OKLAHOMA CITY, Cherokee Nation - Registered members of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation went to the polls this Saturday to revoke the tribal citizenship of more than 2,800 descendants of the people the nation once owned as slaves. With all stations reporting tallies counted, 76.6 percent had voted in favor of an amendment to the tribal constitution that would limit citizenship to descendants of "by blood" tribe members as listed on the federal Dawes Commission's rolls from more than 100 years ago.
One of several "Tribal Rolls," The Dawes Rolls as set by the American settler government is the final determination on federally recognised Native American ethnic identity. Without the BIA "White Card" legally one cannot declare oneself Indian nor obtain financial compensation when federal agencies actually honour such commitments.
The Dawes documents contain two distinct listings, one noting Cherokees by blood and the other listing The Freedmen, liberated African slaves still remaining in the nation following reconstruction. While most if not all Freedmen were and are of mixed African-Indio ethnicity, they were are listed the same irregardless of blood-quantum.
Opponents of the amendment maintain moves to eject the Freedmen from the nation are motivated by anti-African racism. This is a valid charge since the vote only concerns those members of African ethnicity. While this will not keep out many of the Freedmen in an age of DNA testing, the very idea that this, the largest and most hailed nation in the colonial United States would apply apartheid in the 21st century. "I'm very disappointed that people bought into a lot of rhetoric and falsehoods by tribal leaders," said Marilyn Vann, president of the Oklahoma City-based Descendants of Freedmen of Five Civilized Tribes.
Anti-African racism has always been an issue in the Ani-Kituwah (Cherokee Nation) . Foremost amongst the "Civilised Tribes," meaning they took to European lifeways quickly employing slavery, cotton plantations and the racism that goes along with it all. By adapting so rapidly the nation became very rich and when the Civil War broke out, the Cherokee formed units which fought on the side of the Confederacy. Stand Watie, a Cherokee Confederate general was the very last officer to surrender to Federal troops. Watie and most of the nation was willing to fight it out to the end to maintain the practise in the nation as provided by treaty. While a commited anti-Slavery movement existed within the nation, it was powerless to effect any change.
The Freedmen commented that it is too early to say for sure what they will do other than seek an appeal. This is not promising as it has not worked for other Black Indians facing similar discrimination in other, mostly eastern-costal nations.