Saturday, December 3, 2011

"White Indians?"


The term to many people could very well be offensive but I suggest it may be part of the reason we see so much resistance from today’s citizens of the Five Slave Holding Tribes to the inclusion of the descendants of freedmen based on the Treaty of 1866.

Indian Chieftain Dec.2, 1897 p2c3
In an article found in “The Indian Chieftain” a newspaper, published ostensibly as the mouthpiece for the Cherokee Nation is where I discovered an interesting article taken from a Washington D.C. paper called the Globe Democrat. There was no title for the article that would indicate the topic, so if you weren’t paying attention you more than likely would have missed it.

It is amazing, almost one hundred and fifteen years ago the issues of race (blood) and benefits (advantages) were the issue of the day; just as we see today with the Cherokee Freedmen seeking to enforce the Treaty of 1866 and their citizenship in the nation.

This article discussing the “blue eyed, fair-haired little Indians receiving living, clothing and education at the cost of the government” again appears to be a repeating of history.

Was it not a few months ago the Cherokee Nation had millions of dollars frozen by the United States Congress because the leaders would not admit the descendants of former slaves as citizens according to the Treaty of 1866?

This article sheds some much needed light on a situation that seems to be a problem that all of the Five Slave Holding Tribes have, “thin blood” Indians reaping  the rewards as “Indians” based on their ancestry.

Today we see the effects of “squaw men” on the Five Slave Holding Tribes and I reminded again of the Storyteller Conference I attended over a year ago. During the conference I was struck by how many speakers would preface their remarks by saying something about their “white” ancestor as if to deflect possible comments on their legitimacy as an Indian. 

I still have not figured out why they found it necessary to go there other than some deep seated insecurity on what is an Indian?

When you put the article in perspective of what we see in the Five Slave Holding Tribes today it could open some uncomfortable wounds.

While there is a concerted effort to prevent “freedmen descendants” from being considered as citizens of the nations, the question of “blood quantum” or having an ancestor on the “Dawes Roll” is used as the determinant factor.

Yet as anyone who takes the time to research will find, the issue of a baseline blood quantum could cause a removal process that would make the various nations lose a large portion of their population.

Heaven forbid the tribes begin to establish citizenship by way of DNA testing!  I can hear Bob Marley singing now; “exodus…movement of the people!”

This article demonstrates, once again, how race is a political construct and can be used in various ways to include and especially to exclude people when it comes to gaining benefits and advantages based on that “race.”

Unfortunately in the case of the former slaves and even those former slaves that were the children of Indian men, no amount of Indian blood was or is sufficient to be considered Native American.

Could it be the author of this article had some insight into the future when it came to describing the “fancied superiority of race” and the “privileges” it would have provided those with “white blood” in their veins?

Is it true that over the one hundred and fourteen years since this article was written have the descendants of the “squaw men” benefitted from the government programs that earmarked programs for Native Americans?

Is it true that the leading men and women, who now receive educational entitlement funds, owe it to their “white ancestors” who were given access to programs solely based on a minute trace of Indian blood?
This article states “on technical grounds, all this may be correct, but in equity it seems to hold elements of unfairness both to the real Indians and the white citizens of the United States…”

As usual the one group left out of the equation is the former slaves of these tribes and their descendants. When they discuss equity and fairness it is the freedmen and their descendants that seem to always be missing in the analysis. 

It would appear the major factor as to why; seems to come down to the construction and perception of race?

Amazingly in 1897, the author suggest and it may be the major reason we see the problems between the tribes and freedmen descendants today; “congress should at an early date indicate by stature what degree of blood shall constitute an Indian.”

It was and is clear, freedmen were fighting to maintain their citizenship from day one and those mixed blood freedmen of the Five Slave Holding Tribes were never truly considered to be Indian or have Indian blood.

Here we are one hundred and fourteen years later with very little progress…

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