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Opinion
Chad Smith: Cherokee Nation not based on race


"In 2006, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal (JAT), now the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, ruled that a Cherokee Nation law that limited citizenship in the nation to Cherokees, Shawnees and Delawares by blood was unconstitutional because it excluded freedmen and other non-Indians who were listed on separate Dawes Rolls.

Freedmen were former slaves of Cherokees and were emancipated and given Cherokee Nation citizenship by an 1866 amendment to our 1839 Constitution after the American Civil War. The evidence shows that people with Cherokee blood were placed on the by-blood rolls and non-Indians were listed on either the adopted white rolls or freedmen rolls by the Dawes Commission.

Although the interpretation of the Cherokee Nation court is controversial as to whether it excluded freedmen or not, it is very clear that the determination of who may or may not become a citizen is a question reserved for Cherokee voters.

What should be clear to all is that the Cherokee Nation Constitution is not based on race. People of many different ethnic backgrounds — African-Americans, white Americans, and Hispanic-Americans — have Cherokee ancestors on the Dawes Roll and are unquestionably entitled to Cherokee citizenship. "

Get the Story:
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith: Cherokee Constitution is not based on race (The Muskogee Phoenix 3/1)

Court Decision:
Vann v. Kempthorne (December 19, 2006)

Cason Letter:
Cherokee Nation Constitution (August 30, 2006)

Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal Decision in Freedmen Case:
Allen v. Cherokee Nation (March 7, 2006)

Relevant Links:
Cherokee Nation - http://www.cherokee.org
Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes - http://www.freedmen5tribes.com
Freedmen Conference - http://www.freedmenconference.com

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