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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Freedman Journalist vs. Chad Smith

I am a veteran journalist (30 years) who just returned from UNITY, a joint convention held every four years with African American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American journalists. This year's is in Chicago and ends Sunday.

The Native American Journalists Association hosted a panel discussion, "Who Is an Indian?," on Friday morning. The moderator, the only journalist, and five panelists all had the same viewpoint--sovereignty trumps everything else in determining tribal citizenship.

Chad Smith was a panelist. I was in the first row. From the microphone during the question and answer session, I challenged several of his misstatements (polite word) and distortions. The most outrageous was his saying race had NEVER been an issue in the tribe before the Curtis Act dissolved the tribe. I cited the 1871 Cherokee Supreme Court decision that black men could not marry into the tribe (my g-g grandfather Alonzo MANLEY was one of the black men rejected) and the unequal payments. Of course, I could have given a longer list (school segregation, almost no Freedman officials in the CN government).

He had said only 2 percent of Cherokees held slaves. I noted the tribe's wealth before the Civil War was based on slave labor and its wealthiest members were slaveholders, naming Principal Chief John Ross and his brother Lewis as examples. (Of course, there were many others, Joseph Vann, John Vann etc.)

I noted the Dawes Commission made no effort to identify the blood quantum of Freedmen, and none is noted for the vast majority. (He had said 1500 did). I also asked how blood quantum could be tracked when its source was Cherokee masters sexually abusing their female slaves.

It was a testy, five-minute exchange.

Afterwards, Smith and I chatted, civilly. Among other things, I suggested the CN apologize for slavery. He was noncommittal, but indicated it was being talked about.

The UNITY student laboratory paper and online publication ran articles about the exchange. There are some historical inaccuracies in the newspaper account and some loose intepretation and inaccurate rendering of some of my comments. I attached a comment to the online story (the better one) about some issues with their use of my quotes. The first story below is the online story.

The links are here:

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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