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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Re: National Reactions to Cherokee Vote

After all is said and done some interesting observations (mine) should be shared.

Two important issues stand out as I read the story in both papers concerning the results of the Cherokee vote.

First, of the more than 200 thousand citizens of the "Nation" only 8500 or more took the time and effort to vote. This would represent only a very small portion of the tribe that seem to care about this issue.

This lack of turnout should not be dismissed because as a result of a minute portion of the tribe, about 3% of the citizenship and maybe 10% of the eligible voters have participated in violating the 1866 Treaty by expelling the Freedmen Descendants.

That is not unlike the numbers we see in the voting patterns of the United States yet it demonstrates how a small minority of people can use a wedge issue (political construction of what is race) and determine the fates of thousands.

My second observation is the continued efforts by the Cherokee leaders to give a misrepresentation of their own history and I'm alarmed to read that the Principle Chief states he was unaware of the freedmen prior to Marilyn Vann's efforts to have the Freedmen Descendants re-admitted with rights as Cherokee citizens.

This man is either totally ignorant of the history and culture he wants to preserve or he is being quite dishonest. It is understandable that people can live isolated lives but I would expect that someone who has attained the role of a leader and touts his culture as much as Mr. Smith does, could not be so unaware of the freedmen when both of his predecessors took great pains to remove them during their time as Chief (Mankiller and Swimmer.)

It is also rather striking that with many so called Native Americans touting their respect for humanity and life that in the 21st Century their leaders are silent on this issue. The continued references to the Dawes Roll "by blood" as the measuring stick for citizenship we know is misleading.

Too many scholars have pointed out the corruption, and deliberate process of excluding people of mixed African-Native American descent from the blood rolls was the basis for excluding many with Cherokee blood. Yet, as a leader Smith has not seen the advantages of opening his arms to those that have the means to demonstrate their blood ties.

Clearly the issue should not be based solely on "blood quantum" but it is strange that if they were truly going to have an "all Indian" Nation, this was a course he could have advocated and had more legitimacy in his claims. To rely on one set of Dawes Rolls Mr. Smith has demonstrated along with the 10% who voted the Freedmen descendants out that theirs was a veiled attempt at racial cleansing of the tribe.

As someone else stated in another post, this vote may have been a blessing in disguise. The smart and noble thing would have correct the wrongs done to the freedmen and their descendants, setting an example of healing, but by using race as a wedge issue, Smith may have set in motion forces and people that see through the smoke screen of Tribal Sovereignty as the reason for expelling the freedmen.

I’ve listened to a lot of comments on the radio today along with reading of the comments by many who read about the story in the NY Times and Washington Post, two major media centers that will only keep this story alive and bring attention to the other four tribes and their misguided attempts at belittling everything African to elevate the “oppressed” Native American.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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