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oklahoma and hawaii are alot closer than you might think

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    The Cherokee Freedmen, Native American Blood Quantum and the Akaka Bill
    By Don Newman, 10/17/2007 5:16:50 PM
    The controversy over the Cherokee freedmen is a perfect example of what could happen in Hawaii should the Akaka bill pass.

    The Cherokee freedmen were black slaves that were held by the Cherokee nation and freed by Treaty with the U.S. in 1866 after the conclusion of the Civil War and guaranteed all Native Cherokee rights (Article 9) at that time. Then in 1983 because of political infighting, the then presiding Principle Chief, Ross Swimmer, began to work to convince the tribal council to strip the freedmen of their Cherokee citizenship because they supported his opponent. Eventually he was successful in revoking their citizenship.

    Swimmer was able to do this by establishing a “blood quantum” requirement for citizenship in the tribe. Up until that point anyone who had been included in the Federal Government Dawes Commission “rolls,” which were open from 1898 to 1914, were considered citizens of the tribe. These Dawes rolls applied to what are known as the “Five Civilized Tribes” and served as the criteria for tribal membership. (An interesting aside is that the Dawes Commission was authorized March 3, 1893 -- less than 2 months after the Hawaiian Revolution that deposed Queen Liliuokalani.)

    The significance of the Dawes Rolls is that while the black slave freedmen were included on the rolls, their ancestry, even when they had Cherokee ancestors, was not always noted. This opened the door for Principle Chief Swimmer to revoke their citizenship and voting rights once the act requiring the blood quantum was passed and assured defeat of his opponent.

    The Cherokee Nation Constitution passed in 1975 defines as citizens those who were included in the Dawes Rolls and makes no specific mention of blood quantum.

    Although there have been several court battles concerning this state of affairs over the years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Cherokee nation have yet to resolve the conflict.

    On March 3, 2007, the Cherokee Nation voted on, and passed, an amendment to its constitution that codified the blood quantum requirement. This has created a huge amount of tension between the Cherokee freedmen and the tribe. The freedmen consider themselves as part of the tribe and the majority of the Cherokee Nation doesn’t.

    The issue was complicated at the recent Congressional Black Caucus annual conference held on Sept. 28, 2007. While black speakers initially focused on educating the American people about America’s “full history” and why reparations are necessary, the worm turned when it came time to examine the Cherokee freedmen case.

    The panel was to take up the case of the freedmen but it became a slugfest against the Cherokee Nation. The epithet of “racism” was directed at the Cherokee Nation and Rep. Diane Watson, D-California, has introduced legislation to strip $300 million in federal subsidies as well as suspending the tribe’s authority to operate casinos until the issue is settled to the satisfaction of Congress, which also means to the satisfaction of Rep. Watson. There is something supremely ironic in the Congressional Black Caucus accusing Native Americans of “racism.”

    All of this is fascinating on its own but becomes crucial to Hawaii when considering the ramifications of the Akaka bill for the state of Hawaii. The “blood quantum” requirements of the Akaka bill are basically the same as those adopted for the Cherokee Nation. The heritage argument is nearly identical, a single drop of blood quantum becomes the central axis of one’s identity for legal and political purposes. And in the case of the Cherokee Nation, voting rights.

    So what happens here if the Akaka bill passes? There will become a division of this community like none that anyone has ever seen. What of the Micronesians, the Samoans and other Pacific Islanders that come here that aren’t of Hawaiian heritage according to blood quantum but are just as Polynesian as any Hawaiian? Do they just continue to sleep in the parks and elsewhere as they are now because there is no affordable housing for them to inhabit?

    What becomes of the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement that considers the Akaka bill a sellout to the American government? The situation with the Cherokees shows just how much such “treaties” and other agreements can be abrogated and changed when it suits someone’s political ambitions.

    All this calls into question what will be the real result of the Akaka bill if and when it is passed. The bill, for example, says that gaming cannot be justified under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, but that is not to say that it cannot be negotiated as a separate privilege of Hawaiian Sovereignty with the newly reformed Native Hawaiian government. There is nothing in the Akaka bill that precludes this.

    And this is the real issue. The money to be acquired through gaming, more commonly known as gambling, is what now drives so much of the politics in many states, such as California, and will eventually drive the politics of the state of Hawaii as well.

    If you, as a voter, think that corruption has permeated Hawaiian politics, you haven’t seen nothing yet (pardon my vernacular) until the gaming interests enter this state. The homespun style (Keep the Country Country) that so many treasure will simply fade away. A Native Hawaiian government created by legislative fiat will have no responsibility to anyone. Not you, not the Sierra Club, not the unions, not to anyone.

    The newly reformed Native Hawaiian government will be free to do whatever it pleases in the long run. Creating a separate sovereign entity within the U.S. has its own proven track record, which is a trail of corruption. The vast majority of Native Americans do not benefit from their tribal regimes and it is only the ruling elite that typically benefits. This is what Hawaii can expect as well if the Akaka bill passes.

    Reference: Congressional Black Caucus hosts rally against Cherokee Nation : ICT [2007/10/05]

    Don Newman is a free-lance writer living in Honolulu, Hawaii. reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to mailto:[email protected]

    The older I get the less of a deterrent life without parole gets

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