American Culture (BD Shadow)

American Culture written with pictures from 'Red Rock'

Response to "Cherokee Chief Makes anAnnouncement"
from Michael Johnson

----- Original Message -----    (posted in Articles on 4/10/01)
From: "Michael Johnson"
To: webmaster
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2001 10:40 PM
Subject: Article - Mike Johnson

Re: article
----------- My name is Michael Johnson, and I see I am mentioned in an article by Tony Mack McClure on the internet.

I wish to make a few things clear for the record.

I was a very active member of some number of groups in my past. I have been a member of a number of professional, genealogical and fraternal clubs, including the "Southern Cherokee Nation" within the experience of my life. I also have some groups I have redirected my efforts away from for whatever reason, including the "Southern Cherokee Nation". I see no shame in that whatsoever.

I filled a spot on their council at one session, under appointment of Gary Ridge (another person of Cherokee heritage) and voted on resolutions. Nothing sinister about it. We even stomp danced and had a big dinner.

The "Southern Cherokee Nation" is a 503(c) non-profit under the United Dideist Society, a religious/fraternal/educational foundation.

Gary Ridge, their elected Chief, has proposed and asserts that the "Southern Cherokee Nation" is already federally recognized. He once had plans to go to court with it, I don't know where that effort is at this time, because...I am not involved, and haven't been since a good while before the article was written.(grin)

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I have an "indian rap sheet". Let me add to the public knowledge:

*-I have been to and participated in and with meetings of the Texas Gulf Coast Cherokees and regard them as a group with high integrity. I like em...they are good folks. Not a member, Just a visitor.

*-I stomp dance and play stickball. I do it where ever I run into it at, but frequently at the Shaky Hollow Ceremony Grounds in Conroe, Texas. I got whopped one time by a girl there and got a perma-crick in my back and now I play about 40 yards from the pole. Let the bucks break their legs, I am too old to heal fast anymore.

*-I have been to the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, and even though I can't "join up" they recognize me as a Cherokee. That was good enough for me, although others may want more or desire other things.

Everyone has their goals in life, and I have mine. I just don't think the 'card' matters to me anymore. I think that card is another way of driving our folks apart and we have had enough of that. Maybe the Cherokees feel that way too, some of them. Maybe we don't need 'groups' to get back home. Maybe the path is the "individual's" path.

I also found out from the Cherokees in Oklahoma that I have no real clan, because my traceable Cherokee roots come to me by my grandfather.
So, depending on who you talk to I am a longhair(twister) or I have no clan. That is the disappointing thing, as I have two daughters and they need to have a clan to reconnect my line to the people in a complete manner. It is more distressing to me to know my daughters have no clan as opposed to the stress that the lack of any card will bring.

I know I am not the only person of Cherokee blood out there that has had to be disappointed when they are not enrolled or cannot determine their clan. It was disappointing, but I have learned to deal with it and move on to what I can have....reunion.

I take some exception to your broad and sweeping comment that infers I think everyone in or leading a (non federally recognized) Cherokee group is a con artist, a huckster or whatever. We all know there ARE hucksters, con artists and spirituality hawkers out there. They are waiting to pick people's pockets.....they exist. That is what I meant in my statements. Certainly I did not mean to infer that ALL non-recognized Cherokees are such. Certainly I DID mean to imply that one must be pretty careful when getting involved with any group and should carefully assess the group in light of their personal goals.

My claim to Cherokee Blood flows on both sides of my family, who are from Robbinsville, North Carolina and Turtletown, Tennessee. The side I can trace is an amazing tale of folks who weren't removed as Cherokees when the Removal occurred, but remained only to be decimated by the civil war and the Reconstruction period. In the 1880's my folks moved out to Oklahoma and they literally became citizens of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. They literally emigrated back to the United States in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1906 and petitioned the US Congress(and received) their United States Citizenship. I am still looking into the reason they left the nation.

So, in my case, Mr. Smith called it on the nose. My folks left the US and became Cherokee citizens....then left the nation and became US citizens....literally and traceably. Got everything on paper, stacks of it. It is undeniable I am of Cherokee blood, it is deniable that I can emigrate back to the Cherokee Nation. "Undocumented" in that sense means not able to obtain Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma citizenship, as I have a closet full of documents regarding my Cherokee blood.

I am an "expatriate Cherokee".

For a historical view of how it really was in terms of "citizenship" as to the states and the US and the Cherokee, try reading an actual account of it in a newspaper of the day at . It was a shocker for me.

When my folks became US citizens after leaving the nation, they gave the same oath as every new citizen. They renounced their citizenship in the Cherokee Nation and for whatever reason severed my right to claim that citizenship via their bloodline. I have no right to succession. I can trace my roots and prove all day I am Cherokee by blood, if not by nationality. How many of us Cherokee fit into that boat? How many ancestors refused to sign documents for the government and gave up our rights? How many of us are Cherokee by blood and not by nationality?
Isn't this the real problem?

I think what Mr. Smith is expressing is that despite political and legal problems that prevent us from being citizens of the same nation, we are of the same people. We can participate in our heritage and do it with the traditional Cherokees. We don't have to risk the hucksters, the con artists, the spirituality hawkers. The door is open, we can go to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. We are recognized for who we are(Cherokees outside the nation's LEGAL framework) and welcomed.

I think that Mr. Smith has taken a good and logical first step in good faith. We are now "undocumented cherokees".... They are waiting for we undocumented folks to take the next step. They stuck out their hand first and are waiting for us to shake it, problem is that hands are shaken one at a time, not in crowds.

Some folks might think that a group can be accepted as Cherokee because they simply assert that they are Cherokee. I don't believe that. I don't believe in "Cherokee Groups", I believe in Cherokee people. How can you trace a 'group' for their Cherokee blood? How can you determine a group is entitled to the Cherokee Legacy? How can you determine a 'group' is anything but an assemblage of people?

I offer up to you that for the Cherokee Nations to recognize a group, they must recognize that every person in that group is indeed a Cherokee. This is a task we cannot expect the Cherokee nations to undertake. It is our torch to bear, as it were. The solutions that will ensure acceptance must come from us, and be convincing to them. That is reality.

In order for people as a group to be recognized, they need to have a way of determining that they ARE all Cherokee to the satisfaction of the nation's people. A 'higher standard' than usually performed by makeshift tribes and groups(this is where the hucksters live) is required. I could point to some groups that are state recognized and use them as a model to build such a standard. So can you. Their level of proof is as comprehensive as any, in some cases. They just lack requirements to link to the Dawes, Baker or Keetoowah rolls, which are legal requirements to be beneficiaries to a recognized and enforced treaty. Some accept links to any Cherokee roll taken. This is logical when determining Cherokee blood versus national citizenship.

There are legal 'standings' that determine just who can join which tribe. This is generally due to their status as federal corporations and their "corporate charter"(constitution), their status as persons descended from people enumerated at some event (Dawes rolls, Baker rolls, UKB rolls) to satisfy a treaty or agreement with the US Government. If our Cherokee ancestors; expatriated, refused to enroll, hid for fear of social retribution, just minded their own business in them thar hills or whatever else, then they are not party to the required treaties.

They are Cherokee and probably are citizens of one of the several states. Citizenship is an extremely strange quirk of law, in that where most US citizens can claim to be states citizens unless they are citizens of the United States(I know it sounds weird, but it is true).
They may be also party to other treaties that are currently not in force due to lack of participation.

All indians, by amendment and law are citizens of their indian nation AND citizens of the United States OR citizens of the United States. This is a legal reality.

Remember, the card is a right to benefits and services of the Department of War and is not legally related to your right to be Cherokee. It is a legal right extended from a particular treaty to select groups of combatants at the conclusion of hostilities of war or polity.

Your right to be Cherokee is in your blood, not in a card or any particular citizenship. You own it, no group does....not even the federally recognized tribes and nations. Your right to be Cherokee only extends to you, not a group or club. It is an individual right, not a collective right.....and it is not convertible.

I would ask all the Cherokees out there...Who do you want to be recognized BY: The US government's BIA or the real live traditional Cherokee people? What will the card give you that you do not already have....and what is your motivation to obtain one? Is it better validation than actual recognition by your own people?

If your answer is that your goals transcend the need for a card, go home and visit your folks. They are waiting, the door is open and they want you to come. It's worth a drive to go find out isn't it?

The above article, received in email on 03/23/01 was written in response to Cherokee Chief Publicly Acknowledges the Existence of Undocumented Cherokees  by Tony Mack McClure


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