After reading several articles on the Freedmen issue in the Claremore Progress, Cherokee voters need to make sure they are getting the correct information before voting on this issue.

The Cherokee Nation uses the Dawes Rolls (accurate or not) to determine if someone is a descendant of Cherokee, Shawnee or Delaware by blood as well as their blood quantum (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood). The Dawes Rolls, also, include two lesser known census, the Freedmen and Inter-Married White Rolls, of non-Indians living in the tribe.

Currently, Freedmen are citizens of the Cherokee Nation with full rights including voting, access to Indian Health Care, scholarships and the many other tribal services due to a decision by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court (was the Justice Appeals Tribunal).

Although non-Indian folks have been included on the Dawes Rolls as Indian, we know many more Indians were left off and most blood quantum are incorrect. Unless the Dawes Rolls are going to be thrown out in entirety and our Rolls opened up to anyone, [Descendants of Freedmen Association spokesperson Marilyn] Vann's arguments are misleading.

For example, Vann uses herself as an example. If her Freedman ancestor had a father enrolled by Cherokee blood on the Dawes Rolls and can prove it, she will still be a Cherokee citizen even if the Cherokee people decide not to include Freedman as Cherokee citizens on March 3. The reason she would still be a citizen is she can prove she is Cherokee by blood from the Dawes Rolls. If Ms. Vann chooses not to apply using her ancestor who is Cherokee by blood, she is denying herself tribal citizenship by choice.

For those claiming their families were unable to be properly registered as Indian on the rolls due to delays, the Dawes Rolls were taken from 1898 to 1914 which gave folks about 16 years to establish their citizenship as Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma.

To my knowledge, no one has ever been denied citizenship in the Cherokee Nation as long as they can prove lineal ancestry to the Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee by blood Dawes Rolls.

The right to decide our citizenship is fundamental to our tribal sovereignty and the power of the Cherokee people. The Initiative Petition was completed by the rules of a healthy and functioning democracy.

This is a difficult and very personal issue. I am asking each and every Cherokee voter get registered to vote,

take time to research the issue for yourself and get out and vote on Saturday, March 3rd.

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