Cherokees Vote to Limit Tribal Membership

Associated Press
Sunday, March 4, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY , March 3 -- Cherokee Nation members voted Saturday to revoke the tribal citizenship of an estimated 2,800 descendants of people the Cherokees once owned as slaves.

In all 32 districts, 76.6 percent of the members who took part voted in favor of an amendment to the tribal constitution that would limit citizenship to descendants of "by blood" tribe members as listed on the Dawes Commission's rolls from more than 100 years ago.

That commission, set up by a Congress bent on breaking up the Indians' collective lands and parceling them out to tribal citizens, drew up two rolls, one listing Cherokees by blood and the other listing freedmen -- made up of blacks regardless of whether they had Indian blood.

Some opponents of the ballot question argued that the efforts to remove freedmen descendants from the tribe were motivated by racism. Tribal officials said the vote was a matter of self-determination.

Court bids to stop the voting were denied, but a federal judge left open the possibility that the case could be refiled if memberships are revoked.

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