January 19, 2007

Real Cherokees tackle wannabes

Non-recognized 'Cherokee tribes' flourishEvery year thousands of people are told or "discover" they have Native American blood. Sometimes it's true, sometimes not. And the tribe people most commonly associate themselves with is Cherokee.

Usually, it's harmless. But sometimes people take illegal or unethical steps to form "tribes" and sell membership. Some claim treaty rights and seek state and federal recognition, while others take federal money intended for legitimate Indian nations.

A group of Cherokee Nation employees and officials recently formed a task force to deal with these "wannabe" Cherokees.


Anonymous said...

I guess that's a sign of the times. You would think that perpetrators of scams like that would have a crisis of conscience at some point. I believe in karma and those people with dishonest hearts will be haunted by their fraud. Very sad read.

Anonymous said...

I agree with writer fella to a certain degree, as in Indians actually possessing Indian blood. By that I mean blood quantum, I'm all for it. And yes, I've heard all the arguments on it, as in "we will all be assimilated" or "we won't be able to fall in love with whom we choose and have children." I think the people who propagate this fallacy are playing a cruel hoax on an unwitting populace. We're still here and growing.
When the goverment initiated the Dawes Act I don't think the Cherokees ever imagined that they would open a can of worms of this proportion. My heart goes out them and I applaud their efforts to rid Indian Country of these frauds.


Rob said...

The escaped slaves may not have had Indian blood, but after intermarrying with the Cherokees, their descendants probably do. And once again, tribal membership is a political matter, not a racial one. There's nothing that says an Indian has to have any Indian blood. That's how white captives and black runaways became full-fledged tribal members in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Rob, are you speaking about the Cherokees when you said "There's nothing that says an Indian has to have any Indian blood" or all Indians in general?


Rob said...

The answer to your question is "all Indians," anonymouse.

Membership in a tribe is a political decision, not a racial decision. That was established in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez (1978), which said only a tribe could determine its own membership.

What that means in reality is that a tribe can expel full-blooded members for whatever reason and deny these people the benefits of tribal citizenship. It also means that a tribe can enroll whoever it wants and grant them the benefits of citizenship. That's what the Black Freedman are asking the Cherokee Nation to do.

Clearly, a tribe has no economic incentive these days to increase its membership by adding whites and other non-Indians. So it's possible in a technical sense only. The issue facing tribes these days is disenrollment, or the elimination of tribal members with as much "blood" as anyone.

But adding non-Indians happened in colonial times and the adopted members (whites, blacks, or Hispanics) became full-fledged tribal members. In other words, they became Indians in a political sense even if they weren't Indians in a racial sense. At present, this political sense is the primary way we identify Indians (although many Indians aren't tribal members).

Russ seems to be ignorant of the federal recognition process and what it entails. For starters, only tribes with a continuous history since America's dawn are eligible, since continuity of history is a prime criterion. So you can dismiss his comments about the "Chinequa" or whoever as irrelevant. (This is also why his Saturday Night Live skit on tribal recognition missed the mark.)