Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker issued a statement on Wednesday, lauding the U.S. Treasury's decision to remove the likeness of Andrew Jackson from the front of the $20 bill.
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a former slave, will be replacing Jackson, the nation's seventh president and a former slave owner. Tubman is remembered most for her role in helping slaves escape through the Underground Railroad.
Baker said Jackson's decisions as president led to the genocide of American Indians, including forcing nearly 16,000 Cherokees from their homeland. He added that Jackson's place on a pedestal in American history has been an insult to natives across the country.
U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) was one of those leading the effort to make the change.
Baker's statement in full:
"Andrew Jackson defied a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and forced the removal of our Cherokee ancestors from homelands we'd occupied in the Southeast for millennia. His actions as president resulted in a genocide of Native Americans and the death of about a quarter of our people. It remains the darkest period in the Cherokee Nation’s history.
Jackson's legacy was never one to be celebrated, and his image on our currency is a constant reminder of his crimes against Natives. It's been an insult to our people and to our ancestors, thousands of whom died of starvation and exposure and now lie in unmarked graves along the Trail of Tears. This is a small but meaningful vindication for them, and for our tribal citizens today.
The Cherokee Nation applauds the work of Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, the U.S. Treasury and all those who recognized the injustices committed at the hands of President Jackson and worked to replace his image with the image of Harriet Tubman, whose legacy represents values everyone can be proud of.”