"A Civilized Tribe"
CHEROKEES will expel descendants of black slaves they once owned, a move that has exposed the unsavoury role played by some Native Americans during the Civil War and renewed accusations of racism against the tribe. Members of the Cherokee Nation, the second-largest Native American tribe, voted yesterday by 77 per cent to 23 per cent in a special poll to amend their constitution and limit citizenship to those listed as "Cherokee by blood". The move stripped tribal membership from freedmen - those descended from slaves - and blacks who were married to Cherokees. They have enjoyed full citizenship rights for 141 years. Opponents denounced it as a racist plot to deny tribal revenue - including $US22billion ($37billion) a year from casino takings for all US tribes - to those not deemed full-blood Cherokee, and to block them from claiming a slice of the tribal pie.
Supporters say it was a long overdue move by Cherokees to determine their own tribal make-up. Freedmen were granted full tribal membership under an 1866 treaty that the tribe was essentially forced to sign with the US government after the Civil War.
So does that mean the tribe will expell EVERY non full-blooded Cherokee from their fold just like the "freedmen"? Oh no no no my friend, this is where the legacy of defining blacks as three-fifths as a human kicks in:
The vote limits citizenship to those who can trace their heritage to a "Cherokee by blood" list, part of the Dawes Rolls census created by Congress in 1906.
Under that census, anybody with even a trace of African-American blood was placed on the freedmen roll. Those with full Cherokee or mixed white and Cherokee ancestry, even if seventh-eighths white, were put on the "Cherokee by blood" roll.
Today about 25,000 of the 270,000 Cherokees are descendants of freedmen, but the tribe is growing rapidly, with 1000 new citizens a month entitled to a share of the $US350 million annual budget.
Those in favour of expelling the freedmen have said that, without the vote, thousands more descendants will seek tribal membership to cash in on its revenue and welfare network.
So not only is it plain-as-day racism in allowing mostly-white Cherokees to cash into the gambling revenues, it's also simple greed in order keep their share of the pie as large as possible.