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Thread: A "left-field" development in the U.S. racial arena...

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    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    I don't really know what to make of this...

    Cherokee Tribe Faces Decision on Freedmen


    Morning Edition, February 21, 2007 · A federal court hearing Wednesday pits Native Americans against the descendants of African slaves once kept by tribal members. The Cherokee Nation has moved to expel the people known as Cherokee Freedmen.

    The Freedmen argue that a 140-year-old treaty protects their citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. The conflict puts the tribal government in the unusual position trying to argue against a long-standing treaty.

    The Cherokee tribe has always been one of the largest in the United States. It was also once one of the wealthiest. Some of its members held more than 100 slaves on plantations in the south. In recent times though, many Cherokee have lived in deep poverty.

    The tribe only recently tapped casino revenue to build modern health clinics, like the one rising from the countryside near Muskogee, Oklahoma.

    With the Cherokee's financial picture brightening somewhat and a tribal ruling in their favor, Freedmen such as Johnny Toomer — a forklift operator in Muskogee — have staked their claim to membership.

    "All I want [is] to be done is done fairly and right," Toomer said. "My ancestors received benefits and was done fairly. I want to be done fairly."

    Toomer's great, great grandmother was the daughter of slaves held by the Cherokee. Her people likely walked to Oklahoma from Georgia on the infamous Trail of Tears, a march forced by the U.S. government that killed nearly a fifth of the tribe.

    Toomer says the proof of his claim is in the photocopied documents arrayed on his coffee table. His relative's name is on what's called the Dawes Rolls, a federal government list of Cherokees, and members of four other tribes, living on Indian lands around 1900.

    The Dawes Rolls have become the gold standard for determining tribal citizenship. If you have a direct descendant on the rolls, you're in.

    But a century ago a bureaucrat marked that Toomer's great, great grandmother was a Cherokee Freedman. It's that notation that now puts his tribal citizenship at risk.

    "Is it because of the color of my skin, [the] reason I'm not accepted? That's the way I feel about it sometimes," Toomer said.

    A tribal court ruling last year forced the Cherokees to recognize Freedmen as citizens. That prompted Toomer and about 1,500 other Freedmen to sign up for membership cards.

    That sparked a referendum to amend the tribe's constitution and formally expel the Freedmen.

    "It's an Indian thing, we do not want non-Indians in the tribe, our Indian blood is what binds us together," said Jodie Fishinghawk, who helped lead the drive to expel the Freedmen.

    She notes that nearly all Indian nations require their citizens to be able to document direct ancestors in the tribe. Standards vary from nation to nation, and most are more stringent than the Cherokee. Fishinghawk says a tribe's right to set conditions of citizenship is fundamental to its sovereignty.

    "It's a democratic process, people are allowed to vote. That's what America is based on, that's what we use here in the Cherokee Nation," Fishinghawk said. "And I don't see any problem with it."

    The Cherokee Freedmen do. After fighting on the losing side in the Civil War, the Cherokees signed a treaty guaranteeing their newly freed slaves citizenship in the tribe.

    Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association, says the 1866 treaty's protection outweighs the tribe's claims of sovereignty on this issue. And besides, she says, the Cherokee tribe has always been a diverse nation, not a race.

    "You know there never was such a thing as the Cherokee Race. Cherokee was a citizenship," Vann said. "The federal government doesn't have government-to-government relations with races, only nations."

    But this whole discussion of race really misses the point, according to Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith. In his office looking out at the sprawling tribal headquarters campus near Tahlequah, Okla., Smith said more people do want to be in the tribes these days. But it's not so much because of subsidized health care and housing, but rather a search for a cultural identity.

    "And it's easy to grasp and look to tribes, who are indigenous and have a sense of identity, and have sustained themselves through terrible times," Smith said.

    The Cherokee Freedmen maintain that their ancestors helped sustain the tribe through very the worst of times. They argue that now that things have improved they shouldn't have to fight to call themselves Cherokees.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=7513849
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    It is rather bizarre. If recognised as a nation by the agreement after the Civil War then the Cherokees and Cherokee land are not part of the US and the freed slaves are citizens within that separate entity and therefore Cherokee by nationality. If the US Government does not recognise the Cherokees as a separate state then the only idicator of Cherokeeness would be by blood line. This would presumably exclude those of non-Cherokee descent albeit they may have lived with the Cherokees for 200 years or more but as they then would all be under the US banner the freed slaves would be US citizens not Cherokee citizens.

    Interesting to see where this will go.

    Edit: added the missing not - which J2 appears to allowed for anyway.
    Last edited by Biggles; 03-04-2007 at 07:40 PM.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biggles View Post
    It is rather bizarre. If recognised as a nation by the agreement after the Civil War then the Cherokees and Cherokee land are not part of the US and the freed slaves are citizens within that separate entity and therefore Cherokee by nationality. If the US Government does recognise the Cherokees as a separate state then the only idicator of Cherokeeness would be by blood line. This would presumably exclude those of non-Cherokee descent albeit they may have lived with the Cherokees for 200 years or more but as they then would all be under the US banner the freed slaves would be US citizens not Cherokee citizens.

    Interesting to see where this will go.
    Yes, it will be.

    The issue of tribal sovereignty (as it applies to federally-granted tribal lands - the "rez") was largely conceptual prior to the advent of tribal gaming (interesting sidenote: yours truly has the dubious distinction of losing the first money to a tribal gaming enterprise in U.S. history...if you exclude "bingo"), and was honed to a finer point during the ensuing debate over state entree to the tribal gaming bounty.

    Since that time, sovereignty has been a touchstone in almost every legal contest involving American-Indians.

    There has been a certain selectivity to the federal/state choice of response in such situations, and, while this would seem to fall under federal purview, I wonder how/when/if they might weigh in...
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    Snee's Avatar Error xɐʇuʎs BT Rep: +1
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    Sweet. Racial purity - "It's an Indian thing".

    I don't really see that working if they were caucasian.


    And, I don't really see black people being denied citizenship in America even if a majority of all white people would vote for it, can't see the difference here if the cherokee nation is indeed a nation (there's a problem in that, as Biggles says).

    If it isn't, well, then I'm still back to the notion of racial purity, and all the fun that entails. Not to mention the fact that no one forced any cherokees to keep slaves in the first place (or am I wrong about that?) and that it seems awfully bad form to kick people out after your ancestors forced (bought) theirs in.

    EDit: and no, this isn't the same thing as asking for reparations, this is about allowing people to be what they've been for generations.
    Last edited by Snee; 03-07-2007 at 03:46 AM.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnnY View Post
    Sweet. Racial purity - "It's an Indian thing".

    I don't really see that working if they were caucasian.


    And, I don't really see black people being denied citizenship in America even if a majority of all white people would vote for it, can't see the difference here if the cherokee nation is indeed a nation (there's a problem in that, as Biggles says).

    If it isn't, well, then I'm still back to the notion of racial purity, and all the fun that entails. Not to mention the fact that no one forced any cherokees to keep slaves in the first place (or am I wrong about that?) and that it seems awfully bad form to kick people out after your ancestors forced (bought) theirs in.

    EDit: and no, this isn't the same thing as asking for reparations, this is about allowing people to be what they've been for generations.
    Tribal "sovereignty" carries the day on the reservation (or so the various tribes would insist), and they presumably could issue such an edict and make it stick.

    I wonder how they would feel if the Feds let that slide, but decided (coincidentally, of course) that tribal gaming should be perfectly sufficient to maintain any road that spans reservation land, build any schools or hospitals, and support any tribal members lucky enough to prove sufficient blood-quantum to qualify as tribal?

    The tribes make out pretty well with their gaming revenues (I remember several years ago a tribe on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border "settled up" with it's members, cutting each of them a check for something in the neighborhood of $3 million per person, with the promise of future payments), yet they would scream bloody murder if the feds cut their normally allotted entitlements.

    If they now wish to "purify" their stock, I guess that would make these newly-created outcasts emigres, no?

    I am flummoxed...perhaps we ought to invite them to the U.N. and offer them membership so we can begin once again to persecute them as we do every other nation.

    We could start by demanding they apply for a visa in order to travel outside the rez.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Snee's Avatar Error xɐʇuʎs BT Rep: +1
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    I dunno if the rest of the US ought to start smacking them over their heads or owt, I'm not sure they all live in that great conditions, or that there isn't lingering injustice in how they are treated today (I don't really keep track of native americans, pure of blood or otherwise, tbh).

    But like I said, this particular business seems wrong, and just because someone is part of an oppressed, or formerly oppressed, minority, they shouldn't expect to get away with reasoning like that.

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnnY View Post
    I dunno if the rest of the US ought to start smacking them over their heads or owt, I'm not sure they all live in that great conditions, or that there isn't lingering injustice in how they are treated today (I don't really keep track of native americans, pure of blood or otherwise, tbh).

    But like I said, this particular business seems wrong, and just because someone is part of an oppressed, or formerly oppressed, minority, they shouldn't expect to get away with reasoning like that.
    Oh, I agree.

    But they argue this point of sovereignty, you see.

    I'd almost prefer to modify the current tribal/federal interface to reflect a foreign policy stance which does not look kindly upon racial bias practiced by bordering "states".

    I really think they ought to be given cause to re-think things...perhaps a blockade?
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

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