Cherokees Vote Slave Descendants Out of Nation

A Saturday vote by the members of the Cherokee Nation has resulted in the revocation of tribal membership from more than 2,800 descendants of slaves once owned by tribe members.

76 percent of the membership voted to limit tribal classification to individuals of “by blood” descendants. Qualifications for membership were determined by a congressional commission more than 100 years ago, designed to allocate collective land owned by Native Americans to various tribes. Out the outset, the Cherokees were divided into to separate rolls; one of “by blood” members, and another of freed blacks, regardless of if they had Native American lineage.

This vote is in reponse to a March 2006 decision by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court to uphold a 1866 treaty that assured freedmen descendants tribal membership. Reps for the freedmen descendants have claimed that racism is the pressing matter for this vote. While this policy appears to be at face value unfair and unfounded to a segment of people deserving of membership, the large numbers in favor of the constitutional amendment prove that it is a shared sentiment amongst the tribe’s general populus.

It is well known that many African-Americans have Native American lineage, and are often proud of this shared heritage. Should a vote like this cause us to assess racism through a whole new spectrum? Should we look at it as, “their nation, their rules,” or approach from a stance of demanding what we deserve?

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Published on March 4, 2007 at 4:11 pm. 12 Comments.
Filed under black culture,diaspora,racism.