Re: Putting to a Vote the Question - - `Who Is Cherokee?'
- 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."
http://www.nytimes. com/2007/ 03/03/us/ 03cherokee. html
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