Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cherokee People?

On February 21, 1828, the first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was printed, both in English and in the newly invented Cherokee alphabet.

This is especially newsworthy today based on the fact that NPR reported that a federal court hearing has Native Americans arguing against the descendants of African slaves once kept by Cherokee tribal members. The Cherokee Nation has moved to expel the people known as Cherokee Freedmen.

The Freedmen argue that a 140-year-old treaty protects their citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Which puts the tribal member in a tight spot trying to argue against a long standing treaty.

The Cherokee was always one of the largest and wealthiest of all native american tribes. Many were landowners and owned up to 100 african slaves. It was these slaves who were granted citizenship when there names were included on a federal government list of all Cherokee citizen's called the "Dawes Roll".

The ancestors of these slaves are now arguing that they should be included in the Cherokee nation and are only being excluded because of the color of their skin.

The Cherokee argue that "It's an Indian thing, we do not want non-Indians in the tribe, our Indian blood is what binds us together".

It was after fighting for the losing side in the Civil War that the Cherokees decided to grant their newly freed slaves citizenship in the tribe. The Cherokee Freedmen believe that they helped sustain Cherokee life as much as an 'original' tribe member and deserve to be part of the Cherokee Nation.

I guess the courts will have to decide.

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