Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Could American Indians actually matter in the Presidential election?

Evidently Obama's position on the Cherokee Freedmen issue has won him some support among Native Americans, according to this article on TheHill.com.

According to Obama’s advisers and supporters, a number of states might go Democratic in this year’s general election because of Native American votes. They cite Montana, a state where more than 6 percent of the population is Native American. It has voted Republican in the last several presidential campaigns, but Obama trails McCain by an average of only seven points, according to polls monitored by RealClearPolitics.

Another example cited by Obama’s supporters is North Carolina. While its population is only a little more than 1 percent American Indian, it is seen as a swing state where Obama might be able to edge out a narrow victory.

For more about the Cherokee Freedmen, check out our old posts on it here. To find out what the Cherokee Nation has to say about it, go here.

Obama of course does not condone the position of the Cherokee Nation to disenfranchise the descendants of the Freedmen. He does, however, view it as an internal matter and says the tribe is within its rights to take this action. He opposed a movement by the Congressional Black Caucus to basically sever the US' relations with the Cherokee Nation. They argue that the issue is a matter of treaty rights rather than tribal sovereignty. The Cherokee Nation characterizes their proposed bill as "tribal termination". As disgusted as I am with their actions, I have to agree that this is a precipitous and unwise decision by the CBC. Obama is right in saying that this is a matter internal to the tribe. He doesn't agree with it and neither do I, but tribal sovereignty must be respected. At least, it must if you care to see the nation survive. I've read comments elsewhere suggesting that many were angered enough by this decision that they wouldn't mind seeing it dissolved.

This editorial in Indian Country Today discusses the issues raised by this controversy and says that part of the problem is the inherent racism of the blood quantum system forced on us by the federal government:

I agree with Sen. Obama in that the Cherokee freedmen should continue to be recognized by the tribe but that the decision should come from the Cherokee Nation. He put it this way: ''Our nation has learned with tragic results that federal intervention in internal matters of Indian tribes is rarely productive - failed policies such as allotment and termination grew out of efforts to second-guess Native communities. That is not a legacy we want to continue.''

As our world becomes smaller, tribal nations will find that we have tribal members with African, European, American and even Asian descent. Tribal sovereignty must be respected and, as Sen. Obama has said, the tribes must not be interfered with in their process of determining membership. But the termination policies of the past, including blood quantum, must be abolished or they will continue to divide and conquer our communities, family by family.

It is time for us to make a change. It is time to for our tribal nations to evolve, back.

Damn straight.

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