If you are black, at some point in time, you’ve probably heard or even said the phrase, “I’ve got Indian in my family.”
No, I’m not talking about Indians from India. I’m talking about Native Americans.
Now, before you say something, I know the correct terminology is Native-American not Indian, but in casual conversations, the words are often wrongly used interchangeably.
But anyway, my point is black people seem to not only embrace, but also boast about having “Native-American” blood, regardless of whether it’s true.
Although many Blacks may be quick to claim their “heritage” of one of the 565 federally recognized Native American tribes, most often the Cherokee nation, the Cherokee nation is not reciprocating the same acceptance.
As a matter of fact, they formally announced their plans to kick blacks out of the Cherokee nation.
Recently, the Cherokee Nation decided to limit its membership to people who can actually prove they have Indian blood.
This strips about 2,800 African-Americans, who are descendants of slaves once owned by wealthy Cherokees, of rights including access to health care clinics, food distribution for the poor, and assistance for low-income homeowners.
The move prompted protests among these African-Americans, who are known as Freedmen.
For years, they enjoyed equal rights in the Cherokee tribe. But in more recent history, their citizenship rights have been repeatedly challenged.
The decision has also put the Cherokees at odds with the federal government. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has already suspended more than $37 million in funding to the Cherokee Nation.
The Justice Department said last week that a key election for tribal chief later this month will not be recognized by the Department of the Interior, which has oversight over Indian affairs.
According to NPR, the Bureau of Indian Affairs declined an interview request, but in a letter sent to the Cherokee Nation earlier this month, it said the Freedmen's citizenship rights cannot be revoked.
The Cherokee first agreed to grant the Freedmen equal rights in a treaty signed with the U.S. in 1866, following the end of the Civil War.
The Cherokee Nation is the largest of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. It boasts more than 300,000 members, and like many Indian nations, it fiercely defends its right to self-governance.
The Nation's decision prevents more than 3,500 blacks from becoming Cherokee citizens, because their applications have never been processed, according to NPR.
However, it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of Freedmen who have a right to claim citizenship.
Many historians agree that at least 10 percent of all people on the Cherokee Trail of Tears were black, the vast majority being slaves, though some were runaways and intermarried, free blacks.
Some wealthy Indians in the Deep South owned African slaves, who in turn joined their Indian masters on the Trail of Tears, when tens of thousands of Indians were pushed out of the Deep South and west into Oklahoma in the early 1800s.
Some Indian tribes have a blood quantum that requires a grandmother or great-grandfather be Indian, but not the Cherokees.
They simply require that a citizen have an Indian ancestor who appears on the Dawes Rolls — lists of Indian citizens created by the U.S. government in the early 1900s. They included categories not only for Indians of various blood mixtures but for whites and blacks as well.
The problem, however, is that blacks — even those who were part Indian — were simply labeled as black on the Dawes Rolls, yet those Indians mixed with white were labeled Indian.
That's why historians think it's unfair for the Freedmen to be singled out.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Do you claim Native American heritage?
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