizens of Freedmen descent enrolled in the tribe.

Freedmen in the Muscogee, Choctaw and Seminole Nations do not have full tribal citizenship, so they are excluded from several tribal benefits.

The Seminole Nation granted limited citizenship to Freedmen, and recently determined they were eligible for health services from the tribe.

The Chickasaw Nation never enrolled Freedmen in the tribe.