Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Tribe slave descendants face uncertainty"

Authentically Cherokee?

Since I occasionally mention the fact that I'm part Cherokee, I suppose that I ought to acknowledge this recent vote by the Cherokee Nation as reported in Yahoo News (Sean Murphy, AP Writer):

The Cherokee Nation vote this weekend to revoke the citizenship of the descendants of people the Cherokee once owned as slaves was a blow to people who have relied on tribal benefits . . . . In Saturday's special election, more than 76 percent of voters decided to amend the Cherokee Nation's constitution to remove the estimated 2,800 freedmen descendants from the tribal rolls, according to results posted Sunday on the tribe's Web site.

I'm no expert on either Cherokee or U.S. law pertaining to this issue -- and the report goes on to note that the vote will be challenged and could be reversed -- but I would like to muse on a couple of points:

First, although I refer to myself as having some Cherokee 'blood,' the issue of blood wouldn't have meant much to a tribal society. American Indian tribes inducted whites as members, Sam Houston being a prime example. He ran away from home in 1809, joined the Cherokee, was adopted into the tribe as a member, and was given the name Colleneh, meaning "the Raven." Could his membership be retroactively revoked because he wasn't Cherokee by blood?

Second, if 'blood' is the issue, then some members of the Cherokee tribe would be more authentically Cherokee than other members. I use the convenience of blood to talk about my great-grandfather having been a half-blood Cherokee -- though I usually shorten this to half-Cherokee. What this really meant in his case is that his mother was Cherokee and his father not. However, a half-blood member of the Cherokee Nation is officially just as much Cherokee as a full-blood member.

Those are my vague musings on the problematic of 'blood' -- no resolution achieved. But if one wants to get really scientific and technical about this issue, then the Cherokee Nation could turn to genetic testing . . . except that a lot of Cherokee might not like the results, for some members might turn out to have no discernable Cherokee inheritance. Again, I'm no expert, but reports that I read in the newspapers imply that anyone who wishes can have ethnic origins traced. I'm actually curious about the details of my own genetic history and would like to undergo such a testing some day if it can be easily and cheaply done.

And a lot of those descendents of slaves once owned by Cherokee might very well turn out to be substantially Cherokee by genetics. When I was attending Baylor University, in Waco, Texas, I had an African-American friend who claimed to be part Cherokee, and I think that he knew what he was talking about. When I worked at a Wells Fargo Bank in Palo Alto, California, one of my colleagues was an African-American woman who claimed to be part Cherokee, and I again had no reason to doubt her. Both of these individuals even looked part Indian to me, though I might not have noticed it if they hadn't mentioned the point.

The African-American Country-and-Western musician Charlie Pride is obviously part American Indian (look at him in this video), and I believe that I've read that he is part Cherokee. His eyes in the photo above remind me of some photos of another part-Cherokee, Johnny Cash (and see this video). To me, Pride looks just as much Indian as Chad "Corntassel" Smith . . . though that's a subjective judgement of mine.

But if we really want to know, then bring on the genetic testing.



At 1:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're correct that membership is not based on blood but upon that census or one of the other censuses, if I recall, for there were several removals from Cherokee land to Indian Territory, which is what is now Oklahoma and Arkansas.

My Cherokee ancestors may have come with one of the earlier removals. At any rate, I qualify for membership but haven't seen any pressing reason to push for it. I asked my mother to do it, but she never got around to doing so.

As for removing the descendents of freed slaves from membership, I don't know the entire story, but from a distance, it doesn't look good.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:16 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Would it remove descendants of married blacks to Cherokee and would it apply to the part of the Cherokee Nation still in Tennessee. I would suspect that there are many more blacks that could trace their ancestry to the Cherokee. With the one drop rule for blacks it didn't really matter though.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I don't know for sure, but I think that the Cherokee were voting on the Freedmen who were declared Cherokee by the U.S. federal government after the end of the Civil War, so it probably applies only to the African-American descendents of specifically those Freedmen. But I'll bet that a lot of them were genetically part Cherokee.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is my understanding that the "Blacks" weren't the "Only Slaves". Some of the slaves mentioned were "Native Americans" also.
I don't know the reasoning behind the change. But, it seems that no matter what, someone always wants a peice of the pie.
Get off your butt's and earn the moneies you recieve! Or, just give the country back to those who had it first.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, I'm so far removed from it all that I don't really know any of the issues very clearly. I'm just surprised that the tribe could expel members whose families had belonged for generations.

Anyway, I agree that people out to work and earn their way in life. That includes everybody.

Thanks for visiting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:21 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Charlie Pride is a friend of mine. I love him dearly. He is a spectacular singer. We were at the Port several years ago, and he told me he is of Choctaw descent. He has a considerable percentage of Choctaw blood inherited from BOTH his father and mother.

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Richards, for confirming what I could see but not prove, Charlie Pride's Indian heritage.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:02 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Professor Hodges, you are more than welcome. I have another close friend who recently took a DNA test and it proved something that he had suspected for many years due to oral tradition from his family. There was also a gargantuan surprise that his DNA test results indicated. If you have a direct means of communication such as an email or phone number, I will contact you and send you a picture of him. I believe you will also find it very interesting.
He bears a remarkable resemblance to Sam Elliott!

Mike Richards

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My email:

horacejeffery at gmail dot com

Jeffery Hodges

@ @ @

At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will take him in a heart beat Chahta apela chahta / choctaw helps choctaw

At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

speaking from experience that most people here have none, the Cherokee Indian entitlement programs are cut off at 1/8 blood. no one with 1/16 or less is legally entitled to any of the “freebies“ handed out by any tribe that I know of regardless of the origin of any ancestor at any time. My former daughter-in-law is 1/4 Cherokee and because of that my grand children are 1/8 Cherokee. my son and his ex-wife are both millennials that believe that the American taxpayer should have to work and pay them and their children any amounts of money or any free house or any free college education or anything that they believe they are entitled to. by the way, that free college education that the Cherokees paid for my ex daughter-in-law to go to college resulted in a severe alcoholic and a drug addict because when you give somebody everything for free, they don’t have any responsibility and they don’t give a damn and all they want to do is drug and party and we saw this firsthand. Those of us that had to pay for our own college education and work very hard and go decades trying to pay off debts, are not as apt to go drinking and drugging daily because we were handed everything for free -because we were handed nothing . We have to remember that the reason why the American Indians lost this land was because they were so busy fighting over a pig or fighting over which girl from which tribe went off with another guy and ridiculous, stupid, petty fights and disputes that they could not get together as intelligent human beings and drive back invaders that were coming into their country when the American Indians outnumbered the invaders 10,000 to 1. They are all conquered people mostly because of their own stupidity. Tecumseh was an awesome and fantastic military genius who was stabbed in the back by his own Indian people of numerous Indian tribes because they could be so cheaply bought with a cast iron pan or a black powder firearm that the invaders were offering these people who lived tens of thousands of years and never even invented the wheel, much less basic sanitation. this particular comment comes from a person who is half Native American blood, a member of my family by marriage, and who is damn glad that white people invented all of the wonderful things that we all benefit from right now. When I hear the term “racist“, I turn to all of these people who are spouting that shit out of their mouths and tell them that we will be glad to come over with a bulldozer and take down their house and they can live in a teepee or a mud and grass hut just like the sub-Saharan Africans do now and they can poop in an open pit and they can hunt with a bow and arrow and then they’ve got nothing more to bitch about and can live just like their stone-age ancestors who never progressed until invaders conquered.


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