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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Lies and Misrepresentations About the freedmen

Please take note of the information below. A misinformation campaign about the freedmen and the special election is being ramped up . It hopes to take advantage of perceived public apathy and lack of knowledge. I hope that everybody sees that It is not enough to complain about the state of events in the tribes regarding the freedmen on a public message board. More action is needed by each and everyone of you. NOW!!!!! NOT LATER!!!!!!
The Cherokee nation receives more than 300 million in federal funds or 80% of its budget from the US. See your tax dollars at work!!!! See how paid tribal officials use their time! Marilyn Vann.

Good afternoon Chiefs, Governor and Everyone,

We were the recipient of a string of emails including many of you regarding the recent Special Election on citizenship we held on March 3. We have not been directly contacted for information - but thought we would be preemptive and provide you with some information (below) for any questions.

We have been cautiously taking temperature on the Hill, and just want this information in the hands of our friends at this time rather than a broadcast. We want to address questions from Congressionals only on as-needed basis. The contacts we have made so far indicate that at least the Oklahoma delegation is not receiving many constituent calls on this. We are having regular communication with the PR folks at NCAI and are jointly addressing the PR strategy with them.

Please keep me in the loop on any intelligence you receive, and please forward me directly with any inquiries that require a response.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.



Melanie Knight, Secretary of State
Cherokee Nation
(918)453-5705 direct line
(918)453-7338 mobile

Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and opinions on this important tribal issue. Many people have been misinformed about this issue and we wish to take the time to provide some factual information about our tribe and the recent Cherokee Nation Special Election.
The Cherokee Nation has long been a multi-ethnic nation, and remains one of the most inclusive tribes in the country. This will continue to be the case even after the recent Constitutional amendment is implemented. Everyone with a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls of the Cherokee Nation is eligible for citizenship, regardless of any other heritage the individual may have in their lineage. The amendment excludes non-Indian citizens of all races. Citizens of all races who are of Indian descent based on the Dawes Rolls will remain citizens of the Nation. In this respect, the Cherokee people have voted to be similar to most other Indian tribes in the country by requiring that its citizens must be Indian.
The citizens excluded by the Constitutional amendment have been citizens of the Cherokee Nation since March of 2006, when the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution had been wrongfully interpreted to exclude non-Indians listed on the Dawes Rolls since 1975. The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court wrote at that time that if the Cherokee people wanted to exclude non-Indians, they could do so by amending the Constitution. A group of citizens followed the Constitutional process and circulated a valid petition calling for this special election. Though some of the Freedmen descendants claim they have been citizens for more than 100 years that statement is not true. Cherokee courts decided to allow non-Indian citizens only a year ago.

The Cherokee Nation sets our citizenship through our Constitution, just as the United States does. Treaties govern agreements between Nations, but just as the United States does not set its citizenship based upon the Treaty of Versailles, the Cherokee Nation does not base its citizenship in a treaty.
In 1832, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the Cherokee Nation retained its rights of self-government (live under our own laws within our boundaries). It is sad that 174 years later, the Cherokee Nation still defends its rights of self-determination. It is also interesting to note that these challenges to our government come not during hard times but during times of prosperity (land, gold, oil and now gaming).
Below are some commonly asked questions and answers relating to the Special Election. Since the results of the election (the Constitutional Amendment) have not been implemented, the following information is still in effect:

Special Election 2007

Questions and Answers

1. Who is eligible to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation?

A. To be eligible for tribal citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, you must be able to prove direct descent from an enrolled ancestor who is listed on the Dawes Roll - Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee Nation. This roll was taken from 1899-1906 and was a census of Cherokee Nation citizens and freedmen residing in the portion of Indian Territory that is now northeastern Oklahoma.
Many applicants do not qualify for Cherokee Nation citizenship because their ancestors did not meet the enrollment requirements of the Dawes Roll and therefore were not enrolled.
Cherokee Nation citizenship is issued through natural (biological) parents. In adoption cases, citizenship eligibility must be proven through the biological parent's direct line to the enrolled ancestor.

2. Why does Cherokee Nation use the Dawes Final Rolls to determine its citizenship?

A. Article IV. Of the Cherokee Nation Constitution sets forth the requirements for citizenship within the Cherokee Nation. Section 1 of Article IV states:
"All citizens of the Cherokee Nation must be original enrollees or descendents of original enrollees listed on the Dawes Commission Rolls, including the Delaware Cherokees of Article II of the Delaware Agreement dated the 8th day of May, 1867, and the Shawnee Cherokees of Article III of the Shawnee Agreement dated the 9th day of June, 1869, and/or their descendants.
"The Cherokee Nation recognizes the basic rights retained by all distinct People and groups affiliated with the Cherokee Nation, retained from time immemorial to remain a separate and distinct people. Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Cherokee-Shawnee or Cherokee-Delaware from pursuing their inherent right to govern themselves, provided that it does not diminish the boundaries or jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation or conflict with Cherokee law."

3. Who are the freedmen descendents?

A. They are the descendents of both freed persons of Indian Territory (now part of the state of Oklahoma), who were the former slaves of American Indians who settled in the area, and non-Indian free persons of color who were not slaves, but resided in the territory.

4. When did the citizenship rights of the freedmen descendents change?

A. The 1975 Constitution provided citizenship to descendants of the Cherokee, Shawnee and Delaware Dawes Rolls, which was interpreted by statute to exclude the freedmen and their descendents.
In a March 7, 2006, decision the Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal ruled that statute was unconstitutional and that the 1975 Constitution citizenship provision was not clear enough to exclude descendants of non-Indian rolls. The Court stated, however, that Cherokee citizens could determine the issue by a specific vote on an amendment to that portion of the Constitution. An initiative petition calling for such a vote was drafted, and sufficient signatures obtained to put the question to a vote of the people. Freedmen descendents who were enrolled tribal citizens were eligible to vote in the March 3, 2007, special election.

5. Who sponsored the initiative petition that requested the March 3, 2007, special election?

A. The petition was sponsored by citizens of the Cherokee Nation. It was not sponsored by the Cherokee Nation.
In accordance with the Cherokee Nation Constitution, Article XV, Section 3, the people of the Cherokee Nation have the right to propose legislation and amendments, including those that set citizenship requirements, to the Constitution through a petition process. The Principal Chief is required by law to submit the question to the People when a valid petition with a legal number of signatures of eligible Cherokee citizens so orders it. To be eligible to sign the petition, a person must be a legal voter of the Cherokee Nation.

6. What is the wording of the measure that will be voted on in the March 3, 2007, special election?

A. The measure will appear on the ballot as follows:

"This measure amends the Cherokee Nation Constitution section which deals with who can be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
A vote "yes" for this amendment would mean that citizenship would be limited to those who are original enrollees or descendants of Cherokees by blood, Delawares by blood, or Shawnees by blood as listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation commonly referred to as the Dawes Commission Rolls closed in 1906. This amendment would take away citizenship of current citizens and deny citizenship to future applicants who are solely descendants of those on either the Dawes Commission Intermarried Whites or Freedmen Rolls.
A vote "no" would mean that Intermarried Whites and Freedmen original enrollees and their descendants would continue to be eligible for citizenship.
Neither a "yes" nor a "no" vote will affect the citizenship rights of those individuals who are original enrollees or descendants of Cherokees by blood, Delawares by blood, or Shawnees by blood as listed on the Final Rolls of the Dawes Commission Rolls closed in 1906.


7. Are African-Americans with Cherokee blood verifiable through the Dawes Final Rolls allowed to become Cherokee Nation citizens?

A. Yes, as they always have been. Their eligibility has never been at issue. The Cherokee Nation has citizens of many different ethnicities.

8. Will African-Americans with Cherokee blood verifiable through the Dawes Final Rolls lose their tribal citizenship if the special election measure passes?
A. No
9. If the measure passes will all freedmen descendents be dis-enrolled from the Cherokee Nation?

A. No. Freedmen descendents with Cherokee blood verifiable through the Dawes Final Rolls will still be citizens.

10. Are other people with no verifiable Cherokee blood allowed to become Cherokee citizens?
A. Yes, two Indian tribes were adopted into the Cherokee Nation. Under the Delaware Agreement of 1867 and the Shawnee Agreement of 1869, Delawares and Shawnees who can show direct descent from an ancestor listed on the Final rolls of the Cherokee Nation, commonly called the Dawes Rolls, are eligible to become citizens of the Cherokee Nation. This election will not affect citizens of Delaware and Shawnee descent in any way.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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