Friday, January 3, 2014

The Cherokee Freedmen Controversy

     While passing laws requiring that an applicant for tribe membership have at least some blood relation to the tribe in question may help assure that the tribe’s genetic legacy be secured, to pass such laws does not support a tribe’s likelihood to remain united, and in fact these laws may serve to undermine regard for a tribe, but also to diminish its cohesiveness on the basis of culture.
     On one hand, the U.S. federal government has at least some history of allowing Native American tribes to decide for themselves which criteria to use in order to create a basis upon which to choose to either reject or confirm an applicant’s membership in the tribe, and therefore the U.S. should allow any decisions concerning Cherokee Nation membership criteria made by that tribe’s Supreme Court to stand without interference.
     Aside from this fact, although blood quantum laws were originally created by white men in Virginia and served to oppress Natives, their use as a criterion for allowing membership has been accepted by many tribes as a provision of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Therefore, it should be a right of Native American tribes to require applicants to prove an actual genetic relationship before granting them membership.
     However, since today there are so many members in the various tribes who have very little Indian blood and are only members based on the fact of the presence of that “single drop,” it would be easy for a tribe’s government to create a line in the sand with regard to acceptance, and also very controversial, as some people may consider this discrimination and the denial of civil rights on the basis of ethnicity and race.

     The weakening of cohesion over the past decades has left many Indians displaced and without connections to their relatives, tribes, and customs. Some of those with Native blood seek to re-connect to their cultures through tribal education, including learning native languages, and also through the formation of pan-Indian identity. Due to this situation, the need for individuals to re-discover Indian identity and to establish relationships to the cultures more than to ethnic or racial similarity is likely more crucial to the survival of Indian ideas and customs than any law requiring that a person be ethnically or racially Indian.

Originally written in November 2009 as a college essay
Originally Published on January 3rd, 2014

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