Saturday, March 03, 2007

Slave-Owning Indian Tribes Seek to Expel Black Citizens

Vinita, OK - 1,200 miles outside the Beltway

The Macaca Post reports:

The 250,000-member Cherokee Nation will vote in a special election today whether to override a 141-year-old treaty and change the tribal constitution to bar "freedmen," the descendants of former tribal slaves, from being members of the sovereign nation.

...the Cherokee freedmen see the vote as less about self-determination than about discrimination and historical blinders. They see in the referendum hints of racism and a desire by some Cherokees to deny the tribe's slave-owning past.


The issue is a remnant of the "peculiar institution" of Southern slavery and a discordant note set against the ringing statements of racial solidarity often voiced by people of color.

"It's oppressed people that's oppressing people," said Verdie Triplett, 53, an outspoken freedman of the Choctaw tribe, which, like the Cherokee, once owned black slaves.

Cherokees, along with Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles, were long known as the "Five Civilized Tribes" because they adopted many of the ways of their white neighbors in the South, including the holding of black slaves.


The tribe fought for the Confederacy. In defeat, it signed a federal treaty in 1866 committing that its slaves, who had been freed by tribal decree during the war, would be absorbed as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.


Descendants of those freed tribal slaves would number in the hundreds of thousands today, Walton-Raji said.

But segregation and the civil rights movement separated native members of the tribes from freedmen. Today, no more than a few thousand descendants of the slaves are officially members of the five tribes, leaving their prospects of defeating the Cherokee referendum slim. By late last month, about 2,800 had re-registered in time to vote.


The Cherokee Nation expelled many descendants of slaves in 1983 by requiring them to show a degree of Indian blood through the Dawes rolls. A tribal court reinstated them in March 2006. That spurred today's special election, which received a go-ahead Feb. 21 when a federal judge in Washington denied the freedmen's request for an injunction to halt the balloting.

And then of course there's the money:
Advocates of expelling the freedmen call it a matter of safeguarding tribal resources, which include a $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, and Cherokees' share of a gambling industry that, for U.S. tribes overall, takes in $22 billion a year. The grass-roots campaign for expulsion has given heavy play to warnings that keeping freedmen in the Cherokee Nation could encourage thousands more to sign up for a slice of the tribal pie.
More reasons that such racist "governments" should be abolished. While American state governments are apologizing for slavery, race-based Indian governments are extending its effects.

Update: In high turnout vote, Cherokees violate treaty and expel black members by a 53 point margin.

No comments: