American Culture (BD Shadow)

American Culture written with pictures from 'Red Rock'

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 publically 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 seperate 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.


Michael Johnson's response to the above article.

Here is the email "History" of Mr. McClure's article:

From: John Kostura
To: webmaster
Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2000 12:16 PM
Subject: Fwd: Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith makes an announcement

To: "John Kostura",
Subject: Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith makes an announcement
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 04:05:08 -0700

Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 00:16:06 EDT
From: SumerWCree
Subject: cherokee cheif announcement

Cherokee Chief Announcement
Date: 10/9/00 9:04:47 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: CheroProud
To: SumerWCree


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