September 16, 2011

NY Times debate on Freedmen

The New York Times has posted eight op/ed pieces on the Cherokee Freedmen issue. Below are some of the best quotes as chosen by Indian Country Today:

New York Times Debates Tribal Rights v. Racial JusticeThe intersection of race and citizenship in Indian Country never fails to create a tragicomedy of tribal politics. Whenever tribes are under attack about membership policies, the reliable Hail Mary is “sovereignty,” even when it bears little relation to federal intrusion.Kevin Noble Maillard, law professor, Syracuse University and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma memberThe Cherokee Nation, like all sovereign nations, determines its citizenship by a Constitution approved by our people. No federal court has ever told the Cherokee Nation how to determine our citizenship. The U.S. and United Nations policies and courts have always told us the opposite. The most fundamental right we have as a nation is self-determination of our own citizenship. There is no treaty anywhere that says otherwise.Cara Cowan-Watts, speaker, Cherokee Nation Council and board member of the National Congress of American IndiansThe Cherokee Nation chose to remain a weak sovereign by excluding the Freedmen descendants, about 1,000 of whom were registered to vote in the coming election for Principal Chief. The disenfranchisement of the Freedmen—after they had voted in a prior election that resulted in a virtual tie, forcing this second election in which their votes will be provisional—all but guaranteed that the candidate who supported the expulsion of the Freedmen would win, and the candidate who cultivated their support would lose. This is the worst form of racial politics.Matthew L.M. Fletcher, professor of law at Michigan State University and editor of Turtle Talk law blogThe distinction between the racial and political use of blood quantum rules and its connection to sovereignty offer an important backdrop to the Cherokee Nation’s actions against the Freedmen. Without doubt, the Cherokee Nation engaged in blatant racial discrimination. Yet, as an expression of sovereignty, the Cherokee Nation’s decision to expel the Freedmen could arguably be viewed as a valid, albeit utterly troubling, exercise of the right of self-determination.Rose Cuison Villazor, Hofstra University Law SchoolI think Maillard had the quote of the day in a passage just after the passage ICT quoted:Natives safely ensconced as members are the first to step forward and defend obviously discriminatory actions, whether in a council meeting, a newspaper blog, or a T-shirt that says, “I’m a Real Indian.” So very typically, “It’s not about race; it’s about sovereignty” and “outsiders don’t understand” are the most common and ridiculous of arguments. Add in a healthy portion of Self-Determination and a generous serving of Tribal Autonomy, and there you have a typical recipe for Sovereignty Sauce.

At times, the Sauce is cooked in shady pots to defend even shadier behavior. When my own tribe went though this exact same issue 10 years ago, tribal council meetings took on state fair antics, with hooin’, mooin’ and hollerin’ at Freedmen in attendance. Cries of “Go back to Africa!” followed Black Indians around town. Local papers quoted citizens saying, “We’re trying to get the blacks out.”
Comment:  Why would Cherokees be saying these kinds of things if they weren't prejudiced against blacks? Sounds to me like they are prejudiced.

For more on the Freedmen, see US Threatens Cherokees Over Freedmen and Limbaugh Cheers Freedmen Expulsion.

Below:  "A Freedmen family in the Oklahoma Territory, 1900."


Anonymous said...

Did the Cherokee even have slavery before white contact? I don't know.

What I do know is, if we talk about sovereignty, I've heard that rule before.

America: What about your Jews?
Germany: What about your Indians?

America: What about your Jews?
Russia: What about your Negroes?

America: What about your Tibetans?
China: What about your Indians...again?

Nothing ever gets solved.

dmarks said...

Easy to solve.

I'm pretty sure Germany has settled up with the Jews.

As for the Indians, make sure all the treaties are recognized.

As for the "Negroes", the Russian seems stuck in the 1950s...

As for the Tibetans, they aren't even in China. If China pulls its armies back to the Chinese border, that problem is solved too. Tibet never threatened China in any way whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Sovereignty might be a legal stance to hide behind, but everything Hitler, Andrew Jackson and Custer did was legal also.

The Oklahoma Cherokees are a whites only club thanks to the conservative movement across the country that set race relations back 40 years. It was predictable.

Like the US Governments policies towards tribes, fickled and gauged by the economic, social and political populism of the times, the Cherokees in Oklahoma always bend to the will of state government. It was the Cherokees that first agreed to pay into the corrupt and incompetent states purse because they are "good ol'boys" and need Anglo approval.

The rest of Oklahomas tribes were angered and confused. Sovereignty diminished is where tribes lose.

The Freedmens rights should never be questioned, after all, they are not asking for anything but their rightful place in history, something you would think an Indian tribe would understand.