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Opinion
Opinion: Let Cherokee Nation decide citizenship


Ed. Note: Heather Williams is a member of the Cherokee Nation and is employed by Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

"For me, the crucial question is who decides who is an Indian? Does the United States government decide? Does misinformed public opinion decide? Or do Indians decide? And the issue is not one of discrimination but of how best to preserve Indian identity.

Through my own experience, I've come to believe that Indian ancestry is crucial to the preservation of our identity. It is simply what makes the Cherokees an Indian nation. As a group whose nation was almost erased, we know that defining that identity is crucial to maintaining it now. Establishing who is and who isn't a tribal citizen is the rightful function of a self-governing sovereign nation and a key to maintaining sovereignty. For virtually every tribe in the country, that means having a by-blood requirement for citizenship.

I treasure my African American roots, and I also feel fully a part of the Cherokee community. Some of my fondest memories are of participating in wonderful Cherokee traditions, and the Cherokee tribe accepts me regardless of my racial appearance. When I look at our schools, religious organizations and communities, I can see that this is the rule, not the exception. Multiracial and freedmen-descendant Cherokees like me are living proof that the nation welcomes all Cherokees equally.

But what unites us is our shared Indian ancestry. We should not be subject to false charges of racism and attack legislation when we seek to preserve and build on that shared history, enabling our children and grandchildren to keep their precious heritage alive."

Get the Story:
Heather Williams: Let Cherokees decide who's Cherokee (The Los Angeles Times 7/10)
pwday

BIA Letters:
June 22, 2007 | May 21, 2007 | March 28, 2007 | August 30, 2006

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