Last Modified: 6/27/2008 2:48 AM
It gives a hand to those who think they might be eligible for tribal citizenship.
The Cherokee Nation and leaders from Tulsa’s African-American community plan to work together to provide genealogy research to people who think they are eligible for Cherokee citizenship.
The outreach program is open to individuals of all races and nationalities who think they have Cherokee ancestry and wish to apply for citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.
In partnership with the Area Council for Community Action, the Cherokee Nation will provide individuals with genealogy research and direction in gathering the documentation needed to become enrolled tribal citizens.
“We realize that the Cherokee Nation requires citizens to have an Indian ancestor on the Dawes Roll, but we also know there may be many African-Americans who are eligible for citizenship but have not enrolled, for whatever reason,” said Pleas Thompson, president of the Area Council for Community Action.
“This partnership will help eligible people of any race to find the documentation they need to show an Indian ancestor on the rolls and become a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.”
The tribe has been under fire by the Congressional Black Caucus since amending its constitution last year to limit tribal membership to those who can show a Cherokee blood quantum. The new amendment meant descendents of freedmen, who had only a year earlier been granted citizenship under a tribal court order, along with intermarried whites who could not meet the by-blood requirement, would not be tribal citizens.
The freedmen were former slaves of Cherokees and were adopted into the tribe after emancipation.
A federal lawsuit by freedmen descendents is challenging the constitutional amendment that created the by-blood requirement, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus amended an Indian housing bill to cut funding to the Cherokee Nation unless it accepts the freedmen descendents as citizens.
The Cherokee Nation offers some genealogical services through the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, but this is the first time such services will be offered on a regular basis in the Tulsa area.
“The Cherokee Nation is taking the lead in reaching out to the community, to make sure that people of Indian ancestry have every opportunity to be enrolled as citizens,” Thompson said. “A partnership like this can be something that helps the entire community.”
“The need for this kind of service is very real,” said Heather Williams, a Cherokee citizen who also has African-American ancestry. “When my family was trying to locate our ancestors on the Dawes Rolls, it took quite some time to gather the information. Having a service available like this would help tremendously.”
Cherokee principal Chief Chad Smith, said, “We know that for some people, the process of tracing your family tree back more than 100 years can be difficult, and there are roadblocks that can be discouraging.
“This partnership will make it easier for people in the Tulsa area to get through the enrollment process a little easier. (The Area Council for Community Action) has a long history of helping the community and will be a great partner in this outreach effort.”
Genealogical assistance will be available from 9 a.m. to noon at 205 E. Pine St., Suite 3, in the North Pointe Business Complex, as well as at other events and times as scheduled by the Area Council for Community Action.
For more information or to make an appointment, contact the council at 592-1339.
Clifton Adcock 581-8462