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Putting to a Vote the Question - - `Who Is Cherokee?'

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Putting to a Vote the Question -- `Who Is Cherokee? -- written by Evelyn Nieves TAHLEQUAH, Okla., March 1 The casinos here are crowded by midmorning; busloads
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 4, 2007
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      Putting to a Vote

      the Question --

       
      `Who Is Cherokee?'


      -- written by Evelyn Nieves
      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."


      SOURCE:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/03/us/03cherokee.html

    • j s
      I think the freedmen should start their own Cherokee nation. If it s really not about the money etc and they have their own firmly entrenched tribal
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 4, 2007
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        I think the freedmen should start their own Cherokee nation.
        If it's really not about the money etc and they have their own
        firmly entrenched tribal traditions why should they need a political
        body to give them an identity? 2,800 is a sizeable nation I think.
        I wouldnt even want to be a member after this vote.  

        multiracialbookclub <soaptalk@...> wrote:
        Putting to a Vote

        the Question --

         
        `Who Is Cherokee?'


        -- written by Evelyn Nieves
        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."


        SOURCE:
        http://www.nytimes. com/2007/ 03/03/us/ 03cherokee. html


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