Monday, March 05, 2007

Cherokee Nation Lowers Itself

When the Cherokee Nation was defeated in 1832, the remaining Cherokee people and their slaves were forced on the Trail of Tears and settled together as a new nation in Oklahoma. The treaty to which the Cherokee Nation subsequently agreed in 1866, included their slaves and mixed-race Cherokees as full citizens.

On Saturday, March 3, 2007, the Cherokee Nation held a special election to accept or reject a constitutional amendment that would re-define citizenship. The issue at hand is race-based: are the descendants of Cherokee slaves and mixed-race Cherokees actual citizens of Cherokee Nation?

The election results overwhelmingly supported the right of the Cherokee Nation to revoke citizenship of anyone they determined to be mixed-race or the descendants of freedmen, not pure-blooded Cherokee.

Is there anything more despicable than exclusionary race-based laws, laws that exclude certain people because of their race?

Having gotten amazingly wealthy from the profits of casinos, the Cherokees want to rid themselves of the burden of paying to support those who are least able to care for themselves, those with no voice in their Nation. Sounds so Republican!

When the Seminole Tribes pulled the same disgusting stunt in Florida, the United States government revoked their right to run casinos. Without casino income, the Seminole Nation has no economy, so they repealed their racist laws. Let's hope the Cherokees are forced to do the same thing. Until they do, everyone should boycott Cherokee Casinos.

If you are a neo-con impressed that Cherokee Nation has done this, think about it: when the Cherokees throw these 2,800 people out of their nation in Oklahoma, they will become Americans and the responsibility of the United States, so the people of Oklahoma will have to pay to support them, while the millionaire chiefs of Cherokee nation enjoy the profits of their casinos.

This is a bad thing, no matter what end of the political spectrum defines you (even if you pretend you are in the middle).

Race-based laws within the boundaries of the United States are unacceptable.

Speak-out against this terrible injustice in Cherokee Nation. Defend the 2,800 descendants of freedmen and mixed-race Cherokees. Don't let the Cherokee Nation enjoy subsidies from the United State government and the profits of casinos frequented by United States citizens.

Read this article from the Cherokee nation website:
Cherokee Nation Special Election Results

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Cherokee Nation Constitutional amendment restricting membership to descendants of Indians listed by blood on the Dawes Rolls has passed.

Cherokee voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Cherokee Nation Constitution in a special election Saturday, March 3, by a decisive vote of 6,693 (77%) for the measure to 2,040 (23%) against. The amendment limits citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to descendants of people who are listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation as Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee and excludes descendants of those listed on Intermarried White and Freedmen rolls taken at the same time.

“The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination. It was a right of self-government, affirmed in 23 treaties with Great Britain and the United States and paid dearly with 4,000 lives on the Trail of Tears.”

Smith added that the number of voters who turned out to vote on the constitutional amendment was actually more than the approximately 6,700 who approved the Cherokee Nation Constitution four years ago.

“This was an unexpectedly high turnout, considering it was a special election with nothing else on the ballot,” Smith said. “I think that reflects the idea that this is an issue that has been close to the heart of the Cherokee people and an issue they have thought about carefully before voting.”

The special election was brought about by a petition of registered Cherokee voters, and was an historic event for the Cherokee Nation, as its first ever stand-alone election to vote on a Constitutional amendment.

Election results are unofficial until certified by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, but percentages are not expected to change significantly.

This from AP:
Tribe slave descendants face uncertainty
By SEAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer
Sun Mar 4, 4:13 PM ET

The Cherokee Nation vote this weekend to revoke the citizenship of the descendants of people the Cherokee once owned as slaves was a blow to people who have relied on tribal benefits.

Charlene White, a descendant of freed Cherokee slaves who were adopted into the tribe in 1866 under a treaty with the U.S. government, wondered Sunday where she would now go for the glaucoma treatment she has received at a tribal hospital in Stilwell.

"I've got to go back to the doctor, but I don't know if I can go back to the clinic or if they're going to oust me right now," said White, 56, a disabled Tahlequah resident who lives on a fixed income.

In Saturday's special election, more than 76 percent of voters decided to amend the Cherokee Nation's constitution to remove the estimated 2,800 freedmen descendants from the tribal rolls, according to results posted Sunday on the tribe's Web site.

Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, said the election results undoubtedly will be challenged.

"We will pursue the legal remedies that are available to us to stop people from not only losing their voting rights, but to receiving medical care and other services to which they are entitled under law," Vann said Sunday.

"This is a fight for justice to stop these crimes against humanity."

Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller said Sunday that election results will not be finalized until after a protest period that extends through March 12. Services currently being received by freedmen descendants will not immediately be suspended, he said.

"There isn't going to be some sort of sudden stop of a service that's ongoing," Miller said. "There will be some sort of transition period so that people understand what's going on."

In a statement late Saturday, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said he was pleased with the turnout and election result.

"Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation," Smith said. "No one else has the right to make that determination. It was a right of self-government, affirmed in 23 treaties with Great Britain and the United States and paid dearly with 4,000 lives on the Trail of Tears."

The petition drive for the ballot measure followed a March 2006 ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court that said an 1866 treaty assured freedmen descendants of tribal citizenship.

A similar situation occurred in 2000 when the Seminole Nation voted to cast freedmen descendants out of its tribe, said attorney Jon Velie of Norman, an expert on Indian law who has represented freedmen descendants in previous cases.

"The United States, when posed the same situation with the Seminoles, would not recognize the election and they ultimately cut off most federal programs to the Seminoles," Velie said. "They also determined the Seminoles, without this relationship with the government, were not authorized to conduct gaming."

Ultimately, the Seminole freedmen were allowed back into the tribe, Velie said.

Velie said Saturday's vote already has hurt the tribe's public perception.

"It's throwback, old-school racist rhetoric," Velie said.

"And it's really heartbreaking, because the Cherokees are good people and have a very diverse citizenship," he said.

Miller, the tribal spokesman, defended the Cherokees against charges of racism, saying that Saturday's vote showed the tribe was open to allowing its citizens vote on whether non-Indians be allowed membership.

"I think it's actually the opposite. To say that the Cherokee Nation is intolerant or racist ignores the fact that we have an open dialogue and have the discussion, he said.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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Kevin said...

You haven't heard if this applies to North Carolina's Cherokee reservation, have you? I'm still trying to get some information on it.

DM said...

I do not know.