Opinion: Cherokee citizenship more than just blood

"True definition of American Indians gets complicated

Our nation abounds in debates about race, identity, citizenship, ethnicity and nationality. American Indians are part of that debate and many issues in the nation today impact the definition of what constitutes an American Indian in the United States. Many assume that to be an American Indian you must have native lineage alone. Unfortunately, the definition of an American Indian is inherently political. Race, ethnicity and cultural affiliation play a part, but to be considered an Indian you must be a member of a recognized native tribe or nation.

Many tribes continue to use those definitions to identify their tribal members. But a broader understanding of what an American Indian is and the political ramifications of that definition are conspicuous in a fact I learned while conducting research. While our official enrollment records were closed there were many people who were born and died who did not hold official membership. This did not deter those people from voting in tribal elections or participating in our community. Community involvement has always been our tradition.

Our tribe has now undertaken an enrollment audit. The audit is meant to define who is a tribal member, once again using those federal standards of blood and census lists. But the true question for us is whether those people who now enjoy membership uphold their community responsibility to our nation."

Get the Story:
Lynne Harlan: True definition of American Indians gets complicated (The Asheville Citizen-Times 7/20)

Relevant Links:
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians - http://www.cherokee-nc.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, site 2 - http://www.nc-cherokee.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, unofficial - http://www.easternband.com

Related Stories:
Opinion: Why Native Americans celebrate on July 4 (7/6)
Opinion: Eastern Band honors warrior tradition (5/25)
Opinion: Public prayer not meant to be offensive (4/27)
Opinion: Living in harmony with Mother Earth (4/13)

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