Saturday, April 26, 2014

Enrolled vs Unenrolled Cherokee

Below is a topic that has been of interest to me for nearly 2 decades. There are many thousands of people of Cherokee descent but are not eligible for tribal membership because they are not on Dawes (Oklahoma)or Baker (North Carolina) rolls. Some have joined questionable groups. Others are more ethical. How do you determine one from another? Jan 07 Official Cherokee Nation stance on bogus claims of Cherokee heritage. Below is the first of several articles I'd like to share. It is a warning by the Cherokee Nation about joining any organization claiming to be a Tribe, band or nation of Cherokee people that is not Federally recognized. I agree with much of what the article below says. But I have to draw the line at what it writes about tribes that are recognized by various states, mostly from Virginia into the southeast states.

Non-recognized 'Cherokee tribes' Flourish
The Southern Star riverboat belonging to the "Southern Cherokee Nation" makes its way down the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, Okla., in 2000. The group made an attempt at Indian gaming on the river despite not being a federally recognized tribe. (Photo courtesy of James Gibbard/Tulsa World) By Travis Snell Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Every year thousands of people are told or "discover" they have Native American blood. Sometimes it's true, sometimes not. And the tribe people most commonly associate themselves with is Cherokee.

Usually, it's harmless. But sometimes people take illegal or unethical steps to form "tribes" and sell membership. Some claim treaty rights and seek state and federal recognition, while others take federal money intended for legitimate Indian nations.

A group of Cherokee Nation employees and officials recently formed a task force to deal with these "wannabe" Cherokees.

The group consists of Dr. Richard Allen, policy analyst; Troy Wayne Poteet, executive director of the Arkansas Riverbed Authority; Tribal Councilors Jack Baker and Cara Cowan-Watts, Webmaster Tonia Williams; Teri Rhoades, Youth Business Loan Center councilor; and Richard Osborn and John Parris of the Justice Department.

And even though their task force has no official name, it does have an agenda.

"It looks at protecting our sovereignty," Allen said. "We have so many individuals and groups who are using the Cherokee name and a lot of times it's in a manner that is very inappropriate. They scam people. They charge for genealogy. They charge for DNA tests that might suggest that people could be Indian. In essence, we are looking at groups that claim to be Cherokee but have no real status
and who are just distorting the culture and history."

Allen said he dealt with wannabe Cherokees for several years before Poteet became involved. From there, they got the other six task force members interested because they also deal with wannabes at their jobs.

Sometimes the situations are humorous. Allen recalled two Caucasian men from a Georgia "Cherokee" group walking around Tahlequah during one Cherokee National Holiday dressed in leather outfits and carrying a bow and a spear. Tourists began taking pictures while real Cherokees were laughing at them, he said.

But it's not funny when wannabes scam people, schools and government officials, or come together to establish tribes seeking rights.

"We don't deny that there are individuals out there who might have Indian heritage, but coming together as a group doesn't make them a tribe," Allen said. "They are creating an identity that is absolutely false."

There are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes in the U.S. - the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, both in Tahlequah, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The rest, task force members said, are either bogus tribes or just Cherokees coming together to celebrate their culture.

"I don't think anyone (on the task force) has an objection to someone having a Cherokee heritage club and not trying to be a tribe or nation," Rhoades said. "A large part of our objection comes from when you pretend to be an Indian tribe or nation and lay claims to treaties you have no right to. That's just wrong."

Rhoades said there are more than 200 bogus Cherokee tribes. One of the biggest is the "Lost Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri" in Dover, Ark., which has about 7,000-members. In 2005, it petitioned three state legislators to support its bid to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for federal recognition. This led the Arkansas attorney general to state that the Arkansas legislature could not recognize any state tribes.

"A lot of people try to use that (state recognition) as a stepping stone by stating that a state has already recognized them, therefore they have some sort of government-to-government relationship," Rhoades said.

However, the first step to federal recognition is that a tribe must be identified as an American Indian entity on a substantially continuous basis since 1900, something most fake groups can't
accomplish, Allen said.

According to a recent news story, the "Lost Cherokees" are again asking the BIA for federal recognition. The story stated the group has tried gaining federal recognition periodically for about 20
years. "We are the Cherokees who never walked," group leader Cliff Bishop said in the story, referring to the Trail of Tears.

Another group asking for federal recognition is the "Cherokee of Lawrence County, Tenn." The tribe's principal chief, Joe "Sitting Owl" White, said he eventually expects his tribe to be federally
recognized because he and his 800 fellow members are Cherokee, and he cites photography as proof "We've been called every name in the book, but we are Cherokee," he said. "We can take photos of our members and hold them up and see the Cherokee in us."

He also said his tribe has scientifically proven with DNA evidencet hat the Cherokee people are Jewish.

Lola Smith Scholl, leader of the "Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri," said her organization is also attempting toget federal recognition but declined further comment.

Task force members said wannabe groups asking for federal recognition are the reasons why it takes so long for legitimate tribes to go through the recognition process.

However, in some cases, federal recognition hasn't been needed for bogus tribes to receive federal money. Allen said two years ago the "Lost Cherokees" were receiving money from Arkansas schools for helping bring Office of Indian Education dollars to the schools.

Under the Indian Education Act, he said, schools are provided a certain amount of money for each Indian student they have enrolled. This led to "Lost Cherokee" members enrolling their children in
schools as Indians, letting the schools collect the federal dollars and then charging the school a 5 percent "administration fee," Allen said.

Twenty-four public schools in Arkansas received about $1.1 million because of the scam. The Phoenix attempted to contact the group but got no response.

Poteet said he knows of a group in Nebraska that was pulling a tax benefit scam. He said county officials were extending the same tax benefits that are afforded to a nearby Omaha Indian reservation to an illegitimate "Cherokee" tribe.

"We don't know how much money they're bleeding off the Department of Labor, but we do know they are doing that in several states," Poteet said of the Nebraska group. "They are also bleeding money out of the Department of Education. And this is going on all over the country. These groups are siphoning funds intended for Indian people."

Task force members said they don't know how much federal money these groups take from legitimate tribes each year but would like to conduct a study on the subject.

"They don't take money from us (Cherokee Nation) directly or from our funding, but it takes away from Indians overall," Williams said.

In past years, a group calling itself the "Echota Cherokee of Alabama" has received money from the Administration for Native Americans for language preservation and were even partnered with
Auburn University to help save the Cherokee language.

The Phoenix attempted to contact the "Echota Cherokee of Alabama" group, but did not receive a response.

Rhoades said Alabama's state recognized tribes have received federal education, health and housing funds as well as the right to sell arts and crafts as authentic Indian art.

Poteet said he and Baker have dealt with people from these groups attending National Trail of Tears Association gatherings around the U.S. He said some try to attain leadership positions in the
association, while others meddle where they don't belong.

"We found that these groups have gone so long without anybody contesting their ridiculous claims, they have gained some local acceptance," Poteet said. "The consequence of that is that they want to interject themselves into interpretation issues. There have been situations where they have interjected themselves into Indian Child Welfare issues."

Rhoades said she knows a woman belonging to a fraudulent group who became a member of the Tennessee Indian Commission but didn't know what IHS (Indian Health Service) meant.
Other groups form attempting to get state and federal recognition so they can cash in on Indian gaming. In 2000, a group called the "Southern Cherokee Nation" claimed to be a sovereign nation and planned to open a gaming boat on the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, Okla. Gary Ridge, the group's "principal chief," said his group took the boat to Webbers Falls only as a means to provide
employment for its members.

"This was intended to be bingo only," he said. "This venture did not go forward, but I am hopeful for other ideas for development of a region whose people and their economic needs have been too long neglected."

Although not federally recognized, Ridge said the group was established as a band of the CN in the Treaty of 1866 with its own laws and jurisdiction.

"The Southern Cherokee actively continued its political entity within the Cherokee Nation through statehood and was continued, just as the Cherokee Nation was continued, by the 1906 Five Civilized Tribes Act under a presidential-appointed chief until the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act, which allowed the Cherokee Nation as well the Southern Cherokee to once again elect their own chief," he said. Ridge added that the group only wants to operate under the articles of the 1866 treaty and the 1906 Five Civilized Tribes Act.

However, Allen said the "Southern Cherokees" have no legitimate claims in Oklahoma.

"This area is the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation and no other tribal entity. We see these get-rich-quick schemes all the time. The problem is that these people may be taking the goodwill and
reputation that Cherokees have established over centuries and using it to mislead the government and individual citizens," Allen said.

But for whatever reason these groups form, they usually have one thing in common - charging for membership.

The "United Cherokee Nation," which did not respond to Phoenix inquiries, charges a $35 application fee, while the "Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri" has a $60 application fee and a $10 annual roll fee. The "Cherokee of Lawrence County" don't charge for membership but instead asks its members to "make it a priority to send $10 a month to help with the tribe" and $12 to
subscribe to its newsletter.

Membership fees and dues are just two signs a "Cherokee" group isn't legitimate, task force members said. Other signs include members using Indian-sounding names such as "Two Feathers" and "Wind Caller," acting and dressing like Hollywood-stereotyped Indians or Plains Indians, asking for money to perform DNA tests or genealogical research, requirements to wear regalia to meetings and
requirements to go through an Indian-naming ceremony.

Once admitted into the groups, members usually get membership cards,bogus "Certified Degree of Indian Blood" cards and genealogy certificates "proving" they are eligible for membership.

"The problem is that there are so many people out there who have access to these groups (via the Internet), and for these groups to have access to all of these people, these groups are becoming larger and larger," Williams said.

Task force members said some bogus members are New Agers searching for spiritual enlightenment, but for most, they are people seeking acceptance within a community.

"Becoming a Cherokee in a certain region affords them a status that they didn't have," Allen said. "The county commissioner might start visiting with them as Cherokees. The state legislator might
acknowledge them as a tribe or as leaders of a tribe. For some, it's status, taking on an identity that they did not have."

And as more adults join these groups, their children usually follow leading to even more people living with a false identity.

"Now you are getting the third and fourth generation of people who think they are Indians. The little ones coming up are immersed in a false tribal identity. They don't know any better, but they are
going to grow up thinking they are Indian," Allen said.

And that's what makes the task force's work so important. As generations come and go, more groups will emerge distorting history, language and culture; wanting federal dollars for services; land and treaty rights; sovereignty; and wanting to impose their views on Indian matters.

Task force members said they are still strategizing on how to combat the groups, but do have some ideas such as networking with other federally recognized tribes to spread information about these
groups. Williams said Cherokees aren't the only Indian people being misrepresented. She said the other popular tribes dealing with bogus groups are the Delaware, Navajo and Sioux.

Developing more "informants" or people who contact CN reporting bogus groups is another step, as is getting Cherokee citizens around the country to inform government officials. Allen said many people, including legislators, don't realize that most Cherokees are located in Oklahoma and North Carolina and that for the most part the "full-blood element doesn't leave." Poteet said if citizens are willing to help, then they should talk to or write their elected officials.

"An average person can help stop these groups by writing a local legislator and pointing out that states should not be in a position of creating Indian nations," he said.

In the long run, Allen said, states not recognizing bogus groups would be a major step in stopping them.

"Ultimately, I think the elimination of state recognition would be one way of looking at it, but we don't want to do harm to those tribes who have a legitimate claim who yet haven't been able to
determine what it is they require for federal recognition," he said. "People who want to claim Cherokee heritage, who have legitimate claim to it, usually don't act in the manner as wannabes. It's those who put on feathers and act like an Indian tribe are the ones we have problems with."

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson was a friend of mine. I am proud to have known him. He honestly believed what he was doing was helping all mixed race Cherokee receive some small amount of recognition from the Cherokee Nation. He, one to one, made friends of enrolled Cherokee. Eventually he got to know Chad Smith himself, who was at the time the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation. There are a lot of people with a Cherokee heritage who could not be enrolled, and there is a lot of friction at times between those federally enrolled, and those who can not be federally enrolled because they were not on the Dawes Rolls. Below is an article written about Michael Johnson that was published in 2000 on the Cherokee Nation website.

Undocumented Cherokees Contribute to Cherokee Nation
Michael Johnson, with his family Elaine, Jacqueline and Charlotte, on a
Michael Johnson, with his family Elaine, Jacqueline and Charlotte, on a recent visit to Tahlequah.

TAHLEQUAH -- Michael Johnson is an engineer, a history buff, and an undocumented Cherokee. Though he can trace his roots to a Cherokee family, he doesn’t meet the requirements for enrollment in any of the three federally recognized tribes of Cherokees. And he doesn’t care.
"I don’t have resentment because I am not in a tribe," said Johnson. "I don’t get caught up with people who say ‘they won’t let us do this, they won’t let us do that’. I’ve found that if you want to re-associate with Cherokee people, you just have to work at it."

Johnson’s worked at it through his love of history. He’s collected important historical documents relating to Cherokee history, ranging from original Congressional register documents relating to Cherokees that traveled the Trail of Tears to a U.S. Indian Service report card from a young Cherokee dated 1916, and donated them to the Cherokee Historical Society.

"When we see something of Cherokee interest on eBay, we try and figure a way to get it," Johnson said. "How could people sell stuff that belongs in a museum? Since I’ve acquired these items, it’s always been the plan to donate them and make them available to other Cherokees. The Cherokee Nation was a good, logical place for this sort of information. These are things that need to be here so people will be able to research."

Johnson and his family find ways to participate in traditional Cherokee activities, including stomp dances at the Shaky Hollow Stomp Grounds in Conroe, Texas, near his Houston home. They also make occasional trips to Tahlequah, including a recent visit to donate historical documents.

"It’s a nice trip. We get to see lakes and hills and trees. There are a lot of nice people here," Johnson said. "We’re going to get another set of stickball sticks, while we’re here, too. If you want to get to know your Cherokee family you have to treat them like family. Being with people is so important. Eventually, they’ll accept you and overlook other things like, like not having a (CDIB) card. I don’t think raising controversy is a good idea."

That’s why Johnson and his family steer clear of groups that claim to be tribes but aren’t federally recognized. "I’ve always felt it was easier to make friends than enemies," he said. "There’s a ton of hucksters out there preying on people. They offer spirituality, promises of recognition, the possibility of wealth through casinos, whatever. I don’t want to align myself with people with political or money motivated goals."

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith thinks the Johnsons are handling the reality of their situation well by participating in Cherokee culture without aligning themselves with a group that is seeking recognition. Photo of former Principle Chief of the Cherokee nation, Chad Smith is below.

"There are people like the Johnsons with undeniable Cherokee heritage who don’t meet enrollment requirements," Smith said. "That doesn’t mean they can’t claim their ancestry."

"Through anomalies caused by ethnicidal policies of the United States government, the traditional Cherokee Nation has been fragmented. That’s why there is an Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina. We are all one people, separated by geography. The historical Cherokee Nation is currently headquartered here in Tahlequah. But just as a person with grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Germany cannot claim German citizenship, people whose Cherokee ancestors emigrated from the Cherokee Nation before the Dawes Rolls were taken cannot claim Cherokee citizenship."

"We encourage these people to follow the example of the Johnson family and many others," Smith said. "Take the time to learn about real Cherokee culture. Learn about it from traditional Cherokees."

Johnson concurs. "Just digging in to the culture is plenty work for me," he said. "Finding and preserving Cherokee historical documents eats up a lot of my luxury time as it is."

Dr. Tony McClure's Response

The author of “Cherokee Proud”, which is sold in the Cherokee Nation and in Tahlequah book stores, took on Chad Smith's partial recognition of undocumented Cherokee. However he also took on Michael Johnson, my friend. Michael had taken me to some Stomp dances in both Houston, Tx and Vian, Oklahoma. He told me about his meetings with Principle Chief Chad Smith, even playing stick ball with him. I do not know who the website below represents. But they preserved this bit of the reasoning between arguments supporting two views held by unenrolled Cherokee. Below is an explanation of how the website came to post these letters of McClure and Johnson. I have deep respect for both of them, so I was and am torn about how to respond personally. The following was the response from the website, not my response.

Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith (OK) Makes an Announcement  Date: 03/23/01

I received an email from Michael Johnson, who is mentioned several times in the following article by Mr. McClure. Mr. Johnson has given me permission to post his response to this article. He makes several very good points in his email which really is also an article in itself.

Click Here to access Mr. Johnson's email article. (Posted 04/10/01 - changed computers - made updates late!)

Date: 10/09/00

I received the following article in my personal email. Since this is very important and of interest to a great many Cherokee people, I have posted this article here.


Cherokee Chief Publicly Acknowledges the Existence of Undocumented Cherokees.
Is He Up to the Rest of the Challenge?

by Tony Mack McClure

In what is perhaps a first among recent leadership in the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, Principal Chief Chad Smith of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the largest Cherokee tribe, has publicly acknowledged the existence of undocumented Cherokees, but in the same breath, denied their rights to recognition. In an official news release entitled " Undocumented Cherokees Contribute to Cherokee Nation" appearing on the Cherokee Nation's website, September 2000 Page, dated 22 September 2000, Chief Smith states, "There are people like the Johnsons ( referring to an undocumented Cherokee family cited in the news release) with undeniable Cherokee heritage who don't meet enrollment requirements. That doesn't mean they can't claim their ancestry."

Chief Smith further states, " Through anomalies caused by ethnicidal policies of the United States Government, the traditional Cherokee Nation has been fragmented. That's why there is an Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina. We are all one people, separated by geography. The historical Cherokee Nation is currently headquartered in Tahlequah. But just as a person with grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Germany cannot claim German citizenship, people whose Cherokee ancestors emigrated from the Cherokee Nation before the Dawes Rolls were taken cannot claim Cherokee citizenship." Chief Smith thinks the Johnsons praised in the article are "handling their situation well by participating in Cherokee culture without aligning themselves with a group that is seeking recognition."

In reality, un-named sources confirm that Chief Smith may have conveniently "forgotten" to mention that Mr. Johnson has for some time actually been quite "aligned" with just such a group known as the Southern Cherokees. It's an organization that CNO only recently publicly accused of being "bogus."

In light of Chief Smith's statements, a number of questions beg for answers. First, if there is no question that a person is of "undeniable Cherokee heritage, " and if there is no question that the fragmentation among Cherokees of today was caused by "ethnicidal policies of the United States Government" what possible logical reason can there be for people who fall among the "undeniable but undocumented Cherokees" NOT to seek recognition as separate groups - either as state recognized tribes or as groups with a common cause who have no official recognition of any kind? Historical federal Cherokee rolls and other documents fully substantiate that the fragmentation extends well beyond the two geographies or federally recognized tribes mentioned by Chief Smith. And that is precisely the reason that the legislative bodies of several states throughout the United States have seen fit to extend official recognition to such groups who have been wrongly disenfranchised either by their own tribes or by the United States Government or both.

Chief Smith's comparison of German citizenship might have been more appropriate , at least insofar as U.S. and Cherokee law is concerned, had the final wording of it stated "cannot claim Cherokee citizenship in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma" instead of simply ending with "cannot claim Cherokee citizenship." But to accept either of these ideas, anyone the statement pertains to and the CNO leadership as well, have to somehow acknowledge that the "ethnicide" which the Chief so adeptly points out and confirms now be found acceptable and simply forgotten. The policies that resulted in the fragmentation and disenfranchisement of some, alhough acknowledgeably immoral by all concerned as well as a majority of the American people today, must still continue to be used as a viable reason for disavowing people with "undeniable Cherokee heritage?" Something very sinister and culturally unacceptable seems quite obvious here.

A much more logical analogy of denying citizenship rights ( mainly because it all occurs on this continent - not in the Black Forest thousands of miles across the Atlantic ocean) would be to imagine a scenario whereby a foreign power invades the United States today and promptly arrests all the Italians in Brooklyn , New York. Those who are fortunate enough to survive the trip are banished under armed guards to their designated new "homeland" in the badlands of South Dakota where they will become wards of the new government. Those who desire to remain in New York, however, will be allowed to do so, but there is a catch. From this day hence, they and any other Italians who live elsewhere on the continent can no longer be recognized as Italians! Such a thought might seem ridiculous, and it would be incomprehensible, save the fact that it actually happened to Cherokees and several other Indian tribes. But now to add insult to injury, and visualize a far more accurate comparative than Chief Smith's German metaphor, carry this illusory scene one step further by imagining that on top of what is likely already unfathomable to any reasonable and compassionate person, the Italians in the badlands now decide to disavow their own! Regardless of blood, they declare that henceforth they and their descendants will be the only Italians on the North American continent! Well, actually, perhaps it will be okay for the others to call themselves Italians so long as they don't seek to be officially recognized as such by anyone.

The word citizenship is important here because the "undeniable Cherokees" who make up the membership of state recognized tribes often have no desire to be members of the CNO (or any other federally recognized tribe) or they simply do not qualify due to the "ethnicide" rules which, by the way, are also endorsed by the CNO's own constitution. While it is true that the Cherokee people who made an election to NOT migrate west during the Removal era agreed to forfeit their "citizenship" in the existing Cherokee Nation, they absolutely did NOT and could not have forfeited their Cherokee blood. And historians, even the white ones, as well as leaders on both sides, have long attested to the fact that the entire removal treaty was fraudulent in the the first place. How is it then, that the portion of it that concerns the matter at hand is not also considered fraudulent?

The truth is that most disenfranchised Cherokees simply desire and usually emphatically insist upon only the rightful recognition of their blood. Whether or not they elect to seek recognition should have no bearing whatsoever on how they are viewed by Cherokee leadership and the very fact that they do seek recognition is, more than anything else, simply an end product of the insulting disavowment. Of course, there are exceptions, as there are to all situations, but by and large, the vast majority of the undocumented Cherokees who seek recognition have no interest in obtaining or sharing the paltry benefits; they do not desire to move onto reservation or trust lands or to compete with members of the federal tribes for any reason. They are simply fed up with the constant and unjustifiable insults of being called "wanabees" simply because it does not fit someone else's personal agenda and official recognition offers the only relief. The leaders of the CNO and Eastern Band long ago made a verifiable pact to NOT recognize these people in any way. In fact, they did everything in their power to prevent even the United Keetoowah Band (currently the only other federally recognized Cherokee tribe) from gaining federal recognition and they have continuously attempted to discredit any others of their blood who attempt to organize and seek recognition in any form by publicly referring to them as "wanabees."

In the official newspaper of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, its editor recently referred to members of the three state recognized tribes in Alabama as "twenty dollar Indians." This ridiculous comment was meant (in vain ) to suggest to readers that one could simply pay a twenty dollar fee and become an Indian in Alabama, when in fact the fee they refer to is actually one that all members gladly pay as annual tribal dues or taxes to supplement tribal administration costs because they do not have the luxury of receiving federal funds as some do for such purposes. A recent news release from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma similarly referred to all non-federally recognized groups as "bogus."

In this most recent CNO news release, the subject of the article, Michael Johnson, is quoted as saying, " There's a ton of husksters out there preying on people. They offer spirituality, promises of recognition, the possibility of wealth through casinos, whatever. I don't want to align myself with people for political or money motivated goals." His statement confirms that the propaganda and disavowment policies of the CNO and Eastern Band have worked to at least some degree. Mr. Johnson's statement seems to confirm that he believes all groups who are not federally recognized have only devious motivations. How sad! The fact that such people have the drive to organize and seek recognition of their blood that is denied elsewhere makes all people with "undeniable ( but non federally recognized ) Cherokee heritage" stereo typically motivated by only money or politics? How narrow!

Certainly, there are groups out there that include some individuals who really are bogus and guilty of such atrocities, but they are to be found within the federal tribes just as they are in others and the federal Cherokee tribes are certainly no exception. If you doubt this, pick up any of the Indian newspapers and read of the hoaxes, embezzlements, sale of spirituality and all the same other daily crimes common among all people. No respectable person would argue that this should be condoned or supported. This is not just a problem among the Cherokees, but with all tribes. Nevertheless, there are far more whose only motivation is to express pride of heritage, take part in organized events to that end, to learn and help perpetuate the memories and culture of those gone before and , above all, to enjoy the respect due them by virtue of their blood birth-rights. What right does anyone have, especially Cherokee leadership, to condemn all for the selfish and unacceptable acts of a few?

Hopefully, Mr. Johnson will follow the lead of tens of thousands of others who have investigated a little further and learned that the vast majority of these with "undeniable Cherokee heritage" are just that, and as admirable and honestly motivated as they come. Denying himself affiliation with other tribes or groups simply because the federal tribes insist on wrongfully disavowing them or considering them controversial should not be the factors that determine his participation. Only two things should enter into that decision - personal choice, which he and everyone else is certainly entitled to, and what is morally and ethically right. By his own admissions , he has obviously judged all others who seek recognition on the basis of propaganda extolled by the leadership of the federal Cherokee tribes. One cannot help but wonder if his attitude would be the same if he had instead always heard CNO and Eastern Band leadership embrace the members of at least some of the creditable "other" groups as their "undocumented brothers and sisters?"

Hopefully, Chief Chad Smith's admirable admission that such Cherokees actually exist can be interpreted as a good sign of a better understanding and tolerance among all Cherokee people in the future. Everyone seeking recognition and many of those who possess it in only state form are NOT the enemy of federally recognized tribes. In fact, it's quite the opposite. With an ever so slight and much deserved change in attitude by their federally recognized counterparts, the vast majority of these reputable people would be first in line to stand beside them in ANY conflict, down to the last man. Rarely in my 59 years on earth have I heard any of these people utter an unkind word about their federally recognized brothers and sisters. And in the extremely rare cases that I can recall, it was always only a logical, human, defensive response to comments of disrespect or disavowment said or published about them. While there have apparantly been no official polls on the subject,I'd also be willing to bet my personal reputation that most of the individual tribal members in all the federal Cherokee tribes collectively would not agree with this continuing disavowment policy of their leadership if they simply knew all the historical facts. Most do not. I also have too many personal friends and family within the Nations to ever be convinced otherwise. Disavowment is a political policy - not a people policy. Most of the Cherokee people I have ever known are far too noble, resilient and fair minded to disavow their own regardless of politics. Perhaps such a poll would be a good project for some university sociology class.

The bottom line is that the time for unification is long past and the numbers of the disenfranchised are many. How can such an easily acquired dream......simple unity and respect for each other.....possibly be so wrong when nothing more than mere, but sincere words are necessary to accomplish the task? Chief Smith has both the power and the expertise to easily make commendable and unprecedented history . . . symbolically comparable to a Palestine and Jerusalem accord right here on Turtle Island.. . and right now. He has taken an honorable first step and all affected should recognize it, because he will , no doubt, be criticized even for that by a few diehards who have been brainwashed into actually believing that all but themselves are wanabees.

Is he now up to the rest of the challenge? Two things are certain - it is the only "right" thing to do and there can be little doubt about the attitude of the Great Spirit in the matter. Ultimately, it is only to that power that all concerned must eventually answer.

Johnson's Response to McClure

My buddy, Mike, felt he had to respond and he did below.

Response to "Cherokee Chief Makes an Announcement" from Michael Johnson

----- Original Message ----- (posted in Articles on 4/10/01) From: "Michael Johnson"
To: webmaster

Sent: Friday, March 23, 2001 10:40 PM Subject: Article - Mike Johnson
Re: article

My name is Michael Johnson, and I see I am mentioned in an article by Tony Mack McClure on the internet.

I wish to make a few things clear for the record.

I was a very active member of some number of groups in my past. I have been a member of a number of professional, genealogical and fraternal clubs, including the "Southern Cherokee Nation" within the experience of my life. I also have some groups I have redirected my efforts away from for whatever reason, including the "Southern Cherokee Nation". I see no shame in that whatsoever.

I filled a spot on their council at one session, under appointment of Gary Ridge (another person of Cherokee heritage) and voted on resolutions. Nothing sinister about it. We even stomp danced and had a big dinner.

The "Southern Cherokee Nation" is a 503(c) non-profit under the United Dideist Society, a religious/fraternal/educational foundation.

Gary Ridge, their elected Chief, has proposed and asserts that the "Southern Cherokee Nation" is already federally recognized. He once had plans to go to court with it, I don't know where that effort is at this time, because...I am not involved, and haven't been since a good while before the article was written.(grin)
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I have an "Indian rap sheet". Let me add to the public knowledge:

I have been to and participated in and with meetings of the Texas Gulf Coast Cherokees and regard them as a group with high integrity. I like em...they are good folks. Not a member, Just a visitor.

I stomp dance and play stickball. I do it where ever I run into it at, but frequently at the Shaky Hollow Ceremony Grounds in Conroe, Texas. I got whopped one time by a girl there and got a perma-crick in my back and now I play about 40 yards from the pole. Let the bucks break their legs, I am too old to heal fast anymore.

I have been to the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, and even though I can't "join up" they recognize me as a Cherokee. That was good enough for me, although others may want more or desire other things.

Everyone has their goals in life, and I have mine. I just don't think the 'card' matters to me anymore. I think that card is another way of driving our folks apart and we have had enough of that. Maybe the Cherokees feel that way too, some of them. Maybe we don't need 'groups' to get back home. Maybe the path is the "individual's" path.

I also found out from the Cherokees in Oklahoma that I have no real clan, because my traceable Cherokee roots come to me by my grandfather.

So, depending on who you talk to I am a longhair(twister) or I have no clan. That is the disappointing thing, as I have two daughters and they need to have a clan to reconnect my line to the people in a complete manner. It is more distressing to me to know my daughters have no clan as opposed to the stress that the lack of any card will bring.

I know I am not the only person of Cherokee blood out there that has had to be disappointed when they are not enrolled or cannot determine their clan. It was disappointing, but I have learned to deal with it and move on to what I can have....reunion.

I take some exception to your broad and sweeping comment that infers I think everyone in or leading a (non federally recognized) Cherokee group is a con artist, a huckster or whatever. We all know there ARE hucksters, con artists and spirituality hawkers out there. They are waiting to pick people's pockets.....they exist. That is what I meant in my statements. Certainly I did not mean to infer that ALL non-recognized Cherokees are such. Certainly I DID mean to imply that one must be pretty careful when getting involved with any group and should carefully assess the group in light of their personal goals.

My claim to Cherokee Blood flows on both sides of my family, who are from Robbinsville, North Carolina and Turtletown, Tennessee. The side I can trace is an amazing tale of folks who weren't removed as Cherokees when the Removal occurred, but remained only to be decimated by the civil war and the Reconstruction period. In the 1880's my folks moved out to Oklahoma and they literally became citizens of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. They literally emigrated back to the United States in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1906 and petitioned the US Congress(and received) their United States Citizenship. I am still looking into the reason they left the nation.

So, in my case, Mr. Smith called it on the nose. My folks left the US and became Cherokee citizens....then left the nation and became US citizens....literally and traceably. Got everything on paper, stacks of it. It is undeniable I am of Cherokee blood, it is deniable that I can emigrate back to the Cherokee Nation. "Undocumented" in that sense means not able to obtain Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma citizenship, as I have a closet full of documents regarding my Cherokee blood.

I am an "expatriate Cherokee".

For a historical view of how it really was in terms of "citizenship" as to the states and the US and the Cherokee, try reading an actual account of it in a newspaper of the day at . It was a shocker for me.

When my folks became US citizens after leaving the nation, they gave the same oath as every new citizen. They renounced their citizenship in the Cherokee Nation and for whatever reason severed my right to claim that citizenship via their bloodline. I have no right to succession. I can trace my roots and prove all day I am Cherokee by blood, if not by nationality. How many of us Cherokee fit into that boat? How many ancestors refused to sign documents for the government and gave up our rights? How many of us are Cherokee by blood and not by nationality?

Isn't this the real problem?

I think what Mr. Smith is expressing is that despite political and legal problems that prevent us from being citizens of the same nation, we are of the same people. We can participate in our heritage and do it with the traditional Cherokees. We don't have to risk the hucksters, the con artists, the spirituality hawkers. The door is open, we can go to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. We are recognized for who we are(Cherokees outside the nation's LEGAL framework) and welcomed.

I think that Mr. Smith has taken a good and logical first step in good faith. We are now "undocumented cherokees".... They are waiting for we undocumented folks to take the next step. They stuck out their hand first and are waiting for us to shake it, problem is that hands are shaken one at a time, not in crowds.

Some folks might think that a group can be accepted as Cherokee because they simply assert that they are Cherokee. I don't believe that. I don't believe in "Cherokee Groups", I believe in Cherokee people. How can you trace a 'group' for their Cherokee blood? How can you determine a group is entitled to the Cherokee Legacy? How can you determine a 'group' is anything but an assemblage of people?

I offer up to you that for the Cherokee Nations to recognize a group, they must recognize that every person in that group is indeed a Cherokee. This is a task we cannot expect the Cherokee nations to undertake. It is our torch to bear, as it were. The solutions that will ensure acceptance must come from us, and be convincing to them. That is reality.

In order for people as a group to be recognized, they need to have a way of determining that they ARE all Cherokee to the satisfaction of the nation's people. A 'higher standard' than usually performed by makeshift tribes and groups(this is where the hucksters live) is required. I could point to some groups that are state recognized and use them as a model to build such a standard. So can you. Their level of proof is as comprehensive as any, in some cases. They just lack requirements to link to the Dawes, Baker or Keetoowah rolls, which are legal requirements to be beneficiaries to a recognized and enforced treaty. Some accept links to any Cherokee roll taken. This is logical when determining Cherokee blood versus national citizenship.

There are legal 'standings' that determine just who can join which tribe. This is generally due to their status as federal corporations and their "corporate charter"(constitution), their status as persons descended from people enumerated at some event (Dawes rolls, Baker rolls, UKB rolls) to satisfy a treaty or agreement with the US Government. If our Cherokee ancestors; expatriated, refused to enroll, hid for fear of social retribution, just minded their own business in them thar hills or whatever else, then they are not party to the required treaties.

They are Cherokee and probably are citizens of one of the several states. Citizenship is an extremely strange quirk of law, in that where most US citizens can claim to be states citizens unless they are citizens of the United States (I know it sounds weird, but it is true). They may be also party to other treaties that are currently not in force due to lack of participation.

All Indians, by amendment and law are citizens of their Indian nation AND citizens of the United States OR citizens of the United States. This is a legal reality.

Remember, the card is a right to benefits and services of the Department of War and is not legally related to your right to be Cherokee. It is a legal right extended from a particular treaty to select groups of combatants at the conclusion of hostilities of war or polity.

Your right to be Cherokee is in your blood, not in a card or any particular citizenship. You own it, no group does....not even the federally recognized tribes and nations. Your right to be Cherokee only extends to you, not a group or club. It is an individual right, not a collective right.....and it is not convertible.

I would ask all the Cherokees out there...Who do you want to be recognized BY: The US government's BIA or the real live traditional Cherokee people? What will the card give you that you do not already have....and what is your motivation to obtain one? Is it better validation than actual recognition by your own people?

If your answer is that your goals transcend the need for a card, go home and visit your folks. They are waiting, the door is open and they want you to come. It's worth a drive to go find out isn't it?

The above article, received in email on 03/23/01 was written in response to Cherokee Chief Publicly Acknowledges the Existence of Undocumented Cherokees  by Tony Mack McClure

About Dr. Tony "Mack" McClure

A native Tennessean and mixed-blood Cherokee descendant, is a certified member of the Native American Journalists Association and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, committeeman for the Tennessee Chapter of the National Trail of Tears Association and frequent speaker before social, civic and student groups. He has been the producer-director of Bill Dance Outdoors, the nation's highest-rated outdoors-oriented television program for more than 25 years. The Program airs twice each weekend on The Nashville Network. Tony's work has appeared in numerous magazines and 250 newspapers, on all four television networks and major cable systems. The male in the photo below is Tony "Mack" McClure.

My Opinion About non-Federally Recognized Tribes

I think the Cherokee nation has been abused by so many groups claiming to be the Cherokee Nation that they have become very skeptical of ALL groups. It was both Michael Johnson's and MY hopes that skepticism of ALL groups might be eroded away through contact with them. I can't speak for others, but I suspect this is the hopes of many of Cherokee descent who are not enrolled have the same hope.

I think both Dr. McClure and my friend, Michael Johnson, now deceased, were doing what they thought was right. I did email Dr. McClure at least on one occasion years ago and he did respond, but it was so long ago I don't remember much about it. I don't recall the details. He and Mike were seeking the same goal. I do have his book (Cherokee Proud) and it helped inspire me research my own family, and to write my own family story. As I said before, my book, Finding Our Indian Blood, is but the tip of the ice berg, a culmination of two decades of digging for genealogical gold, only to find a few grains of sand at a time, of useful material.
As much respect as I have for Mike, and he was a good friend, the rights of states to recognize tribes is the only hope for some unenrolled mixed race Indians who never wanted complete isolation from their relations, and so I can not condemn this practice by some states. So I can't agree with the Cherokee Nation on this issue. But in many other things, I respect them a great deal. That's just the way it is.

I once was interested in some of these 200 plus organizations. The attitude of the Cherokee Nation has influenced my opinion. However after careful consideration and with respect, I have to think they are throwing the baby out with the dish water. Because some have taken advantage of some ambiguities in the law it doesn't men all these groups are harmful. And to obtain state recognition in many states I think there must be some accountability, some guidelines which are required before they are recognized by the states, and those requirements do not have to be the same as for federal recognition.

Where will these things end? The Cherokee Nation has a lot of power and it isn't over. I would like to see the state recognized Cherokee and the federally recognized Cherokee sitting down at one table and talking to one another -- that would be a start. They've probably tried this before, I don't know. Just don't give up on it. 

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