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National
Slate: What's so good about being Cherokee?


"Over the weekend the Cherokee Nation voted to revoke citizenship from the descendents of slaves owned by the tribe more than a century ago. A group representing the 2,800 affected members plans to fight the election results. What exactly do you get for being Cherokee?

A lot of government assistance. Like the members of other Native American tribes, Cherokees have access to free health care at tribe-run clinics and hospitals. Prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and hospitalizations are all covered under this system, which the tribe operates with funding from the federal Indian Health Services. (The quality of care isn't always the best; in the 1970s the IHS was even accused of sterilizing women without their consent.) The tribe's housing authority also uses government money to help Cherokees buy and remodel homes.

Being Cherokee might also earn you scholarship money. College students can score $1,000 per semester, with preferences given to those closest to graduation. About 2,000 students (or 90 percent of those who apply) receive the grants. Those who are heading into the gaming and travel industries can even get a free ride. The tribe gives full scholarships for students studying hospitality administration through a distance-learning program at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas—with the understanding that students will work for Cherokee-owned casinos and businesses when they're done.

The size of the Cherokee casino business makes membership a boon even for job hunters who didn't major in hospitality. The Cherokee Nation is Oklahoma's biggest employer and has more than 6,000 people on the payroll. Tribal law grants Cherokee members first dibs at these jobs, followed by other Native Americans and then everyone else. (Cherokee citizens can also vote in tribal elections, and they have the right to own Cherokee Nation license plates.)"

Get the Story:
Explainer: Cherokee Perks (Slate 3/5)

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

Jim 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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