Cherokee by law in response to wannabeism

June 2006
By: David Cornsilk

I thought I would take this opportunity to say something about what it means to be Cherokee according to the law: Cherokee law. I don't intend to offend anyone, even though I know I probably will. That is an unfortunate, but necessary by-product of every Cherokee citizenís obligation to defend our Nation and identity.

Being Cherokee has nothing to do with what an individual thinks of themselves or their own personal claims of heritage and blood. Cherokee law says that you must be recognized by the Cherokees in order to be a Cherokee. There is no other legitimate law that can or does make someone a Cherokee; certainly not the individual claims of lost descendants of long ago Cherokees or their equally non-Cherokee counterparts, the infamous wannabe.

It would be an infringement upon the rights of the Cherokee people akin to treason for an individual Cherokee to offer any form of official recognition to someone who does not meet the test of our law regarding who is and who is not a Cherokee. People ask me regularly why I will not give an inch to the individual claiming to be a Cherokee, but who does not meet the lawful requirements of the Cherokee people. My response is simple, straightforward and direct, I cannot go against the will of the Cherokee people and only the Cherokee people, en masse, can change that law. Here are my responses:

Cherokee said:
Someone needs to tell blue feather a DNA test doesn't prove you are Cherokee and if you're not a tribal member you are not legally a Cherokee.

David replies: 
Cherokee is correct and on point. Being a Cherokee is a state of being rooted in law. As I said above, only the Cherokee people can make the determination of who is and who is not a Cherokee. That is a collective right belonging to the Cherokee people and I, as an individual, do not have the right to abridge that. Having some DNA link to Indian ancestry does not make someone a Cherokee. In fact, the DNA tests being offered today cannot tell tribal ancestry; and they cannot reliably tell Indian ancestry. But again, even if they could prove that an individual has some DNA from a long ago Cherokee ancestor, only the Cherokee people can recognize it as making that person a Cherokee. So far, the collective voice of the Cherokee people, as spoken through the three legitimate governing documents of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, does not recognize DNA tests as legitimate proof of being a Cherokee. Therefore, neither I, nor any individual can assume the mantle of authority to do so either.

Cherokee said: 
So he is breaking the Indian Arts and Craft act by portraying himself as a Cherokee.

David replies: 
Cherokee is correct. If someone is claiming to be a Cherokee/Indian for the purpose of marketing their artwork, and that individual is not a member of one of the federally recognized Cherokee governments, then he/she is violating the law and should be punished with the full measure of the law. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act are designed to protect the culture and art of authentic Indians by recognizing the authority of the Cherokees themselves to determine who is and who is not a Cherokee. When the Cherokees themselves make provisions in our laws to recognize the descendants of long ago Cherokees or even any old person who claims Cherokee heritage, then the Indian Arts and Crafts Act cannot touch them and I will be the first to welcome them into the Nation. Until then, they are aliens to this Nation as surely as the illegal immigrants from Mexico who have broken U.S. law to live and work here. Those illegal aliens violate the right of the people of theUnited States to determine who is and who is not a U.S. citizen. The Cherokees have no less right to determine who shall be one of us and benefit from that status than any other nation. To say otherwise is an insidious attack on the sovereignty of the Cherokee people.

Cherokee said: 
Knowing elders and chiefs from federally or state recognized tribes, or fake tribes do not make one Cherokee either. Sounds like he's almost on the verge of dropping names here to add some clout to his wannabe image.

David replies: 
Cherokee is correct here. Under the Keeler, Swimmer and Mankiller administrations, letters were written for fake Cherokee artists attesting to their so-called "Cherokee heritage." Mankiller was called on the carpet for her violations of Cherokee law and the practice, thankfully, ended with her. Simply having the succor of one of the misguided leaders of an Indian tribe does not make someone an Indian. Just as I do not have the right to go against the will of the Cherokee people in the determination of who is and who is not a Cherokee, neither does an elected official. In fact, an elected official has an even greater burden to NOT give succor to the non-citizen who claims to be a Cherokee because they swore an oath to uphold and defend the tribe's constitution, which is the LAST WORD on who is and who is not a Cherokee.

Bly said: 
Cherokee - Are you saying that a blood line does not count on making a person a Cherokee? That only card carrying tribal registration counts?

David replies: 
That is, appropriately, exactly what Cherokee has said. Cherokee is only saying what our laws decree. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, EBC or UKB, we who are citizens of our Nations are bound by law to defend our own institutions. If we are silent and permit these blatant attacks against our governments and constitutions, the wannabe (whether fake or descendant) will weaken the foundation of our right to govern, the right to determine for ourselves who is and who is not a Cherokee. Without the right to make that determination for ourselves as a group, we lose control of everything citizenship is based upon including our own government and the right to speak for ourselves. 

Bly said: 
Aren't you using a double standard? You are defending the Freedmen on their Cherokee blood when most are not card carriers, but a person of Cherokee blood is NOT CHEROKEE.

David replies: 
Cherokee is not using a double standard at all. Cherokee has based his/her support for the Freedmen on the most basic premise of sovereignty, the right of the people, en masse, to determine who is and who is not a Cherokee. The Cherokee people made the determination through our constitution that the Freedmen are Cherokees. The Freedmen in fact, are card carrying Cherokees. Those who have enrolled over the past couple of months have a tribal membership card which proves that he/she is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation by meeting the criteria set by the Cherokee people in their constitution. The Freedmen, Shawnee and Delawareare proof that the term "Cherokee" is a citizenship term, and has nothing to do with race. All of us who are citizens of the Cherokee Nation are Cherokees regardless of our ethnic origins. Anyone with some micro-thin strain of Cherokee blood should be thanking the Freedmen because they have proven that our citizenship is not based on blood or any anthropological definition of "Indian" but is a legal concept rooted in the right of the Cherokee people to determine who is and who is not a Cherokee. Otherwise, the idea that someone who is more white than Cherokee could be classed as a Cherokee suddenly pales (pardon the pun). No longer can anyone say that citizenship in the Cherokee Nation is tied to blood and the thin bloods are now safe from attack based on their diluted Indian blood. If the thin blood citizen had any sense, they would utterly reject these attacks on the Freedmen, because I suspect they are next. I don't believe I would ever tell a non-citizen descendant of a long ago Cherokee that he/she cannot claim that lineage. But that lineage, if it does not meet the criteria set out by the Cherokee people for determining who is and who is not a Cherokee, does not make the person today a Cherokee. ONLY the Cherokee people can make you a Cherokee. We may vote on the status of the Freedmen in 2007 or sooner if the racists of our Nation have their way. So long as Cherokee law says the Freedmen people are Cherokees, whether they have blood or not, I will say they are Cherokees; which is why if fought so hard for them. If the Cherokee people vote to eject them from the Nation, they will no longer be Cherokees in the law or in my view. That, of course does not mean I cannot, on a social level, see them as Cherokee descendants, just as you are. So long as the will of the Cherokee people is that the Freedmen (who are enrolled and yes, carrying cards) remain citizens, I am compelled to recognize them too. And should the will of the Cherokee people be to expel them, I will be compelled to deny them. If that is harsh, I'm sorry, but it must be so to protect the basic right of the Cherokee people to determine for ourselves who is and who is not a Cherokee.

Bly said:
I'm not a card carrying tribal registered Cherokee, but I am by blood, I can trace my ancestry back to Ghi-go-ne-li without missing a person, and as far as I am concerned I'm just as much a Cherokee as anyone else. I'm Cherokee by Blood, which to me is extremely important.

David replies: 
Your pride in your genetic ancestry is not misplaced. If you are descended from Ghi-go-ne-li, then you come from some very prominent long ago Cherokee citizens. All of your ancestors should be equally important to you, as they are what makes you, you. But why should they be important to the rest of us? If your ancestors abandoned the tribe at some critical point in our history, then what qualifies you to come back now and demand recognition from those whose ancestors never turned their back on tribal relations. There is no shortage of genetic material flowing through the veins of a large number of Cherokee citizens that comes from Ghi-go-ne-li. One more or one less such descendant is of no consequence in the bigger picture. Being her descendant does not make you or anyone today anything special any more than my descent from Nancy Ward makes me special. I'm fascinated by this woman I descend from, but her descendants that abandoned tribal relations (and there are some) are nothing more to the Cherokee people than any other alien to our Nation. I cannot and will not violate the trust of the Cherokee people to offer any kind of recognition to a descendant of a long ago Cherokee when that would violate the will of the Cherokee people. And any Cherokee citizen who does if offensive to the will of the Cherokee people.

Bly said: 
Your statement is something that will drive other Cherokees away from John's Forum at a time when all need to be drawing together and working together.
Yes there are a lot of Wannabes and phony tribes - but in all honesty you should be giving a person a chance and not condemning them because of something they are or have said without giving them a chance.

David replies: 
My motto is "Alien to the Nation until proves a citizen." We citizens have the obligation in accordance with tribal law to question the veracity and validity of any claim of Cherokee heritage. His/her and my obligation is rooted in the necessity for the Cherokee people to protect ourselves from the ruinous impact of wannabeism. If you have a heart for the Cherokee people, then you will help the Cherokee people no matter what. A post on this board cannot change your desire to help. If your efforts are to obtain some kind of recognition of your claims of Cherokee heritage, then the Cherokee people don't need that kind of help. You must support the Cherokee people as we are, not as you wish we would be. On an individual level, you are free to try and get the Cherokee people to change their definition of who is and who is not a Cherokee. I know Bill Davis would support an amendment to our Constitution to permit descendants of long ago Cherokees to enroll. I would sign a petition to bring that to a vote. In fact, such a petition would be a good thing because it would be granting rights, instead of the vile petition being circulated by John Ketcher and the Smith slate of Councilors that seeks to destroy the rights of an innocent people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Web Page Created with PageBreeze Free HTML Editor / Web Hosting