This Just Can't Look Good
The Cherokee Nation is poised to amend the new 2003 Constitution to eliminate the Freedmen from the rolls because they don't have "Indian blood." Of course, many of them might well have "Indian blood," but we'll never know because their ancestors on the Dawes Roll were not given a blood quanta due to the racist belief that one drop of "negro blood" made you black. Sigh. As an unenrolled Cherokee of admittedly "thin blood" (the last full-blood in my mother's family was born in 1855), my opinion on this obviously counts less than those who have blue cards. However, the whole concept of "Indian blood" is a racist invention of whites, not Indians. Most tribes historically based their membership on culture, not who your parents were. While the Cherokee don't have a specific history of admitting blacks into the tribe like the Seminole, it is obviously clear that many African-Americans today, the descendents of Cherokee slaves, do have "Indian blood"; they just can't prove it due to the requirement of descent through the Dawes Roll. This requirement already produces bizarre results: someone like me who has low blood quanta, never lived in Oklahoma, doesn't speak the language and is at best self-taught in Cherokee culture could conceivably become a tribal citizen; yet someone who is full blood (unlikely for anyone born after 1900), speaks Cherokee as their first language and lived their entire life in the Cherokee Nation might be barred from membership, based solely on whether or not our great great grandparents chose to receive an allotment of land from the Dawes Commission. Yes, the Cherokee Nation was forced to admit the Freedmen by the Federal government after the Civil War, but that was because the Cherokee were holding these people as slaves. Are we going to continue to fixate on "Indian blood" to the exclusion of all other considerations of justice? Are we going to exclude the Freedmen based on a technicality (their inability to prove "Indian blood")? What would John Ross, himself only 1/8, think?