The Cherokee Election: Ramifications for Progressive Politics (or Why Leeds is the Better Candidate)

Since 2005, I have been following the story of the Cherokee Freedmen.  The Freedmen are the descendants of Cherokee slaves, and there has been a move afoot to strip the Freedmen of their voting and citizenship rights.  They have been living, intermarrying, and actively participating in the nation for well over 100 years.  What first drew me to this story was the fascinating racial dynamics of the story; in particular I was interested in how whiteness and blackness were influencing the definition of who is/isn’t Cherokee.  However, since I started following the story more actively over the past several months, I discovered some of the other issues beyond the racial identity dynamics.  The other elephant in the room is the corrupt government of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), which is currently under the leadership of Chad Smith.  The ploy to remove the Cherokee Freedmen is just one of the many tactics that Smith and his predecessors have used to solidify their own power.

The upcoming June 23rd election pits Smith (Principal Chief) and Joe Grayson (Deputy Chief) against Stacy Leeds (Principal Chief) and Raymond Vann (Deputy Chief) .  Leeds was the first woman Justice on the Cherokee Supreme court, and she wrote the decision that initially prevented the Freedmen from being ousted from the CNO.   Leeds is also a law professor.

Chad Smith and his political allies have shown many signs that they do not like to play fair.  For example, recently the Tribal Council passed a last minute proposed Constitutional Amendment for the June 23rd ballot.  The problem–many absentee voters have already received their ballots, and the time to pursue necessary debate on the subject is minimal.  But this is just one more misdeed in a long list for Smith.  Smith and company are well connected Republicans, and Smith has even been connected to the likes of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.1  Then, of course, there is his decision to work to disenroll the Cherokee Freedmen.  With a relatively small percentage of the CNO voting, the Freedmen were disenrolled. However, thanks to court injunctions the Freedmen will still be able to vote in this election. Having followed this for a while what seems clear is that Smith and company are much more concerned about cronyism and keeping themselves in power.  They don’t demonstrate a respect for the rule of law and Constitutional politics, and they are bankrolled by big Republican money.

As we’ve discussed before, this decision threatens to undermine the tribal sovereignty of the CNO, and the tension between the CNO and the Congressional Black Caucus is rapidly building.  I’m confident that most people of the CNO are not corrupt, anti-black racists.  You don’t have to look far to find people like Stacy Leeds, John Cornsilk, David Cornsilk, my blog friend The Local Crank, the bloggers at Wampum and professor Steve Russell, who believe that the Cherokee Nation is a strong multiracial Nation.2 It was a very small minority of the Cherokee citizens who voted to disenroll the Freedmen (the turn out for the election was atrocious).

In contrast to her opponent, Stacy Leeds is the progressive candidate.  She is pro-choice; she not underwritten by the Republican party; and she supports the rule of (Constitutional) law.  She supports women rights and has been active in the effort to prevent violence against women.  Leeds doesn’t believe that race should be the basis for citizenship, and she has several other progressive elements to her platform, which you can read here

Chad Smith and his cronies have tried to find every way possible to subvert the rule of law, and they need to be stopped.  It looks like a Stacy Leeds administration will be able to do that. 

Other Cherokee Election Links

A Link to my Previous Cherokee Posts

Wampum is very closly following the election.

Leeds Campaign Site

On June 15th at 6PM The Cherokee Phoenix is hosting a Debate; the debate can be seen on the Cherokee Phoenix website www.cherokee.org

  1. I don’t know if Smith was directly involved in any of Abramoff’s misdeeds, but what is relevant is that these are the types of folks with whom Smith associates. []
  2. Earlier Temple 3 commented saying, “I believe the Cherokee nation has a right to self-determination – just as Africans do in the US and beyond. I suppose I need to hear more of the consequences, and there could be many. After all, I don’t suspect that those rolls were 100% correct…that would be impossible. So, what’s the appeal process? How does that work?”  I can’t comment on exactly how the appeal works–I do have some Cherokee legal folks who read this site, who may be able to explain the details.  The Cherokees do have a Constitution, and much of this is related to what appears to be Smith’s desire to change the Constitution to fit his political needs.  I personally believe that citizenship in a nation should not be based on race, and the closest analogy to this case I can think of would be if the US decided that our black citizens were no longer citizens. []
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64 Responses to The Cherokee Election: Ramifications for Progressive Politics (or Why Leeds is the Better Candidate)

  1. 1
    The Local Crank says:

    Of course, the really infuriating thing is that Chief Smith is right that as a sovereign nation, the Cherokee should not have to bow and scrape to the BIA for permission to amend their own tribal constitution. But in a larger context, this entire threat to tribal sovereignty (and not just for the Cherokee, for all tribes if the precedent is set that federal courts will intervene in tribal enrollment issues) is entirely of Smith’s own making. He has pushed the tribe to the very edge of catastrophe and we can only hope and pray that Judge Leeds arrives in time to haul it back. Ho wa!

  2. 2
    Sailorman says:

    In all fairness, if you’re going to accuse someone of (in essence) not following the rule of law, you need to show that they’re playing outside the law.

    Signing statements? Refusal to acknowledge courts? Outside the law.

    But if a proposed Constitutional amendment gets passed in an legally acceptable manner, it’s not a failure to follow the rule of law, any more than it is when a bunch of Democrats manage to block a vote they don’t like.

    Mind you, the folks seem a tad scummy. I have no reason to defend them, and all things being equal I hope they lose.

    But there’s something about this post that makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the accusations of “not playing fair” together with the things like the implied failure to follow rule of law, etc. You know: if your side goes to court it’s “rule of law” and if the other side uses the law to their advantage it’s what, Republicanism?

  3. 3
    pheeno says:

    Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say all the blame lies at his feet. It’s not as if the us government needs a real reason to threaten a sovereign nation. He’s just managed to give them a good reason. I don’t believe the US government is actually concerned about racism. But it’s an issue they can use to their advantage and look like the Good Guys in. They can sell it as a good reason to steal from us once again.

  4. 4
    Rachel S. says:

    Well the decision did go to court, and they have ruled against Smith and company.

    So then they went to get a Constitutional Amendment, and there is currently an injunction against that Amendment.

    Here’s what going on in a nutshell…in the 1980s the Freedmen as a voting block were opposed to a particular candidate (I believe it was R.O. Swimmer.) At that this Swimmer and his cronies decided that the best way to take care of their lack of support was to try to disenroll the Freedmen from the tribe. Since then, these folks have been trying get the Freedmen out by any means.

    Furthermore Smith is an admitted bigamist, which is also evidence of him going outside the law.

    He is a really shady guy. Imagine George Bush saying that African Americans shouldn’t be part of the US when he knows that African Americans as a voting block don’t support him. Then he goes for a Constitutional Amendment to change the 14th Amendment.

  5. 5
    Rachel S. says:

    pheeno said, “I don’t believe the US government is actually concerned about racism. But it’s an issue they can use to their advantage and look like the Good Guys in.”

    Yeah, I think you are right about that. I think Smith has the sense that the Bush administration is on his side, and they won’t try to challenge the sovereignty because of that.

  6. 6
    Sailorman says:

    Rachel,

    Self interest is not teh evil. If the Freedmen had showed up and voted, and used their (apparently decent) voting power to force change that was beneficial to them, would you still be complaining about abusing the rule of law? Something tells me no.

    I don’t mind that you support the Freedmen; as I said I’m no fan of the current administration. But I support the rule of law too, and in my view that means adhering to said rule even when the results of the process don’t go my way. I think you’re being hypocritical here.

    Amendment? Rule of law.
    Court appeal of the amendment? Rule of law.
    The ability of the people to pass amendments, and of the courts to review them, IS the rule of law.

    Oh yeah, as for this:

    Furthermore Smith is an admitted bigamist, which is also evidence of him going outside the law.

    Smith’s bigamy is about a relevant to his role in the tribe as Clinton’s infidelity was to his role as President. It makes him an asshole, sure. But “rule of law?” It has nothing to do with it. It’s just an ad hominem attack.

  7. 7
    Rachel S. says:

    Sailorman, being married to two people at the same time is against the law. We are not talking about cheating on you spouse here. Now I didn’t put that in the original post because it is more purient than political, but you did ask about the law.

  8. 8
    Sailorman says:

    I know bigamy is illegal. I just don’t know how it relates to the tribal voting process. Or to the “rule of law” discussion, at all.

    Any given Freedmen’s right to appeal the decision, or to vote, is unrelated to their status as a criminal, is it not? If Smith’s past bigamy somehow disqualifies him from claiming the rule of law, you better check those Freedmens’ histories too. (and you may want to rethink this position w/r/t to the rule of law and access to the courts, given what appears to be your stance on illegal immigrants’ rights)

  9. 9
    The Local Crank says:

    The petition drive for the March 3 constitutional amendment election that disenrolled the Freedmen was riddled with pretty blatant fraud, as outlined in Judge Leeds’ dissenting opinion. Non-Cherokee citizens signed, Cherokee citizens who are not registered voters signed, people who were opposed to the petition or never even contacted about it nevertheless found their names listed on the petition. To me, that sounds like pretty transparent contempt for the rule of law, even putting aside the moral issue of kicking people out of the tribe allegedly for lack of “Indian blood” when only a legal Catch-22 prevents them from proving their “Indian blood” in the first place.

  10. 10
    Sailorman says:

    TLC, Rachel didn’t mention the fraud in the post here, and I haven’t read the opinion myself.

    But i have no hesitation saying that if it was fraudulent, then I agree completely that it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

  11. 11
    Rachel S. says:

    I would have had to write a really long post inorder to detail all of the Smith fraud, but I think the ramming through a Constitutional Amendment for the June 23rd ballot would be a pretty good piece of evidence that there is something fishy.

    Let’s think about it….you get trible Council to put this on the ballot only a couple weeks before the election and many absentee ballots have already been sent out. Moreover, absentee ballots are a really big issue when a group has many “outlanders” who don’t live near a polling place. How can they vote on something that doesn’t even show up on their ballot?

    Seriously, they have about 2 weeks to debate a Constitutional Amendment. I think that example alone speaks to trying to subvert the rule of law.

  12. 12
    Sailorman says:

    Rachel,

    There is a big difference between subverting the rule of law, and using the rules of law to your advantage.

    I reacted to the OP because I thought you were conflating the two. In this case I have changed my conclusion w/r/t the amendment; new facts demonstrate that I was wrong. But this continues to make me concerned about your impression of the process:

    Seriously, they have about 2 weeks to debate a Constitutional Amendment. I think that example alone speaks to trying to subvert the rule of law.

    Say that there’s a 2 week pre-vote filing deadline for an amendment.

    Missing the deadline and fudging papers? VIOLATING the rule of law.

    Filing 1 minute before the deadline to give your opponents as little time as possible to counter you? USING the rule of law.

    And so on.

    Sometimes–often–the law is bad. Maybe the deadline should be 8 weeks. Maybe there should be a minimum period for debate. Maybe there should be a way to do things differently.

    But a bad law is still a law, and following it isn’t violative of the rule of law.

    BTW, if you’d prefer to take this to email or your blog (or mine) I will; I don’t want to have this discussion here if you would rather we not.

  13. 13
    Rachel S. says:

    I dont’ acutally know what the deadline is, but it would be completely illogical to have a deadline that is after the absentee ballots are sent out.

  14. 14
    MB Williams says:

    I take issue with the idea, spread by Smith, but taken up by others, that this is going to in any way impact the sovereignty of any tribe other than the CNO and maybe four other tribes. The question at hand is whether the CNO can unilaterally repeal the requirement in the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act of federal oversight of the election of Principal Chief. The Constititution of 1975 further upheld that requirement, “Any measure referred to the people by the referendum shall take effect and be in force when it shall have been approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon and provided that no measure which is required to be approved by the President of the United States or his authorized representative shall be effective Until approved.”

    There is nothing in there which asserts that this can be abrogated unilaterally, particularly by the domestic dependent party. I’m actually concerned about the potential fallout against sovereignty should the Court determine that the Cherokee can act unilaterally. What then stops the US from doing the same, the difference being the US has the physical power to uphold its decisions.

    Rachel is right that this dates back to Swimmer and election manipulation. I believe, after spending the last couple of weeks on CN lands, that plain-old racism is also in play, though Smith dresses it all up as “sovereignty”.

    (Note, for Amp readers who don’t know me, I’m Abenaki, not Cherokee. But my spouse and children are Dawes Roll descendants.)

  15. 15
    Rachel S. says:

    Apparently, there was some letter circulating in the community before the vote on the Amendment to oust the Freedmen. That played on some of the worst stereotypes of blacks. It said something about blacks bringing crime and you better watch your daughters. I got a similar trolling comment over at my site, saying something about how the Cherokees need to keep down the crime that blacks bring.

    It is sad to to such bigotry, especially from people who have themselves been on the receiving end of this kind of racist stereotyping.

    I think the politicians are fueling the bigotry by promoting divisiveness.

  16. 16
    SamChevre says:

    I have a question on the underlying issue.

    Why are there so many Cherokee who are exclusively descended from Dawes Roll ancestors? It seems like, if Dawes Roll descendants and non-Dawes Roll descendants are all Cherokee (and perceive each other so), that there would be enough intermarriage that almost everyone would be of mixed ancestry after a century. What am I missing?

  17. 17
    Rachel S. says:

    Yeah, most people are of mixed ancestry. That was even the case in the Dawes era–they list blood quantums, but if I remember correctly they didn’t do that for the Freedmen. Many of the Freedmen were indeed mixed race (as they are today), but the one drop rule was the guiding ideology, so if you had an African ancestry and appeared black to the eye of the census taker then you were put on the Freedmen roll. There is also an intermarried whites roll. I find it particularly interesting that they are not contesting this roll in the same way they are with the Freedmen.

  18. 18
    pheeno says:

    Well pretty far back, it was regulated even further. In white mixed marriages, the children of a Cherokee woman and white man were Cherokee. The children of a Cherokee man and a white woman were not. In case of divorce , the land and property went back to the Cherokee woman. This was an attempt to stop white men from marrying Cherokee women for land. Which happened alot. Which explains some of the suspicion Cherokee have for interracial marriages. Too many non Cherokee have been after land or “benefits”. It starts to feel as if our culture is just a tool that other races use to get something…that ends up taking something from us. If a white man used his ancestry of having 1 distant ancestor who was black as a way to get a college scholarship, people would pitch an ever loving fit. But both white people and black people do it to get benefits for being NA and suddenly, its a different story. People react differently. But its not different at all.

    As far as having bigots in our tribe, well shit. We’re just people not noble icons. Everyone has bigots, blacks, whites, NA included.

  19. 19
    The Local Crank says:

    “Why are there so many Cherokee who are exclusively descended from Dawes Roll ancestors?”

    Because that’s the only way to become a citizen of the Cherokee Nation; you must have a direct lineal ancestor on the Dawes Roll. Unlike nearly all other tribes, CN has no blood quanta requirement (though after March 3, your original enrollee must have some blood quanta listed for him or her on the Roll). Most of the 260,000 Cherokee are, in fact, mixed race. There are actually mixed-race African-American Cherokee who are not Freedmen descendants.
    Pheeno makes an excellent point about feelings toward mixed races among the Cherokee, which probably sounds ironic given how much of CN is mixed-race, but you have to understand it in a sort of neo-colonialist perspective of a group of people who had literally everything (land, culture, language, religion) stolen from them, often at bayonet-point. Not surpising then, that much of the anti-Freedmen propaganda has, in fact, focused on the claim that the Freedmen are somehow “infiltrating” CN in order to “steal” benefits. I’m not saying this perspective is right, just that it requires some knowledge of history to really understand where it comes from.

    “As far as having bigots in our tribe, well shit. We’re just people not noble icons. Everyone has bigots, blacks, whites, NA included.”

    Well said. And, of course, Oklahoma (especially Eastern Oklahoma) is very much a southern state, with all that goes along with that.

  20. 20
    Rachel S. says:

    The Local Crank said, “focused on the claim that the Freedmen are somehow “infiltrating” CN in order to “steal” benefits.”

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that on the Indianz.com message board. What is really ironic is that many African Americans (and Africans for that matter) have same kind of beliefs about infiltration. My husband is Nigerian, and some of his fellow Nigerians have developed some really strong anti-Asian sentiment now that many Asians and Asian companies are setting up shop in Nigeria. They think it’s the British all over again. I’ve noticed that many Nigerians even in the US, carrying the Asian infiltrator stereotype with them, and this is egged on by anti-immigrant sentiments here in the US.

    For African Americans COINTELPRO and other surveliance programs have lead to similar believes. Some of this clearly dates back to slavery. People have a historical reason to be fearful.

    I admit that I really wish people of color could use their own experiences with racism as a way to understand how racism affects other people of color, but all too often that doesn’t happen. The umbrella over all of this is white racism and the European colonialism that helped create it. It’s divide and conquer. I know its unfair to expect people of color to “know better,” but I still hold out hope that we can see more multiracial alliances. Plus, that gives white a pass on their racism.

    Oklahoma is a pretty conservative state.

  21. 21
    pheeno says:

    I admit that I really wish people of color could use their own experiences with racism as a way to understand how racism affects other people of color, but all too often that doesn’t happen.

    I think many of them view it as smething other than racism. They view being Native American as being on the bottom rung..if we’re even lucky enough to get on the ladder. Its akin to reverse racism claims. I know that personally, Ive had racist remarks directed at me by other people of color and NA stereotypes arent limited to white people’s prejudices. That however, doesn’t make the news. But it doesnt surprise me. We tend to be forgotten and left out when racism comes up any other time.

  22. 22
    Rachel S. says:

    pheeno said, “I think many of them view it as smething other than racism. They view being Native American as being on the bottom rung..if we’re even lucky enough to get on the ladder. Its akin to reverse racism claims. I know that personally, Ive had racist remarks directed at me by other people of color and NA stereotypes arent limited to white people’s prejudices. That however, doesn’t make the news. But it doesnt surprise me. We tend to be forgotten and left out when racism comes up any other time.”

    Y’all really do get left out. In sociology it can be fairly difficult to find statistics or research on Native people. In fact, I would say Native Americans would be the hardest to find data for, followed by Asians, Latinos, Blacks, and Whites. And if you want to count Middle Eastern folks as a race, which the Census does not, then it is really hard to find info. on them as well.

    I think you will find many African Americans, who feel on the bottom rung as well. On the black related listserves I’m on you see some recurring themes in the discussion of the Cherokee Freedmen issue: 1) “this is just more evidence of how everybody dislikes blacks” 2) “this is evidence of blacks being at the bottom” 3) Shock and bewilderment.

    I get the sense from my black peers that in terms of closeness or affinty they don’t see Black and NDNs at odds. But it could also be part of the whole “there aren’t anymore NDN’s” mentality that many people have. I’m going to have to look this up because there is data sowing how close people feel to other races. (Although I don’t think they have data on NDNs.

    I hear people of color say racist things about other people of color quite often, so I guess I should know better.

  23. 23
    Paul says:

    I take issue with the idea, spread by Smith, but taken up by others, that this is going to in any way impact the sovereignty of any tribe other than the CNO and maybe four other tribes. The question at hand is whether the CNO can unilaterally repeal the requirement in the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act of federal oversight of the election of Principal Chief. The Constititution of 1975 further upheld that requirement, “Any measure referred to the people by the referendum shall take effect and be in force when it shall have been approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon and provided that no measure which is required to be approved by the President of the United States or his authorized representative shall be effective Until approved.”

    There is nothing in there which asserts that this can be abrogated unilaterally, particularly by the domestic dependent party. I’m actually concerned about the potential fallout against sovereignty should the Court determine that the Cherokee can act unilaterally. What then stops the US from doing the same, the difference being the US has the physical power to uphold its decisions.

    I think a strong argument can be made that even if the federal courts have jurisdiction to decide the issue of whether the CN can unilaterally abrogate this provision of the 1975 Constitution, only the President or his “authorized representative” have standing to bring a lawsuit over this issue, and that since they aren’t the ones seeking relief, the court should decline to consider this issue.

    Even if you get past the unilateral abrogation issue, you still have the question about whether the federal courts have jurisdiction over a tribe’s citizenship requirements. Once you concede that they have jurisdiction over the CN’s citizenship requirements, you create a precedent that opens the door for the federal courts to get involved in future disputes regarding other tribes’ citizenship requirements.

    That doesn’t mean that the Freedmen are without any remedies, but it looks like their best bet may be to seek redress from the legistative and executive branches rather than the judicial branch.

  24. 24
    pheeno says:

    This is just my own personal observations, but people who feel “close” to Native Americans are generally thinking of the historical NA and not the guy on the rez in present day. They like the “mystical” or close to nature aspects of the culture, but have no idea about anything else.

    As far as the reactions go 2 and 3 especially seem to indicate a lack of knowledge about native americans. More evidence of blacks being at the bottom. Um..who’s still living in concentration camps, has zero representation in well, just about everything and doesnt even get mentioned in race discussion? Unless it’s about the distant past of course and small pox blankets. And its not a competition, but honestly. At least people are aware of racism against blacks. When you think racism, you think blacks and whites, slavery and the civil rights movement. With Native Americans, someone will mention the trail of tears, like racism for us ended way back then or something.

    And expressing shock or bewilderment? It cant be that shocking to figure out why we dont want to cease to exist and preserve our culture. Its all we’ve got thats *ours* for gods sake. I think this is the worst way to go about it and about as bassackwards and wrong as it can get, but desparation tends to bring the cockroaches out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, people with nothing will latch on and listen. And then they cycle starts again.

    I mourn for my people and Im worried for them. I just dont know what to think anymore. And on a personal level, this whole damn thing has turned family get togethers into tension filled events I dread.

  25. 25
    The Local Crank says:

    ‘This is just my own personal observations, but people who feel “close” to Native Americans are generally thinking of the historical NA and not the guy on the rez in present day. They like the “mystical” or close to nature aspects of the culture, but have no idea about anything else.’

    Yeah, no kidding. Lord love the white liberals, but sometimes at political meetings I feel like I need a tee-shirt that says “Yes, I’m an Indian. No, I won’t help you interpret your dreams, find your spirit animal guide, or direct you to the nearest sweat lodge.”

    “And its not a competition, but honestly.”

    Oh, yes, please God, let’s not get into a “I’m more persecuted than you” contest. That way lies madness. Vine Deloria, Jr. wrote in “Custer Died for Your Sins” that white people considered blacks as beasts of burden to be exploited, but considered Indians as wild animals to be hunted down. He also wrote there was no natural alliance between Indians and blacks during the Civil Rights Era because (paraphrasing here a little), blacks wanted to be treated like whites and Indians want to be treated like Indians. Not sure I agree with that, but it does illustrate the tension between a desire to be accepted (if not assimilated) into the dominant culture versus a desire to preserve a marginalized culture against a government policy of extermination. Deloria also analogized the milennia old struggle of Jewish people against assimilation to the struggle for Indian cultural survival, which I think makes a lot of sense.

  26. 26
    pheeno says:

    Yeah, no kidding. Lord love the white liberals, but sometimes at political meetings I feel like I need a tee-shirt that says “Yes, I’m an Indian. No, I won’t help you interpret your dreams, find your spirit animal guide, or direct you to the nearest sweat lodge.”

    That made me laugh so hard I scared my dogs and they ran outside to bark hysterically.

    (a corgi and a weinie dog. Their solution to anything is Run Outside and Bark At It)

  27. 27
    The Local Crank says:

    “(a corgi and a weinie dog. Their solution to anything is Run Outside and Bark At It)”

    So your dogs are liberals?

    Sorry, SORRY! I couldn’t resist that one…

  28. 28
    pheeno says:

    HA!

    On the topic of Tshirts, I want the one that says

    Im part white but I cant prove it.

  29. 29
    The Local Crank says:

    “Im part white but I cant prove it.”

    Okay, we’re getting a little off-field here, but have you seen the “List of things to say to a white man when you first meet?” Things like, “you know, my great great grandmother was an Anglo-Saxon princess,” “How white are you?” “Do you still wear those horned helmets?” “I learned all about your culture in White Man Guides when I was a kid” and “Do you still live in castles?”

  30. 30
    Rachel S. says:

    I’ll take the “My Dog is a Liberal T-Shirt”

  31. 31
    Rachel S. says:

    Do you still live in Castle’s? LOL!! Y’all are too funny.

  32. 32
    pheeno says:

    *mad giggling commenced*

    *dogs now barking themselves hoarse*

  33. 33
    pheeno says:

    Ok, now Im flashing back to the Brady Bunch.

    Youve given me a Brady Bunch Moment, I hope you’re happy.

    That list should have been included in the episode where they went to the grand canyon and Bobby met the Native American boy and said ” How” and the kid gace him that WTF look.

  34. 34
    Rachel S. says:

    I don’t necessarily think that the Black Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was about assimilation. Well let me rephrase that. There are different schools of thought–pan-Africanists, Black Nationalists, Accomodationists, etc. That is where I would disagree with that quote.

    I think that some African Americans (can’t put a percent, but it is not really high) are bewildered because they feel that NDNs and Blacks have a common history of not being voluntary migrants. There is a sense of shared experience that people in the shock and bewilderment group have.

    The tension for Blacks is often to the idea of being robbed of one’s ancestors through the process of slavery.

    I think for Jews and NDN’s the connection is probably related to genocide. I need to look at that book.

  35. 35
    MB Williams says:

    Patrick and Pheeno, I hear everything you’re saying, and agree 100%. I’m just coming down from a huge twack of reality, and I’m wondering, how the hell do we protect the rights of actual Indians when their leaders are a corrupt as all get go? (Note, I’m not at all saying all Indian leaders are corrupt – just a few, like dear old Chad “Team Abramoff” Smith.) How do we police ourselves, when we fear that any admission of potential flaws will be viewed by dominant culture as a flaw in all of us? I want to slap around politicos and say, Jeebus, yes, Chad’s a complete kleptocrat, but it doesn’t make us all incompetent to run our affairs. We’re stuck between admitting there are problems, and thinking we’ll just cover them up to the whites and fix them ourselves … which, we just can’t seem to do.

    Of course, if we could actually prove the rampant rumors (including from his own family) that Chad’s not even a blood Cherokee….

    Granted, it could be the same everywhere. I’m currently typing from the Cochiti Pueblo, having arrived a few hours ago, so tomorrow I’ll find out just how corrupt their chief is. (Some good news on the corrupt chief front – it looks as if Mississippi Choctaw Chief and Abramoff buddy Martin may be going down at the ballot box. Cross your fingers and toes that this bodes well for all of us…)

  36. 36
    pheeno says:

    Yes…but we arent migrants, which is also where the tie in with the Jewish people is also present. Both were being persecuted on their own land and both had everything stolen from them and were shipped to concentration camps.

    I wonder how many malls or parking lots are built over mass graves in this country.

  37. 37
    pheeno says:

    and I’m wondering, how the hell do we protect the rights of actual Indians when their leaders are a corrupt as all get go?

    Thats the million dollar question isnt it?

    How the hell do we protect the rights of anyone when the leaders are corrupt?

  38. 38
    Rachel S. says:

    pheeno said, “we arent migrants”

    Trail of Tears is force/involuntary migration.

    You are thinking international migration. I’m thinking people forced from their ancestral lands against their own will.

  39. 39
    pheeno says:

    Ah…I tend to view it more along the lines of the holocaust.

    We’ve just never been let out.

  40. 40
    The Local Crank says:

    “How the hell do we protect the rights of anyone when the leaders are corrupt?”

    Okay, I have got to get some sleep (assuming pheeno’s damn dogs don’t keep me up all night) but I think this gets back to my previous suggestion that Indian politics need a post-colonial analysis. How many countries in Africa and Asia that were liberated from European occupiers in the ’60′s are now economic basket cases being systematically looted from within by kleptocrat dictators? Robert Mugabe being just the most obvious example. And look at post colonial countries that have abundant natural resources (like Nigeria) and the rampant corruption it engenders? Same thing (on a smaller scale) with some tribes and casino money. The answer for tribes is the same as for other post-colonial states: change will HAVE to come from within. The people, the tribal members, are the ones who will have to get pissed off enough to demand change. Out of 260,000 Cherokee, probably less than 10,000 will vote. An acquaintance of mine, a well educated Cherokee who is very active in Texas Democratic politics and has been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, didn’t even realize she COULD vote! Most tribes in what is now the US were consensus democracies; chiefs led only as long as they commanded the respect of the people (and the elders). But for that kind of system to work, the body of the tribal population must be intimately and enthusiastically involved in politics. A good reform for CN to help that happen, I think, would be to switch to automatic life-time voter registration and all mail ballots (like in Oregon); but however it is done, unless the rank-and-file get angry and get involved, nothing is going to change. Not trying to sound pessimistic, but that’s how I see it.

  41. 41
    Rachel S. says:

    pheeno, You’re up too late. LOL!!

    It’s near 1AM.

    I see what you mean, but I honestly do think many African Americans feel a different sort of connection with NDN’s than they do with Asians and Latinos. Plus, this whole discussion results from the historical connection between the Cherokees their enslaved African American citizens. Plus, in groups like the Seminoles Black NDN cooperation was well established. I’m not trying to romanticize the relationship. It is complicated, but there is a long history. Plus, the Europeans tried to enslave Native people too, but they were unsuccessful. So there is another connection.

  42. 42
    Rachel S. says:

    Nigeria is a good comparison. It is the 5th most corrupt country in the world according a recent study I saw; Chad Smith would fit right in. You know India has problems, but I think it is one of the better examples (in terms of government) of a people coming trying to overcome a colonial history.

  43. 43
    pheeno says:

    pheeno, You’re up too late. LOL!!

    It’s near 1AM.

    nah, its only midnight here

    , but I honestly do think many African Americans feel a different sort of connection with NDN’s than they do with Asians and Latinos.

    Im sure they do….but…have they ever asked how many NA feel? Im guessing if they’re shocked, the answer is no. I mean, I dont feel any particular connection with African Americans beyond a general we’re both people of color in a white country and deal with racism. But I feel that type of generalized connection with anyone who lives with racism or persecution. Many NA that I know feel the same way. Its a very general connection, not personal. I guess I could have a deeper connection or bond if I really felt we werent just as forgotten about by just about as many African Americans as white people. When it does get brought up, its well the Cherokee owned black slaves too. Yeah…they also had Indian slaves. So did other tribes. But those Idian slaves never get mentioned, nor does the nature of that slavery pre assimilation of white culture ever get discussed.

  44. 44
    MB Williams says:

    Kennedy tossed the injunction. I predict Watson will file her bill within the week. Question is, whether they can get the non-CBC cosponsors.

  45. 45
    Robert says:

    I think this gets back to my previous suggestion that Indian politics need a post-colonial analysis. How many countries in Africa and Asia that were liberated from European occupiers in the ’60’s are now economic basket cases being systematically looted from within by kleptocrat dictators?

    Eh. Most of the African countries were corrupt basket cases long before the colonial period, during it, and after it as well. It’s been a long time since the glory days of African civilizations. The “colonialist” lefty analysis of their problems is starkly unconvincing.

    Over on this side of the pond, though, there were at least three big civilizations (Aztec, Inca, Mississippi – and probably others) which were perfectly capable of competing for resources with the technologically more advanced cultures of Europe and Asia. It’s just that they had extremely bad luck in terms of the pathogenic balance between them and Europe; in the disease exchange inevitable whenever two isolated populations meet, they drew about the worst possible hand. (AFAIK, there’s absolutely no reason it couldn’t have gone the other way, and 80% of Europe got wiped out while the indigenous Americans picked up a couple of new, nasty, venereal diseases but were otherwise fine.)

    That’s what permitted Europeans to colonize the continent so thoroughly and effectively, and what permitted a real colonialism to take root and flourish. And while that colonialism did have deep impact, I think that the root cause of the indigenous Americans’ continued developmental dysfunction comes from the cultural break that occurred when everyone died. It’s hard to have a cohesive or functional political unit when the cultural history you can reference only goes back a couple hundred years, and by definition excludes the time period in which your people were doing impressive and successful things.

    It’s fascinating to read about the earliest Western attempts to make sense of the pre-Columbian archaeological record. One of the most telling components of that discovery process is the fact that for decades (centuries, really) everyone was convinced that the tells and mounds and such must be the remnants of some pre-Indian civilization – even the Indians of the time living on the same patch of land (who were later discovered to be the direct lineal descendants of the civilizations in question) thought those constructs were the result of mysterious non-Indian folk. Western science knows better now, and so do the indigenous folks – but that’s not the same thing as having an unbroken continuity of cultural record that permits strong personal identification.

    Imperialism played its part, but its the cultural break that really screwed over the natives. And, IMHO, even the things about imperialism that did the most damage were cultural, like the Spanish destruction of Aztec and Inca records and documents because they feared, rightly, that if the Indians had access to that cultural past, it would make it far more difficult to colonize them.

  46. 46
    The Local Crank says:

    “Eh. Most of the African countries were corrupt basket cases long before the colonial period, during it, and after it as well”

    Your source for this? Most current African countries (especially in sub-Saharan Africa) didn’t even exist before the colonial era and were draw on a map solely for the benefit of the conquering powers.

    “Imperialism played its part, but its the cultural break that really screwed over the natives. ”

    I don’t necessarily disagree with this; after all, the loss of 90-95% of your population would have a catastrophic effect on anyone’s culture. But, you have to keep in mind that this was all happening simultaneously. Spanish mercenary armies were accompanied by (or preceded by) waves of smallpox. And even with that, the Triple Alliance and Tawantin Suyu were only defeated militarily due to internal politics cleverly exploited by the conquistadores. So, without smallpox, many tribes might have resisted conquest; but even with smallpox, some might still have won but for civil wars that the invaders turned to their advantage. This divide and conquer strategy was used successfully later against the Cherokee, the Lakota and many others.

  47. 47
    crys t says:

    “its the cultural break that really screwed over the natives”

    The “natives”??!?

    Good god.

  48. 48
    Sewere says:

    Robert said,

    Most of the African countries were corrupt basket cases long before the colonial period, during it, and after it as well. It’s been a long time since the glory days of African civilizations.

    Are you talking about empires or nation states? Because one is not the same as the other, and even though I know that African empires were not the Utopian paradises that some might want to believe, they sure as hell did not operate in the same colonizing way as European empires… you know the slavery, resource stealing, genocidal type of colonizing (TM).

    Local Crank said,

    Your source for this?

    I’m waiting with baited breath for the magic show too.

  49. 49
    Robert says:

    Are you talking about empires or nation states? Because one is not the same as the other, and even though I know that African empires were not the Utopian paradises that some might want to believe, they sure as hell did not operate in the same colonizing way as European empires… you know the slavery, resource stealing, genocidal type of colonizing (TM).

    My understanding is that most of Africa wasn’t organized by empire or nation in the time period I’m thinking of (call it 1200-1500), but tribal collections and kingdoms. I don’t have a specific source for that (or my previous contention); “history class” probably isn’t specific enough. ;) If I’m wrong, I’d be delighted to see contradictory material. African history is probably my weakest field.

    As far as the African empires go, no, they didn’t colonize (other than maybe South America, but any evidence of that is probably long gone), but I’m not aware of any credible scholarship that puts them morally better (or morally worse) than any other big human polity in terms of slavery, resource stealing, war, etc.

    If you mean they didn’t go out and oppress people of different color than them, that’s true – but they mostly didn’t have the opportunity, either.

  50. 50
    The Local Crank says:

    “If I’m wrong, I’d be delighted to see contradictory material.”

    Having made the claim, it’s your burden to support it with evidence. Then and only then does the burden shift to us to provide contravening evidence (if any).

    “If you mean they didn’t go out and oppress people of different color than them, that’s true – but they mostly didn’t have the opportunity, either.”

    Hwah? The Comanche didn’t invade Belgium, either. Does that prove they were just as colonialist as 19th Century America? Are you seriously saying that your only evidence that pre-colonial African states were at least or almost as bad as the post-colonial states is that they MIGHT have oppressed different people IF they had the opportunity?

  51. 51
    The Local Crank says:

    ‘The “natives”??!?’

    We’ve been called worse…

  52. 52
    Robert says:

    Are you seriously saying that your only evidence that pre-colonial African states were at least or almost as bad as the post-colonial states is that they MIGHT have oppressed different people IF they had the opportunity?

    No. I’m saying that the evidence shows that pre-colonial African states and governments were pretty run of the mill as far as such entities go. They had wars. They enslaved one another. They stole land and broke treaties and all the other things that every other human state in history has done. People suck. Africans aren’t special.

    Perhaps there is some hypothetical moral case that these particular human beings would have foregone one particular flavor of wickedness if they had the chance to indulge it; I wouldn’t care to be the advocate for that case. It doesn’t seem to matter very much, being a hypothetical set in the past.

    As far as “natives” goes, I think I hit pretty much every conversational term for the inhabitants of the North and South American continents pre-1500 AD. I could spell that out each every time, but it would get tiring to read. Alternatively, there are shorthands; “native” seems to be one of them that I hear and read native people themselves using and which is both descriptive and non-derogatory, so I use it. If it should not be used for reasons of sensitivity, then I apologize and will not so use it again, and I invite you to delimit your view of the appropriate terminology.

  53. 53
    The Local Crank says:

    “No. I’m saying that the evidence shows that pre-colonial African states and governments were pretty run of the mill as far as such entities go. They had wars. They enslaved one another. They stole land and broke treaties and all the other things that every other human state in history has done. People suck. Africans aren’t special.”

    What evidence? I haven’t seen any yet. And while I agree that people do, in fact, suck, this argument comes perilously close to the old “The Indians were killing each other long before WE got here” trope, as though the mere fact that North America was not a utopia prior to October 12, 1492, somehow justifies the European Invasion.

  54. 54
    The Local Crank says:

    As for the appropriate nomenclature, I usually refer to myself as an “Indian” unless the context indicates a possible confusion with people of Sub-Continental origin, in which case I use “Native American.” I’ve noticed the Canadian press uses either “First Nations People” (which sounds kind of clunky) or “aborigine” (which strikes me as positively quaint). I personally have no problem with either term, nor does “native” bother me (which was the point I was trying to make with Post 51). I suspect Crys T was more annoyed by the fact that “native” is sometimes used in a derogatory context, i.e., “the natives are restless,” etc. As they say, you can call me anything, just don’t call me late for supper.

  55. 55
    Paul says:

    Assuming its definition in Wikipedia is correct, “aborigine” may be the most accurate term, but since most people (at least in the USA) associate it with Australia, I would pick “indigenous” as the most neutral term to describe the original inhabitants of a particular region.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aborigine

  56. 56
    Sewere says:

    Robert said,

    If you mean they didn’t go out and oppress people of different color than them, that’s true – but they mostly didn’t have the opportunity, either.

    Dude, for real? The Yoruba traded with Igbos, Hausas, Fulanis, Ashantis, Zulus, Arabs and god knows how many other peoples. We’ve plied trade routes as far as Morocco, Egypt and Swaziland. We had diplomatic and military ties with Sheba on the other side of continent (we have walls that were built according to Sheba’s specifications at the time of Queen Makeda). We also come in varied hues, hair textures and eye colors. And we weren’t the only ones, Queen (and General) Amina of Zaria (Norther Nigeria) built a massive kingdom and had emissaries as far as Medina. Yes we warred with some of these peoples and took slaves (as did they with us), but we didn’t consume whole peoples and their resources, we did not racialize whole peoples to subjugate them. And as history shows, it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.

    They had wars. They enslaved one another. They stole land and broke treaties and all the other things that every other human state in history has done. People suck. Africans aren’t special.

    Agreed on all points except, the way all of the above were carried out. African peoples warred and enslaved one another, but you have to be honest, they didn’t make it the enterprise that European nations made it. As I said above, the Yorubas took slaves but we integrated them into our communities. As Pheeno and Local Crank have said, the Cherokee took African as well as Indian slaves but they integrated them into the society.

    This is not to say that Europeans were any more evil than the Yorubas, the Zulus or the Cherokee but to imply that it was an inevitable conclusion based on available opportunities, is either willfully ignorant of or purposely willing to revise historical facts. Either way it’s the type of historical inaccuracy that makes dealing with racism and the after-effects of colonialism difficult.

  57. 57
    Charles says:

    Robert:

    Most of the African countries were corrupt basket cases long before the colonial period, during it, and after it as well.

    Robert:

    No. I’m saying that the evidence shows that pre-colonial African states and governments were pretty run of the mill as far as such entities go. They had wars. They enslaved one another. They stole land and broke treaties and all the other things that every other human state in history has done. People suck. Africans aren’t special.

    Robert, full of shit as usual. The second statement isn’t what he was saying in the first statement at all. It doesn’t even have anything to do with what he was saying. However, Robert’s explanation that modern Cherokee government corruption has more to do with the extreme population collapse in the 16th and 17th century than it does with the trail of tears and nearly 200 years of brutal oppression and intentional cultural genocide, while dubious in itself, is so obvious irrelevant to African post-colonial problems of government corruption (was it really the massive waves of disease in the Americas that caused the cultural break that led to African post-colonial government corruption? How!?!) that Robert simply has to pretend that he didn’t discard the effects of colonialism on African nations at the same time he discarded the effects of colonialism on Native American nations, and instead claim that he merely meant to argue for some form of non-exceptionalism of African governments.

    Also, oddly, it is Robert claiming that modern African governments are a mess not because of 100+ years of brutal colonial rule but because African governments have been corrupt basket cases for hundreds of years. But they aren’t special in having always had corrupt basket case governments (except in some distant unspecified golden age).

    But all that is just an aside, the really fascinating thing is the way that Robert drops into this active discussion concerning Cherokee politics and turns it into a discussion about Robert’s views on political systems in pre-colonial Africa, something Robert admits to knowing pretty much nothing about, but which he somehow felt was what this thread (in which he was not a participant) ought to be about. No need to talk about Cherokee politics and history, this should be a thread in which Robert makes incoherent and inaccurate statements that allow him to imagine that he is more rational and smarter than the people he is talking to.

    What the Fuck? Seriously.

  58. 58
    Robert says:

    …but we didn’t consume whole peoples and their resources, we did not racialize whole peoples to subjugate them. And as history shows, it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.

    I believe it was. They didn’t have the technological advantage that makes it possible to racialize and subjugate a whole people or a continent, and didn’t hit the viral jackpot that wiped out 90% of the holders of resources that they wanted.

    Thought experiment: it is 1200 AD and you are in charge of some locally dominant African culture. A time-traveller arrives in your city and after the usual amusing mixups about sexual mores and manners, gifts your people with the following technologies:

    * the navigational and shipbuilding knowledge to move large quantities of forces to any point on the globe
    * weapons that make those forces more-or-less tactically invulnerable to the armies of anywhere your newfound fleets will take you
    * an animal of staggering military and economic usefulness, with gene stocks and husbandry techniques that permit your people to replicate these animals at will
    * sanitary and agricultural developments that produce serious population pressure

    Is it your contention that your people, with its human admixture of bastards and saints, seeing firsthand their own people fighting for scarce land, will turn up in the New World and say “hey, let’s peacefully trade tobacco for mangos”, and get on with their ordinary lives?

    Or do you think that they might be a little tempted to take advantage of the enormous power disparity that exists between themselves and these newfound people?

    This is not to say that Europeans were any more evil than the Yorubas, the Zulus or the Cherokee but to imply that it was an inevitable conclusion based on available opportunities, is either willfully ignorant of or purposely willing to revise historical facts. Either way it’s the type of historical inaccuracy that makes dealing with racism and the after-effects of colonialism difficult.

    If the Europeans were not more evil than anyone else, then what factors other than available opportunities were operative? The technology created the opportunities, and the geography made it practical to exploit the opportunities (China had similar technologies earlier, but had nowhere to employ them in a colonial fashion) – that’s pretty much all.

    No doubt there were cultural factors which shaped the form that colonialism took – an African assault on the New World might have looked somewhat different than a Chinese assault, which would be somewhat different than a European assault. Maybe Chinese people would have imposed slavery based on culture rather than skin color; maybe Africans would have conquered based on naked military force more than pitting one tribe against another; who knows? They still would have been enslaving and conquering.

    I agree that dealing with a post-colonial world makes it important to know the facts. I believe I do know them (and stand ready to read any argument against my conclusions) – and it was an unusually large opportunity that led to the unusually large colonial experience of the New World, the Atlantic slave trade, and ultimately the colonial conquest of Africa. Smaller opportunities in history have led to similar exploitations, and have done so for pretty much every ethnic group; I think that those who would argue “my culture wouldn’t have done that” are mistaking lack of opportunity for lack of wickedness.

  59. 59
    Rachel S. says:

    Ok, now we have some big time thread drift….while post colonial African history is an interesting topic, it’s a side track from the original thread.

    I tend to agree with Charles. This is a classic example of Robert trying to buty into the conversation and redirect the thread. Let’s focus back on the Cherokees.

  60. 60
    The Local Crank says:

    The greatest slave-empire on Earth, the Romans, knew nothing of race-based slavery. Their world was divided into two groups–Romans and barbarians. Skin color was irrelevent. Black Africans served in the Roman Senate and at least one Emperor, Macrinus, was black. Race-based slavery is a cultural invention of white Europeans, an invention that, unfortunately, infected the Cherokee in the early 19th Century (didja like how I segued back to the original topic there?), an infection that continues to poison tribal politics to this day. To reiterate my point, I think corruption in tribal governments comes from (in addition to man’s innate sinful nature), a breakdown of traditional culture (particularly the consensus democratic nature of most historical tribal governments), plus a kind of cultural post traumatic stress disorder after 200+ years of an official US government policy of physical and cultural genocide, added together with a sudden surge in wealth from gaming revenue. And, again, I think the only solution is for the tribes themselves to demand, enforce and defend reform, as well as a return to the traditional values that kept them at peace in times past.

  61. 61
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Race-based slavery is a cultural invention of white Europeans, an invention that, unfortunately, infected the Cherokee in the early 19th Century (didja like how I segued back to the original topic there?), an infection that continues to poison tribal politics to this day.

    Local Crank, thank you for that. Having read through the majority of the thread, I was frankly amazed that no one really addressed the history of Cherokee slave holding until Pheeno touched on it.

    When it does get brought up, its well the Cherokee owned black slaves too. Yeah…they also had Indian slaves. So did other tribes. But those Idian slaves never get mentioned, nor does the nature of that slavery pre assimilation of white culture ever get discussed.

    The trouble with this is that the practice of taking African slaves wasn’t a natural outgrowth of indigenous custom. It was, as Local Crank indicates, a practice copied from and modeled upon that of the European settlers. This fact had some fairly profound consequencies even after the forced deportations of the Trail of Tears. The split in the Cherokee nation during the Civil War , when Stan Watie, slave holder and planter, took a commission as Brig. Gen. in the Confederate States Army and led Cherokees into battle in defense of the southern slave power being a primary example.

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  63. 62
    Rachel S. says:

    I think the reason we didn’t bring up the slavery issue is because this is an extension of an earlier discussion we had in this thread.

    It is certainly relevant, but pheeno, me, Paul, the Local Crank, and some other folks discussed it earlier.

    I just read back through that thread; that was one of the best discussions I’ve ever had on Alas.

  64. 63
    Sewere says:

    Rachel said,

    while post colonial African history is an interesting topic, it’s a side track from the original thread.

    Apologies for that, I thought it was important to add my voice to the folks calling Robert on his bullshit. I should know better, but the place was starting to stink so bad all I could do was go for my handy shovel :)

    Charles said,

    Robert, full of shit as usual…..drops into this active discussion concerning Cherokee politics and turns it into a discussion about Robert’s views on political systems in pre-colonial Africa

    You and me are here

    Local Crank said,

    Race-based slavery is a cultural invention of white Europeans, an invention that, unfortunately, infected the Cherokee in the early 19th Century (didja like how I segued back to the original topic there?), an infection that continues to poison tribal politics to this day. To reiterate my point, I think corruption in tribal governments comes from (in addition to man’s innate sinful nature), a breakdown of traditional culture (particularly the consensus democratic nature of most historical tribal governments), plus a kind of cultural post traumatic stress disorder after 200+ years of an official US government policy of physical and cultural genocide, added together with a sudden surge in wealth from gaming revenue.

    YES! European and later U.S. colonialism created a social structure based on racism and appropriation of resources from peoples of color around the world. That system is still being maintained today by former colonials as well as leaders of colonies. As someone said earlier, it doesn’t matter whether the leaders are corrupt as long as they do so without messing with the “interests” of the larger system i.e. the US government. The U.S. government has in actively worked to bring about the demise of Native Americans (more so in the past) and passively worked to ignore rights and treaties, and in this particular case will probably care less unless there were some resource to be gained by the U.S. (and lost by NA community). Just the cynic and realist in me speaking.