Read the news today?

root - Posted on 31 December 1969

A woman of Cherokee and African-descent reacts to a recently published article entitled, "US Cherokees vote to expel descendants of slaves."

by Claire Frances

What is all the hullabaloo about? It is disturbing, the article published on Yahoo! titled “US Cherokees vote to expel descendants of slaves”. The first of two votes 77 to 33 to expel African-Americans from the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma. My thoughts in scanning the title: Why is there a sense of foreboding, turmoil yet to trespass on smaller American communities? Where will this new population of displaced (now quoted) “American Indians” learn to live?

I ask because I am 1/4 Cherokee, 1/4 African-American and 1/2 Scott. And who am I recognized by, what group? No one really, there is just a lot of awareness of animosity, but I have and have always considered myself American-Indian foremost, whether acceptable or not.

When I was 19 I met people from where my family was from in Appalachia, other women who told tell me my real name. They, like me, were American Indians who were from different ethnic backgrounds. We were all women, considered women of color by the state, Kentucky, all American-Indian. There was one straggling Eskimo (Alaskan) Indian. I was glad to meet the woman who was supposed to have been my friend growing up.

I am out here in California, and I am told I am a street person. It disgusts me, because I know there is no reservation that is acceptable. I have a college degree, and still cannot find affordable housing anywhere. Like college at the UW-Madison, it is the same unacceptable story. I worked full-time to attend school, not because of pride but because money allotted for African-Americans was not allotted to me. No reason for denial was volunteered (it was not my grade point average), but I suspect it is because I am the color of white people. Reading excerpts from the Associated Press news article I can only agree with the dispute against the 77 majority vote to expel African-American American-Indians from the Cherokee nation: “However, opponents of the amendment say it was a racist project designed to deny the distribution of US government funds and tribal revenue to those with African-American heritage, US media reported.”

I am out here in California because the family who adopted me is from California. I feel they have no right to consider Kentucky their roots, and for their choice of locale I am not in Kentucky. I am not disgruntled, no, just angry, poor and emotionally abused by them. About two years ago a birth brother contacted me after searching online (from an angry post I put online about harassment, and being given a PID – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, etc…, from poor housing in San Francisco).

I sent an e-mail copy of the news article to this brother, Eric (aka “Bro-w”), who is a NYC lawyer. We share the same birth mother and, although his stories are conflicting, he said he always knew of me. His father is African-American. But he grew up partly in Appalachia (I grew up in another city in Kentucky with a large Irish Catholic clan), so he recognizes his family as American-Indian – Yates by the way of name (same name as the displaced white person who stabbed me when I was ten, and somehow I already knew that name!).

Several hours later today, March 4, 2007, the article is no longer headlined on Yahoo. According to the Yahoo! News article moral interpretude has been committed by right of clan (can Cherokee be a clan?). Am I thinking personally? Is it not anomalous that I grew up displaced by an Irish family (Bro-w Eric insists my mother tried to find me) when the Yates family name is from the Irish plantation they now possess – and the article reads on, “…adopted Saturday an amendment to their constitution that strips membership from so-called "Freedmen," those descended from slaves once owned by Cherokees, blacks who were married to Cherokees and children of mixed-race families. My birth mother’s history includes many siblings of both Indian and African-American descent some of whom no doubt live on American Indian reservations (my birth grandmother was married to an African-American). In fact, I am the only white descendant Bro-w Eric mentions.

I cry for the error of the disassociation from tribal unity with the segregation of African-Americans from their own history. From my understanding of family history, since I am not with any real immediate family, the laws of the American government sanction the actions of American-Indians against an already integrated race as an act of tacit conspiracy of government by intervention against the rights of Freedmen. From the ignorance of a social outcast, I ask what will happen with a Cherokee nation when it once again cries retribution for wrongs taken against them by the American government? No nation is so large it cannot turn its back on its brethren. It appears proponents of expelling minorities in tribal communities has usurped the power of national Freedmen within American Indian government – True, if the article correctly quotes Chief Chad “Corntassel” Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation (since 1999) saying: "The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote,”. Incidentally, Chief Smith is also an alumnus of the UW-Madison.

It may be that those in alliance with the current Cherokee majority party are railing at the 1983 tribal ruling on Freedmen status whereby African-Americans of American-Indian descent (and visa versa) are recognized as Cherokee Indians:

In 1983 the tribal council quickly passed an act which required that all tribal members be able to obtain a Certificate of Indian Blood (CDIB) card showing their degree of Indian blood, so to be a member of the Cherokee Nation, you needed first to get a CDIB and it is virtually impossible for the descendants of the Freedmen to get one based on the Dawes rolls. Several descendants have brought their cases to the Courts and lost. In March 2006, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal (JAT), the Cherokee Nation's highest court recently ruled that the law not allowing descendants of Freedmen joining the Cherokee Nation is unconstitutional, thus they should be allowed to join and vote as legit Cherokee citizens.
(excerpted from, “Cherokee By Blood” online at

In a February 21, 2007 National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast quoted Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association. Vann upholds the 1866 Treaty, and appears to view the distinction between race and nation as integral point in the argument to expel Freedmen. She states,” …the Cherokee tribe has always been a diverse nation, not a race…You know there never was such a thing as the Cherokee Race. Cherokee was a citizenship," Vann said. "The federal government doesn't have government-to-government relations with races, only nations." (NPR transcript online at

It would be terrible to see the burgeoning of displaced persons on the streets of the cities in the United States who are not foreigners, not unclassified aliens. Will they too join the ‘new homeless’ as American-Indians whose identity in America has been usurped by an undiscerning bigotry of intergovernmental politics?


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