September 18, 2009
The Ani Yun wi wa band (my relatives and others who are descended from Cherokee family lines), relocated to Vermont beginning in 1980, as we were directed to do by our elders to return to the land and reawaken our ceremonial cycle where the waters arise from the earth and run to the seas. Many family members moved to New York city during the second world war after loosing lands in South Carolina, became part of a large Native American community of steel workers and others who lived in New York, while maintaining ‘Indian’ identity.
During the period of Cherokee removal, our family decided not to interact with the government and hid from soldiers during ‘removal’, as they seemed to break each agreement they made. I continue in the view, that we may care for ourselves and maintain our culture as we recognize each other and where we have come from and choose to go forward together. The Green Mountain Aniyunwiwa continues to support the education of our families and maintain our ceremonial cycle here in Vermont. (Due to shorter growing season our planting and harvest ceremonies no longer coincide with ceremonial timing in the southeastern United States.)
The Green Mountain Band of the Ani Yunwiwa seeks no state or federal recognition, as we know who we are. We share our thoughts and ceremonies with people of like mind and choose to pass along to our children, grand children and great grand children what was passed along to us.
The memory of the Ywahoo lineage, is observed in the naming of sacred places that the Ywahoo's (Wahoo's) were spiritually responsible for, such as Ywahoo Falls and other places of sacred springs and the ‘Sacred Mound’ dedicated to the last great Ywahoo near Macon Georgia.
There are more non federally or state recognized tribes or bands than there are recognized due to the forced removal and paper erasure of families and their land rights during the early eighteen hundreds on through present times.
Some of you had the good fortune to meet my father and know of his Cherokee identity, others may have not. My dad opened our first ceremonial fire in Huntington Vermont and then moved the ceremonial fire to Lincoln Vermont. He prophesied the deepening relationship with Tibetan Buddhism, after having a vision of many Stupas along Dowingsville Road here in Lincoln. He and his family lived as Cherokees in South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia and we were raised with the knowledge of our heritage and culture, which we continue to share with people of like mind.
What does tribal membership mean?
To explain tribal membership of American Indians and Alaska Natives is as complicated as the American Indian History of the United States, which has never been written in one text nor taught in our public schools. People of the United States do NOT know American Indian History, the history of the people who populated this land at the time of their (discovery). It is not taught in our schools and therefore the general population is completely ignorant of the history of the United States relationship with the First peoples of the Americas.
This description of tribal membership will be short and not delve into all of the scenarios and will cover the overall tribal identification of its members.
There are 562 American Indian Tribes who are recognized by the Federal Government of the United States. There is a government-to-government relationship with the tribe. Not with individual Indian people, because these Indian people are members of this recognized tribe, they receive benefits from the relationship. This was done with treaties that took the land and in many cases, water, and mineral rights as well. These rights were not freely given by Indian tribes but were forced terms of their survival. American Indian tribes are therefore sovereign nations within a sovereign nation.
Tribal membership is determined by the tribal governments and family lines of descent. The federal government cannot determine tribal membership. Then there are over 200 tribes who are state recognized and not federally recognized and over six hundred tribes, which are not recognized by any state or federal government.
Once again the there is a special relationship between the tribal governments and the state government, a relationship that is a sovereign nation within a sovereign state. This relationship is between the tribal government and the state government and if you are a member of that tribe then you share in this relationship.
Tribal governments are the holder of their own rolls. In some tribes as tribal members are born they are entered onto the rolls of that tribe. There are some tribes who had the rolls taken and closed and they must prove their descent from the tribal member who is on the roll. This is done through birth certificates that show the lineage of individual Indians and can be a very labor driven process.
‘However, there were many tribes who opted to NOT have a special relationship with the federal or state government and therefore do not answer to or benefit from these governments. The way Indian people were treated within the government in history was not something Indian people wanted to experience. Therefore there are American Indian tribes in the U S. who do not maintain a relationship with federal or state governments. However they are still Indian.’ From Indian Health Service Fact Sheet tribes or Indian bands.
Neither the Federal nor State government determines tribal membership. Only the tribal government has that power.
If we were to take one tribe as an example of tribal membership, we can look at the diversity of this issue. The Tsa La Gi or Cherokee Tribe was located in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee and some in Kentucky and later Arkansas. In 1838 The Indian Removal Act was passed which was to move all of the Cherokees out their home lands as well as some other tribes and some of the Five Tribes and put them into the territory of Oklahoma, which was to be one big Indian reservation with many different tribes not indigenous to the are being pushed into this area.
Andrew Jackson was President of the United States and was the President who removed the Cherokee Indians from their homelands. They were rounded up by the United States Army and were removed from their homeland to the Oklahoma territory forced to leave their homes, plantations and businesses.
One of the things that many people do not know and is important in history is that the Cherokee Indians were working through the courts back East to stop this action. The Supreme Court of the United Sates made a ruling that is was illegal and unconstitutional for the President to enact the removal of the Indians from their homelands. Andrew Jackson is only President of the United States to ever defy a Supreme Court order and he did enact the removal of the tribes. This was a political action on his part because he was told by the constituency of those states where the Cherokee resided that they would ensure that he did not retain the Presidency if he did not follow this action.
Those rounded up by the soldiers were forced from their homelands and those who survived the “walk” or better known as The Trails of Tears or as the Cherokee say, The Trail Where They Cried were to become known as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma or Western Band. Some of the Cherokee who “hid in the hills” and could not be rounded up, stayed and eventually came down into Cherokee, North Carolina on what is called Quallah Boundary and became known as the Eastern Band of Cherokees. These two groups have a government-to-government relationship with the federal government and there are many Cherokee who refused removal and chose not to interact with the United States government in any form.
Besides the Western Cherokee and the Eastern Cherokee there are Cherokee that were pushed out of Arkansas after being relocated there before the ‘Trail Where They Cried’ and all of those Cherokees did not get on the Dawes Rolls. There were Cherokees who went into Texas and they are known as the Texas Cherokees and they too are not on the Dawes Rolls.
The Dawes Commission was set up in 1893 by the Federal Government to (treat separately with the Five Civilized Tribes) and procure the tribes’ agreement for allotment of land and the dissolution of tribal government in the Oklahoma Territory preparatory to Oklahoma statehood. They wanted to lands of the five tribes to become the state of Oklahoma and for it to be opened for settlement by non-Indians. They would then allot land to individual Cherokees and other of the five tribes. They would enroll each Cherokee for this purpose. Many were against this act, as it would negate their tribal government and the treaties made with the Cherokees made upon their move to Oklahoma territory.
The Keetoowah Band of Cherokee (full bloods) hid in the hills to keep off of these rolls and refused to cooperate with the Dawes Commission, preferring imprisonment to enrollment.
Most main street Americans does not know this process. This is presented in a very simple way without all of the explaining that goes with painting a full picture. However, it does clarify why you do not find every Cherokee on the Western or Eastern rolls.
So there are Cherokee who DO NOT HAVE A ROLL number with the Eastern or Western band. Their ancestors chose that their group not be on those rolls. This does not take away from their heritage and lineage. They are still tribal members of their own bands who continue to be Cherokee Indians.
If full American Indian history were studied in our schools, there would be understanding of the facts regarding the first Americans and English, French and United States governments. Those who do not know the American Indian history assume that the voice of the textbook is the only voice, while those who seek to know may hear the voices of Americas’ first peoples and the other side of our story.
Some of the information was taken from the book, THE CHEROKEES written by Grace Steele Woodward, the Indian Health Service Fact Sheet and the knowledge of members of Federally recognized Cherokee tribes.
Note: Of the 18,000 Cherokees rounded up for removal 4,000 perished Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians.
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