Today's New York Times features a roundtable discussion on the issue of race and membership in Indian tribes. Link is here.
When the Cherokee were relocated from the South to present-day Oklahoma in the 1830s, their black slaves were moved with them. Though an 1866 treaty gave the descendants of the slaves full rights as tribal citizens, regardless of ancestry, the Cherokee Nation has tried to expel them because they lack "Indian blood."
The battle has been long fought. A recent ruleing by the Cherokee Supreme Court upheld the tribe's right to oust 2,800 freedmen, as they are known, and cut off their health care, food stipends and other aid in the process.
But federal officials told the tribe that they would not recognize the results of a tribal election later this month if the citizenship of the black members was not restored. Faced with a cutoff of federal aid, a tribal commission this week offered the Freedmen provisional ballots, a half-step denounced by the black members.
Is the effort to expel of people of African descent from Indian tribes an exercise of tribal sovereignty, as tribal leaders claim, or a reversion to Jim Crow, as the Freedmen argue?
Matt Fletcher (MSU)
Carla Pratt (Penn State)
Rose Cuison Villazor (Hofstra)
Kevin Noble Maillard (Syracuse)
Joanne Barker (SF State)
Cara Watt-Cowan (Cherokee Nation)
Heather WIlliams (Cherokee Nation)
Tiya Miles (U Michigan)
Graphic: my great-great-grandfather, Jimmy Carter, c. 1885, Wewoka, OK