Monday, March 05, 2007

Cherokees accused of racist plot as descendants of black slaves are cast out

Tim Reid:

Cherokees voted yesterday to expel descendants of black slaves they once owned, a move that has exposed the unsavoury role played by some Native Americans during the Civil War and renewed accusations of racism against the tribe.

Members of the Cherokee Nation, the second largest Native American tribe, voted by 77 per cent to 23 in a special election to amend their constitution and limit citizenship to those listed as “Cherokee by blood”.

The move stripped tribal membership from freedmen – those descended from slaves – and blacks who were married to Cherokees. They have enjoyed full citizenship rights for 141 years.

Opponents of the vote denounced it as a racist plot to deny tribal revenue – which includes $22 billion a year from casino takings for all US tribes – to those not deemed full-blood Cherokee, and to block them from claiming a slice of the tribal pie.

Supporters say that it was a long-overdue move by Cherokees to determine their own tribal make-up. Freedmen were granted full tribal membership under an 1866 treaty that the tribe was essentially forced to sign with the US Government after the Civil War ended.

The vote has reopened a lesser-known chapter in Native American history – the fact that some of the country’s largest tribes sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War – and the intra-tribal racial tensions that have persisted since Emancipation.

Cherokees, Choctaws, Chicksaws, Creeks and Seminoles were known as the Five Civilised Tribes because they adopted many of the ways of the Confederate South, including the ownership of black slaves. The election has also high-lighted the massive gambling revenues many tribes now enjoy because, as “sovereign nations”, they are free to build casinos on tribal lands in a country where gambling is largely illegal.

The vote limits citizenship to those who can trace their heritage to a “Cherokee by blood” list, part of the Dawes Rolls census created by Congress in 1906. Under that census, anybody with a trace of African-American blood – even if they were half Cherokee – was placed on the freedmen roll. Those with full Cherokee or mixed white and Cherokee ancestry – even if seventh eighths white – were put on the “Cherokee by blood” roll.

Today about 25,000 of the 270,000 Cherokees are descendants of freedmen, but the tribe is growing rapidly with new citizens enrolling each month. Members are entitled to a share of the $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, housing and medical support.

Those who want to expel the freedmen have said that, without the vote, thousands more descendants would seek to cash in on the tribe’s revenue and welfare network. “Don’t get taken advantage of by these people. They will suck you dry,” wrote Darren Buzzard in a widely circulated e-mail last year. “Don’t let black freedmen back you into a corner. Protect Cherokee culture for our children.”

Chad Smith, the tribe’s principal chief, said that about 8,700 people had voted in the special election, more than the turnout for the Cherokee constitution vote four years ago. “Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination.” But Taylor Keen, a tribal council member, said: “This is a sad chapter in Cherokee history. This is not my Cherokee Nation. My Cherokee Nation is one that honours all parts of her past.”

Marilyn Vann, president of the Oklahoma City-based Descendants of Freedmen of Five Civilised Tribes, said: “I’m very disappointed that people bought into a lot of rhetoric and falsehoods by tribal leaders.” Although most tribal issues are dealt with by Cherokee courts, the freedmen have vowed to challenge the vote in federal courts. They have precedent on their side.

In 2000 the Seminole Nation expelled freedmen. But the federal Government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and federal courts, refused to recognise the Seminoles as a sovereign nation. Faced with such a loss of status, they took the freedmen back.

The petition drive for the Cherokee ballot measure followed a ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court last March confirming that the 1866 treaty assured citizenship to freedmen descendants. Since then, more than 2,000 freedmen descendants have enrolled as citizens of the tribe. Members of the tribe received many election mailings attacking “nonIndians” as thieves who would create queues in health clinics and welfare centres.

But the vote means that, like the Seminole, the Cherokee risk losing their tribal sovereignty, Jon Velie, a lawyer for Seminole and Cherokee freedmen, told the New York Times. “There is a racial schism in Indian Country that is growing and getting worse.”

US Cherokees Want Black Descendants Gone

Cherokees to Vote: Can Freedmen be Native American?

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

Cherokee Nation Lowers Itself

Another successful Indian tribe membership drive: 2,800 driven out

Cherokees eject slave descendants


At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two protected classes beloved by the left and liberals. Who will get that vital support? The original Americans or the most oppressed people ever? Indigenous people are inherently righteous, but former slaves are PC too. What to do? I Can't wait for the fight over this one. Then again, if the Cherokee sided with the Confederates, I can't say that they are all bad.

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Paul said...

I Can't wait for the fight over this one.

The left will probably just ignore this one in the same way that they ignore everything that doesn't fit their PC world view. Either that, or they will find some way to blame this on white people.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only the South had won the Civil War, Native Americans would have never been pushed around! I am only half joking. I really believe that if the South had won, the Indians living there would never have suffered the way they did under the Federal gov't. Sam Waite ws one of the best fighters and leaders the South had and he was an American Indian! He kicked the Union's ass until the surrender.

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that the key here is that they are excluding those who are mixed Cherokee and Black, while including those who are mixed Cherokee and White. There is something not right about this, assuming I am not missing something.
-Hal K

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry Hal K, the NY Times is on the case and they will get this whole thing straightened out in no time flat after they wrap up the Duke Rape issue and the sexism at Augusta. It is their tribe and they can do what they want. I'm actually 1/16 Indian and I don't see any casino money either.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger anunka said...

I am of African American, Cherokee and White heritage. I found it truly disturbing when I found out years ago as a child that many of my Indian brothers and sister supported the ideology of the Confederacy to keep Blacks as slaves. It is even sadder today, to see this ideology still prevalent within the society of the Cherokee Nation. What I find most amusing about this whole situation is that the Cherokee Nation accepts the White Cherokees and says, "there is no such thing as a Black Cherokee." They are willing to accept the Whites who degraded their women, killed their children and stole their land and continues to steal from them even today. Whites who still do not recognize them as any real importance but tolerates them. I refuse to forget my ancestors Cherokee roots many full blooded and proud. It is no way, that the Cherokee Nation can make me or any of us forget those who make up a vital part of who we are. What is most sad about this whole ordeal is that the "New" Cherokee Nation has opted to forget the honor of its ancestors and those who lived, loved, fought and suffered with them in their plight to exist as a "People". It is not about money for me as I am sure it is not that for thousands of us. Keep your gambling money, I don't need it. My family taught me the importance of an education and I am proud to announce that I am well educated and do very nicely for myself and family- Thank You! The principle of the thing is that we wish to be acknowledged not overlooked. How can one accept one part of one's heritage and forget the other part of them? My maternal grandmother was a member of the Cherokee Wolf Clan that went to Oklahoma. She stayed behind leaving her family to stay with my great grandfather in N.C. who was was Half Black and Half Cherokee. My paternal grandfather was White and married to a White woman, but my paternal grandmother was Cherokee (she who had four children by him). When he died his White wife ran my grandmother Sitting Nanny (age 22) away. She had no family to turn to and lived hand to mouth with her four children ( my father the third oldest was not quite three years old at this time. She soon met a Black man who worked as a sharecropper. He took her in and married her, she died not quite three years later. He continued to raise my father and his siblings as his own, eventhough he remarried soon after (a Black woman 13 years old) and had seven other children. Why would I want to forget any of this????


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