by Barbara "Shining Woman" Warren
We descendants who are not eligible to enroll in a federally recognized Cherokee tribe are "disenfranchised" Cherokee. Individuals who are not acknowledged by the federal government or any federally recognized tribe as being Cherokee have lost their right "legally" to be who they are. No other minority in the United States needs to prove to the federal government who their ancestors were.
Although a Cherokee descendent may not be raised in a traditional community and may not be a member of a federally recognized tribe, it does not preclude a person from being Cherokee. Being Cherokee is determined by birth and blood, not by nationality or federal permission.
If you are aware of your family's oral history and choose to acknowledge your heritage, let no one deny you that privilege. Historically, the federal government sanctioned theft, murder, and genocide against the aboriginal people of this country. Do not allow your Cherokee birthright to be taken from you as well.
If you are a disenfranchised Cherokee, why not join in a Cherokee association in your state. If you have a strong desire to identify with your Cherokee ancestors, make a commitment to learn about the culture, language and traditions. Share what you learn with your family, friends and community.
- Let your friends, colleagues and community know that you are a Cherokee descendent
- You have the right to recognize your heritage without an apology for how much or how little quantum blood you are
- Make a positive statement- I am Cherokee
- When filling out questionnaires/forms, identify yourself as Cherokee, American Indian, or Native American whenever possible
- Remember Cherokees have a marvelous, rich history, but we are also part of today's world. Let others know we are here