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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Re: By Blood Ancestors
In Response To: Re: By Blood Ancestors ()

Hello Esteluste,

Your said:
Reading this post for some reason bothers me.

My reply:
Racism bothers me too. And what I posted was only a generalization of what it takes to obtain enrollment as it is practiced today. There are few, if any exceptions made to the process today. Those tribal authorities who are the "gate keepers" apply in as strict a sense as they can, the rules required to prove blood of their tribes. Some, like the Cherokees, gladly enroll Cherokee by blood descendants who also have a freedmen ancestor. I never once saw them make a class distinction. They were only interested in the question of whether the person has a by blood ancestor. The Creeks, on the other hand, are notorious for turning away, losing their applications and doing whatever they can to thwart the applications of Creeks by blood who happen to look black. I fear the Choctaws and Chickasaws may do the same, but I have not heard of it. Nor do I know anything of the Seminole enrollment.

You said:
The argument you present so benignly belies the issues that have clouded the basic question of is the “descendant” of a “by blood” individual regardless of gender should be classified as “Native American.” In this case because I don’t believe the “Native American” community is a monolith and as Eli pointed out earlier in the week, the Five Tribes have a history that is unique to their tribe.

My reply:
So true. Each tribe is unique and the enrollment on the Dawes was complicated and unique. And the enrollment processes of each tribe is somewhat unique, although it should not be, because they are all doing the same thing, proving descent from the Dawes Roll. That's not brain surgury, it only requires birth and death records back to 1902. This modern uniqueness is fostered by the attitudes of those carrying out the contract for issuing the CDIB cards at the tribal level. Tribes that practice racism at the door, whether their applicants are by blood or adoption, often have the worst stories told about the treatment of blacks seeking enrollment. This is not something that can be blamed on the BIA. When the BIA did all of the CDIB cards, they followed a strict rule set out by the 1946 FCT Act, which says that blood degrees of the FCT will be determined from the nearest enrolled ancestor on the Dawes Commission Rolls. I am proud to say that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has attempted, at least to my knowledge, to follow the mandates of federal law and BIA rules in issuing CDIB cards to all applicants who can prove they have an ancestor on the Dawes Roll who is listed with a degree of blood, whether that applicant looks black, white or red.

You said:
You make the point that if a person (male by blood) should die before the Dawes enrollment process and happens to be married to a freedwoman, than the children of both should receive a “racial” classification of freedmen as their mother.

My reply:
This is not the only application of the "same status as the mother" rule applied by the FCT to their citizens. All illegitimate children born of non-citizen mothers, regardless of race, took the status of the mother. If she was a non-citizen, then the children were non-citizens, period. Only if the mother could show a valid marriage, which would give heirship rights to the father's estate for the children, could those children be enrolled as citizens. By the same token, the illegitimate children of Cherokee women took the same status as their mothers. If she was a citizen, then the child was a citizen, regardless of what the father might be. This concept was taken one step further in determining the blood degrees of illegitimate children when they were enrolled with the same blood degree as the mother, regardless of the degree of blood of the father. This was particularly true of the Cherokee full bloods where a large number of half-breed children were enrolled as full bloods because their mother was a full blood. Using this same concept as it applied to the Freedwomen and their children, the Cherokees classified those children as freedmen, regardless of the status of the father. This does have exceptions, as it does in many tribes, depending upon the amount of effort the individual was willing to make to change the status of their children. The descendants of Emily Weaver, a Cherokee freedwoman, appear on the by blood roll. Her several husbands were all Cherokee Indian men and she got her children enrolled as by blood, contrary to policy. I think only one of her children didn't make it on the by blood roll and his descendants are excluded today, while his sisters descendants are enrolled, some of them working at the Cherokee headquarters today.

You said:
One, this discounts cases similar to one published in “Voices of Indian Territory” concerning the children of Choctaw Morris Impson and his freedwoman wife Dora. Morris was alive and fought to have his children classified as “by blood” like himself. Their case is not an isolated incident and what it demonstrates (to me at least) is the level of racism practiced in the Choctaw tribe, but not exclusive to that nation, as we see it played out in the other’s as well to a greater or lesser degree.

My reply:
Racism was not exclusive to one tribe or another. But it was practiced in various degrees depending upon the tribe. In the Cherokee Nation, freedmen began serving in tribal government in the 1880s and were members of the government up to the last council in 1903. Some Cherokees hated blacks, and worked against them. Other Cherokees cared for them and worked to see them educated. It is an amazing thing that Joseph (Stick) Ross, a freedman, was elected to the Cherokee Council in the Tahlequah District, dominated by Southern Cherokees and with a good smattering of full bloods and very few freedmen voters. He was loved by all Cherokees. Sadly, his great-grandson is not allowed to participate today because he is black. Oklahoma statehood, jim crow laws, fear of being included in the racism, mixed bloods with their own self-loathing, all have lead the Cherokees to become more racist today than they probably were at the turn of the 20th Century.

You said:
You also state that because of BIA decisions, this practice of racial classification is allowed to continue. I would argue it is allowed to continued by both the BIA and the tribes. If in fact as you have argued on more than one occassion, the tribes have to power to decide who is a citizen, then one can only infer they have a certain responsibility in maintaining this practice.

My reply:
The BIA is mandated to issue CDIB cards to persons of Indian descent, following the requirement of the 1946 Act to determine that blood degree from the "nearest" enrolled ancestor. That the BIA did not create a process simultaneously, that would determine the citizenship rights of all FCT citizens, including the Freedmen, is part of the problem. And the BIA did not hold the tribes to the mandate of their Treaty agreements to make citizens of their former slaves. The BIA is culpible in this. The tribes are also responsible for the racism they have fomented against the Freedmen. The chickens are coming home to roost and I believe we will see great social upheaval instore for the FCT if they continue to practice racism against their own people.

You said:
Also lost in this explanation is the practice where many “white” women gave birth to children of “Indian” men, and their children were enrolled as “by blood.” Clearly the practice demonstrates the worst aspects of racism when a duplicitous practice is utilized to “legitimize” who is and who is not an Indian, be they Cherokee, Choctaw or whatever.

My reply:
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most of the relationships between Indian men and black women were not sanctioned by a legal marriage. Regardless of race, the tribes did not recognize the right of inheritance of illegitimate children. There are a number of children of "white" women who had no proof of marriage to the Indian father, and their children were rejected for citizenship and inclusion on the Dawes Rolls. The Dawes Roll was made to distribute assets, ie land and money. People came out of the woodwork to get a piece of the pie. Often, they were truthful, but unfortunate in their circumstances. A child born of an Indian man, but out of wedlock was just outta luck. Actually, the child born of a freedwoman, by an Indian man, was more lucky, because he could still enroll through his mother. The status of the mother rule was pretty much universal among the FCT. The only deviation that did not bode well for by blood freedmen, was the fact that even if married, the children of a freedwoman took her status and was enrolled as a freedmen.

You said:
What seems to be implicit in this selection process is a disdain for those with “African” blood, but some how tolerated by both bodies who have the power to change such a system and more importantly change the racist attitudes towards individuals with “African” blood.

My reply:
Yes, it is obvious. Nothing we can do about it now. What we must do now is try to make the modern situation work to the advantage of the freedmen descendants. That's tough. And it takes everyone thinking and throwing out ideas.

You said:
I’m pointing this out because the history of all the tribes is a complex one on some levels when it comes to the political construction of race. Yet when you break it down, this construction has been used to be divisive and allow a small clique within each tribe to control what is to be considered the “correct” and “true” history only to be refuted by the facts.

My reply:
The winners write the history. That's how it always has been. But the fight isn't over yet, so there are no clear winners. We will continue to fight, no matter what is thrown at us. And I'm proud to say that the fight is so much bigger today than it was back in 1988, when I first wrote to Wilma Mankiller to ask her to do something about the plight of the Freedmen.

You said:
These children of Cherokee men and freedwomen in fact did possess Cherokee blood. You can repeat that for everyone of the five tribes, yet today you are correct, the BIA would not accept the fact these people have “Indian” blood solely because their ancestors “appear” on the freedmen roll. This only negates the truth, but it allows tribal leaders to walk around today, proclaiming their conmittment to their people only to deny that committment to ALL of the people historically, genealogically, connected to the various nations.

My reply:
Keep in mind the restraints placed on the BIA, either in their heads, or in the law. They couldn't go beyond the Dawes Roll to determine blood degrees because the 1946 Act said, "to the nearest enrolled ancestor on the Dawes Roll." That does not apply to the tribes themselves, they can prove blood to any roll they want. Interestly, the tribes could even amend their constitution to make ALL original enrollees "full bloods" for enrollment purposes. This would make all Dawes Enrollees and their descendants equals with the same footing.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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