Shameful day for the Cherokee Nation?
March 4, 2007 4:37 AM   Subscribe

Members of the Cherokee Nation have voted to revoke tribal citizenship for descendants of black slaves the Cherokees once owned.
posted by flapjax at midnite (117 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like the Seminoles win the humanity prize in this story. Thanks for the interesting read flapjax.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:51 AM on March 4, 2007


I mostly agree with the legitimacy of the tribe making the choice but it's definitely icky... coz like, it's not like the descendants of the slaves could participate in the vote.

I don't know, it's a really interesting sort of question because—it's not exactly parallel to the question of whether descendants of african slaves should be United States citizens, because the United States by definition is a more expansive and more important sort of citizenship privelege than Cherokee Nation.
posted by Firas at 4:53 AM on March 4, 2007


What is not developed in the piece is the fact that many former black slaves married indians and thus, with mixed blood, melded in to tribes, thus entitling them to share in any casino building and the profits derived from them. A clocal tribe in
Connecticut--The Golden Hill tribe--has some members that locals say "are not real indians but blacks,"becausee of this mix.

If those mixed indians are deprived of full tribal citizenship, then, yes, it does matter financially to them.
posted by Postroad at 4:58 AM on March 4, 2007


I remember reading about this is Wired a while back. It's kind of a sad decision.
posted by ReiToei at 5:02 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good post flapjax.

An oleo of awful...no reason the genocidal targets of manifest destiny should accomodate the hitch-hiking remnants of genocidal nation-building..
posted by toma at 5:13 AM on March 4, 2007


Always nice to see racism, bigotry, and other such assholery are alive and well.

I guess this means the next time I see someone with a Cherokee Nation bumper sticker I'll flip him the bird...
posted by sotonohito at 5:14 AM on March 4, 2007


Saturday's vote followed a ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court last year securing tribal citizenship for descendants of freedmen.

The outcome of the vote sounds mighty odd in light of this ruling. There is a lack of information in the articles about how and why the tribe decided that this was an issue that needed a vote in the first place. So, I'm a bit reluctant to come down on either side of this issue without all of the relevant information.
posted by inconsequentialist at 5:19 AM on March 4, 2007


Let's invade their land and teach them the ways of American democracy.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:37 AM on March 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


The Cherokees live up to their storied affinity for Euro-American cultural practices. Film at 11. Why do you think they even *had* (or were allowed to have) black slaves? Why do you think they were so quickly and completely subdued and assimilated? Why does every white Southerner claim to have a Cherokee princess as an ancestor (there were no "princesses" but that's what they say), but almost none admit phenotypically obvious black ancestry?

Race is a construction with no basis in biology. But all humans appear to be fully capable of racism anyway, making one think that racism on the basis of visual phenotypes is in fact a basic, universal human faculty.

Trail of tears.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:12 AM on March 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


interestingly enough, they also owned a few of Al Sharpton's ancestors
posted by matteo at 6:16 AM on March 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


The question of who's really an American Indian, what with the variation in blood quantum requirements from tribe to tribe, is confusing enough, and it's mostly because the Federal government has a long history of meddling, claiming the right to tell Indian people who they are and who they ought to be. Blood Quantum is the total percentage of your blood that is tribal native due to bloodline. All of the Nations use Blood Quantum as a requirement for membership. Usually this is detailed on a CDIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) Card issued by the United States Government. Additionally, many of the Nations have other requirements for Membership. link
Struggling with the blood quantum issue has many Indians struggling with their identity and potential tribal termination.

At the heart of the recent Cherokee vote is the Dawes Roll and its inclusion of non-bloodline tribe members. The Black Native American Association rejects blood quantum for membership, but they aren't receiving government and casino funds.
posted by F Mackenzie at 6:19 AM on March 4, 2007


Good post. Thanks.
posted by languagehat at 6:34 AM on March 4, 2007


Related
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:42 AM on March 4, 2007


I have never understood how many people think that Native Americans should be able to segregate.

Live the old ways
Speak the old language
keep their bloodlines pure
Worship the ways of their ancestors (peyote)
dance the ancient dances
hunt the old ways
live in pueblos/tee-pees, yurts
and live exclusively around those who do the same, raise their children under those conditions.

And all safely guarded away from the prying eyes of the whites/anglos.

But everybody else must be forced into the melting pot.
Whites, blacks, Mexicans, Kurds, Japanese, whatever.

But especially not whites.

If blond haired/blue eyed whites were to try and start a community and reject anyone not blone/blue, forcing them out, they could re-name it Lawsuit City.
posted by Balisong at 7:13 AM on March 4, 2007


Without the BIA "White Card" legally one cannot declare oneself Indian nor obtain financial compensation when federal agencies actually honour such commitments.

How about some reparations then?

This whole story is revolting. Thanks for the post, flapjax at midnight. The Cherokees ought to be ashamed of themselves. I know I'll be writing to some of my white friends in Georgia who proudly claim Cherokee blood (but who would deny any touch of the tarbrush.)

no reason the genocidal targets of manifest destiny should accomodate the hitch-hiking remnants of genocidal nation-building..

I don't get your point toma. Are you really calling the descendants of slaves owned by Cherokees "hitch hiking remnants" (as I assume)? That'd be cold man.
posted by three blind mice at 7:13 AM on March 4, 2007


While most if not all Freedmen were and are of mixed African-Indio ethnicity, they were are listed the same irregardless of blood-quantum.

That's what makes this decision so sad.
posted by caddis at 7:21 AM on March 4, 2007


If blond haired/blue eyed whites were to try and start a community and reject anyone not blone/blue, forcing them out, they could re-name it Lawsuit City.

Speaking as a blond-haired/blue-eyed white male, all I can say is "help, help, I'm being repressed."

Did you see those Native Americans repressing me?
posted by three blind mice at 7:27 AM on March 4, 2007


"I have never understood how many people think that Native Americans should be able to segregate."

You'll recall that they were here before... this type of thinking never gets airtight and always gets delineated by public sentiment but I think most people would agree that there is some discernable way in which native americans can play the "hey just leave us alone" card that later-imported ethnicities can't.
posted by Firas at 7:30 AM on March 4, 2007


Sounds like the Seminoles win the humanity prize in this story.

They did the same thing a few years back. (via)
posted by caddis at 7:32 AM on March 4, 2007


interestingly enough, they also owned a few of Al Sharpton's ancestors

It wasn't Strom Thurmond's ancestors who owned Al Sharpton's people, it was Strom himself. Motherfucker was that damn old. As for the Cherokees, hey, it's progress to see Indians being racists, since it's traditionally a white dominated field.
posted by jonmc at 7:33 AM on March 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


I voted no. But as you can see, I was in the minority.

Just pisses me off to no end. And it's only been an issue ever since they built this.

BTW, I'm appreciating the racism many of you are showing. Just proves that for as closed-minded and bigoted my own tribe has just been, everyone else is just as closed-minded and bigoted, too.
posted by dw at 7:42 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


That link was a nice addition to the thread caddis:

In 2000, the Seminoles expelled all 2,000 black members and denied their families a cut of the reparations money - never mind that their ancestors joined the tribe in the 18th century, endured the march from Florida to Oklahoma in the 1830s, and have considered themselves Indian for generations.

Once again, the humanity prize goes unawarded.
posted by three blind mice at 7:52 AM on March 4, 2007


Always nice to see racism, bigotry, and other such assholery are alive and well.

They may be native Americans, but they're still humans. It's amazing how many people will kick their "fellow man" in the groin when you waive dollar signs in front of their face.

If blond haired/blue eyed whites were to try and start a community and reject anyone not blone/blue, forcing them out, they could re-name it Lawsuit City.

Just "Washington" will suffice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:53 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's progress to see Indians being racists, since it's traditionally a white dominated field

That is a classic jonmc line and it is sure to rile the crowd.
posted by caddis at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2007


So, this black blood is pretty potent stuff, eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:56 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Luckily, gay Cherokees were not voted out. Black folks need to eat.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:07 AM on March 4, 2007


jonmc writes "As for the Cherokees, hey, it's progress to see Indians being racists, since it's traditionally a white dominated field."

Not to say Native Americans can't be racist but in this case it's not necessarily a race issue, better to think of it as an immigration issue no different than the Federal government denying welfare to an illegal immigrant.
posted by Mitheral at 8:08 AM on March 4, 2007


Luckily, gay Cherokees were not voted out.

The Cherokee gay marriage debate was so two years ago.
posted by dw at 8:17 AM on March 4, 2007


Not to say Native Americans can't be racist but in this case it's not necessarily a race issue, better to think of it as an immigration issue no different than the Federal government denying welfare to an illegal immigrant.

That's so true, and is the basis for the bill I am trying to have sponsored revoking the American citizenship of African-Americans.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2007


A sad day. The whole story of racial mixture and Indians and law is so convoluted. It is my strong suspicion that a lot of family tales of Cherokee or other Indian ancestry were invented in the 19th century as a cover for whites who had some black ancestors and were engaged in "passing." But when you are passing, how do you explain the odd kid who is a bit dark-complected? "Oh, that is the Cherokee in us showing through. Great grandma was a Cherokee princess you know, her name was Pretty Fawn and she owned a thousand Indian ponies."

One day genetic testing will be so cheap that they will have booths in the mall where you pay $1, get a pin prick in your finger, and a few minutes later it spits out an analysis along with a world map showing us where our ancestors came from. A lot of us are in for some surprises.
posted by LarryC at 8:47 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not to say Native Americans can't be racist but in this case it's not necessarily a race issue, better to think of it as an immigration issue no different than the Federal government denying welfare to an illegal immigrant.

I dunno, you can call it a rose if you want, but it still stinks, as they say. A history of oppression does not somehow immunize a people against the human foible of prejudice, sadly. But, whatever you want to call it it's a disheartening devlopement.

That is a classic jonmc line and it is sure to rile the crowd.

Not intending to rile, merely illuminate and amuse. Quite frankly I was mainly glad that matteo brought up the Thurmond/Sharpton thing since I've been storing that quip for a week or so.
posted by jonmc at 8:52 AM on March 4, 2007


get a pin prick in your finger, and a few minutes later it spits out an analysis along with a world map showing us where our ancestors came from. A lot of us are in for some surprises.

Not me. My ancestors are from the future.

*teleports off*
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on March 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


My grandfather told me that it was about 1838 that Louis Ross chartered a boat and shipped five hundred slaves from Georgia to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. He said the boat was in the charge of Dan Ross, and that Louis Ross had come on ahead and had settled on a plantation in Saline district, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, where the present site of Salina is now located. He said Louis Ross met the boat with an armed guard of full-blood Indians and ox wagons and took them to his plantation in Saline district. Here a lot of the slaves were sold to other Cherokees in the Nation and a lot of them he kept to the farm and run the salt works, which he later operated.

Eliza Hardrick's interview from Oklahoma Slave Narratives.
posted by LarryC at 8:54 AM on March 4, 2007


Not to say Native Americans can't be racist but in this case it's not necessarily a race issue, better to think of it as an immigration issue no different than the Federal government denying welfare to an illegal immigrant.

If the federal government tried to deny the citizenship of the descendants of people who came to the U.S. in the 1800s based on their skin color, I don't think many people would call it an immigration issue.
posted by delmoi at 9:09 AM on March 4, 2007


Nations suck.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:26 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not to say Native Americans can't be racist but in this case it's not necessarily a race issue, better to think of it as an immigration issue no different than the Federal government denying welfare to an illegal immigrant.

The main issue in this is that the Cherokees signed a treaty with the Feds in 1866 that explicitly stated the freedmen must be granted the same rights as Cherokee citizens. But then came the Dawes Commission.

One of the problems with the Dawes Rolls is that the field agents didn't always check ID or birth certificates, but sometimes just went by sight. Dark-skinned Cherokee? Must freedman. (Wired covered how DNA testing was used in an attempt to prove some of these freedmen were Cherokee-by-blood -- with disappointing results.)

The Dawes Rolls soon superseded all previous citizenship proofs for the Five Civilized Tribes. Most tribes require a certain blood quantum (usually >= 1/4) to be considered a tribal member. With the Cherokee, though, it was just prove you have an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls and you get a blue card. (This, BTW, is why the Cherokee are the second-largest tribe in the US -- it's all in how you count. It's also why the Dawes Rolls will never be rescinded as a tribal membership method. A majority of the tribal population has <=1/8 blood.)

There have been a number of other cases in the last few years where tribes have tossed members as the casino money rolled in. There was a California tribe, I can't remember which one, that threw a family out, even though many members of that family had higher quantums listed on their CDIBs than the tribal leadership. Yesterday was just an extension of that, though with the added twist of slavery.

And I'm wondering if we aren't going to be revisiting this soon if there's a global press firestorm. Only 7000 people voted yesterday out of 200,000+ potential voters. You have to wonder how many thousands have only heard about this in the press this weekend and will be calling Tahlequah on Monday.
posted by dw at 9:47 AM on March 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


no matter what one may think of this vote, at the end of the day it's strictly an indian matter. i don't have enough equity in this situation to denounce the cherokees.
posted by bruce at 9:49 AM on March 4, 2007


Yeah, I saw that ratio. That's less than 3% turnout right? But the article states that is "more than the turnout for the Cherokee constitution vote of four years ago."
posted by phaedon at 9:50 AM on March 4, 2007


An oleo of awful...no reason the genocidal targets of manifest destiny should accomodate the hitch-hiking remnants of genocidal nation-building..

The Cherokees live up to their storied affinity for Euro-American cultural practices.


It is my strong suspicion that a lot of family tales of Cherokee or other Indian ancestry were invented in the 19th century as a cover for whites


Yup, it's them white people's fault. Anything related to racism is a sign of white peoples involvement somehow somewhere. Y'all do realize this type of thinking makes you through and through racist.
posted by scheptech at 9:57 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


i don't have enough equity in this situation to denounce the cherokees.

bruce: that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. As human beings, we all have a dog in this fight. Are you more afraid of criticizing a Native American than of countenncing racism?
posted by jonmc at 9:58 AM on March 4, 2007


As already mentioned, it's not just the Cherokee. What a shame it is that many tribes are looking for any excuse to disenroll members so that each remaining member gets their bigger share of $$$.
posted by Emredi at 10:03 AM on March 4, 2007


Jesus - $20,000 a month per member of the Pechanga tribe? Fuck me.
posted by phaedon at 10:09 AM on March 4, 2007


bruce: that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. As human beings, we all have a dog in this fight. Are you more afraid of criticizing a Native American than of countenncing racism?

I did have a say in this fight. I did what I could. Clearly, it wasn't enough.

You want this flipped? Call your Congresscritter. Then call the press. But you must understand that this is a sovereign nation that deals directly with the Feds. It's a different animal from a racial group, because rather than "spokespeople" and "action groups" there's a democratically elected government running the show. In the end, we have to choose to reverse course with another vote. Enough anger in the press and the involvement of the other 200,000 who didn't vote would make all the difference.
posted by dw at 10:09 AM on March 4, 2007


Why does every white Southerner claim to have a Cherokee princess as an ancestor (there were no "princesses" but that's what they say), but almost none admit phenotypically obvious black ancestry?

The princess-grandmother thing isn't exclusively Southern, or exclusively Cherokee, although they're the nation this immense whiff of ancestral exotica is the most commonly ascribed to, to the point where it's long been the butt of intertribal jokes.

“What tribe are you, cousin?” Victor asked him.
“Cherokee.”
“Really? Shit, I’ve never met a real Cherokee.”
“Neither have I.”
And they laughed.


Even when it's not the Cherokee getting targetted, it seems to almost always be a princess, never a prince. As the late Vine De Loria put it in one of his classic bits of sarcasm, "I once did a projection backward
and discovered that evidently most tribes were entirely female for the first three hundred years of white occupation."

BTW, I'm appreciating the racism many of you are showing. Just proves that for as closed-minded and bigoted my own tribe has just been, everyone else is just as closed-minded and bigoted, too.

Yeah. Way to go, all you folks who are ignoring the 24 percent who voted against this...and the untold numbers of other folks who are by culture and descent Cherokee, but don't have the "official" recognition and right to vote because their direct forebears weren't listed on the Dawes roll. Never mind the whole sorry history of the allotment policy behind the Dawes Act and the ensuing massive lost of Indian lands. And never mind the all-too-common backhanded racism of being surprised when Indians fail to live up to some "positive" stereotype and show we can be as flawed as anybody else.

Mind if I join you in the pissed-off-and-disgusted-all-around corner, DW?

Once again, Sherman Alexie puts it so much better than I could:

Mixed-up and mixed-blood
I sometimes hate
the white in me
when I see their cruelty
and I sometimes hate
the Indian in me
when I see their weakness

because I understand the cruelty and weakness in me. I belong to both tribes. It's my personal Wounded Knee, my own Little Big Horn. On the telephone, my friend from New York told me I drifted back into a reservation accent only when I talked about pain. How could I tell her

that the reservation is more
than pain?
It's double happiness, too
when I watch the fancydancers
or
the basketball players
or
the comic book collectors
all dreaming

of a life larger than this one, constructed by walls everywhere. It doesn't matter if it's a square, rectangle, or triangle, they all mean the same thing. They're the direct opposite of a circle. It doesn't matter if it's a square, rectangle, or triangle. They're all the direct opposite of a circle. I've been dreaming of a life

with a new shape, somewhere
in the in-between
between tipi and HUD house
between magic and loss.
I'm always dreaming
of a life between
the 3/16 that names me white
and the 13/16
that names me Indian.
That's what has happened to us.
Indians have learned

to love by measuring cup. I can count up all my cousins. I can count every can of commodities in the cupboard. I can count every piece of broken glass on my reservation and I still wouldn't have enough of anything, neither answers nor love. But I can stand up in front of you and recite formulas; my voice will tremble and my hands will shake. I can stand up, like Lucille said, through your destruction. I can stand up, like Lucille said, through my destruction. I can stand up, like Lucille said, through our destruction, through

every little war, every
little hurricane.
I'll take my Indian thumb
and my white fingers
on my strong right hand
and I'll take my white thumb
and my Indian fingers
on my clumsy left hand
and I'll make fists,
furious.

posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 10:14 AM on March 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


So basically, the Indians... give citizenship, and then take it back...

I wonder if there's a colloquialism for that.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:15 AM on March 4, 2007 [7 favorites]


Enough anger in the press and the involvement of the other 200,000 who didn't vote would make all the difference.

There's also the idea of encouraging people to boycott the casino. The downside is people will lose a lot of income, but the upside is I guarantee you'll have their attention.
posted by jonmc at 10:15 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Slightly off-topic, but I keep seeing various minor hints from achaeologists which suggest that there was definitely a native group of humans first on the North American continent, and that the folks who were here when Columbus and pals showed up were not their descendants, but rather descendants of second and third waves of people who wiped out the original settlers.

I have this going hypothesis that every human on the planet today is the descendant of someone who wiped out some other tribe, and that there are no innocents left. Articles like that go a long way to confirming my suspicions.
posted by adipocere at 10:22 AM on March 4, 2007


Mind if I join you in the pissed-off-and-disgusted-all-around corner, DW?

Plenty of room. I'm so fkn tired of this "noble savage" stereotype -- that somehow Natives are all these silent environment-loving people in touch with nature that get wheeled out every time someone wants to read "Chief Seattle" and feel good about themselves.

I think it all finally flipped for me with the Makah whaling rights issue in 98-99. I heard these so-called "liberal" Seattleites saying that they should just go back to being drunks on the rez or why don't they just build a casino. I so wanted to punch him in the head.

There's also the idea of encouraging people to boycott the casino.

Casino? Don't you mean casinos? And the horse track? And when's the next time you're going to Oklahoma, anyway, Mr. New Yorker? You going to fly to Tulsa just to NOT go in the casino? I mean, yeah, try boycotting the casino and all that, but that has as much effect on you as my personal boycott of all products made in Zimbabwe.

Call your Congresscritter. Now.
posted by dw at 10:26 AM on March 4, 2007


Casino? Don't you mean casinos? And the horse track? And when's the next time you're going to Oklahoma, anyway, Mr. New Yorker?

I don't gamble anyway. I'm just saying that hitting people in the pocketbook has historically been the best way to get their attention.
posted by jonmc at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2007


dw:
From a policy perspective, what action you would demand from Congress that would still respect the sovereignty of the Nation and not undermine existing self-determination policies. Economic pressure by withholding of appropriations is the one action that springs to mind. What others would you advocate?
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of the problems with the Dawes Rolls is that the field agents didn't always check ID or birth certificates, but sometimes just went by sight. Dark-skinned Cherokee? Must freedman.

And other folks got left off the rolls because they didn't meet the residency requirements, while still others deliberately didn't enroll or misstated their blood quantum to be lower than it was to avoid having the government Indian agents controlling their finances...

Most tribes require a certain blood quantum (usually >= 1/4) to be considered a tribal member. With the Cherokee, though, it was just prove you have an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls and you get a blue card.

And if your direct ancestor isn't on the rolls...well, sorry bub. It doesn't matter how damn near FBI you are, how traditional you are, you aren't official. (DW, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard that even if you can pull up all the genealogical documents imaginable to show that your unenrolled forebear's siblings or other direct blood relations were all enrolled, it's still no dice -- if your particular direct line wasn't listed, there's no hope of appeal?)

There was a California tribe, I can't remember which one, that threw a family out, even though many members of that family had higher quantums listed on their CDIBs than the tribal leadership.

The Pechanga?

Only 7000 people voted yesterday out of 200,000+ potential voters. You have to wonder how many thousands have only heard about this in the press this weekend and will be calling Tahlequah on Monday.

Yeah, I keep peeking at some of the usual suspects forums waiting for the inevitable shitstorm. Indianz.com hasn't really caught up yet but there's some rumbling starting already on alt.native...
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 10:45 AM on March 4, 2007


You want this flipped? Call your Congresscritter. Then call the press. But you must understand that this is a sovereign nation that deals directly with the Feds.

A sovereign nation with no possible way to defend it's sovereignty. Come on, they are going to have to obey the dictates of the US federal government, for sure. Pulling shit like this is a good way to lose it. And why not? They are given certain privileges due to their history, but this kind of thing is just despicable. I don't see any reason to let them continue to have any special privileges if they're going to pull shit like this.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 AM on March 4, 2007


Delmoi, they do have a way to defend their sovereignty, with over 200 years worth of caselaw to that end. One of the key powers exercised by virtue of that sovereignty is the power to determine their own membership. Tribal membership disputes go on all the time within tribes, as that tends to be the first line of attack when political disputes erupt. If you don't like the decisions of someone in power, challenging their membership status is an effective tool for removing them from power. Yes, it's an abhorrent concept, but I can think of plenty of ways in which the United States political process is similarly unsavory...it's just that our political process is no longer overtly racially discriminatory. Should that give outsiders the right to intervene into our political system?
The idea that tribes have "special privileges" is a specious idea because it presumes that tribal members should be subject to the same federal laws that all other non-members are subject to, yet tribes were never a party to the Constitution which forms the very basis for those laws. So I suspect what you're advocating in the above post is more federal involvment in the realm of legislation similar to the Indian Civil Rights Act, and yes, there are certainly plenty of good arguments for that. But realize that if you want to be consistent with anti-colonialist policy, misuse of "special privileges" is NOT a good argument/rationale to whittle away at the sovereignty nation.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2007


sovereignty of a nation. Doh.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2007


"every human on the planet today is the descendant of someone who wiped out some other tribe"

You have no idea. Paleontologists are beginning to suspect that our Cro-Magnon ancestors in Africa and Europe slaughtered the older Neanderthals--possibly because the Neans weren't as violent or greedy.....

And don't forget the megafauna that once roamed the American and Eurasian plains. I don't mean bison, I mean 20-foot-long giant sloths, mammoths, enormous elk with 12-foot antlers, etc--they all went extinct about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Shortly after humans migrated into those areas......
giant sloth
giant elk
saber-toothed cat

Have a nice day, you sons of murderous bastards. ;)
posted by metasonix at 11:23 AM on March 4, 2007


no matter what one may think of this vote, at the end of the day it's strictly an indian matter. i don't have enough equity in this situation to denounce the cherokees.
posted by bruce at 12:49 PM EST on March 4 [+][!]


Yeah, like when the South said blacks had to use separate restrooms, drinking fountains, etc. that was just a Sourthern thing so basically everyone else should just keep their opinions to themselves.
posted by caddis at 11:32 AM on March 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the post.
posted by serazin at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2007


Yes, thank you for posting. This was very interesting reading, although it made me angry. Casino revenue is dimly reminiscent of Nigerian petroleum. It's a great opportunity for tribes to make money, but it is such a firehose of cash. Small interests are denied access or drown in largesse, and corruption ensues.
posted by owhydididoit at 12:46 PM on March 4, 2007


One point I'm not sure anybody's addressed is that a lot of (I'd think most) the Cherokee slaveowners, like Chief John Ross, were themselves mostly White by "blood" and culture; Ross himself was (to quote the Wikipedia article) "seven-eighths Scottish, educated by Europeans, a poor speaker of the Cherokee language" -- and so without the requisite paperwork would have a hard time getting accepted as Cherokee himself nowadays. This helps explain why the Black Cherokees have a low "Cherokee blood quantum": their slaveowner ancestors had a low "Cherokee quantum" themselves. (I read in some news story on relevant blood testing a few weeks back that the Black Cherokee had more European than Native American genetic markers; I wonder how THAT happened?)

My own stand on this is that if John Ross and his descendants count as Cherokee then the Cherokee freedpeople and their descendants should too. That is, if the White Cherokee are Cherokee then so are the Black Cherokee. Note that by blood I'm about as Cherokee as John Ross myself, but unlike the Cherokee of Oklahoma (or North Carolina), whether White, Black or Red Cherokee, I have no linguistic or cultural ties to the Cherokee Tribe/Nation (and nothing to do with Ulster or the Rhineland either).

The "issue" behind this FPP is controlling the money: the fewer Cherokee their are the more some of them get. What gets me too is that the Cherokee Nation won't nuremberg out the mostly White Cherokee too. And for that metter why not the Cherokee "fullbloods" who are in fact mostly descended from Creek, Seminole, Shawnee, Lenape or Osage captives, adoptees, neighbors and/or allies? (From the Wikipedia article, "[m]any Cherokee traditionalists have opposed granting tribal membership to the Freedmen; however, the Cherokee Nation also grants membership to Indians of Delaware (Lenape) blood based on previous treaties and agreements with the United States.")

If the Cherokee Nation insists on being "exclusive" they should find a way to disfellowship everybody who's not at least 3/4 Cherokee "by blood", dammit. ("WWHD?") There ARE 100% fullblooded Cherokee around somewhere, and some way to identify them, right?

[So dios, you object to this FPP & thread too, I take it; Mefi needs more Youtube, eh?]
posted by davy at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2007


From the freerepublic.com article, "By 1860, the Cherokees had 4,600 slaves; the Choctaws, 2,344; the Creeks, 1,532; the Chickasaws, 975; and the Seminoles, 500." One reason the Seminole owned so few slaves is they were more likely to adopt Blacks into their "social body" as members. Quoting Wikipedia again, "The Seminole were a heterogeneous tribe made up of mostly Lower Creeks from Georgia, Mikasuki-speaking Muskogees, and escaped African American slaves, and to a lesser extent, white Europeans and Indians from other tribes."
posted by davy at 12:57 PM on March 4, 2007


Hubby has a Cherokee Indian card listing him as 1/16.

He's really 1/4.
posted by konolia at 1:01 PM on March 4, 2007


From thw Wikipedia article on the The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (separate from the Cherokee Nation we're talking about in this thread), "They were too full-blooded and too poor to hold slaves, and favored neutrality in the Civil War." And also "They were an important opposition to the accomodationalist and corrupt 'Treaty Party'" -- i.e. John Ross's bunch, the mostly-European- quantumed Cherokee Nation chiefs who owned slaves and later joined the Confederacy.

One thing that surprises me (from the ame article) is "The United Keetoowah Band maintains a one quarter blood requirement. A significant number of Keetoowah's are fluent in the Cherokee Language. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has no minimum blood requirement." (Emphasis added.)

Another quote from the same source: "The UKB more recently held banishment proceedings against Chief Chad Smith, Chief of the Cherokee Nation who also had dual membership in both the UKB and the Cherokee Nation. The UKB stated in a news release that they were performing the banishment ceremony to punish Chief Chad Smith for failing to support the Cherokee way of helping people, not hurting them."
posted by davy at 1:09 PM on March 4, 2007


Wikipedia on Cherokee Nation President Chief Chardwick Smith.
posted by davy at 1:15 PM on March 4, 2007


Er, I meant 'Chadwick.' (Yes, I do type worse when I'm "upset.")
posted by davy at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2007


caddis, in that instance, despite their attempts to make it otherwise, the South was not a separate, sovereign nation. The federal government, despite states' rights arguments to the contrary, had the power (although some argued that they didn't) to make laws that reached within the borders of the Southern states.
But you are right to the extent that those involved in the Cherokee Nation political process with the power to effect change have and should exercise their powers to cure inequities as they see fit to do so. They're just a bit farther behind that the United States and other nations who have the benefit of 200 years of experience in doing so, and sadyly, this delay is partly because of cyclical federal Indian policy that only too recently discovered the importance of tribal self-determination.
Stop and think: how did the United States, as a nation, decide upon membership as citizens and pursuant to what power? How did the United States decide who could and couldn't vote and who got to make those decisions? Eventually, it got sorted out after some long and painful struggles, but do you think it would have been proper for another sovereign to come in to tell the United States that it HAD to let group x or group y vote? These are tough questions, and watching tribes deal with these issues can serve to remind us all of what it must have been like when the United States and other countries with democratic systems had to deal with the same issues.
So we are all perfectly free to express indignation at the abhorent result of the Cherokees' decision, but nonmembers can't step in and interfere with the political process without far worse results.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2007


I think the "Treaty Party" was actually the group that signed the Treaty of New Echota leading to removal, davy - it was the group in opposition of John Ross in Georgia.

In 2000, the census had the option to list multiple races, and I told the truth (white and Cherokee). In 2010, I'm writing in "hillbilly".
posted by dilettante at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


(I stand corrected dilettante; I should have retained that info. Thanks.)
posted by davy at 1:40 PM on March 4, 2007


Some people are missing the point that at one time the Five Tribes, like other Indians, allowed outsiders to become members of the tribe, that is, they had naturalized citizens. (F Mackenzie's link mentions this). Revoking citizenship on racial grounds violates (IMO but IANAL) several UN treaties and declarations. The blood requirement has a rather strange history. In some parts of the US there were people with mixed African, Indian, and European ancestry. In Virginia, for instance, these were (and are) called the Browns or the Issue family (because they weren't black or white or red and their race became an issue). Blood requirements were set for Indians but any African ancestry (the "single drop" concept) meant you were classed as "Negro" and subject to segregation laws.
posted by CCBC at 2:28 PM on March 4, 2007


scheptech:Yup, it's them white people's fault. Anything related to racism is a sign of white peoples involvement somehow somewhere. Y'all do realize this type of thinking makes you through and through racist.

Talk about the World Series, and The Yankees will get mentioned sooner or later...

This post (and a lot of these comments) just serve to remind me that we've come a long way, but there's still a lot of shit to be shoveled. If you live in the good ol' US of A, expect to get some on your shoe every once in a while.

Smilla's Sense of Snark: loved the Sherman Alexie poem. Reminded me of W.E.B.DuBois' writings on double consciousness. Good stuff.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:32 PM on March 4, 2007


Talk about the World Series, and The Yankees will get mentioned sooner or later...

So, in actual fact then, races exist. They're a real thing and given a persons race, you can be sure they have certain inherent undesirable traits. And, of course, one can happily judge them as being inferior to oneself. One such group may be defined as 'white people'. And one of their worst traits is they're really good at being racists.

You detect no irony in this attitude?
posted by scheptech at 3:09 PM on March 4, 2007


CCBC:
I think you're on the right track, there. International law is probably a better place in which to root legal arguments for why a nation should not be permitted to revoke citizenship based upon race. I don't know enough about how human rights are enforced in the realm of international law, but generally when you're dealing with international law, the problem there becomes enforceability as international law is generally only binding on nations who consent to be bound by it (by signing and ratifying a treaty, by agreeing to be bound by customary law, etc). Some tribes now have representation before such international agencies or entities, even though they may not have voting rights. Maybe you can make some sort of consent argument on that basis, but you probably couldn't argue that they're bound by any UN treaty or declaration absent signature and ratification by the tribe.
At any rate, attaching membership/citizenship requirements to blood quantum does nothing to help tribes in the event that a serious challenge is made to Morton v. Mancari, which is where you get the rule of law that states that tribal membership is a political classification, not a racial classification for the purposes of Equal Protection analysis. MvM is sort of like Brown v. Board of Educ. in that both achieved much needed end results, but the cases were based upon dodgy rationale that is vulnerable in the long run.
This amendment already sucks from a human rights perspective; once you delve into the legal ramifications, it may ultimately be the source of greater setbacks for tribes than they may realize.
As owhydididoit mentioned above, this is partly the result of the dark side of gaming; the revenue is both a blessing and a curse in that the revenue that is essential for tribal economic development and their ultimate independence inspires a level of corruption that subverts the greater good of the tribes.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:10 PM on March 4, 2007


CCBC said "Some people are missing the point that at one time the Five Tribes, like other Indians, allowed outsiders to become members of the tribe, that is, they had naturalized citizens."

Indeed. This kind of thing happened as a result of events like the Beaver Wars, when (to quote Wikipedia again): "The Ohio country and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan were virtually emptied of Native people, as refugees fled west to escape Iroquois warriors. (This region would be repopulated by these Ohio people not long after, although generally in multi-ethnic indigenous "republics" rather than homogenous, discrete "tribes".)" A tribe that had taken losses would replenish its ranks by adopting and/or impregnating captives, as well as taking in refugees from elsewhere (whether individually or in small or large groups). It wasn't unheard of for a band of (say) "Shawnee" to have a sizeable contingent who were not Shawnee "by blood" at all (and it's still not certain who originally comprised the core of the Lumbee).

Another point is that besides being ex-slaves many of the "freedmen" are related by blood to quite a few "non-black" members of the Cherokee Nation. I'm not sure what matteo meant, but his remark points to a larger truth: the voting members of the Cherokee Nation just "disowned" their cousins.
posted by davy at 3:29 PM on March 4, 2007


And from one of F Mackenzie's links: "The majority of the Cherokee Nation has 1/4 or less Indian blood." Even the non-Black ones.
posted by davy at 3:34 PM on March 4, 2007


Their news aggregator pages still haven't caught up, though I expect there will be a ton of reaction coverage on Monday...but folks interested in seeing some varied Indian perspectives on the vote can check out the rather heated discussions springing up here: http://www.indianz.com/board/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=5

billyfleetwood: if you don't mind wading through PDFs, there are a few Alexie pieces available online at the Beloit Poetry Journal, his official site, and poemhunter.com.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 3:50 PM on March 4, 2007


Indian givers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2007


I don't gamble anyway. I'm just saying that hitting people in the pocketbook has historically been the best way to get their attention.

Well, yes, but my point is that a New Yorker screaming for a boycott of something in Oklahoma isn't going to go over well, partially because Okies have a lot of animus towards the East Coast effette and this will only serve to inflame it, partially because it costs the New Yorker nothing.

And it's that second half that annoys me. If I call for a boycott of Geno's in Philly, it costs me nothing, because I am 3000 miles away from cheesesteaks. My money isn't going to Geno's, but it's also not going to Pat's, and it never would have gone to either.

dw: From a policy perspective, what action you would demand from Congress that would still respect the sovereignty of the Nation and not undermine existing self-determination policies.

On the simplest level, remind the Cherokee leadership that the Treaty of 1866 remains in force, and that while the US government has been terrible about abiding by their own treaties with the nations, this doesn't excuse the Cherokee from breaking the treaty themselves. And remind them as well that they are still under Federal law, and discrimination isn't tolerated, and the court likely won't tolerate it, either.

Economic pressure by withholding of appropriations is the one action that springs to mind. What others would you advocate?

Instead of a boycott, I'd look to divestment. 99.99% of all Americans will never set foot in a Cherokee casino (or bingo hall or horse track). But all that money has to go somewhere. Urge people not to take it. Urge financial companies not to deal with them, or investment firms to sink cash into Cherokee-backed bonds.

And if you want a boycott, get the black community to do it -- the Tulsa black community, backed by national figures. If their money is all going to the Osage and the Creeks, it wouldn't hurt the Cherokees all that much, but it would be a public relations disaster for them.

DW, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard that even if you can pull up all the genealogical documents imaginable to show that your unenrolled forebear's siblings or other direct blood relations were all enrolled, it's still no dice -- if your particular direct line wasn't listed, there's no hope of appeal?

I have heard of people being able to prove it on tangent -- this person is on the rolls, he's my great-grandfather's second cousin once removed -- but you need to have clear proof that you're related to someone on the rolls. Even then, it's rare to see an appeal work.

And it's weird, you know? My daughter is a Cherokee, even though well over 90% of her heritage is English, Scottish, and German. I always felt guilty growing up that I wasn't Cherokee enough and shouldn't be taking grants and such that full-bloods should have. In the end, I took the money, since I learned that part of the Federal strategy with money for Native Americans was to hide knowledge of it and pocket the savings. IOW, if I didn't claim it, no one else would, either.

One thing that surprises me (from the ame article) is "The United Keetoowah Band maintains a one quarter blood requirement. A significant number of Keetoowah's are fluent in the Cherokee Language. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has no minimum blood requirement." (Emphasis added.)

The Keetoowah are the priestly order of the Cherokee; they are effectively a separate tribe. Blood is important to them. Think of it like the Levites vs. the Israelites. (This, BTW, was part of the Ward Churchill controversy -- Churchill claimed to be Keetoowah, but it turned out he was an "honorary member.")

And this all reminds me that Sarah Vowell is Cherokee, and did one of the best This American Life episodes entirely on that.

"Being at least a little Cherokee in northeastern Oklahoma is about as rare and remarkable as being a Michael Jordan fan in Chicago."
posted by dw at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2007


Oops. Forgot that the 1866 treaty was cancelled in 1906 as part of the run-up to statehood.

Still, it's precedent.
posted by dw at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2007


Yep. If that 1866 Treaty were still in effect I doubt we'd even be seeing this amendment.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:42 PM on March 4, 2007


How did the United States decide who could and couldn't vote and who got to make those decisions? Eventually, it got sorted out after some long and painful struggles, but do you think it would have been proper for another sovereign to come in to tell the United States that it HAD to let group x or group y vote?

Yes, of course it would have. Hell, it wouldn't have just been "proper," it would have been absolutely glorious. It would have been one of the greatest acts in the service of democracy and human rights in history, and it's a crying shame that nobody had the power and inclination to force the US to do so.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2007


...a New Yorker screaming for a boycott of something in Oklahoma isn't going to go over well, partially because Okies have a lot of animus towards the East Coast effette and this will only serve to inflame it...

...and i'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee.

And jonmc will never be mistaken for "East Coast effete". He eats Chips Ahoy, fer chrissakes!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:29 PM on March 4, 2007


All Chips Ahoy jokes aside though, regarding this part of your comment:

And if you want a boycott, get the black community to do it -- the Tulsa black community, backed by national figures.

How about a little pan-racial solidarity when it comes to race issues? Why should it just be black people who care about issues of perceived racial injustice? Wasn't it a good thing, for example, that there were white folk who went down south during the civil rights era to march and sit at lunch counters with black people?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:36 PM on March 4, 2007


Yup, it's them white people's fault. Anything related to racism is a sign of white peoples involvement somehow somewhere. Y'all do realize this type of thinking makes you through and through racist.posted by scheptech

How sad. Give me a break. The very concept of "race" is a European construction, and its global use as a system of classification and domination is a direct consequence of European colonialism and its chief export: ethno-nationalism.

Go read some history and then whine that we're picking on white people.

Genocide fucks people up, for sure.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:36 PM on March 4, 2007


Even then, it's rare to see an appeal work.

It's all such a mess, eh? I knew a guy from the Eastern branch who was totally screwed that way -- high blood quantum, very culturally aware and traditional, secure in his own identity and accepted in his community...but totally unregisterable and ineligible for any sort of benefits, because a hundred years ago a name got left off a list.

And here I am, Seneca/Mohawk in the proper quantum and proper maternal line to get my own little card, and despite a white dad's genetic contribution I was raised to have no doubt in my Indian cultural identity. Never mind that my Mohawk grandfather had some French-Canadian heritage, or that given the Iroquois propensity for intermarriage and adoption, even my full-blood grandmother more than likely had some long-forgotten ancestry from other tribes and/or Europeans in her own background. Figuring out all the measuring-cup quantum nonsense was only important in so far as it got me the enrollment card and my rightful share of what scanty benefits were available way back when, off-rez and Before Casino; it was the principle of the thing, but otherwise that bureaucratic level of recognition wasn't anything that really mattered. Growing up so far off-rez, in the state with the highest multiracial population in the US, it never struck me that anything about this might be weird to anyone else.

And then I hit the mainland for the first time when I was old enough to really notice things, and started to get all the incredulous "but you don't LOOK..." or "wow, I've never met a real..." questions. Or the first time back visiting the rez and noticing the sort of things I'd overhear from some of the white townie folk, and how suddenly those remarks dried up if one of my darker relatives was in earshot...

I guess those were the first big flipping moments for me, no more hazy innocent assumptions that the nastier family stories were just relics of the bad old days. And those moments just never stop coming, do they? When the freaking Washington Post can fill an article on the NMAI opening festivities with breathless wonder at how so many of those Indians were wearing blue jeans and sweatshirts and talking on cell phones and acting just like regular people, gollee! -- when the American Indian College Fund can do a whole PSA series based on the invisibility of native folks with careers and wardrobes that don't fit the fringe-and-feathers stereotype...when you're so far off from all the stereotypes that the bigots never guess you're just inadvertently passing, what the hell is a girl on the whiter side of pale supposed to do, get "YES, THIS IS WHAT A REAL INDIAN LOOKS LIKE" tattooed on her forehead?

And that rage and frustration just goes doubles when I see Indian folks starting to sound so much like those non-Indian bigots, denying their own history and trampling on their own treaties and turning against their own for political gain and the almighty dollar. Maybe that forehead tattoo should just be "A PLAGUE O' BOTH YOUR HOUSES", stay here in the corner and be done with it.

Oh but geeze, did you HAVE to pick Pat's and Geno's to make your point? I haven't had any dinner yet and the cheesesteaks here are just not up to snuff after living in Philly for a while. That's just CRUEL.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 5:51 PM on March 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: There you go. Now thirty house points to you if you can tell us how you'd do it? Would you do that with diplomacy? Guns? Economic sanctions? Something else? And pursuant to what authority would you act? Would you act within the law or above the law? Give us your action plan...the lives of indigenous peoples all over the world will thank you.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:57 PM on March 4, 2007


I've always found it incredibly weird the way our culture has historically viewed these two issues of race.
For a long time (possibly even still, in some places), if you had even a drop of "black blood" in you, you were black.
For natives it seems to have always been the same deal only in reverse. Drops of "white blood" mean you're white, regardless of anything else.

Also, I find the situation in the US to be really surprising. It seems like the law in Canada is way, way more strict than it is in the US. At 1/4 Cree, my mom can get Status, but refuses to because of "issues" she had when we were on the rez with her jerk of a father. At 1/8th I don't think I can (especially not since she refuses), but it has never really been a big deal for me as that whole side of my family is just a foggy bad memory from childhood.
posted by nightchrome at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2007


Anyone trying to vy for purity among their race is gonna have decendants that are infertile and retarded anyway. That's what blue blood causes.

We're all mutts.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2007


nightchrome: for all the weirdness, it can be just about as head-hurty, in different ways, to look into some other culture's approaches to these issues. Like, say, the the oh-so-precise delineation of castas in colonial Mexico.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 6:25 PM on March 4, 2007


SnarkSmilla: That is some seriously convoluted crap right there. For the most part, I don't really think too much on the topic of "race". But every once in awhile I get to feeling guilty that I'm so damned ignorant about "heritage", which as I get older seems far more important.
Living in a foreign country really makes you think more about where you came from, both directly and ultimately. The longer I stay over here in Asia, the more I get to wondering what I've left behind.
posted by nightchrome at 6:37 PM on March 4, 2007


I had a student a couple of years back who looked like Barbie but was a member of the Cherokee Nation. She told me how a trip to the southwest her sister got sick and went into a BIA medical facility. In the waiting room she sat next to a huge Navajo man who looked her up and down. Then he stared into the air and said to no one in particular "Blond hair, blue eyes. Must be Cherokee!"
posted by LarryC at 6:56 PM on March 4, 2007


Go read some history and then whine that we're picking on white people.

Think it over some more. What I'm whining about is racisim including it's so-called 'reverse' form which appeared early in this thread and only helps perpetuate it all.

As to history: investigate a little further afield, the concept of race or any other self-justifying variation of "them and us" is hardly a uniquely european construction, unfortunately.

You won't find the source of this stuff in europe - you'll find it in the human heart, in all of us.

We're all mutts.

Yup, despite what many find useful to believe even today.
posted by scheptech at 6:59 PM on March 4, 2007


Regardless of whether my money would've been spent at that casino, I imagine there's enough black people and other anti-racist people who might have gambled at that place, who, if they heard about this, might be inclined to gamble elsewhere, which could have enough of an impact to get their attention. Just a suggestion.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 PM on March 4, 2007


Now thirty house points to you if you can tell us how you'd do it? Would you do that with diplomacy? Guns? Economic sanctions? Something else?

Guns works for me, if you have enough.

And pursuant to what authority would you act? Would you act within the law or above the law?

A common understanding of the basic principles of human rights. My own inflated sense of self-righteousness.

Give us your action plan...the lives of indigenous peoples all over the world will thank you.

Why would I care whether people oppressing other people are indigenous or not? The moral quality of expelling people from a polity based on their ethnicity isn't affected by the predominant ethnic heritage of the people doing the expelling.

I also resent your implication that contemporary Cherokee are just so dumb and backward that they don't understand basic principles of human rights, or that even the most basic principle such as "You don't fuck with people because of who their parents were" is somehow a difficult concept for them because they don't have the benefit of the vast experience of the US. The idea that the people voting for this were so stupid and unclear that this was some sort of stumbling towards real civil rights is offensive; this was a power and money grab put forward and voted for by people who surely knew exactly what they were doing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 PM on March 4, 2007


Ughhh--

DW, I want desperately to write my congresscritter. I do, I do. But it's tricky thing, as you well know. How can I demand Federal action with regard to this, without also asking the fed to disregard tribal sovereignty?

If the 1866 treaty were still in force, it would be fairly easy. I'd be able to say, "If Cherokee is going to abrogate the treaty, the fed should abrogate back." But if the treaty's not in force, what can I ask for?
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:15 PM on March 4, 2007


You won't find the source of this stuff in europe - you'll find it in the human heart, in all of us.


Nice sentiment. Alas, you will find the specific invocation of something called "race" in modern history can always be traced back to the European/American imagination that gave us a particular kind of modernity, and a particular version of "us/them" in which phenotypic differences are understood as evidence of social and even evolutionary development, a scientific explanation (or rationalization) for paternalism, theft of land and livelihood, genocide, and slavery.

Yes, it's true. Indigenous people often didn't like each other before Europeans showed up and told them a) they were "indigenous," and therefore b) they were "primitive" savages or children, and c) on the scale of difference observed by Europeans, they were perhaps a little better than Africans, and thus could enjoy a very limited kind of "freedom" in the New World that Africans did not; if slow-motion genocide and forced migration is "freedom." At least it's not slavery, I suppose. (The story is different in South America and the Caribbean, where Native peoples were widely enslaved.)

Us/them is universal. What we see here is a specific form of "us/them" that has a particular cultural and political history. In the course of that history, the Cherokee people were subdued (for fairly apparent historical reasons) with more subtlety, to use a wildly inappropriate word than would be typical with further westward expansion of the genocidal project known as "America." It was still genocide, but it took the form of a more specifically cultural hegemony in which Cherokees were praised for being more adaptable to European culture than other Native peoples, and exempted from some of the worst depradations we associate with the treatment of Native peoples during the settlement of North America's interior. Why do you think they were allowed to own slaves at all? Of course, this was before cultural hegemony gave way to outright murder and forced relocation in the Trail of Tears experience, in which Cherokee people, in essence, discovered that they were, in fact, no different than Apaches or Sioux: seen by Europeans as fundamentally inferior, not just different.

White people invented modern racism. It's not the only form of dehumanizing otherness in the world, nor the first, nor perhaps even the worst in absolute terms -- lots of indigenous cosmologies divide humans into us and them too. White people also invented modern nationalism. And the particular witches' brew of race and nation -- ethnonationalism -- that defines modern conflict all over the world cannot be sourced anywhere else if the historical truth is told.

Hate and love are universal. But you can't explain hate in the present by saying "it's always been that way" if you care to assign responsibility for hatefulness. If it's always been that way, it will never change. But hate always has a history. The history behind this particular spasm of ugliness cannot be understood without acknowledging that white people committed genocide with malice aforethought in the conquest of "America." And they committed it in different ways with respect to Native and enslaved African peoples.

We reap what we sow. A nation founded on the genocide of Native peoples, barely acknowledged even now to the extent that the genocidal enslavement of Africans has been, has blood on its hands, and a lot more than one drop at that.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:46 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


And if it isn't clear, the word "scientific" in my first paragraph above is dripping with sarcasm and should have been in quotes.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:10 AM on March 5, 2007


nightchrome: the concept of "status" Indians is disappearing in Canada. Instead, the general principle of self-determination adopted in the 90s means that individual bands decide who is a member (and thus receives band benefits) and who isn't. Natives not on the rez receive limited benefits that (usually) come via their band. But this is a situation in flux and what it means to a specific band or individual Indian is very circumstantial.
posted by CCBC at 3:53 AM on March 5, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe: I'm sorry if I offended you, that wasn't my intent. I agree with you; the idea that individuals have certain human rights is not difficult to grasp; I'm trying to figure out how you enforce those rights by either legal means, or as you suggest, otherwise, by invading a sovereign boundary and pointing guns at people in order to force recognition of human rights, maybe blow some stuff up. If you seriously believe that such a method of enforcement is the way to go, keep talking, I'm interested in what you have to say. But since the underlying action is an action of self-governance, albeit, in most of our opinions, horribly misguided, this is an issue that ultimately the Cherokee people themselves have to remedy. What I'm interested in is how non-members can affect change without infringing the sovereign right of the tribe to govern itself; self-governance is a whole separate human rights issue. Many indigenous people around the world are still fighting for basic rights to govern themselves; you're suggesting that once that right is obtained and exercised, that right ought to be infringed when other human rights are infringed by the people in control. That's a perfectly acceptable argument; I'm just interested in how you justify it legally, without more serious ramifications to the tribe in the long run. I suspect that I may be thinking about the problem with too much absolutism, or maybe not enough.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:49 AM on March 5, 2007


[In other words, what palmcorder_yajna said.]
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:58 AM on March 5, 2007


DW, I want desperately to write my congresscritter. I do, I do. But it's tricky thing, as you well know. How can I demand Federal action with regard to this, without also asking the fed to disregard tribal sovereignty?

The Cherokee are still beholden to the BIA, despite the casino money. Congress controls appropriations to them.
posted by dw at 8:14 AM on March 5, 2007


fourcheesemac - you're interested in specificity, history, and "the sins of the fathers", fair enough; I'm interested in general truths about human beings which support the understanding that we're all the same - and I think I see an example in this post - whichever words or concepts we might use to separate people into groups, all have perpetrated injustice; and at it's root, injustice is not driven not by history, culture, or learned behavior but by the same human nature that's common to us all.
posted by scheptech at 8:18 AM on March 5, 2007


It's easy for me, because I don't much care about sovereignty. As far as I care, tribes, nations, countries, cities, whatever don't have rights. Only individual people do, and they usually hold them against their tribe, nation, country, city, or whatever.

What I would do if I were God-Emperor of America, which I'm not yet, is just revoke the Cherokee casino licenses, either de jure or de facto using Congress's power to regulate trade with Indian nations.

If it were somehow an option, I would much rather live in a world where every time a polity tried to kick out its blacks or Jews or whatever, or every time a state tried to prevent homosexuals from enjoying full civil rights, an angel of the Lord (or a drone from Special Circumstances if you'd rather) would appear in midair with a flaming sword to strike down everyone who proposed, voted for, or was complicit in such a terrible wickedness, than live in this crappy, broken one.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2007


> One day genetic testing will be so cheap that they will have booths in the mall where you pay $1,
> get a pin prick in your finger, and a few minutes later it spits out an analysis along with a world map
> showing us where our ancestors came from. A lot of us are in for some surprises.

Like all carny sideshows and Sister-Sarah palmreaders, this kind will tell the customers whatever they want to hear. I'm descended from that guy in the silver suit in The Day the Earth Stood Still (several pix of him and grandma here) and I expect to have that confirmed. Elegant deskjet-printed certificate $5 extra.

posted by jfuller at 11:53 AM on March 5, 2007


Late to the party, and dw and Dr. Zira have had the insider's perspective down, but I'll throw in a couple of things. First, a targeted African-American boycott might do damage in Tulsa, but freedman kind of are the African-American population elsewhere in Eastern Oklahoma. (The Tahlequah casino is in Cherokee County, 1.2% African-American in the 2000 census; Roland is in 1.8% African-American Sequoyah County.)
Also, the important thing to remember about Chief Chad Smith is that he's not his predecessor, the hilariously corrupt Chief Joe Byrd (noted for, among other things, ordering the BIA to arrest the tribal police and conducting an armed purge of the tribal judiciary). Wikipedia covers the events here, although this appears to be less a wikipedia article and more someone's book report.
posted by ormondsacker at 1:21 PM on March 5, 2007


and at it's root, injustice is not driven not by history, culture, or learned behavior but by the same human nature that's common to us all.

I respect your right to disagree about what's important, but "driven by" is an inexact metaphor when we are talking about specific, exact, and uncompensated acts of genocide.

There is not really good evidence that "injustice" is a part of "human nature" -- or no better evidence than the case for humans being no more or less "just" (not a natural concept, so not relevant to "human nature" discussions) than any other animal.

We kill and enslave our own species on a scale that cannot be explained by appeal to our natures alone. No other animal comes close. "Human Nature" is a 19th century explanation for evil.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:06 PM on March 5, 2007


And by the "it's human nature" logic, it's OK if a stronger, more powerful thief breaks into your home, takes your stuff, and kills your family because, after all, he's "driven by" human nature?

An explanation, even if human nature were one, does not equal an excuse. We are conscious rational beings who can rise above our "nature" and have done so as the basis of our "cultures" since we began using tools and language. How does "it's human nature" excuse genocide?
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2007


We kill and enslave our own species on a scale that cannot be explained by appeal to our natures alone.

So, what, is it Satan?

How does "it's human nature" excuse genocide?

Who's saying it does? scheptech appears to be saying, and I agree, that you can't blame whitey for every bad act done by people they interacted with.
posted by Snyder at 4:07 PM on March 5, 2007


Who's saying it does? scheptech appears to be saying, and I agree, that you can't blame whitey for every bad act done by people they interacted with.

"Blaming whitey" of course spins it one way. Which is to say, the way you want to see it when your primary rhetorical point is to excuse whitey.

Virtually every tragic dimension of contemporary life in vast swaths of Native America, can be seen as directly flowing from an act of genocide, yes, by white people. The active genocidal phase ended less than 100 years ago, for some tribes at least. To this date, Native American reservations are still the poorest communities (in aggregate and in several cases, such as Pine Ridge and San Carlos, specifically the poorest communities) in this country. They suffer rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, HIV infection, and crime that would make you shudder if the news ever bothered to report this.

No one is "blaming whitey." I am blaming Euro-American colonialism and conquest for altering native cultures and lifeways against their will during a genocidal war, an endles occupation of Indian lands, and forced migration. Therefore, to be explicit, it does not surprise me that the most "assimilated" tribe to still have federal recognition would, especially in a period of increasing economic and political power (at last), undertake to beat "whitey" at his own game of racial exclusion. The psychology behind this is complicated, but coherent and explicable, and it explains, in lesser degree, working-class white racism as well. Divide thine enemies, always a key to holding power.

I am appalled at this story, and it doesn't at all characterize the Cherokee people I've met in my life. But I've spent enough time in Indian country to know why this might happen, and to be bemused at the shock some people seem to feel when Indians don't act like noble savages. That this truth offends the sensibilities of certain people says more about them than it does about Indians, and it says more about how they think about Indians.

So yeah, whitey fucked people over on the way to being in charge of everything. You can say it's too bad and that's how the world works because it's human nature. Good riddance when someone bigger and badder than you takes your home and kills your family. Suck it up. It's the way of the world. Flag it and move on. It's just human nature to wipe out other people's civilizations and expect them to be grateful for the scraps from your table.

Blame whitey. Give me a break. It's like an Ann Coulter routine.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:38 PM on March 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


CCBC: Interesting. I don't much care about benefits or status or whatnot, but it would be nice to know more about my roots. Unfortunately, in my family it is just not really acceptable to ask questions about "that bastard" and his side of my family tree, so I guess I will have to remain ignorant about whatever specific group I may have (thin) ties to.
posted by nightchrome at 5:05 PM on March 5, 2007


fourcheesemac: I wish eloquence and understanding like you've shown here was more common, on all sides. Thank you.

News sites are catching up on this story: for folks who want more background on the events leading up to this vote, and the earlier divestment case involving the Seminole Freedmen, check here for a lengthy collection of summaries and links to the original local/national reporting of these cases.

A few brief snippets from that update:

Internally, the Freedmen descendants intend to appeal the results of the election. The tribe's highest court had previously ruled that the Freedmen were entitled to citizenship because their ancestors were listed on the Dawes Roll. The decision set the stage for Saturday's controversial vote.

Externally, Vann and five other Freedmen descendants are plaintiffs in a court case against the Interior Department...

Regardless of the litigation, the tribe faces potential action by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The agency could pull federal funding, as it did when the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma voted to deny citizenship to the Seminole Freedmen.

Back in 2003, fresh off the Seminole debacle, the BIA's regional director in Eastern Oklahoma questioned the Cherokee Nation over its failure to recognize the rights of the Freedmen. The tribe held an election to amend its constitution...However, those 2003 constitutional amendments still haven't been approved by the BIA. That gives the agency an opening to challenge all subsequent actions taken by the tribe, such as Saturday's election.


Emphases mine, natch. palmcorder, and anyone else who wants to express their outrage to the feds but isn't sure what actions to suggest, there are some more ideas for you.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 7:00 PM on March 5, 2007


dw: It looks like pretty good arguments exist that the 1866 Treaty may be still in play after all.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:42 PM on March 5, 2007


[argh...here's the link that should have been in my previous post]
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:44 PM on March 5, 2007


How does "it's human nature" excuse genocide?

fourcheesmac: it isn't intended to and doesn't, sorry you're reading things that way.

Just so you know, my family includes both white people and Indian people. I'm not unfeeling or uncaring about how this story makes the Cherokee look bad, and I know about the injustices of the past and present.

Meanwhile however, you're right in that we chose to emphasize different things; my interest in the post is in finding similarities between people, including even negative ones because they help us understand that we really are all the same. People demonstrate to me every day that they don't quite get that yet, not really.
posted by scheptech at 11:12 PM on March 5, 2007


I'm not unfeeling or uncaring about how this story makes the Cherokee look bad, and I know about the injustices of the past and present.

Thanks for the clarification; it puts your arguments in better perspective. But:

my interest in the post is in finding similarities between people, including even negative ones because they help us understand that we really are all the same.

While I too want people to understand that "we really are all the same," reality trumps philosophy every time when it comes to actual experiences and how people react to them. There are times when abstract remarks are relevant and useful, and times when they're not. When somebody discovers their family has just been brutally killed, it's probably not the moment to engage them in a discussion of how life and death are just two sides of a single coin. And a fairly upsetting piece of news like this, involving people who have been shat on by history for centuries, is not a good occasion to muse on how we're all just human, after all. Some of us have a much better shot at making the best of being "just human," and we owe the others (at the least) sympathy and regret, not abstract remarks about "human nature." (I'm not saying, of course, that such remarks are completely out of line or that you shouldn't make them, just that if you do, you should put them in a context of caring and understanding right away, not wait for people to get mad at you.)
posted by languagehat at 5:22 AM on March 6, 2007


Smilla's Sense of Snark: thank you. Especially from someone who seems to know the deal from personal experience.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:22 AM on March 6, 2007


So, what, is it Satan?

No, that's a *pre-*19th century explanation for evil, stupider even than "human nature."

It's evil humans who kill for profit. Nothing more. Nothing less. The blame for genocide lies in the specific actions of specific people; the responsibility for it lies with their ancestors and the inheritors of the spoils of their evil actions.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:28 AM on March 6, 2007


is not a good occasion to muse on how we're all just human, after all

languagehat - you greatly minimize what I'm trying to say, I'm not offering random pretty thoughts but talking about something I believe in very deeply, issues which this post raises and which matter in the here and now and for the future. I'm talking about what's needed to move forward. Meanwhile I've apparently failed to impart that, but do understand your effort to keep the conversation constructive.

fourcheesemac - I am sorry if I've caused distress, I'm so well aware of this history and given my family makeup that to me the injustices are glaringly obvious and it's all sort of reopening old wounds without providing any answers. I would ask you to consider how society should proceed from now on, how are we gonna make this work out for our own descendants, what is the way forward.
posted by scheptech at 8:40 AM on March 6, 2007


you greatly minimize what I'm trying to say, I'm not offering random pretty thoughts but talking about something I believe in very deeply

No, no, I do understand that, and I'm sorry if it sounded like I was putting your thoughts down. I was just summarizing them (using your own words) to make a point about putting them in context. Thanks for not taking offense.
posted by languagehat at 9:14 AM on March 6, 2007


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