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African-Native American Research Forum Archive

Re: Amanda Abram, Chickasaw By Blood

When the Five Civilized Tribes began to adopt the European concept of citizenship based upon lineal descent from a "citizen" ancestor, sometime in the 1830s for the Cherokees, the idea that someone could be a citizen of the tribe just because they had some degree of Cherokee blood or had been adopted by a citizen by blood began to fade. The process was sketchy and not well documented. However, as the National Council of the Cherokee Nation began to exercise authority over citizenship, rather than the clans, a model closer to the European model began to emerge. By the time of the adoption of the 1839 Constitution, the National Council of the Cherokee Nation had full control of the membership requirements and ruled on applications for membership up to the 1870s. When the number of intruders in the Cherokee Nation skyrocketed in 1875, the National Council reacted by creating a citizenship court. Though weak and often overruled by the National Council, the citizenship court made determinations of citizenship based on blood, adoption and residency. Blood or adoption without residency was an automatic negative ruling on a citizenship application. I'm not sure when exactly, but sometime in the 1880s, the National Council gave full authority to the Citizenship Court to determine questions of citizenship for applicants and intruders. In this same legislation, the council required that any person seeking citizenship in the Cherokee Nation as a citizen by blood must be listed on a previous citizenship roll or have an ancestor thereon. This excluded some Cherokees by blood whose ancestors did not appear on any previous citizenship roll, having left the tribe before those rolls were made. A good example of this situation is found in the Court case of Stevens v. Cherokee Nation. This case was brought by the descendants of Chief ShoeBoots. The U.S. Courts found that Stevens was in fact a Cherokee Indian descendant, but his ancestors had not been placed upon any previous roll, they having left the Nation prior to the making of those rolls. The Cherokee authorities found the same thing and refused to enroll Stevens. I believe from the evolution of citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, the determination of citizenship based on lineal descent is actually foreign to the tribes and is adopted from Europeans. However, that is how it works now and there isn't much to be done about it, except amend the tribal constitutions to admit people based on proof of blood, rather than lineal descent. That would be one heck of a can O'worms.

David Cornsilk


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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