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Opinion
Chad Smith: Cherokee Nation tolerant of many


"Representatives of the freedmen have played the race card, screaming that the actions of the Cherokee people were based on racism. In response to such harsh and unfounded criticism, I must respond on behalf of my people. Cherokees are a warm, open, tolerant group of people. The Cherokee Nation's citizenship policy is one of the most open and inclusive in all of Indian country. Of the 270,000 Cherokee citizens, there are many who are racially black, racially white, racially Hispanic and racially Asian. However, each one shares a common bond of having a Cherokee ancestor on the base roll of 1906. Regardless of their race, they are citizens of the Cherokee Nation and are accepted and are part of the Cherokee family.

The fact is the Dawes Roll is the base roll of 1906 and if you had Indian blood, you are listed as an Indian. Jack Baker, an esteemed genealogist, provided abundant proof of that. In fact, the freedmen's own expert witness, professor Dan Littlefield, has stated that only a very few of those with Cherokee and freedmen blood were put on the freedman roll instead of the Cherokee by blood roll. Experts on all sides of the issue agree that the non-Indian rolls of the Cherokee Nation were made up almost entirely of non-Indians. It is unfortunate that some of these non-Indians chose to play a race card and choose to play victim rather than explaining to the Cherokee people why these descendants should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

Courts have repeatedly held that only the Cherokee people can decide who can be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. That fundamental decision is not the principal chief's, the tribal council's or even the courts'; it is the right of the Cherokee people to do so. In this election, they made that decision overwhelmingly - that to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, you have to have a common bond, a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee ancestor on the base roll. That is certainly not too much to ask."

Get the Story:
Chad Smith: Cherokees vote for Indian blood (Indian Country Today 3/9)

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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