Cherokee Stuff -  Cherokee Nation's vote is not racist (32 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
From: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon10/23/07 12:48 PM 
To: All  (1 of 2) 

Cherokee Nation's vote is not racist
Chad Smith, principal chief, Cherokee Nation - Tahlequah, Okla.

The Forum piece " 'Black' Cherokees fight for heritage" wrongly accused the Cherokee Nation of racism because it voted to require all citizens to have an Indian ancestor on the federally authorized base roll of our people (Oct. 12).

It ignored the fact that we are one of the most diverse Indian tribes. We have thousands of black, Latino, Asian and white citizens. The Nation also will help any descendants of Freedmen, or the name commonly referring to black Cherokees, to find out whether they have Indian ancestry. Contrary to the column, money was irrelevant to the Cherokee people's vote. The Nation doesn't distribute gaming revenue to individuals. Instead, it reinvests in public works for our citizens and communities beyond the Cherokees.

The piece omitted the fact that the issue of whether the U.S.-Cherokee Treaty of 1866 gave citizenship to the Freedmen or their descendants is being litigated. We believe the treaty never granted them citizenship. In 1906, Congress passed the Five Tribes Act, which clarified that today's Freedmen descendants neither have rights to property nor citizenship. Even so, the Cherokee Nation supported a court order giving disenrolled Freedmen descendants critical social and health services and the right to vote until all litigation is resolved.

The column mentioned that some in Congress advocate a scorched-earth policy of eliminating federal health, housing and other vital services for the neediest Cherokees in retaliation for our people's will to define ourselves as an Indian nation, just as more than 500 other tribes do. We'd ask that Congress let the courts decide before rushing to judgment.

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From: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon10/23/07 12:51 PM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (2 of 2) 
 2294.2 in reply to 2294.1 

This is the column Chief Smith was talking about:

'Black' Cherokees fight for heritage

By Lois Hatton

A group of Americans who are not fully black or fully Indian are fighting for the survival of their identity, culture, history and economic future. Life for these black Indians can be difficult, no matter their tribal affiliation.

Lynn Hart, a black Yankton Sioux, says he regularly experiences racism. "When I go to the reservation, people see me as black. When I walk among blacks, they see me as Indian." But black Cherokees, commonly called Cherokee Freedmen, have recently been dealt a crueler blow.

In March, Cherokee tribal members voted to remove members who had African-American heritage — a total of 2,800 people. Why now? Money seems to be a motivating factor. Members receive health care, education and housing benefits. Each also has voting rights in tribal elections. But more important, each member has a stake in growing casino revenue.

The Freedmen point to a 1866 treaty that has linked them to Cherokee nation for generations. The treaty says, "All the Cherokees and freed persons who were formerly slaves to any Cherokee, and all free Negroes not having been such slaves" were given full Cherokee citizenship. To motivate the Cherokee to rescind what many consider to be a racist action, Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, wants to deny the Cherokee nation all federal funding for education, health care and housing, as well as to deprive them of their casino and oil revenue until the issue is resolved by the tribe or the courts.

Cherokees and African-Americans have a shared history of mistreatment. Many escaped slaves found refuge with Indians; others married into the tribe; and still others were slaves of Cherokees. In 1838, thousands of armed U.S. troops forced the Cherokee nation to relocate to Oklahoma. Together, the Cherokee and black Freedman walked what became known as the Trail of Tears — a 2,000-mile trek from their Georgia home to Oklahoma. Of the 16,000 people who started the journey, more than 4,000 died along the way.

Around the turn of the century, the Dawes Commission was established to determine land distribution to Cherokees who were relocated in Oklahoma. Over time, the census-like tally it conducted became the official document to verify Native American bloodlines. Some black Indians with Native American parents were not listed as part Indian on the Dawes rolls. Based solely on their skin color, they were listed as Freedmen.

The Cherokees are disenfranchising the Freedmen in the same way they were forcibly removed from their land. When we do not learn the lessons of history, we are inclined to repeat the errors.

Lois Hatton is a writer and columnist in Brookings, S.D., and author of Inspiration for a Lifetime.

  • Edited 10/23/2007 1:24 pm ET by Cherokee21

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