By Chad Smith
Principal chief, Cherokee Nation
There are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes: the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, both located in Oklahoma, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. No group outside of North Carolina and Oklahoma has been recognized as a legitimate Cherokee sovereign.
The "Eastern Cherokee Nation" and "Western Cherokee Nation," including the "old settlers" and "late immigrants," joined in an Act of Union on July 12, 1839. There were no "lost" Cherokee tribes or splinter groups that hid out or dropped off the Trail of Tears. Those who have Native American ancestry but are not eligible for citizenship in a federally recognized Indian tribe should participate in the culture through heritage groups and associations, not groups that call themselves "tribes" or "nations."
Fake tribes and individuals with unverifiable ties to Native American citizenship often claim to be passing on Cherokee cultural knowledge and traditional arts. But these groups and individuals dilute true Indian culture and identity. Many of them pass along cultural information that is incorrect or that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
By Cara Cowan Watts
Tribal use of funds, preservation of language and protecting artisans and crafts people are only one aspect of a huge battle being waged on our culture and identity as a distinct tribal people.
In addition to the stories about cases of fraud and identity theft, I have endured personal attacks by some individuals trying to reinvent themselves as tribal citizens. After six years of fighting fake Cherokees, I understand that conflict is necessary to bring about change and rid ourselves of such fools.
Cherokees battle identity theft
Hoklotubbe on who's a Cherokee
Hillbilly "Indian" vs. 1/256th Cherokee
How Cherokees are assimilated
Which Cherokees are legit?
Cherokee vs. Cherokee vs. Cherokee vs. Cherokee
Cherokees 'r' us
Real Cherokees tackle wannabes
For more on the broader question of who's an Indian, see:
Determining Indians = waste of time?
"Actual Indian" defined
Lots of possible Indians
Who's an Indian again?
Are you a reeeeeeal part "Injun"?