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Old 09-14-2011, 03:34 PM   #1
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Cherokee Indians Oust Blacks From Tribe

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The nation's second-largest Indian tribe said on Tuesday that it would not be dictated to by the U.S. government over its move to banish 2,800 African Americans from its citizenship roll.
The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA," Joe Crittenden, the tribe's acting principal chief, said in a statement responding to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Crittenden, who leads the tribe until a new principal chief is elected, went on to complain about unnamed congressmen meddling in the tribe's self-governance.
The reaction follows a letter the tribe received on Monday from BIA Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, who warned that the results of the September 24 Cherokee election for principal chief will not be recognized by the U.S. government if the ousted members, known to some as "Cherokee Freedmen," are not allowed to vote.
The dispute stems from the fact that some wealthy Cherokee owned black slaves who worked on their plantations in the South. By the 1830s, most of the tribe was forced to relocate to present-day Oklahoma, and many took their slaves with them. The so-called Freedmen are descendants of those slaves.
After the Civil War, in which the Cherokee fought for the South, a treaty was signed in 1866 guaranteeing tribal citizenship for the freed slaves.
The U.S. government said that the 1866 treaty between the Cherokee tribend the U.S. government guaranteed that the slaves were tribal citizens, whether or not they had a Cherokee blood relation.




The African Americans lost their citizenship last month when the Cherokee Supreme Court voted to support the right of tribal members to change the tribe's constitution on citizenship matters.


The change meant that Cherokee Freedmen who could not prove they have a Cherokee blood relation were no longer citizens, making them ineligible to vote in tribal elections or receive benefits.
Besides pressure from the BIA to accept the 1866 Treaty as the law of the land, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is withholding a $33 million disbursement to the tribe over the Freedmen controversy.
Attorneys in a federal lawsuit in Washington are asking a judge to restore voting rights for the ousted Cherokee Freedmen in time for the September 24 tribal election for Principal Chief.
How could they do that? I'm sure there's plenty of Blacks who have Cherokee blood in them. What is the Cherokee tribe's motive? And I hope there are some tribal members who are against this move

Hmph. Racism knows no boundaries.

ETA: On second thought, I guess the Cherokees have a right to do this. Native Americans can be fiercely proud and protective of their tribes, and if there's someone who really can't prove their Cherokee heritage then they shouldn't be considered part of that tribe. But shouldn't the Freedman get some recognition as part of an apology from being slaves to the Cherokee?
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Old 09-14-2011, 05:31 PM   #2
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The US government's control over this issue, which has been simmering away in fits and spurts for decades now, is pretty limited. Federal courts have effectively no jurisdiction over internal tribal affairs; the Constitution vests plenary power to negotiate with Indian tribes in Congress, whom in theory could punish a tribe for treaty noncompliance by witholding various benefits, but in practice tend not to, both because most Congressmen have virtually no Native constituency and thus don't give a shit, and also because of understandable squeamishness at anything that might be perceived as intruding on tribal sovereignty. The BIA considers the Freedmen to be Cherokees regardless, so whether the Cherokee Nation officially recognizes them as members doesn't affect their eligibility for any applicable government benefits (nor, obviously, their broader rights as American citizens). Unfortunately, the federal government (up to and including the Congressional Black Caucus, which understandably has been the Freedmen's strongest advocate in Washington) is not in a great position to address Native Americans on the evils of dispossessing people.

ETA--As far as motives, racism certainly plays a role, as do the longstanding grievances many tribes (not just the Cherokee) have with the BIA over who gets to define who's a member of this or that tribe. My understanding is that the Freedmen are a small group, most Cherokees today have never even met one, and that (BIA-defined) Freedmen are themselves significantly divided over whether their ancestry remains a politically salient identity issue or not.
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Old 09-14-2011, 05:59 PM   #3
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this whole thing is a 'bucket of glue'

I'd say 'tar baby' but the P C police would have my head!
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:30 AM   #4
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An update from the Tulsa paper this morning:

Tulsa World, Sept. 15
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Previously registered Cherokee freedmen descendants will be able to cast challenge ballots in the upcoming principal chief's election under the provisions of a vote taken Wednesday night by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission. That same day, Cherokee officials filed a response to a request from Stilwell attorney Ralph Keen for the tribal Supreme Court to re-open the freedmen descendants' class-action lawsuit against the Cherokee Registrar's Office. In her filing, Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons agreed with Keen's request and cited both a letter from Assistant Secretary of the Interior Larry Echo Hawk and the potential damage the tribe could face if its federal housing funds remain frozen. "The nation believes that a reopening of the case, reinstituting the stay previously entered by the district court...is in the best interest of the nation," Hammons wrote in the court filing.

The Election Commission's action, which was met with dismay by many of the more than 30 freedmen descendants who attended the commission's meeting, also was taken in light of the litigation brought by the descendants of former Cherokee slaves. "It's unfair," Muskogee resident Rodslyn Brown, a freedmen descendant, told the commissioners. "We should be able to cast regular ballots. Challenge ballots aren't necessarily counted." A challenge ballot is one given to someone whose name is not on a voter registration list at a precinct. The voter must fill out a registration form at the polling place and sign an affidavit confirming his or her eligibility to vote in the election. The challenge ballots are segregated from the regular ballots and are individually reviewed after the polls close. "The purpose of the challenge ballot is that it allows us to be prepared for any possible court decision on the issue," Election Commission Chairwoman Susan Plumb said. "If a court decides the freedmen descendants can vote, we will have the ability to certify the election. If the court decides they cannot vote, we will still be able to preserve the election."
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:02 PM   #5
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Press Room:Principal Chief Crittenden Issues Statement on Recent Tribal Court Filings
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Old 09-16-2011, 12:42 AM   #6
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...the [Cherokee] court upheld a [Cherokee] Constitutional amendment which requires all the Nation’s citizens to have at least one Indian ancestor on the federally-authorized Dawes Rolls.
Which would seem to be pretty conspicuous evidence of antiblack racism, since the Dawes Commission, in accord with the segregationist sensibilities of the federal government at the time (1902-1906; the military and civil service were still segregated, for example), divided the Cherokee it enrolled into Indians 'by blood' (which included many with varying degrees of white ancestry); Whites married to said Indians; and Freedmen. The Commission's standard practice was to classify Freedmen as such based on the One-Drop Rule--if the person was known to, or appeared to, have any black ancestry at all then s/he was a Freedman, no matter what other ancestr(ies) s/he might have. Banishing Freedmen from the tribe for lacking an 'Indian' ancestor on the Dawes Rolls continues the racism inherent in this approach--there are 'the blacks,' and then there's everyone else.
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