Black Cherokee Become Cherokee Again

Richard Pryor in Bingo Long

There was a  movie comedy some years ago (Bingo Long) about the Negro Baseball League. One of the characters was played by Richard Pryor, who showed up one day as a “Cuban”, and when that didn’t work,  in full “Native American” regalia as “Chief Takahoma”, declaring himself to be Native American, and thus eligible to play in the then segregated Major League Baseball…

Upon hearing that Jackie Robinson had been hired into the Majors, Pryor’s character laments something to the extent of  “Dang, now they are hiring black people, and I just became an Indian!”

Seems a bit like this situation.

I guess its because, as for the Cherokee…

I’m not sure there is any “Indian” left in those supposed “Native Americans” – begging the question as to their continued recognition as a tribe by the US in the first place.

Black Cherokees regain tribal citizenship

Black Cherokees in Kansas City were ecstatic Tuesday after learning that the tribal citizenship they’d been fighting years for has been restored.

Their citizenship is regained through an agreement made in federal court between the Cherokee Nation and black Cherokees known as freedmen, an attorney said Tuesday.

“This is not temporary, where the Cherokee Nation gives freedmen citizenship until after the election and then tries to change it,” said Jon Velie, who was in court Tuesday on behalf of the freedmen.

The agreement came during a hearing in federal court in Washington. The parties have until this morning to submit a written agreement to the judge.

The agreement gives 2,800 freedmen all the benefits available to the Cherokee tribe, including tribal voting rights. And it extends the voting period for the upcoming election for principal chief to Oct. 8. Before Tuesday, that election was to take place this week.

“We have been vindicated,” said Willadine Johnson, whose ancestors, like other freedmen, were held as slaves by Cherokees. After the Civil War, Cherokees signed a treaty freeing its slaves and granting them full Cherokee citizenship.

“This is the way it always should have been,” Johnson said. “You can’t take my citizenship from me.”

In 2007 the nation stripped freedmen of their citizenship and suffrage rights, saying bloodline determined citizenship.

 

 

 

US Says Cherokee Cannot Exclude “Black Cherokee”

In 2007, the Cherokee Council passed a resolution saying the the “Black Cherokee” were no longer part of the tribe.  The Cherokee Supreme Court just validated that resolution as “legal”.The move was partly political, having to do with the voting for a new Chief. It appears the black Cherokee favored replacing the old Chief – so in true Republican fashion – the old Chief took away the voting rights of the black Cherokee (Hey… It worked for George bush…Twice!). And partly to do with who gets the benefits from the crumbs of casino money the tribe managed not to give away. There is a lot of “dirt” as to who actually gets rich off the Casino business, while the rest of the tribe lives at subsistence level on Welfare provided by the US Government.

The move disenfranchised about 2,800 black Cherokee.

Cherokee History is fascinating and complex. The story of the Tribe’s struggle to avoid annihilation through accommodation with white settlers, and the forces which made them different from every other tribe in the US is a study in Historical pressures, and the willingness of one tribe to adapt – even if that adaptation meant their ultimate destruction as a cultural entity.  They are actually part of the Southern Iroquois, and one of the largest tribes in the US.

Think maybe those who made this move should have learned a few lessons from the period of 1800-1866. They should also have learned a lesson from the Seminole who tried this a decade ago…

Too bad some did not.

Cherokee Indians say they will not be dictated to by U.S.

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 rolls.

“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 tribe and 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.

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