Who is a "Cherokee"?

According to “Cherokee Nation Facts“, in order to be considered a member of the Cherokee tribe, all one needs is a single Indian ancestor who was listed as such in the 1906 census:

FACT: The Cherokee Nation requires no blood quantum.  To be considered a Cherokee citizen, you need one Indian ancestor listed on the 1906 federal census of our people, known as the Dawes Rolls.  With that one Indian ancestor, a person is part of our Cherokee family regardless of what other heritage he or she might have.

It is an interesting concept, this Cherokee variant of the “one-drop” rule.  They explain their rational as follows:

The United States government, through its courts, has held time and again that Indian tribes have the right to determine their own citizenship. Today, Cherokee Nation’s citizenry is bound together by having in common at least one documented Indian ancestor, regardless of what other heritage they may have. Cherokee Nation citizenship is based upon family ties, not color.

The Cherokee people have spoken three times on this issue in public, democratic elections, each time voting to identify and define ourselves as an Indian tribe composed of Indian people. U.S. courts have consistently agreed and supported this concept of self-determination. Tribes determine tribal citizenship, not Congress and not treaties.

While it is hard to argue that the tribe, and only the tribe, has the right to define itself, one could certainly question the wisdom of this decision.  According to this criterion, given enough time, practically every human on Earth could be “Cherokee”.  Also, while I do not know any Cherokee personally, I strongly suspect that many of them object to the above definition.  But, given the power structure of “federally recognized tribes” those Cherokee lack a voice in the matter.

When we say “the tribe… has the right to define itself”, we need to clarify who is considered “the tribe”.  In the case of the Jewish tribe, for example, I do not think it would be fair for artificial Jews (I.E. converts) to have a voice in who is considered fully Jewish.  I realize that this position is considered archaic and few of my fellow Jews would agree with me – but the ultimate authority, on membership to a tribe, must rest with those who are unquestionably, and the most pure, members of that tribe.  Otherwise, “definition creep” will set in and the criteria for who is a member will inevitably become more and more lenient as ever more marginal “members” gain numbers and clout within the group.  This is what’s happening with immigration into Western countries; the immigrants are increasingly running the show.

I am certain that some Cherokee are racially conscious and object to the watering down of their people.  There was a dispute, a while back, concerning the “freedmen“:

Cherokee Chief Calls for Removal of the Cherokee
Freedmen from Tribal Membership Status
On Monday, March 13, 2006 at the regular tribal council meeting, Principal Chief Chad Smith of the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma called for the tribal council to propose and approve a constitutional amendment which would be placed on the ballot at the next Cherokee general election to allow the Cherokee voters to strip the Cherokee Freedmen from their status as tribal citizens. The Cherokee Freedmen are descendants of freed slaves and free mixed African Cherokee peoples who received Cherokee citizenship in 1866 based on a treaty with the US government and based on amendments to the 1839 Constitution.

Though some Cherokee wish to ensure that their people survive, “Cherokee Nation Facts” attempts to present a monolithic facade to the general public.  Regarding “freedmen”, they write:

MYTH: The Cherokee Nation is expelling all the descendants of their former slaves.

FACT: There are more than 1,500 descendants of former slaves who are Cherokee citizens today because they can find an Indian ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls.  The Cherokee Nation is offering free genealogical expertise to assist any descendant of Freedmen who wants to research whether they can find such an Indian ancestor and thus become a permanent citizen.  That said, slavery was a grave injustice and a painful chapter in our nation’s history, when 2% of Cherokees owned slaves.  It should be noted, however, that the Cherokee Nation voluntarily freed these slaves in 1863.

Just as the  Jewish people cannot survive, in any meaningful way, if we interbreed freely with blacks (with any non-Jews, but especially blacks), so too will interbreeding with blacks accelerate the demise of the Cherokee people.  Black identity, being constantly bolstered by the powers that be, is too strong.  Black features are too dominant and black culture is promoted too much to coexist with a people few in number without erasing the smaller tribe.

Here is the image of the Cherokee nation that “Cherokee Nation Facts” wishes to project to the world:

We can see that, contrary to the claims of some people, it is not only whites who are victims of “multiculturalism”.  While it is undeniable that Native Americans have more than their share of issues, it would be beneficial to all parties if conscientious Native Americans joined forces with conscientious whites in the common cause of pan-nationalism.

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14 Responses to Who is a "Cherokee"?

  1. FoxSnooze.com says:

    Virtually every White American has some Indian heritage. Descendants of recent White immigrants being the exception.
    White the Cherokees busy themselves identifying their tribe, White people should busy themselves defining their ethnic markers. IMHO, many WN types are too restrictive in their definition. Some narrow their definition to people of northern European descent. Many exclude Jews. Others wish to exclude anyone with even one drop of mixed heritage. That latter criteria would (again) eliminate the vast majority of White Americans.

  2. Melissa Townsend says:

    I recently found out that I have cherokee blood. I did however discover an indian ruin at Lake Powell that had not yet been uncovered. When I told the employees at Bullfrog Marina, they did not believe me, but the next year I returned and the area was restricted. I think having some indian blood run through my veins allowed me to see the ruins and the beauty. It is an experience I will never forget. FYI I only discovered my ancestry after discoverying the site.

    • jewamongyou says:

      That’s a great story! If my site had anything to do with you discovering your Native American ancestry, then I feel previleged indeed. It would be a (pardon the expression) nice feather in my hat!

  3. Pingback: Keep the one-drop rule for American blacks « Jewamongyou's Blog

  4. JamesScott says:

    Hi my name is James, my mother side have cherokee choctaw and mixed ethnicity of coonass and different indian tribes, and my father mother side, my great grandmother is a full blooded chickasaw indian and mixed with native Tunica indian tribe. So yes i’m mixed with both tribes and proud to be mixed

  5. G Johnson says:

    And what image would the Jewish “tribe” project given a composite photo from the most swarthy Semitic to the most fair Ashkenazim? Who would be more or less Jewish in that photo?
    I am reasonably fair skinned. I have blue eyes. I am certified 1/4 blood quantum Cherokee. I know this because as a qualifier to be enrolled in the Cherokee Nation one must have a CDIB card. This is Cerified degree of Indian blood. (This is only done for Indians, horses and dogs as far as I know.) That famous Cherokee Chief John Ross was 1/8 Cherokee.
    The Cherokee by many estimations suffered a loss of 95% of the people as a result of non indigenous immigration to the “new world”. They have had over 500 years of admixture with Europeans. After this I would not think it unusual for the tribe to want to count every member possible. The tribe is an mechanism of inclusion, not exclusion.

    • jewamongyou says:

      To your first question, “swarthy Semitic” would be the image of a Jew. Fair-skinned Ashkenazim are mostly diluted.
      It’s sad that the Cherokee were exterminated and almost Eliminated. All the more reason to try to preserve what’s left of the tribe. You are free to identify as you wish, but you seem to be 75% white, so I would consider you white. If the tribe’s policy is one of inclusion, then perhaps you should consider me a “Cherokee” too – should I decide to be one.

  6. C.Brown says:

    “Native Americans” tend to be of Mongole, Siberian descent, correct? DNA testing confirms this is mostly the case so far, though some NAs tested do have traces of African DNA. The original inhabitants of the American continents were not Mongol-Siberian immigrants but they allowed the Mongol-Siberians to settle here. Some resisted and were invaded upon, enslaved or assimilated, and some were killed. The assimilated ones (whose way of life was appropriated) have descendants who are now considered mixed-blood by those who are mostly descended of the invaders (post and pre-European invasions), based on research done so far. You admit the American continent was already multi-ethnic before the USA corp was established? The above mentioned facts is likely why, at least partly. You also imply, it’s especially bad to mix with “blacks” because doing specifically that, destroys ones culture since “black culture” is invasive?
    I call B.S. on a lot of what you’ve written. The label of “blackness” tends to destroy ones culture because the very concept of “blackness” itself is a con and a major proponent used to further destroyed and disrupted the diversity of the brown-skinned people who’ve been lumped together as one type despite their different nationalities, heritages, physical diversities, upbringing, birthrights, religions, beliefs, sex/gender, morals, and etc. There is some sense of shared oneness among the various brown-skinned ppl because of the marginalisation we’ve faced in varying degrees but we know that we aren’t all the same, that we are a diverse ppl. Didn’t you get the memo??? “Blackness,” in the capacity that you and so many others use it, is oppressive and unjust, as well as hypocritical. Yes, it is a fact that so-called blacks, as you’ve labeled them, are more diverse than what much of “white”/ political America is comfortable admitting to and it is something that will be rectified. Slapping a label of “black” onto specific brown-skinned people, who are historically not all the same (meaning, they came/come from different ancestral backgrounds, tribes, countries, continents), seems very telling and again, hypocritical in light of the double-talk preached regarding the need to preserve diversity. So what are you saying; that we ought to preserve diversity at all times except when it applies to a specific group of people, people who some have arbitrarily decided to refer to as a crayon color (the wrong color at that, if we’re being technical) vs identifying them by whatever their true ethnicity, tribe, nationality is?
    Also, our marriage is multi-ethnic (German-Irish-French-Welsh male and Lumbe/Cherokee-mixed African-Irish female) and our children look just like the two of us. In fact, I’ve yet to come across any “mixed” children who don’t look just like one or both of there parents.

  7. C_Brown says:

    I’ve read other of your posts. What I detect so far is not a racist, persae. Your writings hint at a very prejudice individual who has allowed his perceptions regarding brown-skinned Americans to be led astray: To label all brown-skinned people as one type, when they are presently and historically VERY diverse, is quite a double standard, especially because you lay emphadis on preserving ones heritage.
    We brown-skinned Americans are NOT all the same. We come from many different tribes, nations, belief stystems, ethnic and genetic makeups, not to mention we DO NOT all look alike, think alike, or act alike, and yet for many, our heritages and true identities have been removed via marginalization and other methods on top of which, a false identitdy is forced upon those of us whose ancestors are indigenous to this very continent.
    You’ve made blanket generalizations regarding all of us brown-skinned people (referring to us all as blacks when clearly we are various brown, tan, ruddy, bronze and other hues…black is not a race but rather, black is a color…our race is human, ignoring our different lineages and heritages, and openly denying us the dignity of our diversity (just to name a few)) thus, contradicting the necessity for heritage preservation that you preach.
    Also, my husband is Belgian/German-Irish-French-Welsh and I am Cherokee-Lumbee-Hebrew and possibly Lenapi Indian and contrary to your statements, made elsewhere, our children resemble us both and they are even more advanced than my husband and I who are already “advanced”. I’ve yet to encounter any “mixed” child who doesn’t resemble one or both of their parents and it is not a rare thing for them to resemble us.
    You obviously do much researching. Perhaps you might expand your scope of sources to also include ones that don’t promote propaganda.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Maybe you’re confusing me with somebody else, because I don’t recall ever lumping all brown-skinned people together. Would you please give me some sources where I’ve written such a thing?
      Yes, mixed kids resemble, to one extent or another, both parents, but in the vast majority of cases, any non-black traits are overlooked in favor of the black ones. For example: Halley Barry and Barack Obama. Both consider themselves “black, even to the extent of ignoring their white halves.

      • C_Brown says:

        I should have said, “lump all ‘blacks’ together, by calling us all ‘black’,” to be clear but I think it’s obvious that I deter from using that not-so-accurate generalization.
        IDK what Barak Obama does or doesn’t ignore. Also, I have heard him refer to himself as African American, and haven’t heard him call himself black. I have personally heard Halle Berry state how very close she is with her mother. Mariah Carey, as well, in fact. Both have stated they embrace all of what genetically contributed to them being who they are. I’m the same way. That’s not “ignoring”.
        If people choose to over-look one feature and focus on another, that’s truly their own loss and ignorance, IMHO, and it causes me to question the thoroughness of their observation skills.
        I love that you think differently and aren’t ashamed to do so openly. I encourage thinking even further outside “the boxes” because too many”boxes” can hamper the unfettered potential of a gorgeous mind.

  8. jewamongyou says:

    Re: C_Brown,
    The reason I don’t use the term “African-American” is that it’s highly inaccurate. If we’re speaking, for example, of commonalities between black Africans and American blacks, would we refer to black Africans as “African-Americans?” Most of them aren’t American. Similarly, most American blacks aren’t African. While it’s true that most Negroes aren’t actually “black” in color, the same could be said of Europeans not being “white” in color. But while the term “Negro” is an appropriate one to describe those whose ancestry is largely from sub-Saharan Africa, we can’t use “Caucasian” interchangeably with “white,” since most Caucasians are brown.
    I don’t often use the term “Negro” to describe blacks since a lot of people, for whatever reason, consider it offensive; it’s not my goal to needlessly offend people – though I may have done so in the past from time to time.
    We can speak, in general terms, about any ethnic/religious group. “Jews tend to be liberal,” “whites are often self-loathing,” “Asians have problems with gambling,” “Muslims are out to conquer the world,” and “blacks tend to be crime-prone.” It’s understood that we’re not referring to ALL members of that group.
    If it’s a negative tendency, then it’s important to recognize it so that it can be addressed. That’s the first step in improving the situation. Even leftists agree on this point – if the group in question is white or male.
    If you look back at my posts about Ethiopia, and a few others, you’ll see that I do recognize differences between black groups and individuals.
    Thanks for your readership and civil comments.

    • c_brown says:

      Yes, I will check out the one on Ethiopia. Thanks. And, the points you just made are partly why I personally don’t appreciate the labels and labeling thats generally used. It leaves room for placing people into stereotypes that don’t necessarily apply to them. I don’t like to call people “white” or “black” for instance, because I know how frustrating it can be when people insist upon you accepting what’s more comfortable for them, regarding you, than them accepting you for who you truly are; especially when you’ve spent the time to correct them and they still insist: “no, I consider you this instead”.
      After some research into the term Negro, I’m not certain why it’s offensive either, unless someone who is not Negro is being referred to as one, and some older folk actually prefer to be called Negro.
      As far as I know, an African American is an African immigrant who became an American citizen and/or an African born on American soil. But that’s still debatable for some. IDK why…it seems a simple enough equation.
      I appreciate your willingness to hear people challenge your point of views, and again, I truly enjoy that you think sort-of off the grid, even if I don’t agree with many of your opinions so far. Or maybe, it’s the bases of those opinions that I question. Either way, I’ll keep reading and keep learning.
      BTW, the letter to your daughter, is what I referred to during my previous post(s). You asked for a source; I forgot to mention it in the last reply.

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