Monday night the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council plans to vote on a constitutional amendment to limit Cherokee citizenship to descendants of the Dawes Rolls who are listed as Cherokees by blood, Delaware Cherokees or Shawnee Cherokees.

The topic brought new faces and members of the media to a meeting of the Rogers County Cherokee Association last week.

Tribal Council representative, Cara Cowan-Watts, told the gathering if passed by the Council, the amendment would be put to a vote of the Cherokee people in a special election.

�The resolution would put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring proof of Indian-by-blood to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation,� Cowan-Watts said. �It would not include the Freedman or intermarried whites.�

Among those who would be eligible for citizenship would be the majority of currently registered Cherokee voters, adopted Delawares and Shawnees.

�We are initiating a process that�s typical of the Cherokee Nation,� Cowan-Watts said. �There�s been a lot of travesty happen to a lot of people. None are relevant to what we have today. We don�t look to a treaty or any other document, but to our Constitution ... to determine our citizenship.�

The citizenship issue was brought to the forefront of Cherokee politics by a recent ruling from the Judicial Appeal Tribunal (JAT), the Cherokee Nation�s Supreme Court, in the case of Lucy Allen v. Cherokee Nation. The ruling held that the a 1983 Cherokee Nation law that limited citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to Cherokees, Shawnees and Delawares by blood was unconstitutional because it excluded Freedmen.

Cowan-Watts said the �ruling was not final.� The Justice opinion does allow the Cherokee people �to limit tribal citizenship� but said �if the Cherokee people wish to limit tribal citizenship, and such limitation would terminate the pre-existing citizenship of even [one] Cherokee citizen, then it must be done in the open. It cannot be accomplished through silence.�

�That�s why we are calling for a vote,� Cowan-Watts said.

John Ketcher, former deputy chief and current District 1 councilman who attended the meeting to specifically talked about why he supports the Indian-by-blood requirement. He was gathering signatures on an Initiative Petition calling for a vote on the matter should resolutions before the Tribal Council fail Monday night.

�The majority of Cherokees people have no problem accepting blacks who are also Cherokee, same as we have accepted whites who are Cherokee as citizens,� Ketcher said. �Part Cherokee, no problem, but do have a problem accepting the whole Freedmen coming into the Cherokee Nation.�

Ketcher�s presentation brought criticism from James Bullock, a Freedman from Vinita, who attended the meeting.

Bullock, like many others on the Freedman Rolls, are descendants of Blacks who either were slaves or who lived, worked and even intermarried with the Cherokee people. He claims ancestrial ties to Cherokee Chief John Ross.

�I am on the Dawes Roll and I have a problem with what you all are doing,� Bullock said, addressing Ketcher and Cowan-Watts. �You are going to have a fight.� He referenced an instance with the Seminole Nation which attempted to exclude members who were not of proven Indian descent and were thwarted by a Court ruling.

Freedman�s rights advocate, Marilyn Vann from Oklahoma City, questioned the accuracy of the Dawes Roll and the Freedman�s registration process referencing court cases that have proven many were registered during the Dawes enrollment as having no Indian blood quantum even though they were part Cherokee.

Vann said her group will be back in Claremore in July to present an educational meeting on the Freedmen issue.

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