Although the so-called Cherokees of Alabama have been "recognized" by the state of Alabama, state recognition requires no process for documentation as a legal, historic tribal government. State recognition often gives fraudulent tribes undeserved credibility and improper access to funding. It also violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Fraudulent groups and individuals passing themselves off as Native Americans have become big business, with more than 200 groups that claim to be some sort of Cherokee tribe. There also are hundreds of individuals who claim to be Cherokee or from the Cherokee Nation and offer services ranging from teaching culture to spiritual advice. The Cherokee Nation does not question anyone's claims of heritage or ancestry, but points out the significant difference between claiming heritage and having citizenship in a federally recognized tribe.
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.
Principal chief, Cherokee Nation
Fraudulent "Cherokee" Organizations
Comment: For more on the subject, see Cherokees Battle Identity Theft and Hoklotubbe on Who's a Cherokee.
Below: Marilyn Vann and Chad Smith have battled over the Freedmen issue.