African-Native American Genealogy Forum
Re: The CNO version of the 'Truth' About Cherokee Citizenshi
In Response To: The CNO version of the 'Truth' About Cherokee Citizenship ()
The "Public Notices" posted by Historicuss and originally published by the administration of the Cherokee Nation (Chad Smith) sound good, even romantic in their cries for respect for the democratic process. However, in the interest of truth, I am compelled to respond:
Know the Truth
The Truth About Cherokee Citizenship
* MYTH: You need to have a large degree of Cherokee blood to be eligible for citizenship.
o FACT : To be considered a Cherokee citizen, you need one Indian ancestor listed on the base roll of our people. The Cherokee Nation doesn't care what other heritage anyone has: if someone has an Indian ancestor on our base roll, they are part of our Cherokee family.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The 2003 Constitution of the Cherokee Nation has NEVER been approved by the United States and is therefore not legal. The requirement for federal appears in the 1976 Constitution itself. While the Cherokee people attempted to remove the requirement in a previous special election, that amendment was itself never approved and is therefore inoperative. Thus, the 1976 Constitution remains valid and operative. The March 2006 Judicial Appeals Tribunal ruling in favor of the Freedmen found that the 1976 Constitution included ALL citizens of the Cherokee Nation listed on the Dawes Rolls and their descendants.
* MYTH: The Cherokee Nation is kicking African-Americans out of the tribe.
o FACT : The Cherokee Nation is among the most inclusive of Indian tribes. We embrace our mixed-race heritage and we are proud of our thousands of citizens who share African-American, Latino, Asian, white and other ancestry. To be a Cherokee, all you need is one Indian ancestor on the base roll. African-Americans with an Indian ancestor on our base roll have always been, and will continue to be, citizens of the Cherokee Nation.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The amendment to specifically disfranchise the Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation is absolutely and unequivocally racist. Under federal law and Cherokee law, anyone who has "one Indian ancestor" on the Dawes Roll is an INDIAN. That means that under the law, everyone who proves to an Indian ancestor on the Dawes Rolls is one kind of person, Indian by blood. Once the Freedmen are expelled, the Cherokee Nation will become a homogeneous nation of one kind of people, Indian by blood. Even the Adopted Whites listed on the Dawes By Blood Section Roll are, under the law, Indians by blood.
* MYTH: The election allows adopted whites with no blood quantum listed on Cherokee rolls to remain citizens.
o FACT: The amendment to our Constitution affects the citizenship of all non-Indians who were granted citizenship rights under a tribal court ruling one year ago, regardless of their ethnic background.
# THE REAL TRUTH: Officials of the Cherokee Nation may attempt to disenroll the descendants of Adopted Whites appearing on the By Blood section of the Dawes Rolls, to do so would be a violation of the constitutional amendment they are now attempting to enforce. The Adopted Whites appear on the By Blood section of the Dawes Rolls. The amendment itself does not declare that those now eligible must have a blood quantum, it only says they must appear on the By Blood section of the Dawes Rolls. If tribal officials attempt to disenroll Adopted White descendants they will be violating the amendment.
* MYTH: Non-Indians who have long been Cherokee citizens are now being “disenrolled.”
o FACT: The amendment to our Constitution only affects certain people who were granted tribal citizenship under a tribal court ruling just one year ago. This vote affirms the people's passionate belief that you need one Indian ancestor listed on the base roll to be a Cherokee.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The tribal court ruling in March 2006 did not "grant" citizenship to anyone. The ruling recognized the already preexisting citizenship granted by the Treaty of 1866, Cherokee Nation Constitution of 1839 and CN Constitution of 1976. The fact that Cherokee citizens, whether 3 percent of 80 percent hold a passionate belief that racism is good and proper for the Cherokee Nation is irrelavent. The fact is, racism is an antiquated and hurtful philosophy and must be rooted out where ever it might exist. The fact that southern whites were passionate about their racist views did not make right.
* MYTH: It is unfair to rely on the Dawes Roll as the base roll of the Cherokees to prove Indian ancestry
o FACT: The Dawes Roll is not perfect, but we rely on it because it is the best, most authoritative historical document we have to determine who our Indian ancestors were, going back 100 years.
# THE REAL TRUTH: Not a single party has ever said anything about the fairness or unfairness of using the Dawes Rolls as the sole source of proof of Cherokee citizenship. The Cherokee citizens whose ancestors appear on the Dawes Roll as Freedmen not only embrace that fact, but have relied upon it to protect their rights. The Dawes Roll, however, it not the most authoritative historical document available to determine whether or not someone is a Cherokee by blood. There were several rolls made by the Cherokee people themselves prior to the Dawes Roll upon which the Dawes Commission relied to determine citizenship. The 1880 and 1896 Authenticated Rolls of the Cherokee Nation are just as authoritative and often more accurate in determing whether someone is Cherokee by blood or by adoption.
The Truth About Our History
* MYTH: Freedmen and other non-Indians have long been part of the Cherokee Nation.
o FACT: Freedmen and other non-Indians were granted tribal citizenship under a tribal court ruling just one year ago. Prior to that and following this vote, to be part of the Cherokee Nation you must have one Indian ancestor listed on the base roll of our people.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The Freedmen were made citizens of the Cherokee Nation by an amemdment to the 1839 Constitution of the Cherokee Nation in 1866. The Freedmen enjoyed full citizenship rights in the Cherokee Nation including voting, holding public office and recieved all land and cash payments made to other Cherokee citizens right up to 1970 when the last per capita payment was made. The Freedmen participated in the adoption of the 1976 Constitution by voting, and many elder Freedmen descendants today still hold their 1970 and 1975 tribal membership cards. Freedmen descendants holding these cards based solely on the fact that they or their ancestors appeared on the Freedmen section of the Dawes Rolls also voted in every Cherokee election after statehood until 1983. It was in 1983 that Ross Swimmer, then Principal Chief, caused the Freedmen to be disenrolled and barred from enrollment and voting. Immediately following this illegal disenrollment, the Freedmen descendants began fighting for their rights. A lawsuit was filed by Rev. Roger Nero in federal court, which lead the Freedmen back to tribal court. A case was filed in tribal court by Bernice Riggs, which was lost. And then a case was filed by Lucy Allen, which is the seminal citizenship case which not only recognized the rights of the Freedmen to citizenship, but also proved that the Council did not have the authority to impose extra-constitutional requirements, such as blood quantum limits. The Freedmen have been, along with all other Cherokee citizens by blood and adoption (Shawnees and Delawares) active citizens of the Cherokee Nation since 1866. The fact that they have been fighting for their citizenship rights for the past 24 years cannot destroy the historic fact they were and are citizens of the Cherokee Nation.
* MYTH: The Cherokee Nation is expelling the descendants of their former slaves.
o FACT: Slavery was a grave injustice and a painful chapter in our nation's history. With respect to citizenship, we have justly defined our own identity through the exercise of our cherished democratic freedoms. Our people voted, and they voted their passionate belief that you must be an Indian to be in an Indian tribe. Descendants of slaves who also have an Indian ancestor on our base rolls continue to be eligible for citizenship, as they always have been.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The descendants of slaves of the Cherokee Nation appear on the Dawes Rolls as Freedmen. The amendment to the 2003 constitution specifically exludes the Freedmen section of the Dawes Roll. Descendants of Freedmen with an ancestor on the By Blood section of the Dawes Roll are Cherokees by blood. Once by blood status is proven, under Cherokee law, any other ethnic identity disappears. No matter how the CNO officials spin it, the Freedmen Roll is predominately a roll made up of the former slaves of the Cherokee Nation and their descendants. They cannot claim that a few, very few individuals of Freedmen descent who also have Cherokee by blood descent cover for the fact that they have taken direct steps to disfranchise the descendants of our slaves, thus imposing a badge of slavery upon the already segregated Freedmen Roll and upon the descendants of those so enrolled.
* MYTH: The Cherokee Nation broke the Treaty of 1866.
o FACT: The Cherokee Nation honored the treaty by giving former slaves and other non-Indians in our region the same rights as Cherokees to benefits that included land and cash payments. With all due respect to those who seek to join the Nation, citizenship in a sovereign nation is not determined by a treaty with another government. The Cherokee Nation re-asserted its sovereignty and self-determination in 1975, and our Constitution grants us the freedom to determine for ourselves who is a Cherokee.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The Cherokee Nation, in 1866, just as it does today, seeks RECOGNITION of its sovereign status from the United States. Otherwise, the Cherokee Nation would be nothing more than a social club made up of Cherokee Indians. When the Cherokee Nation took up arms against the United States during the U.S. Civil War, we severed our federal relationship in the hope that the Confederate States would not only win, but would also provide the CN with a better deal. When the CSA lost the war, so did we. While it may not seem that a sovereign government's citizenship would not be determined by a treaty, that simply is not the case. Certainly, the Treaty does not, itself, determine citizenship. However, the Treaty of 1866 is the vehicle by which the Cherokee Nation became a federally recognized tribe. The United States has been steadfast in keeping that Treaty (having broken nearly everyone before it). There is little, if any provision in the 1866 Treaty that we Cherokees can rightfully say have not been fulfilled, not the least of which is the fact that we remain a federally recognized tribe. On the other hand, in that Treaty, the Cherokee Nation agreed to adopt their former slaves (AND THEIR DESCENDANTS) as citizens equal to native Cherokees. We amended our constitution of 1839 to adopt them and in 1976, worded that constitution to include them. The "and their descendants" part is where we have gone wrong with this amendment. Those living today are the descendants of those who were parties to the agreement. If we, as Cherokees by blood desire to continue the enjoyment of our rights as a sovereign and federally recognized tribe, then they (freedmen descendants) must also enjoy the benefits of the part of the same Treaty that protects both us and them. Otherwise, we have violated the Treaty of 1866 and the United States, through the BIA, has only two options to redress the problem. Either enforce the Treaty in a court of law or withdraw federal recognition of the Cherokee Nation, because obviously, we must no longer desire to have it, because we no longer respect the Treaty that bestows it.
The Truth About Legality
* MYTH: The special election that the Cherokee Nation held on March 3, 2007 was illegal.
o FACT: The Cherokee people cherish our democratic freedoms and we paid dearly for them. These include the right to vote and to determine for ourselves the meaning of our Indian identity. The record turnout for this constitutional vote proved that Cherokee identity is an issue that is close to the heart of the Cherokee people.
# THE REAL TRUTH: Democracy is an imperfect science and sometimes democracy (majority rule) takes a wrong turn. Just because the majority can do something does not make it right. In the old south, we saw a majority of whites oppress the rights of the black minority. Under Chad Smith's view of democracy, it would have been right to do so. The Cherokee people have allowed a minority of the majority to impose their racist views upon the whole Nation. This was made possible by the fact that the special election was intentionally rushed to prevent proper voter education. The Chief and his cronies used their bullypulpit to brow beat and misinform the voters on the truth of the Freedmen and the laws governing their rights and the rushed election prevented the Freedmen from getting their own population of voters registered in order to protect their rights. Keep in mind that one elderly Freedmen descendant, born at home and having no birth certificate, prevents the enrollment of their children and grandchildren. Sometimes these common enrollment problems take years to clear up. If we really care about democracy, which is the right of the people to determine for themselves their own future, it must be fair, clean and above board. Nothing in the special election was fair, clean or above board.
* MYTH: It is not legal for the Cherokee Nation to define citizenship except as it is defined in the Treaty of 1866.
o FACT: The treaty provided for non-Indians residing in Cherokee territory to be granted the same rights as Cherokees to benefits that included land and cash payments. The Cherokee Nation honored the treaty. However, citizenship in a sovereign nation is not determined by a treaty with another government. The Cherokee Nation's Constitution grants us the legal right to determine for ourselves the eligibility requirements for Cherokee citizenship.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The Treaty does not grant citizenship. The Treaty is a contract between the U.S. government and the Cherokee Nation. In that contract, we promised that WE would grant citizenship to the Freedmen (AND THEIR DESCENDANTS) equal to native Cherokees. This we did with an amendment to the 1839 Constitution and the adoption of the 1976 constitution. By disfranchising the Freedmen (AND THEIR DESCENDANTS) with this recently adopted amendment, we have broken our promise, violated the contract (1866 Treaty) and jeopardized our federal recognition. The Cherokee Nation can do as it pleases regarding citizenship, but there is a price to pay. The Cherokee people can turn their nation into a homogenous group of descendants of Cherokees by blood, but in so doing, we may have set the stage for the withdrawl of federal recognition.
* MYTH: Voter turnout for the special election was extremely low.
o FACT: More than 8,700 people voted, which was a higher turnout than the vote for the Cherokee Nation's constitution, four years ago.
# THE REAL TRUTH: Talk about spin!!! The turnout for the special election was extremely low, as have been ALL elections in the Cherokee Nation. Apathy and ignorance of tribal matters is rampant among the citizens of the Cherokee Nation. 8,700 voters is no more than three percent of the total eligible voting population. Disenrollment of the Freedmen could be considered "reorganization" and the federal standard for such actions by a tribe is that 33 percent of the eligible voting population MUST participate. The voters who supported the amendment constitute a minority of the majority and are not in any way representative of the views of the majority. In order for any votes cast to represent the passions of the Cherokee people, there must have been time to educate the voters, do voter registration drives and the Freedmen themselves must be given time to get themselves registered. None of that happened.
The Truth About Our Motives
* MYTH: Cherokees are motivated by racism to only want full-blooded Indians in the tribe
o FACT: On the contrary, we welcome every eligible Cherokee citizen regardless of his or her other racial heritage. The Cherokee Nation embraces its thousands of citizens who share African-American, Latino, Asian, white and other ancestry. It doesn't matter what you look like. If you have one Indian ancestor on the base roll, you are a member of the Cherokee family.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The officials of the Cherokee Nation who have promoted disenrollment of the Freedmen ARE motivated by racism against the Black citizens of the Cherokee Nation and their descendants. There has never been an accusation that they want ONLY full bloods. That would be stupid. None of the officials who have promoted expelling the Freedmen are even close to being full blood. Chad Smith is ONLY 1/4 degree of Cherokee blood (his card say half, but that's only because he claims to be the grandchild of Kiah Smith, but can't prove that) and Cara Cowan Watts, Councilor for Rogers County, is only 1/256 degree of Cherokee blood. All others are somewhere inbetween. The real motivation of the opponents of the Freedment, besides their racist views, is rooted in fear. They fear the Freedmen's ability to vote in the upcoming June election, knowing the Freedmen will undoubtedly vote against them. Sadly, Chad Smith and Cara Cowan Watts, along with their supporters, are willing to destroy the rights of elders and children just to hold onto their jobs; and they get to kick black people in the teeth by doing it.
* MYTH: The Cherokee Nation wants to keep more gaming revenues for itself.
o FACT: This is about weaving together a great, multi-ethnic nation through one common thread – a shared connection to our Indian ancestors. The Cherokees don't distribute gaming revenues to individuals. Gaming revenues benefit the entire community beyond the Cherokees, as we invest gaming revenues in services like health care and education.
# THE REAL TRUTH: While gaming revenues are not distributed to Cherokee members in payments as some tribes do, some of those funds to make their way into tribal services directed to indigent and needy Cherokee citizens. Some Freedmen descendants, just the same as Cherokee Indians, need help. Now that they have been disfranchised, elderly Cherokee Freedmen will be cut off from dialysis, medications and other hospital benefits. Cherokee Freedmen children will no longer be eligible for school supplies, educational benefits and eye glasses. The saddest result of the efforts of certain Cherokee Indians to disenroll the Cherokee Freedmen is the ugly truth of how far we Cherokees have travelled from the true Cherokee ethos of inclusion, sharing and compassion for our fellow man. So much for Ga-du-gi.
The Truth About the Political Context
* MYTH: Non-Indians are being “disenrolled” for failing to support the tribe's current administration.
o FACT: The Cherokee Nation passionately believes that citizenship in an Indian nation should belong to descendants of Indians. Our constitutional amendment reflects that belief. This vote came from the people as a grassroots effort to define Cherokee identity for ourselves.
# THE REAL TRUTH: When the JAT ruled in favor of the citizenship rights of the Freedmen, Chad Smith and his followers could have come out of it smelling like a rose. Had they simply embraced the fact that Cherokee citizenship is comprised of multi-ethnic groups, none of the terrible things that have transpired would have happened. But immediately following the landmark ruling of the Court, Chad Smith began directing his slim majority on the council to take steps to disenroll the Freedmen in a call for a special election. When he could not get one passed in Council, he then recruited cronies to carry a bogus petition and directed his hand picked judges to approve it. Smith knows that he has gone to far in his opposition to the citizenship of rightful Cherokees, that he would undoubtedly not get their vote in June. His efforts, rooted in racism also have their roots in fear of the Freedmen vote. Smith knows that he has no place to go politically. He has two families, having committed adultary on his wife and causing to be born, three outside children. He could not get elected dog catcher in a state or federal race. Yet the Cherokees have put him into office twice. WHY? Because he has the ability to dupe the Cherokee voters into believing that Character doesn't matter. All that matters is his ability to make casino revenues grow, regardless of how those funds are spent or stolen.
* MYTH: The Cherokee Nation urged voters to support the amendment.
o FACT: The Cherokee Nation took no official position on either side of the vote. It never sought to influence anyone's vote. The people exercised their cherished democratic right to determine for themselves the meaning of their Indian identity.
# THE REAL TRUTH: The Cherokee Nation reserved the rooms at the Muskogee Library where signatures were collected. Both Grayson, deputy chief and Smith, principal chief, made public statements supporting removal of the Freedmen. Smith's slim majority on the Council supported the petition and some of them carried petitions and obtained signatures. The vote, being only 3 percent, does not represent the views of the whole Cherokee Nation, only the racist and ignorant minority of the majority. However, the disengenous efforts of the Smith administration to distance themselves from their previous stands and blame the disenrollment fiasco on the voters is nothing short of astounding. The vote was not about Indian identity. That is something personal that each of us must toil with and answer. This vote was about whether racism and intolerance are hallmarks of Cherokee philosophy and whether Chad Smith would have to face angry voters or not in June.
* MYTH: The United States government has sided with the Freedmen descendants in this matter.
o FACT: The United States government through its courts has held time and again held that Indian tribes have the right to determine their own citizenship and is defending a lawsuit brought by some Freedmen descendants.
# THE REAL TRUTH: I urge everyone to read all of the filings by the BIA and the Department of Justice in the case of Vann etal v. Kempthorne to determine just where the United States stands on this issue. I think you will find their socalled "fact" comes up sorely lacking in validity.
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