Cherokee of Today

Cherokee of Today

Posted By Josiah Hair January 7th, 2013 Blog

The Cherokee Tribe of today is made of 3 different groups that all descend from the same common tribe.

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Citizens reside within 14 counties in  Northeastern Oklahoma, the tribe composes of descendants of those that were forcibly removed from lands in the 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

Indian Census Collection

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

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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 relight the flame that once burned in our mother Town Kituwah. Although this was a historic moment, we still have a long way to go to repair those bonds that were broken at 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 Principal Chief's act 4 to reform the Cherokee Nation on paper. But even the wording of this act is flawed and further muddying 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 continuing saga is when a new head of the BIA is named 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 has generally accepted a 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 Principal 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…



1) History and Culture of the Cherokee Nation of Ok

2) History and Culture of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian

3) History and Culture of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee

4) Principle Chiefs act 1970

5) Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936


About Josiah Hair

About - Founded in 1996, is your online gathering for all things Native American culture. Explore American Indian Culture through articles, interviews, videos, photos, and live streaming.

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25 thoughts on “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!

    • Josiah Hair says:

      Be more Shocked! Some 20 tribes and more counting everyday use the same Criteria as the Cherokee Nation and that is to trace Lineal Descendant on a Base Roll. The minimum Blood Quantum is going away I know more Full Bloods that have 6 or 7 tribes in them that fall below the Minimum to enroll with just one!! The Tribe sets the standard for Citizenship so Blood Quantum is fading fast as that is no longer a Standard that can be used much longer otherwise we will breed ourselves out of existence! BTW I am a Brown Eyed Cherokee there are still a lot of us left still living in Eastern Oklahoma!

    • Shadow mountain says:

      We only have to be cherokee in our heart why do we have to prove to any government who we are and for our tribe not to take us in well that speaks for its self I will always be cherokee don’t care what federal government has to say

      • A recognized tribe determines citizenship not the federal government, thus why there are so many different citizenship criteria that a tribe determines who is a citizen and who is not. In the case of the Cherokee Nation it is “Lineal Descendent” no minimum BQ, The other two Tribes Eastern Band 1/16th and Keetoowah 1/4 BQ plus “Lineal Descendent”.
        A Myth arises out of this requirement and that is the Dawes Rolls were the Federal Government way to exclude those that refused to enroll! Or hid out! Unfortunately this is not the case, just Google Redbird Smith and you discover that many Fullblood Cherokees fought Allotment until Redbird was jailed and his followers were enrolled against there will. Also Google Nighthawk Cherokees and you will find the same circumstances refusal to enroll and then enrolled without the person present (Great Grandpa was a Nighthawk). The Followers of Redbird Smith today make up the United Keetoowah Band and use the very same rolls to enroll there members, for those rolls were accomplished by the Cherokee Nation prior to 1896 and earlier in 1880 and actually comprise those Cherokees that were CITIZENS of the Cherokee nation BY Blood….

  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. 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.

    • Josiah Hair says:

      A DNA test is only used to establish Paternity or Maternity with somebody that is Already a Citizen. No DNA test can tell you which tribe you belong with or that you are even Native American. Only Primary Documents are accepted for Registration and those are used to prove you are a Direct Descendant of someone that was Enrolled on the Dawes Roll of 1907.

      • Thank you for your information, sir. I had Ancestry run my dna, if that is what they did. I am of mixed ancestry going back to civil war days for the native blood, which was a tribe very obscure to the state my ancestors were in, and at a time when it was considered very unpopular to be native I am sorry to say. They know our ancestry, I have family pictures, but had all these probable relatives, NONE of whom have any family names from the past 5 generations, NOR did they hit on our ancestry as being at all native. They said I was 1 /12 of Iberian peninsular ancestry. Looking that up, they said that people from that area share genetic markers with native americans…. so why not state that It could be one or the other. I am hoping to utilize 23 and me service and see if it is any better. My relatives left their reservation in the mid 1850’s and moved into the Virginias to assimilate, along with a number of their tribal people, who felt there was no other way to survive after their tribe was conquered.

  8. Don Ivey says:

    My mothers mother, my grandmother. I have been told all my life she was a full blooded Cherokee. And that she may have been adopted by, Finney’s, her full name was Etta viola finney shores. I was wondering if there is a way to find out without signing up and spending a lot of money that I don’t have and get tied up with a lot of spin doctors that’s just in it for the money? My grandmother Etta had 12 children and all had dark hair and dark brown eyes. Thank you for any help that you can offer. Be Blessed…

    • Josiah Hair says:

      Some background information on Etta would be helpful to determine if she would have been listed on the Dawes Roll. Did she or her Parents live within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation (Indian Territory) up to 1907? Were they recognized as Citizens? What are her Parent’s Names, if Etta was not listed then her Parents could have been listed that is IF they resided within the Cherokee Nation and were recognized by the Tribe as Citizens. This is Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of the Dawes Roll, In order to have been listed you have to meet this criteria: Living within the Boundaries and Recognized by the Cherokee Nation as a Citizen. Usually this was done one of two ways they would have been listed on previous Censuses that the Cherokee Nation did of there own Citizens. One in 1880 and the other in 1896 which the Dawes Commission used to determine eligibility for Allotment. Registration with the Tribe today is done by proving that you are a Direct Descendant of someone that is listed on the Dawes Roll of 1907. So if not Grandmother then the Next generation back is just as good as long as they can be proven to be the Parents of her and that you can prove you are the Grandchild of her. Simple… By the Way the Dawes Rolls can be looked up online for a simple fee of $7.99 for one month on no hassles, no issues I use the website myself…

    • Josiah Hair says:

      Registered citizens over 300,000 spread over three Federally recognized tribes. With Cherokee Nation the largest of the three, partly due to no minimum blood quantum just prove lineal descendancy to a direct ancestor that was included in the Dawes Roll of 1907. There are some 200 heritage groups and splinter groups that lay claim to a more tenuous tracing of ancestry and some do not require any proof of ancestry just self claim, and pay their dues. I am astounded by the sheer number of those that monthly besiege our Registration department with paperwork to claim citizenship. Our tribal paper published an article last month that the wait time is up over 3 years again! I say again because the previous administration stripped funding from that department it has since been restored but the sheer volume of applicants is overwhelming! One of the reasons “in my opinion” is with the rolling out of the Affordable Health Care Act or Obama Care as some call it. If you can become a citizen you have access to IHS thus saving yourself a ton of money out of pocket. But again that is my opinion why the numbers have sharply increased…

  9. Atticus Keane says:

    I am very curious, are there any documented contested cases over an individual or group of individuals citizenship in the Cherokee nation?

    • Josiah Hair says:

      What a very broad Question…
      The most famous case of a Large Group of Contested Citizenship is the Sizemore Case in 1908 something like 2000 family members that attempted to share in the Settlement between the US Government and the Eastern Cherokee.
      Another large group were a family that were attempting to gain citizenship thru a Cherokee named Crane-eater. In both cases after several years of research by the US Government they were determined to not be eligible for citizenship.
      One of the most misunderstood subject is that of who is considered a citizen and who is not, partly due to the confusion arising from the Dawes Rolls of 1907 and to a lesser extent the Guion Miller Rolls of 1910. I will speak of the Cherokee Nation that reside in Oklahoma but really it applies to the other 4 “Civilized Tribes”. For the Tribal Governments prior to 1907, actually the Tribal Council determined citizenship not the US Government. In majority of cases of Cherokees that were recognized as citizens and resided within the Cherokee Nation for their entire life there was no problem. The issues arose when a citizen left the Cherokee Nation and resided in Arkansas for instance then decided to move back, if they petitioned the Council, received paperwork and kept that paperwork no problem. But if they just moved back and never bothered with paperwork it would take a bit of work during the years of the Dawes Commission but in majority of cases it would be resolved. Usually due to the fact that we are not really individuals but members of a Family and those family members stayed, so it was a simple case that they came to the Courthouse and testified in your behalf. The really contested cases were Mixed Marriages, or just whites that desired land or money, or in rare cases death of an adult leaving children with no clear guardianship. Prior to the 1880’s if a White decided to live within the Cherokee Nation they were granted citizenship if they married a Cherokee or if the Council decided that you were a valuable member of the nation and granted it through a resolution of the Council. However in 1900 when the Dawes Commission began the work of Land Allotment they excluded several groups of citizens that the Cherokee Nation had granted full rights of citizenship. The first group were the Cherokees by Marriage (Whites that had married a Cherokee) Cherokees called this group Adopted Cherokees, the other group were the Freedmen those that the Cherokee Nation had granted full Citizenship rights to after the treaty of 1866 they were either former slaves or descendants of former slaves.
      Books have been devoted to both these groups and the unfairness of the Dawes Commission, the whole ugly mess was settled in a group of landmark court cases during the early 1900’s and I wont dwell in depth in those subjects. So today when a person applies for Citizenship the process is fairly straight forward, they must prove they are a direct descendant (Lineal Descendant) of a person listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation of 1907 By Blood. No Minimum blood quantum required, the documents can be downloaded on the Cherokee website and filled out for free the whole process is free actually! In the past few years due to several factors (Section 184 Housing and Obama-care) the numbers of those that are applying have overwhelmed the registration dept. so the wait time has grown to several years but they answer each and every application first come first served.

      Several common myths have sprung up around the Dawes rolls, 1) “My ancestor hid out (or escaped) so that’s why they are not on the roll”, Actually there were about 5000 Cherokees that refused to enroll with the Dawes Commission they were Full-bloods consisting of several groups of Cherokees such as Keetoowah’s and Nighthawks that actively and aggressively refused enrollment! The reason we know how many is they were enrolled against there will by the commission for these Cherokees had been listed on previous Cherokee Census (1896,1891,1880,1870 ect.) that the Cherokee Nation had done on there citizens and were made available to the Dawes Commission (The Commission Demanded and finally received) these documents reside in the National Archives to this day. Which brings us to the next myth 2) A Courthouse fire burned up my documents so I can’t find my Cherokee Ancestors. Actually no… There were never only one copy of any Roll or Census and they all reside today safe and sound in the National Archive. In the past 10 years the LDS have spent thousands of hours copying and scanning these to the Internet and several websites such as and give access for a small monthly fee a Treasure Trove of documents. I personally have spent hours pouring over my family listed in the 1880 Cherokee Nation census and found first hand the devastation the Allotment Act brought to the native population for in 20 years my GGGrandfather went from fully sustainable farmers in Honey, Fruit Trees, Oats, Corn and Hogs to a rock pile of dirt and poverty! So I have a hard time with those that claim their ancestors ran away or hid for that is not the Cherokee way. Our stories tell us otherwise for when the US Government and the States of Tenn, Georgia and Alabama wanted and took our land to the East we WALKED to Oklahoma as a People some 16000 men,women and children Together. When we built our own nation and again the US Government wanted the “Surplus” land they broke it up and allotted it giving away the rest to Whites. And yet to this day we are still residing in the same communities in Eastern Oklahoma those of Oaks, Eveningshade, Bell, Moodys, Crittenden and on and on. And when these same people come to our registration Dept. and demanding to be enrolled after 100 years of being “lost in the woods” they are treated as any other CITIZEN and if they have a descendant they are granted Citizenship and its “perks” to get there Ndn House or the Free Medical and leave. But no I am not bitter about that… For that is Not the Cherokee Way, an old saying says: De-tsa-sa-la-di-he-s-di “lift each other up” and that is the Cherokee Way.

    • Josiah Hair says:

      In follow-up to my earlier post I did some more digging and refreshed my memory on the Sizemore Case:
      1) Sizemore
      This paper was written a few years ago but really helps with the overall view of the case

    • Josiah Hair says:

      Prior to 1825 yes, but the tribal council passed a resolution to include the Paternal side that year. Today both sides are recognized for citizenship purposes.

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