Woodland Indians Forum

You are not logged in.


#1 Dec-04-2006 02:42:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Cherokee Freedmen Issue



#2 Dec-07-2006 09:11:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Study of historical facts clarifies Freedmen citizenship issue
By Dr. Dan Littlefield
Director of Sequoyah Research Center

The controversy over Freedmen citizenship in the Cherokee Nation has led to misunderstanding and misstatement of historical facts. These misrepresentations come from various sources: citizens who are simply unlearned in Cherokee history, politicians who tend to rewrite Cherokee history to serve their own purposes and out-and-out racists.

No matter who causes the misunderstanding or makes misstatements, all promote a distortion of the historical facts, which must be clarified if Cherokee citizens are to make informed decisions. It is time for them not only to face the facts, but honestly to re-evaluate their positions in light of them. Because so much attention focuses on the work of the Dawes Commission and the Dawes rolls, they should consider the background for making Cherokee rolls and what the Dawes Commission did.

The argument that the Freedmen never had full citizenship rights in the CN prior to the Dawes period is spurious. In 1866, for the first time, the Freedmen gained the first citizenship they had ever held. It was the only citizenship they would have until 1901, when the United States made all of the citizens of the CN citizens of the United States as well. The Freedmen's rights in the Cherokee Nation were guaranteed by the Treaty of 1866, which the CN signed and carried out. It did so admirably, considering the racial climate in the adjoining states at the time.

Following the Treaty in 1866, the Cherokee National Council amended the constitution to guarantee the freedmen full rights as citizens. The Nation's own citizenship court and Supreme Court subsequently admitted large numbers of additional Freedmen applicants to citizenship. These were primarily Freedmen who had not returned to the CN within the six-month limit set by the treaty. A good example was the Supreme Court's action on June 21, 1871, which "admitted to Cherokee Rights and Citizenship" 34 Cherokee Freedman households. Without doubt, the court realized the implications of its action: not only those admitted but their hundreds of descendants would be future citizens of the Nation. This was only one of a number of such decisions.

In taking its censuses, the CN listed citizens according to the basis for their rights to citizenship: by blood or by adoption. In the latter category, they listed four groups: Shawnees, Delawares, Freedmen, and intermarried whites. No matter what category a person was in, he or she was still a citizen of the CN.

If the CN did not want the Freedmen as citizens or did not recognize them, why did it, year after year for decades, guarantee their rights by law; willfully admit more of them to citizenship and consistently list them as citizens of the Nation while at the same time keeping separate lists of intruders or people who had doubtful status as citizens? The Cherokee Nation was, in fact, a multi-racial, multi-cultural constitutional nation, whose citizenship was based not on blood or culture but on either birth or adoption.

The freedmen also participated in the economic, social and political life of the CN. Like other citizens, they had access to land under the improvement laws that guaranteed Cherokee citizens the right to occupy as much of the public domain as they could improve so long as their improvements were at least one-quarter of a mile from the next citizen's. Like other citizens, they had elementary schools and a high school, built and supported by the CN. Like other citizens, they were subject to the courts of the CN. In contrast, those black, white and Indian residents in the Nation who were not citizens had none of these rights and privileges and were subject to the United States court at Fort Smith.

When a Senate investigating committee visited the CN in 1878, the senators interviewed Freedman Jesse Ross among others. In response to their questions, Ross testified that the Freedmen had the same rights as other Cherokee citizens: access to as much land as they needed, schools, right to sit on juries and the right to vote. Ross's testimony makes clear that Freedmen participated in the political process.

In 2003, the press quoted the late Julian Fite as saying that the Freedmen had never voted in the CN. Whether Fite made the statement or not, the contrary was true. Like other Cherokee citizens, they voted and ran for political office. Cherokee historian Emmett Starr lists six who were elected and served in the National Council: Joseph Brown, Stick Ross, Ned Irons, Frank Vann, Samuel Stidham and Jerry Alberty. There were probably more. The historical record shows that numerous others from various districts were nominated and ran for office under the banner of one of the two major political parties. A cursory reading of the Cherokee Advocate and other papers from the Nation in the late 19th century shows that Freedmen voters were main players in every election. Cherokee political cartoonist Roger Eubanks even made political hay out of those politicians who courted the Freedman vote. If the Freedmen could not vote, how could they run for political office and be elected?

Contrary to what some people say, in the Dawes period the citizenship of the Freedmen in the CN was not questioned. The argument that the Dawes Commission somehow "palmed" the Freedmen off on the Cherokee Nation is a distortion of the historical record. So is the idea that blood quantum on the Cherokees by-blood roll had some special meaning in determining exclusive citizenship in the Nation.

The CN's agreement with the Dawes Commission was ratified by the Cherokee electorate - including the freedmen - on Aug. 7, 1902. Regarding the making of rolls it stated, "The roll of citizens of the Cherokee Nation shall be made as of September first, nineteen hundred and two, and the names of all persons then living and entitled to enrollment on that date shall be placed on said roll by the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes." It did not say "citizens by blood" or "citizens and Freedmen" or "citizens and others."

The roll that the Dawes Commission made was a roll of Cherokee citizens according to the means by which they acquired citizenship: by blood or by adoption.

The Dawes Commission had actually begun enrolling Cherokee citizens in 1896, at which time and thereafter the CN insisted that the Commission use the CN's own authenticated roll of 1880 as the base roll for enrollment. The 1880 authenticated roll listed five categories of citizens according to the means by which they acquired citizenship: Cherokees by blood, adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, adopted Colored and adopted Whites. The Dawes Commission simply followed the CN's directions in making what became the final roll of citizens. Thus as of Sept. 1, 1902, the Freedmen were citizens of the CN, according to the CN and the Dawes Commission. In the last elections held in the Nation before 1906, the Cherokee Freedmen, like other citizens of the Nation, voted for the offices of chief and national council, just as they had done in decades past. The form the Dawes roll took made no change in their status.

Much is made of the blood quantum - or lack of it - listed on the Dawes rolls. Blood quantum was a method devised by Indian policy makers, such as the Dawes Commission, to lay the groundwork for separating the citizens of Indian nations from their assets. It was rooted in the virulent racism of the late 19th century, which said that the whiter one was, the more civilized he was. By the time of Cherokee enrollment, the theory was commonly accepted. It laid the basis for restrictions on the sale, or alienation, of homestead allotments. The idea was that those who were more than half Cherokee were incompetent to manage their own affairs and would therefore become wards of the Department of the Interior.

In recent years, full blood has held a premium value. Cherokee family stories commonly tell how an ancestor on the Dawes roll is listed as half blood when he or she was really full. Most of those stories are probably true. Knowing that they would likely be labeled incompetent, many Cherokees probably chose voluntarily to lower their blood quantum.

Subsequent historical events suggest that the Dawes Commission could also have had a motive to do so. Congress's primary purpose in creating the Commission was to guarantee the transfer of land from the common Cherokee National title to individual ownership. That was a preliminary step to the ultimate goal: to transfer the land from Cherokee hands to the hands of "real" American settlers, as whites were generally called by the politicians of the day.

The blood quantum designation had no useful purpose in determining who was a Cherokee citizen or who received an allotment. It was simply a device to determine which Cherokee citizens would become the first marks for American land buyers and which citizens would become wards of the Interior Department, which would manage whatever resources might be on or below the surface of their allotments. By the time the Cherokee Nation-Dawes agreement was drawn up, there was a public clamor for removal of restrictions on the sale of allotments in Indian Territory. In 1904, only two years after the agreement, restrictions were removed from the allotments of Freedmen and intermarried whites. The next land to go in the CN was allotments of Cherokees listed as half blood or less, from whose allotments the restrictions were soon removed.

Removal of restrictions did not affect the citizenship of the allottee. When the Five Tribes Act was passed in 1906, it applied as much to the Cherokee Freedmen as it did to the adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, intermarried Whites and Cherokees by blood. If the "full force and effect" clause of the act has validity for Cherokee descendants today, it has validity for descendants of the four other classes of Cherokee citizens in 1906. If the CN rejects the descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen without simultaneously rejecting the descendants of the adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, and intermarried whites, it will be guilty of attempting to legalize racism, for all were equal participants in the CN according to the Dawes rolls of citizens.

It is only through a knowledge and understanding of Cherokee history that a resolution of the impasse now facing the CN can be bridged. Nothing is to be gained from a repudiation of that history without giving it a hearing. Could all of the Cherokee leaders who averred the Freedmen's right to citizenship from 1866 to 1906 have been wrong? Both sides must become as informed as possible and must raise public awareness and understanding of the subject. Sadly, court decisions are rarely about morality or right or justice. They are about what words mean. As the Freedmen mark the 140th year of their citizenship in the CN, it behooves everyone to seriously consider the words of the historical records.

Dan Littlefield is the director of the Sequoyah Research Center, which houses the American Native Press Archives, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has written "The Cherokee Freedmen" (1978), "Africans and Seminoles" (1977), "Africans and Creeks" (1979) and "The Chickasaw Freedmen" (1980). He will complete a book on the Dawes Commission during the next two years.

Dr. Littlefield has been called on to discuss the subject of the Freedmen of the

Five Tribes on numerous occasions and was called as an expert witness in the recent Creek-Freedman case in Muscogee (Creek) District Court in August.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/237458/m … 6/Freedmen



#3 Dec-20-2006 11:24:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Judge rules Freedmen can sue Cherokee Nation
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Citing a history of marginalization by the Cherokee Nation, a federal judge on Tuesday allowed Freedmen descendants to challenge their treatment by the Oklahoma tribe.

In a 28-page ruling, Judge Henry H. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., said the descendants of former slaves can sue the tribe and its leaders, including Principal Chief Chad Smith. He said the tribe's sovereign immunity was abrogated by Congress through by treaty and by the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery.

Kennedy, a Clinton appointee, acknowledged the Constitution doesn't apply to tribal governments. But he said the prohibition of slavery covers private parties such as the Cherokee Nation.

"[T]here is no dispute that the broad sweep of the Thirteenth Amendment applies to Indian tribes as well," Kennedy wrote.

The judge also noted that a post-Civil War treaty signed in 1866 requires the tribe to treat the Freedmen fairly. The Cherokee Nation, which had more slaves than any other tribe, had sided with the Confederacy.

Despite the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment and Congressional ratification of the 1866 treaty, Kennedy said the tribe has not lived up to its word. "Almost immediately after the emancipation of the Freedmen, the Cherokee Nation began marginalizing them," the ruling stated.

Congress subsequently passed two laws to ensure the Cherokee Freedmen were protected. The U.S. Supreme Court also confirmed the citizenship and property rights of the former slaves.

"By repeatedly imposing such limitations on the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation in order to protect the Freedmen, Congress has unequivocally indicated its intent to abrogate the tribe's immunity with regard to racial oppression prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment," Kennedy wrote.

As a result, the Freedmen can add the Cherokee Nation, Smith and other tribal leaders as defendants in the suit. "I am pleased that the honorable judge had held that the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized tribe, is required to follow the laws of the U.S. Constitution and to follow the Treaty of 1866," said Marilyn Vann, the lead plaintiff.

Jon Velie, the attorney handling the case, said the lawsuit enables the Freedmen to challenge a recent tribal election. In 2003, Cherokee voters approved a new constitution and re-elected Smith but the Freedmen say they were denied a right to vote.

Normally, the Interior Department must approve any changes to the tribe's constitution but the new document removed that requirement. That means any future changes, such as denying the Freedmen citizenship or otherwise disenfranchising them, would not be subject to federal review.

Smith in fact called for a referendum to limit citizenship to those with Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee blood. His move came after the tribe's top court ruled that the Freedmen can't be denied because the constitution does not restrict membership by blood.

As of August 2006, the Interior Department refused to recognize the new constitution. Associate deputy secretary Jim Cason said that it appears the Freedmen were not able to vote in the election.

Smith responded that the tribe doesn't need federal approval to move forward. The lawsuit places a barrier in his plans to create what he has called an "Indian" nation, rather than one that includes the Freedmen.

"Many Cherokees, including those who wrote the constitution in 1975, believed that Cherokee voters understood that a vote to approve the 1975 constitution would exclude Freedmen from citizenship," Smith said after the court decision. "Many of those voting to exclude the Freedmen believe that an Indian nation should be composed of Indians."




#4 Dec-21-2006 09:00:am

tree hugger
Site Admin
Registered: May-12-2006
Posts: 10982

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

http://www.tulsaworld.com/NewsStory.asp … Chero48878

Cherokee citizenship ballot OK'd
By S.E. RUCKMAN World Staff Writer

Tribal members will get to vote on making Indian blood a necessary condition for membership.
TAHLEQUAH -- Registered Cherokee Nation voters will decide in February whether Indian blood should be required for tribal citizenship.

The vote comes after a ruling by the tribal high court that a protested signature petition was valid, tribal officials said Wednesday.

Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith set a special election Oct. 6, but it was protested by a freedmen descendant, Vicki Baker of Chelsea.

Tribal voters will decide Feb. 10 whether to amend their constitution to make Indian blood a requirement for citizenship.

If approved, such an amendment would summarily exclude freedmen, descendants of freed Cherokee slaves, from tribal rolls. The tribe's high court ruled in March that the freedmen qualified for membership under another version of the tribe's constitution.

Smith called for a petition or council remedy to amend the tribe's constitution regarding citizenship requirements.

Baker contended in her lawsuit that the petition contained numerous instances of fraud, among them questionable required data, replicated data of signees and misleading information to potential signees by circulators.

Three justices on the five-member Cherokee Supreme Court supported the petition, tribal court documents show. Those justices -- Darell Mattock, James Wilcoxen and Kyle Haskins -- said several findings were key in their decision.

They ruled that the chief has the authority to call a special election under the Cherokees' amended constitution, which the tribe adopted this year.

The ruling also defended procedures by signature gatherers named in the suit.

"The court is charged with determining the validity of the process in these proceedings and not to punish a circulator's indiscretions by disqualifying all of his packets (of gathered names)," the justices wrote.

The court determined that petition circulators gathered 2,217 signatures. With 42 questionable signatures rejected, the total was still more than the required 2,087 for a valid petition.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stacy Leeds said the petition contained numerous irregularities that were "clear violations of Cherokee law."

"I cannot in good conscience, join the majority opinion," Leeds wrote. "The integrity of our democratic process is at stake."

Leeds said sufficient proof existed that the signature gatherers failed to meet basic requirements.

"This Court should have invalidated the initiative or at the very least, conducted a more thorough review," Leeds said in her opinion.

She chastised specific gatherers for falsifying affidavits on some signees' authenticity and violating Cherokee law in their procedures for obtaining names.

"In the future, it may well come to pass that the freedmen or other classes of Cherokee citizens are excluded by majority vote," she concluded. "To allow the initiative petition to move forward under this cloud of inequity is unconscionable. The majority has sent a clear message to the Cherokee people that our laws can be disregarded."

Leeds said that a blood-for-membership question had been set for the tribe's general election in June 2007.

Opponents of the petition said they were not surprised by the high court's ruling. The court excluded evidence and testimony, exacerbating their burden of proof, they said.

"We feel there was ample evidence to prove this petition was insufficient," said lay advocate David Cornsilk, who represented Baker. "I don't mind losing the decision although it's painful, but when it's our people that are behaving questionably -- it's hateful that we have become this."

Cherokee officials said more than 1,500 freedmen had registered with the tribe since March. Thousands of Cherokees are expected to participate in the special election.

The cost of the special tribal election is estimated at $150,000.

In a separate but related ruling, a federal judge rejected on Tuesday a Cherokee request to dismiss a lawsuit defining freedmen voting rights with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Henry Kennedy issued an opinion Tuesday that keeps alive a lawsuit claiming that a 2003 Cherokee Nation tribal election is not valid because freedmen did not vote.

Five freedmen descendants -- Marilyn Vann, Ronald Moon, Hattie Cullers, Charlene White and Ralph Threat -- filed the lawsuit in August 2003 against the BIA's then-director, Dirk Kempthorne.

Voters in the Cherokee Nation 2003 election approved the removal of federal sanction of the tribe's constitution.

The freedmen's lawsuit asks that the BIA maintain approval authority over the constitution.


S.E. Ruckman 581-8462


What vote is about
If approved, the amendment will summarily exclude the freedmen, descendants of freed Cherokee slaves, from tribal rolls.

The tribe’s high court ruled in March that the freedmen qualified for membership under another version of the tribe’s constitution.

Copyright © 2006, World Publishing Co. All rights reserved.



#5 Dec-29-2006 07:22:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Federal Judge Denies Cherokee Nation Motion to Dismiss Freedmen's Right To Vote


Federal District Court in Washington D.C. denied the Cherokee Nation's Motion and provides their day in court for Cherokee Freedmen to enforce provisions of Treaty of 1866 and the 13th Amendment against U.S. Officials, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and Principal Chief Chad Smith.

Judge Henry H. Kennedy handed down a ruling in the case of Vann v. Kempthorne, 03-01711, which denied the Cherokee Nation's Motion to Dismiss an action filed by a number of Cherokee Freedmen citizens against United States Officials for breaching its fiduciary duty by failing to enforce the Treaty of 1866 and the 13th Amendment when Cherokee Freedmen Citizens were denied the right to vote in the Cherokee Nation's 2003 election for Principal Chief and Amendment to the Cherokee Constitution.

The ruling also permitted the Freedmen to amend its complaint to add the Cherokee Nation and Principal Chief Smith who have refuted the U.S. refusal to recognize the amendment to the Constitution and have set an election in February of 2007 to remove the Freedmen citizens from the Tribe subsequent to the filing of this action.

Jon Velie, attorney for the Freedmen states, "The decision to deny the Motion to Dismiss is important because it gives these Cherokee citizens a Federal judicial forum to contest a violation of the Treaty of 1866 by both the United States and Cherokee officials. Ironically, the decision merely provides these American Indian citizens the basic rights others in American take for granted, their day in court.

Although it may not be apparent to others in Indian Country, it is a positive outcome that the case was not denied because the effect would have nullified enforcement of Treaty rights. This is dangerous for all of Indian Nations because treaties are the paramount form recognition of the government-to-government relationship between Tribes and the United States. A technical defense eliminating enforcement of treaties could open legal challenges to others treaties, effecting the rights of Native Nations."

For individual Indians, such as Marilyn Vann and the other Plaintiffs, her rights preserved today are significant. It should be a basic right in any democracy that a citizen can stand up for her rights when her elected officials trample her constitutional rights to vote or threaten to remove her from her Tribe."

Marilyn Vann, lead Plaintiff states, "I am pleased that the honorable judge has held that the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized tribe is required to follow the laws of the US Constitution and to follow the Treaty of 1866 as prior leaders swore to do more than 140 years ago when they wished to re-establish government-to-government relationships with the United States."

http://www.nativetimes.com/index.asp?ac … le_id=8481



#6 Jan-03-2007 09:25:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Special Election Moved to March 3
December 29, 2006

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Principal Chief Chad Smith has moved a special election on a Constitutional amendment regarding citizenship to March 3, 2007. Smith moved the election back three weeks from its original date of February 10 to allow the Cherokee Nation Election Commission more time to prepare for the special election.

The special election results from a citizen’s petition asking for a vote on a Constitutional amendment that would limit citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to descendents of people who are listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation as either Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee, rather than non-Indian rolls taken at the same time. The petition has twice been affirmed valid by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. The court has also ruled that the Principal Chief has the right to call a special election, as requested by the more than 2,100 Cherokee voters who signed the petition.

In March 2006, the Cherokee Nation’s highest court reversed a previous decision and ruled that the Cherokee Nation’s Constitution allowed citizenship for non-Indian descendants who were listed on the Dawes Rolls of the Cherokee Nation. Until that time, membership had been restricted to those who had a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee ancestor on the Dawes Rolls, and the proposed amendment mirrors that policy. In the court ruling allowing non-Indian citizenship, the court noted that “the Cherokee citizenry has the ultimate authority to define tribal citizenship,” and suggested that, “the Constitution could be amended to require all tribal members to possess Cherokee blood.”

“The people have spoken clearly, demanding the right to decide this Constitutional issue for themselves,” Smith said. “Some of them believe that you should have to be an Indian to be in an Indian tribe. Others think we should have a policy that allows descendants of non-Indians who were affiliated with our tribe in the past to have citizenship. Regardless, this is obviously an issue that demands the attention of Cherokee voters.”

http://www.cherokee.org/home.aspx?secti … BqixIwylo=



#7 Jan-03-2007 09:29:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Cherokee Chief delays election to March 3


(AP) _ A vote on whether descendants of freed Cherokee Nation slaves can be members of the tribe now will be held March 3.

The date is the third set for the special election. After receiving a signature petition, Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith had set the election for Oct. 6, but a freedmen descendent, Vicki Baker of Chelsea, sued, contending the petition contained numerous instances of fraud.

Last week, in a split decision, the Cherokee Supreme Court ruled that the petition was valid and said Smith acted within his authority to call for a special election. The court also said enough registered Cherokee voters had signed the petition. Smith then set the election for Feb. 10.

Smith said Thursday that delaying the election until March will allow the tribe's election commission more time to prepare.

Voters will decide on whether to amend the tribal constitution to make Indian blood a requirement for citizenship. The tribal Supreme Court ruled in March that freedmen did qualify for citizenship, noting that ``the Cherokee citizenry has the ultimate authority to define tribal membership.''

The court suggested then that the tribal constitution could be amended to require tribal members to have Cherokee blood.

The proposed amendment would limit tribal membership to those who have a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee tribal ancestor on the Dawes Commission rolls.

``The people have spoken clearly, demanding the right to decide this constitutional issue for themselves,'' Smith said in a statement. ``Some of them believe that you should have to be an Indian to be in an Indian tribe. Others think we should have a policy that allows descendants of non-Indians who were affiliated with our tribe in the past to have citizenship.

``Regardless, this is obviously an issue that demands the attention of Cherokee voters.''

http://nativetimes.com/index.asp?action … le_id=8485



#8 Jan-03-2007 09:37:am

tree hugger
Site Admin
Registered: May-12-2006
Posts: 10982

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Smith said Thursday that delaying the election until March will allow the tribe's election commission more time to prepare.

That sounds fishy to me. JMO  :?



#9 Jan-04-2007 10:16:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

The following is being sent to California Media Outlets:

Press Release – 1 3 2007

For Immediate Release

Contact: Marilyn Vann 405-818-5360 www.freedmen5tribes.com

Diane Ross Neal: 310-850-0579 or 310-537-9435

Cherokee Indian Chief to Arrive in California Prior to Vote on Proposed Tribal Law Change Rigged to Retain Tribal Membership of Caucasians and Dis-enroll Cherokee Indians of Mixed African Indian Ancestry –

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Principal Chief Chadwick Smith is set to appear at four Cherokee Community meetings in the Los Angeles Area on January 13 and 14, 2007. The tribe is the second largest in the US, and has thousands of registered tribal members in the state of California.

The Chief arrives in California shortly before tribal members are set to vote on a proposed tribal law change he has openly supported which has been designed to remove tribal citizenship of mixed African Indian tribal members who can substantiate Indian ancestry through records made by the United States Dawes Commission approximately 100 years ago. The same law change supported by the Chief will retain tribal memberships of Caucasian descendants of white tribal members whose ancestors were registered as “adopted whites” by the same US government Dawes commission including some whose ancestors purchased tribal memberships more than 100 years ago. The Chief, who has went from city to city throughout the Cherokee jurisdictional area in Oklahoma openly calling for the proposed law change has set the vote for March 3, 2007. All current tribal members have ancestors listed as tribal members on the US government Dawes Rolls made about 100 years ago which was based primarily on the 1880 citizenship rolls made by the tribe.

The proposed dis-enrollment vote is set after African-Indian tribal citizens (freedmen) challenged the chief’s 2003 election and also challenged a tribal constitutional amendment which requires approval by the US government Department of Interior and if approved, results in the removal of federal oversight of the tribal constitution. The challenged amendment is supported by the Principal Chief. The legal challenge was made in the District of Columbia Federal Courts. (Vann et Al Versus Kempthorne, 03-01711). The Federal lawsuit is ongoing, a federal judges ruling on December 19, 2006 denied the tribes motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the freedmen tribal members’ legal rights under an 1866 treaty between the US government and the tribe as well as the 13th amendment to the US constitution. Publications such as the USA Today, and www.indianz.com, have focused on the tribal dis-enrollment issues in the Cherokee nation in recent months. General tribal elections for tribal officials are set for June 2007

The Community meetings are set for:

January 13 2007 Orange Coast Community College, the Forum Cafeteria, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa Ca 11am to 2 pm

January 13 2007: Salvation Army, 125 W Beryl St, Redondo Beach, California 4-7pm

January 14 2007: American Legion Hall, 13759 Central Avenue, Chino 1pm to 4pm

January 14 2007 Anderson Hall Church of the Nazarene, 5475 Arlington Ave Riverside Ca 5pm to 8pm

For more information regarding the fight against the disenrollment movement in the Cherokee nation led by Chief Smith, please contact Marilyn Vann – President – Descendants of Freedmen Association



#10 Feb-24-2007 11:50:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Freedmen in court to halt Cherokee Nation vote
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Cherokee Freedmen are in federal court this afternoon to halt an election that would deny them citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.

The Freedmen are descendants of former slaves. They are citizens of the Cherokee Nation because their ancestors appeared on the Dawes Roll.

Some tribal members, however, want to change the Cherokee constitution to require an Indian blood component. A vote is scheduled for March 3.

Normally, the courts would stay out of internal tribal matters. But Judge Henry H. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., said the tribe's sovereign immunity was abrogated by Congress through by treaty and by the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery.

The Freedmen are asking for a preliminary injunction to halt the vote. Kennedy is holding a hearing at 3pm in Courtroom 27A at the federal courthouse.




#11 Feb-24-2007 11:51:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Cherokee Tribe Faces Decision on Freedmen
by Frank Morris

Morning Edition, February 21, 2007 · A federal court hearing Wednesday pits Native Americans against the descendants of African slaves once kept by tribal members. The Cherokee Nation has moved to expel the people known as Cherokee Freedmen.

The Freedmen argue that a 140-year-old treaty protects their citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. The conflict puts the tribal government in the unusual position trying to argue against a long-standing treaty.

The Cherokee tribe has always been one of the largest in the United States. It was also once one of the wealthiest. Some of its members held more than 100 slaves on plantations in the south. In recent times though, many Cherokee have lived in deep poverty.

The tribe only recently tapped casino revenue to build modern health clinics, like the one rising from the countryside near Muskogee, Oklahoma.

With the Cherokee's financial picture brightening somewhat and a tribal ruling in their favor, Freedmen such as Johnny Toomer — a forklift operator in Muskogee — have staked their claim to membership.

"All I want [is] to be done is done fairly and right," Toomer said. "My ancestors received benefits and was done fairly. I want to be done fairly."

Toomer's great, great grandmother was the daughter of slaves held by the Cherokee. Her people likely walked to Oklahoma from Georgia on the infamous Trail of Tears, a march forced by the U.S. government that killed nearly a fifth of the tribe.

Toomer says the proof of his claim is in the photocopied documents arrayed on his coffee table. His relative's name is on what's called the Dawes Rolls, a federal government list of Cherokees, and members of four other tribes, living on Indian lands around 1900.

The Dawes Rolls have become the gold standard for determining tribal citizenship. If you have a direct descendant on the rolls, you're in.

But a century ago a bureaucrat marked that Toomer's great, great grandmother was a Cherokee Freedman. It's that notation that now puts his tribal citizenship at risk.

"Is it because of the color of my skin, [the] reason I'm not accepted? That's the way I feel about it sometimes," Toomer said.

A tribal court ruling last year forced the Cherokees to recognize Freedmen as citizens. That prompted Toomer and about 1,500 other Freedmen to sign up for membership cards.

That sparked a referendum to amend the tribe's constitution and formally expel the Freedmen.

"It's an Indian thing, we do not want non-Indians in the tribe, our Indian blood is what binds us together," said Jodie Fishinghawk, who helped lead the drive to expel the Freedmen.

She notes that nearly all Indian nations require their citizens to be able to document direct ancestors in the tribe. Standards vary from nation to nation, and most are more stringent than the Cherokee. Fishinghawk says a tribe's right to set conditions of citizenship is fundamental to its sovereignty.

"It's a democratic process, people are allowed to vote. That's what America is based on, that's what we use here in the Cherokee Nation," Fishinghawk said. "And I don't see any problem with it."

The Cherokee Freedmen do. After fighting on the losing side in the Civil War, the Cherokees signed a treaty guaranteeing their newly freed slaves citizenship in the tribe.

Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association, says the 1866 treaty's protection outweighs the tribe's claims of sovereignty on this issue. And besides, she says, the Cherokee tribe has always been a diverse nation, not a race.

"You know there never was such a thing as the Cherokee Race. Cherokee was a citizenship," Vann said. "The federal government doesn't have government-to-government relations with races, only nations."

But this whole discussion of race really misses the point, according to Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith. In his office looking out at the sprawling tribal headquarters campus near Tahlequah, Okla., Smith said more people do want to be in the tribes these days. But it's not so much because of subsidized health care and housing, but rather a search for a cultural identity.

"And it's easy to grasp and look to tribes, who are indigenous and have a sense of identity, and have sustained themselves through terrible times," Smith said.

The Cherokee Freedmen maintain that their ancestors helped sustain the tribe through very the worst of times. They argue that now that things have improved they shouldn't have to fight to call themselves Cherokees.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor … Id=7513849



#12 Feb-24-2007 11:58:am

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Judge won't stop Cherokee election on Freedmen
Thursday, February 22, 2007

Citing respect for tribal sovereignty and the democratic process, a federal judge on Wednesday refused to halt a Cherokee Nation election that could deny citizenship to the descendants of former slaves.

But Judge Henry H. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., expressed concerns that the outcome of the vote -- the disenfranchisement of thousands of Cherokee Freedmen -- might draw him into an area normally considered off-limits by the courts. Tribal elections are rarely the subject of federal lawsuits.

"The crux of this court's decision is to respect the sovereignty ... of the Cherokee Nation," Kennedy said from the bench. Yet he wondered why the tribe would proceed with an election and "invite this court, or some other court, to intervene."

That's exactly what six Freedmen wanted Kennedy to do. Earlier this month, they filed a motion for preliminary injunction to block the March 3 election, saying it violates the Treaty of 1866, which ended slavery on the Cherokee Nation, and the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery.

"That is the badge of slavery that having this election will place over the Cherokee Freedmen," argued Alvin Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Speaking in opposition was Diane Hammonds, the attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. Although she plans to vote against the disenfranchisement of the Freedmen, she said court intervention would trample on tribal rights.

"This is strictly an intra-tribal matter," she told the judge. "Everyone here is Cherokee." Melanie Fourkiller Knight, the tribe's secretary of state, attended the hearing.

Taking an unusual position was Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the named defendant in the case. Government attorneys did not oppose the Freedmen's motion for the preliminary injunction but they didn't support it either.

"The United States does not inject itself into elections, in intra-tribal matters," said Catherine Blanco of the Department of Justice.

The stance drew a curious response from Kennedy. "I've read your papers," he told Blanco, "but I don't know that I understand the position of the United States."

In a closely-related case, the Interior Department did take a position when the Seminole Nation voted to deny citizenship to its Freedmen. The Bureau of Indian Affairs refused to recognize the leadership of the tribe and cut off all federal funding until the Freedmen were restored.

Why the Bush administration isn't doing the same -- or threatening to -- in the Cherokee case puzzled the attorneys for the Freedmen. In the past, a regional BIA official in Oklahoma questioned the tribe's moves and Jim Cason, the top Interior official in charge of Indian affairs, had warned the tribe about potential consequences.

But by taking the odd position in court, Dunn said the federal government is failing to abide by the treaty. "In the middle of the deal, they flip-flop," he argued.

"Here we have two governments that are turning their back on that treaty," he added.

Despite the court's refusal to halt the election, Kennedy has previously ruled against the tribe. In December, he joined the tribe as a party, citing a history of marginalization of the Freedmen by the Cherokees.

In that ruling, he said the 1866 treaty and the Thirteenth Amendment waived the tribe's immunity from suit. As a preliminary matter in yesterday's ruling, he reaffirmed that the court has jurisdiction over the tribe.

The Freedmen also won a critical ruling before the Cherokee Nation's top court. In a 2-1 decision in March 2006, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal said tribal citizenship is open to anyone who can show his or her ancestor appeared on the Dawes Roll.

The roll includes Cherokees, Delawares, Shawnees and Freedmen. But the upcoming election would only deny citizenship to the Freedmen because it would require them to prove they have Indian blood.




#13 Mar-02-2007 09:04:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Cherokee Nation Special Election
KOTV - 3/2/2007 5:00 AM - Updated 3/2/2007 5:30 PM

A vote on whether descendants of freed Cherokee Nation slaves can be members of the tribe now will be held on Saturday. Cherokee Nation voters will decide on whether to amend the tribal constitution to make Indian blood a requirement for citizenship.

The Cherokee Nation's Supreme Court ruled in March 2006 that freedmen did qualify for citizenship. More than 2,000 freedmen descendants have enrolled as citizens of the tribe since the court ruling.

Polls are open on Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The measure will appear on the ballot as follows: --- This measure amends the Cherokee Nation Constitution section which deals with who can be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

A vote “yes” for this amendment would mean that citizenship would be limited to those who are original enrollees or descendants of Cherokees by blood, Delawares by blood, or Shawnees by blood as listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation commonly referred to as the Dawes Commission Rolls closed in 1906. This amendment would take away citizenship of current citizens and deny citizenship to future applicants who are solely descendants of those on either the Dawes Commission Intermarried Whites or Freedmen Rolls.

A vote “no” would mean that Intermarried Whites and Freedmen original enrollees and their descendants would continue to be eligible for citizenship.

Neither a “yes” nor a “no” vote will affect the citizenship rights of those individuals who are original enrollees or descendants of Cherokees by blood, Delawares by blood, or Shawnees by blood as listed on the Final Rolls of the Dawes Commission Rolls closed in 1906. ---

There are a number of precinct locations across northeast Oklahoma. Click here to see all the locations.

--- For more background on this story, click on the links below to read additional stories about the Cherokee Nation Freedmen and this special election.

3/21/2006 - Creek Nation Tribal Court Issues Ruling On Freedmen

4/27/2006 - Cherokee Nation Freedmen Fighting To Remain Part Of The Tribe

8/10/2006 - Creek Freedmen Fight To Become Full Members

10/10/2006 - Cherokee Freedmen To Challenge Special Election

12/29/2006 - Cherokee Chief Delays Special Election To March 3

12/31/2006 - Cherokees Set Vote On Freedmen Issue

2/22/2007 - Judge Keeps Special Election On Track




#14 Mar-03-2007 10:31:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Putting to a Vote the Question ‘Who Is Cherokee?’

Published: March 3, 2007

TAHLEQUAH, Okla., March 1 — The casinos here are crowded by midmorning; busloads of tourists stroll the streets, and construction crews are everywhere. But peace of mind eludes the prospering Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

The Cherokees, so proud that they survived the racism and greed that forced them to leave the East and settle in Oklahoma, are embroiled in a debate that is dredging up some of the most painful chapters of their history. The fundamental question they are asking is: Who is Cherokee? And it is raising ugly accusations of racism, from both inside and outside the tribe.

At issue is a group barely known outside of Indian country, the Freedmen. These are the descendants of black slaves owned by Cherokees, free blacks who were married to Cherokees and the children of mixed-race families known as black Cherokees, all of whom joined the Cherokee migration to Oklahoma in 1838.

The Freedmen became full citizens of the Cherokee Nation after emancipation, as part of the Treaty of 1866 with the United States. But in 1983, by tribal decree, the Freedmen were denied the right to vote in tribal elections on the ground they were not “Cherokee by blood.”

They sued, and in December won their challenge. But that has prompted a bigger fight. On Saturday, the Cherokee Nation is holding a special election — believed to be the first of its kind — to decide, in essence, whether to kick the Freedmen out of the tribe.

Officially, the election will ask voters whether to amend the Cherokee Nation Constitution. Overriding the 1866 treaty, it would limit citizenship to those who can trace their heritage to “Cherokee by blood” rolls, part of a census known as the Dawes Rolls of 1906. The Freedmen would automatically be denied citizenship because the Dawes Rolls, a census commissioned by Congress to distribute land to tribal members, put the Freedmen on a separate roll that made no mention of Indian blood.

Proponents of the amendment say it is about drawing a line, a blood line. The Cherokee Nation, the second-largest tribe in the country after the Navajo, is also one of the fastest growing, with 270,000 members and 1,000 new citizens enrolled every month. Members are entitled to federal benefits and tribal services , including medical and housing aid and scholarships.

“Every other Indian tribe is based on blood, and they are not accused of being racists,” said John A. Ketcher, a former deputy tribal chief, in a full-page “Vote Yes” ad in the Cherokee newspaper.

Many tribal leaders are campaigning for the amendment, citing the right of a sovereign nation to determine its citizenship.

Voters say they have been bombarded with advertisements attacking “non-Indians” as thieves who would create long lines in Cherokee health clinics and social service centers.

Freedmen supporters chalk up the claims to bigotry. They say the Cherokee Nation knows all too well that many Freedmen (who number about 25,000) have Cherokee blood.

When the Dawes Rolls were created, those with any African blood were put on the Freedmen roll, even if they were half Cherokee. Those with mixed-white and Cherokee ancestry, even if they were seven-eighths white and one-eighth Cherokee, were put on the Cherokee by blood roll. More than 75 percent of those enrolled in the Cherokee Nation have less than one-quarter Cherokee blood, the vast majority of them of European ancestry.

Marilyn Vann said she could not believe that one election could determine whether she was allowed to claim Cherokee blood.

“There are Freedmen who can prove they have a full-blooded Cherokee grandfather who won’t be members,” said Ms. Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes. “And there are blond people who are 1/1000th Cherokee who are members.”

Mike Miller, the Cherokee Nation spokesman, agreed.

“We are aware that there are those who can prove Indian blood who are not Cherokee citizens, because they are not on the Dawes ‘by blood’ Rolls,” Mr. Miller said. “But I don’t know of a single tribe that determines citizenship through a bunch of sources.”

This is the second time in recent years that an Indian nation has tried to remove its Freedmen. The Seminole Freedmen won a similar legal battle in 2003.

The Seminoles were formed when refugees from several tribes joined with runaway slaves. But after the Seminoles denied their Freedmen voting rights and financial benefits, effectively abrogating the Treaty of 1866, the federal government refused to recognize the Seminoles as a sovereign nation.

The Cherokees are also risking their tribal sovereignty, said Jon Velie, a lawyer for the Seminole and Cherokee Freedmen.

“There is this racial schism in Indian Country that is growing and getting worse,” Mr. Velie said. “Even having the debate is the problem. You then become a lesser person because people get to decide whether you’re in or not.”

Taylor Keen, a Cherokee tribal council member who supports Freedmen citizenship, suggested that proponents of the amendment were pandering to racism, trying to score political points for when they run for tribal office in June.

“This is a sad chapter in Cherokee history,” Mr. Keen said. “But this is not my Cherokee Nation. My Cherokee Nation is one that honors all parts of her past.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/03/us/03 … mp;ei=5070



#15 Mar-03-2007 10:43:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Cherokee Nation To Vote on Expelling Slaves' Descendants

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 3, 2007; Page A01

VINITA, Okla. -- J.D. Baldridge, 73, has official government documents showing him to be a descendant of a full-blood Cherokee. He has memories of a youth spent among Cherokee neighbors and kin, at tribal stomp dances and hog fries. He holds on to a fair amount of Cherokee vocabulary. " Salali," Baldridge says, his face creasing into a smile at the word. "Squirrel stew. Oh, that was good."

What Baldridge, a retired Oklahoma county sheriff, also has is at least one black ancestor, a former slave of a Cherokee family. That could get Baldridge cast out of the tribe, along with thousands of others.

The 250,000-member Cherokee Nation will vote in a special election today whether to override a 141-year-old treaty and change the tribal constitution to bar "freedmen," the descendants of former tribal slaves, from being members of the sovereign nation.

"It's a basic, inherent right to determine our own citizenry. We paid very dearly for those rights," Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith said in an interview last month in Oklahoma City.

But the Cherokee freedmen see the vote as less about self-determination than about discrimination and historical blinders. They see in the referendum hints of racism and a desire by some Cherokees to deny the tribe's slave-owning past.

"They know these people exist. And they're trying to push them aside, as though they were never with them," said Andra Shelton, one of Baldridge's family members. Shelton, 59, can recall her mother gossiping in fluent Cherokee when Cherokee friends and relatives visited.

People on both sides of the issue say the fight is also about tribal politics -- the freedmen at times have been at odds with the tribal leadership -- and about money.

Advocates of expelling the freedmen call it a matter of safeguarding tribal resources, which include a $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, and Cherokees' share of a gambling industry that, for U.S. tribes overall, takes in $22 billion a year. The grass-roots campaign for expulsion has given heavy play to warnings that keeping freedmen in the Cherokee Nation could encourage thousands more to sign up for a slice of the tribal pie.

"Don't get taken advantage of by these people. They will suck you dry," Darren Buzzard, an advocate of expelling the freedmen, wrote last summer in a widely circulated e-mail denounced by freedmen. "Don't let black freedmen back you into a corner. PROTECT CHEROKEE CULTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN. FOR OUR DAUGHTER[S] . . . FIGHT AGAINST THE INFILTRATION."

The issue is a remnant of the "peculiar institution" of Southern slavery and a discordant note set against the ringing statements of racial solidarity often voiced by people of color.

"It's oppressed people that's oppressing people," said Verdie Triplett, 53, an outspoken freedman of the Choctaw tribe, which, like the Cherokee, once owned black slaves.

Cherokees, along with Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles, were long known as the "Five Civilized Tribes" because they adopted many of the ways of their white neighbors in the South, including the holding of black slaves.

Many of the Cherokees' slaves accompanied the tribe when it was expelled from its traditional lands in North Carolina and Georgia and forced to migrate in 1838 and 1839 to Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma. Thousands of Cherokees died during the trip, which became known as the "Trail of Tears." It is not known how many of their slaves also perished.

The tribe fought for the Confederacy. In defeat, it signed a federal treaty in 1866 committing that its slaves, who had been freed by tribal decree during the war, would be absorbed as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

By the late 1880s, Washington started opening up tribal lands in Oklahoma to white settlers, breaking previous pledges to the tribes. As a step toward ending tribal ownership of Indian Territory, Congress initiated a new census of the "Five Civilized Tribes" -- a census known as the Dawes Commission. It is that head count that the Cherokee Nation would use to determine the eligibility of freedmen.

Past censuses of the tribes had noted both the Indian and the African ancestry of freedmen, counting those of mixed heritage as Native Americans. The Dawes Commission took a different approach.

Setting up tents in fields and at crossroads, the census takers eyeballed and interviewed those who came before them, separating them into different categories. If someone seemed to be Indian or white with Indian blood, the commission listed that person as whole or part Indian, historians say. People who the officials thought looked black were listed as freedmen, and no Indian lineage was noted, according to freedmen and historians.

"In cases of mixed freedmen and Indian parents," Kent Carter wrote in his book "The Dawes Commission," applicants were "not given credit for having any Indian blood."

Baldridge's ancestors are recorded as freedmen in the Dawes rolls. Roy Baldridge, J.D.'s son, said that for the Dawes Commission, "if you had a drop of black blood, you were black."

"That's false," said Smith, the Cherokee chief. "I think there was not a fixed policy that if you were dark, you were put on the freedmen roll."

Still, whether people were listed as Indians or freedmen, they were, under the 1866 treaty, considered citizens of the Cherokee Nation. Today's vote could revoke that designation for freedmen.

The census recorded about 20,000 freedmen for the five tribes, said Angela Y. Walton-Raji, a genealogist whose research has been seminal for freedmen tracing their roots.

Descendants of those freed tribal slaves would number in the hundreds of thousands today, Walton-Raji said.

But segregation and the civil rights movement separated native members of the tribes from freedmen. Today, no more than a few thousand descendants of the slaves are officially members of the five tribes, leaving their prospects of defeating the Cherokee referendum slim. By late last month, about 2,800 had re-registered in time to vote.

A lot of Cherokees don't know who the freedmen are," Smith said. Did he, growing up? "No."

The Cherokee Nation expelled many descendants of slaves in 1983 by requiring them to show a degree of Indian blood through the Dawes rolls. A tribal court reinstated them in March 2006. That spurred today's special election, which received a go-ahead Feb. 21 when a federal judge in Washington denied the freedmen's request for an injunction to halt the balloting.

Seated around a kitchen table recently at a family home in Vinita, one of Oklahoma's first settlements founded in part by Cherokee freedmen, the Baldridges spoke with bitterness about the dispute.

"It should have been a nonissue," Roy Baldridge, 51, said of the controversy in the Cherokee Nation. Stacks of photocopied U.S. government tribal censuses, genealogies and family photos lay spread out on the table. A portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. hung in the next room.

"It makes me sad that a few have brought this out and we're in this situation," he said.

And the fight over heritage is moving beyond the Cherokee Nation. The other tribes that owned slaves, and black descendants in those tribes, are watching the vote.

In 2000, the Seminole Nation expelled freedmen but was compelled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and federal courts to take them back. The Creek Nation has battled its freedmen in court.

Over the winter, Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen formed their own association.

At his home in Fort Coffee, a hamlet founded by Choctaw freedmen, Triplett said he is not trying to immerse himself in his Indian heritage. "Oh, no!" he said. "I'm black!"

But a few days later he stood at Fort Coffee's Choctaw cemetery, where because of renovation a chain-link fence separates the Indian and freedman sides of the graveyard. Triplett pointed out ancestors.

Leaving, he shouted a warning to the Choctaw side: "Guess who's coming to dinner!"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … rrer=email



#16 Mar-07-2007 11:38:pm

From: Texas
Registered: Oct-21-2006
Posts: 12082

Re: Cherokee Freedmen Issue

Dalton Walker: blood quantum, federal recognition and everything in between
By Dalton Walker

American Indian, Native Americans, Aboriginals, Indigenous, Natives…

The list goes on.

What is correct? What is offensive? What is preferred?

More than likely someone is going to get ticked off by one of them.

In the journalism world, news organizations implement a stylebook and American Indian is usually the common reference. However, some publications use Indians, Native Americans or Natives.

I prefer Natives. Younger generations tend to refer themselves as Natives or by their tribe. Natives are defined by most dictionaries as a member of an aboriginal people of America.

Key word: member.

More than 560 tribes are recognized by the federal government. More are fighting for recognition. With recognition come certain benefits such as health care but more importantly, a sense of pride, a sense of belonging. At least I hope.

Rarely ever is blood quantum ever brought up unless it has to do with enrollment. Most non-Natives don’t understand the process of how someone is enrolled or federally recognized by their blood quantum. It’s confusing, some have told me.

I agree.

We are the only U.S. citizens who have to report our Native blood quantum.

How can someone be a quarter Native? In other words, is one of their legs considered their only Native part? It’s laughable yet, very serious and to most Natives, it’s an everyday struggle. There is a quiet storm brewing and it’s only a matter of time before it blows up in our faces.

Just ask the Cherokee Freedmen who were recently ousted by 270,000-member Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Freedmen are descendents of former slaves owned by Cherokees. Some argue that they have Cherokee blood along with their black ancestry.

I guess that’s not good enough to belong to certain tribes.

Freedmen were adopted into the tribe in 1866 under a treaty with the U.S. government.

In a recent special election, more than 76 percent of voters decided to amend the Cherokee Nation's constitution to remove the estimated 2,800 freedmen descendants from the tribal rolls. The results are expected to be challenged.

The amendment limits citizenship in the Cherokee Nation as Cherokee, Shawnee or Delaware. It excludes descendents of those listed on Intermarried White and Freedmen rolls taken the same time, according to the tribe’s Web site.

“The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, in a news release on its tribal Web site. “Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination. It was right of self-government, affirmed in 23 treaties with Great Britain and the United States and paid dearly with 4,000 lives on the Trail of Tears.”

Yes, it is a right to vote, but I strongly disagree with Smith’s opinion that “their voice is clear as to who should be citizens.” Clear? How is that possible when less than 10,000 tribal members voted and 76 percent voted yes?

I’m sure more people could have voted if they decided to. Maybe this topic isn’t as big of a deal as it seems. It’s kind of scary knowing tribes can oust other Natives at anytime. Does that mean they are no longer Native?

But it goes back to the age-old question: Who is Native?

“Well they don’t look Native.”

Yeah, we all heard that one before.

What are we supposed to look like? Chief Yahoo? Are we supposed to have a pony tail? Is our skin tone supposed to be dark brown along with our stoic facial expressions with or without a feather?

The bottom line is that things are changing. Natives can look like anyone. They can be Black, White, Asian…whatever.

Why are we judging one another? It’s bad enough when another race judges us.

Blood quantum will always be an issue. It was created so one day we would be extinct. I guess that day is coming quicker than we anticipated.

“Well they don’t act Native.”

Act Native? Teach me, please.

City Indian, reservation Indian, country Indian…we are all the same. Just because you grew up on the reservation doesn’t mean you have more credibility over city Indians or vice versa.

What kind example are we leaving the young ones?

It should come down to the individual. It should come down to the Native pride inside. It should come down to how much you care about Native peoples. Not by the way you look or if you are enrolled or not.

Will that day happen? I’m optimistic.




Board footer

Powered by PunBB
© Copyright 2002–2005 Rickard Andersson