It is deeply ironic and tragic that the rolls created by the very commission that eliminated Cherokee sovereignty at the beginning of the 1900s are the same rolls that are used as the definitive list to decide membership in the Cherokee Nation today. The blood lineality requirement often underscored in the Cherokee freedmen debate revolves around the Cherokee Nation’s requirement that Cherokee citizens prove their connection to an ancestor listed on the “Cherokee by blood” Dawes roll. Though some Indian nations require a specific Indian blood quantum for membership, the Cherokee Nation has a blood lineality (not blood quantum) requirement for Cherokee citizenship today. When one considers the central role of matrilineality in the past in defining one’s Cherokeeness, as well as the ways people could be adopted within the clan system in Indigenous Cherokee society, the current Cherokee citizenship requirement (based on the Dawes Rolls) becomes even more problematic and perplexing.
“It is impossible to say to which human family we belong. The larger part of the Native population has disappeared, Europeans have mixed with Indians and the Negroes, and Negroes have mixed with the Indians. We were all born of one mother America, though our fathers had different origins, and we all have differently colored skins. This dissimilarity is of the greatest significance.”— Simon Bolivar at the Congress of Angostura in 1819.(via Black Indians by William Loren Katz)
“If you know I have a history, you will respect me,” a Black Indian student told a conference of New York teachers two decades ago. Her words still ring true. Those who assume that a people have no history worth mentioning are likely to believe they have no humanity worth defending. An historical legacy strengthens a country and its people. Denying a people’s heritage questions their legitimacy.”—William Loren Katz, Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage, pg.10. (via jalwhite)