Cherokee of Today

By Josiah Hair on January 7, 2013
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The Cherokee Tribe of today is made of 3 different groups that all descend from the same common tribe.

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma citizens resides within 14 counties in  Northeastern Oklahoma, the tribe composes of descendants of those that were forced removed from lands in Southeastern United States during 1838-1839 time period. In addition to those descendants the tribe also comprises of  descendants of ‘Old Settlers’ which were those that had moved from lands in the east prior to 1833 and are subject to the 1828 and 1833 treaties. Over 70,000 Cherokee reside within a 7,000 square mile geographical area, which was never a reservation but rather a federally-recognized, truly sovereign nation covering most of northeast Oklahoma. Today its jurisdictional service area encompasses eight entire counties along with portions of six others. As one of only three such federally-recognized Cherokee tribes, the Cherokee Nation has both the sovereign right and the responsibility to exercise control and development over tribal assets, including more than 66,000 acres of land and 96 miles of the Arkansas Riverbed. Tribal citizenship is granted if a Lineal Descendant from the Final Roll of the Dawes Commission 1907 of the applicant can be proven through birth and death records, Minimum Blood Quantum is not used. 1

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians comprising of Descendants of those that resided at the time in North Carolina thru a provision called the Reservation Act of 1819 which excluded them from the Removal act of 1830 or by evading the United States Army in Tennessee and Georgia during the roundups prior to Forced Removal to Indian Territory in 1838-1839. Those that remained behind could not hold property, which by law during this time Native Americans were neither citizens of the United States nor the State where they resided, therefore they could not own or have rights to property.  An adopted Cherokee named Will Thomas bought land with money that Cherokees gave him in their behalf; he held the deeds in his name and allowed the fugitive Cherokees to live on and work the land.  This ambiguous status continued until after the Civil War when the Cherokee question surfaced again.  After several years of legal wrangling, the Cherokee formed a corporation.  As a business, the Cherokee could hold the land and the land, which was to become known as the Qualla Boundary, again the land was in Cherokee control. Eastern Band was never subject to the Allotment act of 1889 and was able to fend off attempts to force compliance  until the Howard Wheeler Act of 1936 abolished Allotment. Today they live in far western North Carolina in an area known as Qualla Boundary a Land Trust not a reservation the Tribe owns the land. Enrollment is granted to the applicant if they can prove a minimum Blood Quantum of 1/16th degree of Cherokee blood and Lineal Descendant of an Ancestor that is listed on the Baker Roll of 1924. 2

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees reside in present day Oklahoma in same 14 counties that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. In 1808, a delegation of Cherokees from the upper and lower towns of the Cherokee Nation went to Washington D.C. to inform the President of the United States that not all Cherokee people wanted to pursue what was deemed a ‘civilized’ life. The delegation requested the President divide the upper towns, whose people wanted to establish a Regular government, from the lower towns who wanted to continue living traditionally. On January 9, 1809, the President of the United States allowed the lower towns to send an exploring party to find suitable lands on the Arkansas and White Rivers. Seven of the most trusted men explored locations both in what is now Western Arkansas and also Northeastern Oklahoma. The people of the lower towns desired to remove across the Mississippi to this area, onto vacant lands within the United States so that they might continue the traditional Cherokee life. In 1817, the United States ceded such lands to the Kituwah people (also known as Old Settlers, or Western Cherokee) in exchange for a portion of the Cherokee lands they had occupied and were entitled to in the East. As many as 4,000 Kituwah Old Settlers came. The Treaty of 1817 with the United States exchanged lands back East for lands in Arkansas. One of the groups that became a part of the Keetoowah band is the Nighthawk societies that had formed after the Civil War and  fought against attempts by the Federal Government to force compliance with the Allotment act of 1880. During the 1890′s some 5000 “Nighthawks” protested against and actively refused to sign up for the Allotment of land that the Dawes Commission was forcing Cherokees to comply with. But by 1902 after their Leader Red Bird Smith had been jailed the remaining holdouts were allotted land and listed on the Dawes rolls without consent. In 1907 the group incorporated themselves and for many years were the only informal government that the Cherokees had. In 1936 the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act was passed and the Keetoowah’s opened a Roll for the first time since 1907, when the Cherokee Nation had been abolished. By 1947 the roll was completed and referred to the BIA for Recognition, However since the BIA did not have a formal process to accomplish such a process the paperwork languished in limbo for the next 40 years!  Federal Recognition was finally granted in 1996 after years of extended negotiations with the BIA. Enrollment today is accomplished by tracing Lineal Descendants from the 1949 Final Roll of the Keetoowah Band of Cherokees or Dawes Roll of 1907 and minimum Blood Quantum of 1/4 degree. Submitted applications are approved on a monthly basis by the Tribal council. 3

Cherokees of Today

Today all three Federally Recognized tribes are viewed as separate Nations by the BIA but in reality we are related by Family ties that go back thousands of years. All three groups have made strides in building industry and businesses that employ tribal members within each tribal jurisdiction. In July of 2012 Chiefs from all three Tribes met in Cherokee North Carolina to re -light the flame that once burned in our mother Town Kituwah. Although this was historic moment, we still have a long way to go to repair those bonds that were broken in the time of our ancestors. Much blood was spilled amongst our own peoples in the different politics of that time and although we don’t kill each other any longer we still have many political fights such as the ongoing battles between Oklahoma Tribes: Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band over land jurisdiction. Although the BIA has ruled several times on the issue they have yet made a ruling that definitively defines either tribe’s role in the land. At issue is the fact that the Cherokee Nation’s Government was terminated and in fact ceased to exist after 1907. In the years following the Allotment Act abolishing the Government of the Cherokee Nation several different acts and resolutions seem to resurrect the Nation. However since the Cherokees did not take advantage of OIWA of 1936 5 to reform (Several Reasons for this) it took until 1970 for the Principle Chief’s act 4 to reform the Cherokee Nation on paper. But even the wording of this act is flawed and further mudding the waters was the BIA on the one hand finally recognizing the United Keetoowah Band in 1996 and on the other hand not defining the most important part to Sovereignty: Land Trust. Another issue in this continueing saga is when a new head of the BIA  is name that person decides that another ruling is forthcoming which does nothing to clear up the matter. The main fact that the Cherokee Nation of old is no longer in existence is generally accepted point of view. What has not been defined is who the successor in interest to the Land is?? Is it Cherokee Nation II formed in 1970 by the Principle Chiefs Act or the United Keetoowah Band formally Recognized in 1996?? Another issue is the Freedman Case who have treaty rights from the 1866 Treaty, as of 2012 they are members of the Cherokee Nation only, the enrollment criteria for either the Eastern Band or United Keetoowah Band would not allow non-Cherokees Citizenship, This would bring up another interesting issue if the BIA were to decide that the United Keetoowah were successor in interest that would include Treaty Obligations which would include the 1866 Treaty, so they would have to include the Freedman into the Tribe or face the same court cases that the Cherokee Nation are presently going thru!

I have been talking about Government to Government relations up to this point this only touches on the subject, the real question is this: What makes a tribe? The answer is the families that are interrelated  through Culture and Language that share a common bond going back thousands of years. In Eastern Oklahoma after 1907 when the formal Government and Courts of the Old Cherokee Nation were dissolved. The people who called themselves Cherokee continued to cluster in communities and continued to raise children and taught those children our culture and ways that were handed down generation to generation. Communities such as Oaks, Moodys, Bell, Lyon Switch, Evening Shade, Bunch, Lost City and Rocky Ford just to name a few, they still held Stomp Dances at Grounds that are older than this State. They formed Indian Churches that only spoke Cherokee and read from the bible that was translated into Cherokee in the 1840′s. These communities did not have a government to turn to in those years, so they turned to each other in those communities and took care of their own. These were hard times and as the depression in 1930′s hit the rest of the country these communities had already been in a depression the depths that the rest of the country was finally seeing, but they continued to do the best they could. This has always been a strong trait of Native Peoples and that is to band together in close knit communities and continue to raise children and be Cherokee no matter what the Government name for us. Today in Eastern Oklahoma and In Western North Carolina you can take a drive into the back hills and through these same communities find these old Indian Churches still speaking Cherokee, Still raising their children much as their Grandparents had in the 1920′s and long before that, despite what our “Governments” do…

 

References:

1) History and Culture of the Cherokee Nation of Ok    http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/History/Facts/24449/Information.aspx

2) History and Culture of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian http://nc-cherokee.com/historyculture/

3) History and Culture of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee http://www.keetoowahcherokee.org/documents/history/historyessay.pdf

4) Principle Chiefs act 1970 http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/vol6/html_files/v6p1208b.html

5) Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/O/OK059.html


TOPICS: Blog, Featured, Native American Culture, Native American Genealogy, Native American History, News

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10 Responses to “Cherokee of Today”

  1. Arlene Martin says:

    Would like a copy of this if that is possible…can’t seem to print the entire document.

    • Josiah Hair says:

      There is a print friendly button (Scroll down to under the article just above Related Posts) on the page that allows you to print in PDF format or word very helpfull… Do not try to print page feature on the web brower it does get confused!

  2. Opimato (Woundedbear says:

    well well this comment box works fine on this pc but not on my server so instead of me starting new post thread i can take care now. i see the statements about all the cherokee of mo well some of those are not cherokee but some are and u need to rephrase ur story line cause ur version is makeing me mad. but than maybe it due to fact i know that my gg is not from the cn. cn is short for cherokee nation. furthermore my gg grandfather is sioux and he has a role number and some how my family has family who are cherokee johna brown born 1881 is on baker role and he is cuz to my great grandfather clarence edward brown who is sioux but clarence was not born on the rez so please stop causeing hard feeling among the cherokee that the cn has abandon by saying if u don’t have a land role # u ain’t cherokee cause buddy u are dead wrong and if u don’t beleive me i know were a fullblooded one is at and he speaks his native tongue real fine and i mean the old cherokee nation east not the new style

  3. Paula Hess says:

    I am looking for any Cherokee in my area. I have a friend who is in very bade health and he wishes to have a Cherokee burial since he is of the heritage. We are in Ohio. If anyone can be of help he would greatly appreciate it. Time is of the essence.He is failing fast.

    • Pamela says:

      Paula, I sincerely hope that your friend is still with us or got his wish of a Cherokee burial. Hopefully, some of our brothers/sisters came to your aid. Best wishes, my sister.

  4. James Skelton says:

    It is a new day for the Cherokee people to throw off the shackles of centuries of hate, apartheid and discrimination. We are The Kusa Nunahi (Creek Path) Tribal Band of Cherokee Indians whose Native Homeland is in northern Alabama in the Guntersvile area. We differ from the above mentioned ‘Cherokee tribes’ in the respect that we are all directly blood related rather than a ‘collection of Indians and/or adoptees’. Follow our progress as we begin our journey to be re-acknowledged as the fourth Tribal band of the Cherokee people. It is a global shame that more than more than 90 percent of Cherokee people are not recognized by our own federal government. Cherokees are the largest aboriginal tribe in North America and we inhabited an area in seven US states – a country the size of present-day Germany.

  5. Deathz Angel says:

    I worked in an IHS clinic for 20yrs. During that time, I came across more blond haired, blue eyed Cherokees than ever. The other Natives of more blood quantum resented these people for utilizing resources for “real Indians.” I have seen & made a copy of a Cherokee enrollment card that said the person was “1/516″ Cherokee. Now how far back do you have to go to be 1/516 Native? The Cherokee have made themselves a joke, putting out cards like that. They have proof of Indian from 1/32 to the 1/516 that shocked me. EVERY person I run into that finds out I am Menominee & Dine tells me that they have Indian blood….Cherokee. I am never surprised, I expect it. Sad. So, Wounded Bear, why be angry? It takes only 1 red blood cell to be enrolled Cherokee.

    • Josiah Hair says:

      Your stuck on Blood Quantum, Citizenship in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is by Lineal Discendancy just like all the 5 Civilized Tribes and for that matter a growing number of others such as the Osage, Quapaw, Seneca, Eastern Shawnee and others. To be a citizen you must trace a Direct Ancestor to a Base Roll such as in the Cherokees case the Dawes Roll of 1907. This Roll was based on Cherokee Nation’s own citizenship Rolls from 1896 and 1880. Yes they list Blood Quantum on the Blue Cards but that is a BIA Requirement. Btw the Tribes that have kept Minimum Blood Quantum as a basis for enrollment periodically have to lower it or Do what the Kiowa did in 1990 and make everybody Full Blood and started over!

  6. S johnson says:

    The comment on blonde blue eyed so called Cherokee makes me wonder how they get away with that. While I can’t figure out how to document my family’s past to prove who I am.and I am not blonde or blue eyed.i was told my grandfather changed his last name but don’t know what is was originally any one with an idea.

  7. larry parks says:

    My name is larry im in your. Alls. Group. I am wanting to take a dna. Test. Where. I can get my card. Plz email me. And. Let. Me knw what i have to. Do. Thanks.

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