The Cherokee Nation (Western)


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tribal Enrollment and Heritage Groups

Tribal enrollment

Race and blood quantum are not sole factors in Cherokee Nation tribal citizenship eligibility. To be considered a citizen in the Cherokee Nation, an individual needs a direct Indian ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls. The tribe currently has members who also have African, Latino, Asian, white and other ancestry. Members of the Natchez Nation joined the Cherokee Nation as well as other southeastern tribes in the 18th century.

Relationship with at-large Cherokees

Two tribal council members represent the at-large citizenry – those that live outside the tribe's 14-county jurisdictional area in northeastern Oklahoma. Eleven satellite communities have been organized by the tribe in areas of high Cherokee Nation populations. These communities are composed of a majority of enrolled Cherokee Nation citizens. These communities are a way for enrolled Cherokee citizens to connect with Cherokee heritage and culture and to be more politically engaged. These communities are located for in California, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, and central Oklahoma.

Tribal relationship with Cherokee heritage groups

Many groups have sought recognition by the federal government as Cherokee tribes, but today there are only three groups recognized by the federal government. Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller has discussed that some groups, which he calls Cherokee Heritage Groups, are encouraged. Others, however, are controversial for their attempts to gain economically through their claims to be Cherokee, a claim which is disputed by the three federally recognized groups, who assert themselves as the only groups having the legal right to present themselves as Cherokee Indian Tribes.

One exception to this may be the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands (TCAB) who prior to 1975, was considered a part of the Cherokee Nation as reflected in briefs filed before the Indian Claims Commission. In fact at one time W.W. Keeler served not only as Chief of the Cherokee Nation, but at the same time held the position as Chairman of the TCAB Executive Committee. The TCAB was formed as a political organization in 1871 by William Penn Adair and Clement Neely Vann, for descendants of the Texas Cherokees and the Mount Tabor Community in an effort to gain redress from treaty violations stemming from the Treaty of Bowles Village in 1836. Following the adoption of the Cherokee constitution in 1975, TCAB descendants, whose ancestors had remained a part of the physical Mount Tabor Community in Rusk County, Texas, were excluded from citizenship in that their ancestors did not appear on the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes. However, most if not all, did have an ancestor listed on the Guion Miller or Old Settler rolls. Another problem for the TCAB is that groups of Yowani Choctaws and McIntosh Party Creeks had joined them in the 1850s, changing the make up of the group. Today, most Mount Tabor descendants are in fact members of the Cherokee Nation, but eight hundred or so are stuck in the limbo without official recognition as Cherokees, with many of them still residing in Rusk and Smith counties of east Texas.

New resolution

The Councils of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians at the Joint Council Meeting held in Catoosa, Oklahoma on April 9, 2008 passed a resolution Opposing Fabricated Cherokee "Tribes" and "Indians". It denounced any further state or federal recognition of "Cherokee" tribes or bands, aside from the those already federally recognized, and committed themselves to exposing and assisting state and federal authorities in eradicating any group which attempts or claims to operate as a government of the Cherokee people.

In addition, the resolution asked that no public funding from any federal or state government should be expended on behalf of non-federally recognized 'Cherokee' tribes or bands and that the Nation would call for a full accounting of all federal monies given to state recognized, unrecognized or SOI(c)(3) charitable organizations that claim any Cherokee affiliation.

It called for federal and state governments to stringently apply a federal definition of "Indian" that included only citizens of federally recognized Indian tribes, to prevent non-Indians from selling membership in "Cherokee" tribes for the purpose of exploiting the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

In a controversial segment that could affect Cherokee Baptist churches and charitable organizations, the resolution stated that no 501(c)(3) organization, state recognized, or unrecognized groups shall be acknowledged as Cherokee. Celebrities who claim to be Cherokee, such as those listed in this article, are also targeted by the resolution.

Any individual who is not a member of a federally recognized Cherokee tribe, in academia or otherwise, is hereby discouraged from claiming to speak as a Cherokee, or on behalf of Cherokee citizens, or using claims of Cherokee heritage to advance his or her career or credentials. – Joint Council of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

This declaration was not signed or approved by the United Keetoowah Band. Even still the Cherokee Nation acknowledges the existence of people of Cherokee descent " states such as Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas," who are Cherokee by blood but not members of the Cherokee Nation. "There are more than 200 groups that we’ve been able to recognize that call themselves a Cherokee nation, tribe, or band," said Mike Miller, spokesman for the Cherokee Nation.

"Only three are federally recognized, but the other groups run the gamut of intent. Some are basically heritage groups – people who have family with Cherokee heritage who are interested in the language and culture, and we certainly encourage that," said Miller. "But the problem is when you have groups that call themselves ‘nation,’ or ‘band,’ or ‘tribe,’ because that implies governance."

Information provided by Wikipedia.

Racial Identity and Religious / Spiritual Practices

The Cherokee society is historically a matrilineal society; meaning clanship is attained through the mother. Prior to Oklahoma statehood, the women were considered the Head of Household, with the home and children belonging to her should she separate from a husband. There are seven clans in Cherokee Society: A-ni-gi-lo-hi (Long Hair), A-ni-sa-ho-ni (Blue), A-ni-wa-ya (Wolf), A-ni-go-te-ge-wi (Wild Potato), A-ni-a-wi (Deer), A-ni-tsi-s-qua (Bird), A-ni-wo-di (Paint). The knowledge of a person's clan is important for many reasons; historically, and still today among Cherokee traditionalists, it is forbidden to marry within your clan. Clan members are considered brother and sisters. In addition, when seeking spiritual guidance and Indian doctoring, it is necessary to name your clan. Seating at ceremonial stomp dances is by clan, as well.

The Traditional Cherokee Belief System

In a search for order and sustaining that order, the olden Cherokee devised a simple, yet seemingly complex belief system. Many of the elements of the original system remain today. Although some have evolved or otherwise been modified, the traditional Cherokee of today recognize the belief system as an integral part of day-to-day life.

Certain numbers play an important role in the ceremonies of the Cherokee. The numbers four and seven repeatedly occur in myths, stories and ceremonies. Four represents all the familiar forces, also represented in the four cardinal directions. These cardinal directions are east, west, north and south. Certain colors are also associated with these directions. The number seven represents the seven clans of the Cherokee, and are also associated with directions. In addition to the four cardinal directions, three others exist. Up (the Upper World), down (the Lower World) and center (where we live, and where ‘you’ always are).

Because of these early beliefs, the traditional Cherokee have a special regard for the owl and cougar. They are the honored ones in some versions of the Creation story. They were the only two who were able to stay awake for the seven nights of Creation. The others fell asleep. Today, because of this, they are nocturnal in their habits and both have night vision. The owl is seemingly different from other birds, and he resembles an old man as he walks. Sometimes, the owl can be mistaken for a cat with his feather tufts and silhouette of his head. This resemblance honors his nocturnal brother, the cougar. The owls’ eyes are quite large and set directly in front like a persons, and he can close one independent of the other. The cougar is an animal whose has screams which resemble those of a woman. He is an animal who has habits that are very secret and unpredictable.

Traditionally, the Cherokee are deeply concerned with keeping things separated and in the proper classification, or category. For example, when sacred items are not in use they are wrapped in deerskin, or white cloth, and kept in a special box or other place.

The circle is a familiar symbol to traditional Cherokees. The Stomp Dance and other ceremonies involve movements in a circular pattern. In ancient times, the fire in the council house was built by arranging the wood in a continuous "X" so that the fire would burn in a circular path.

The rivers, or "Long Man," were always believed to be sacred, and the practice of going to water for purification and other ceremonies was at one time very common. Today, the river, or any other body of moving water such as a creek, is considered a sacred site, and going to water is still a respected practice by some Cherokees.

Traditional Cherokees also believe that after a person dies, his soul often continues to live as a ghost. Ghosts are believed to have the ability to materialize where some people can see them, although some cannot.

Very basic to the Cherokee belief system is the premise that good is rewarded, while evil is punished. Even though the Cherokee strictly believe in this type of justice, there are times when things happen that the system just does not explain. It is often believed that some events that are unexplainable are caused by someone using medicine for evil purposes. Witchcraft among the Cherokee is not at all like that of the non-Indian cultures. To understand and respect the beliefs of traditional Cherokees about using medicine, conjuring, and witchcraft, you must first consider the early types of Indian societies, and consider how this has remained an integral part of Cherokee culture.

Today, many Cherokees still consult with medicine people regarding problems, both mental and physical. Some believe in using both Cherokee medicine and licensed medical doctors and the health care systems. Some Cherokee today, however, will not see a medicine man for any reason and refuse to acknowledge their powers.

The knowledge held by the medicine men or women is very broad in spectrum. They work for years committing to memory the syllabary manuscripts passed to them by the ones who taught them. Many formulas have been documented in Cherokee syllabary writing in books ranging from small notebooks to full-blown ledgers. If the words are not spoken or sung in the Cherokee language, they will have no affect. Until the words have been memorized, the medicine person will refer to his book. This does not compromise his abilities, as modern medical practitioners often refer to reference books, too. The writings in these books are strictly guarded and anyone who is not in training is strictly forbidden to study or read the books. The words are usually accompanied by a physical procedure, such as the use of a specially prepared tobacco, or drink. Medicine people must be, and must remain, in perfect health for their powers to be at peak. Their breath and saliva contain the powers of their life-force, and are used in their medicine.

As far as the witches referred to above, there are ordinary witches and killer witches. Ordinary witches are considered more dangerous since a person can never be sure he is dealing with one, and they are more difficult to counteract. They may deceive a medicine person, and cause them to prescribe the wrong cure if not guarded. One killer witch who is still spoke of often in the Cherokee Nation is the Raven Mocker .

Cherokee Festivals

There were six main festivals or religious observances before the forced removal. These festivals were to be observed at the capital. The ugu (or ouga, or uku) (which is a derivation from the Cherokee word for Chief), seven Principal Counselors and people from all seven Cherokee clans participated.

The first festival was the First New Moon of Spring Festival. This festival was held in March. The seven Principal Counselors determined when the moons would appear and a messenger would announce the upcoming festival to all the Cherokee people. Other festivals included:

  • Green Corn Ceremony
  • Mature Green Corn Ceremony
  • Great New Moon Festival
  • Friends Made Ceremony
  • Winter Festival

Today, some Cherokee traditionalists still observe these festivals. Some ceremonial grounds observe some, if not all, of the occassions.


Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center

Structure of Government

Like the United States, the government of the Cherokee Nation is split into three branches as provided by its Constitution: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial.

The Executive branch consists of the Principal Chief and Deputy Principal Chief, who are responsible for executing the laws of the nation and delegating authority within the government. Both of these positions are popularly elected for four-year terms by the Cherokee people.

The Legislative branch consists of the Tribal Council, also popularly elected, which is composed of 17 members that represent nine districts within the Cherokee Nation. An additional two Council members are elected to represent Cherokees living outside of the Nation's boundaries. As with the U.S. Congress, the Tribal Council introduces legislation that will be implemented across the nation.

Finally the Judicial branch is composed of the five-member Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, as well as the Cherokee Nation District Court and the Wellness Court. The members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Principal Chief and then confirmed by the Tribal Council. The Court is charged with interpreting the Cherokee Nation's Constitution and resolving legal disputes that may arise. Additionally, the District Court presides over all cases that are brought to it under the judicial code of the Nation.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cherokee Students to Cycle the historic Trail of Tears

On Wednesday, June 2, 2010 a group of ten Cherokee students from small communities throughout Oklahoma will cycle their way through the historic Trail of Tears. The group will be riding from the original Cherokee homelands Georgia and ending in Tahlequah, Okla., the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. This is the third such ride to be sponsored by the tribe, with the original ride first completed in 1984 and a very successful 25th anniversary ride held last year.

Along their journey students will be learning their own family history, as well as, the Cherokee history along the way. The riders will make stops along the way at specific points of interest from the Trail of Tears and will be provided with relevant history lessons to help make connections between the past and what the riders are currently experiencing.

The Trail of Tears of the Cherokees took place over the winter months of 1838 through 1839. An estimated 16,000 Cherokees were forced at gunpoint to remove themselves and their families from their homes, farms and communities. After being held in federal stockades until deep winter, they were subsequently herded on overland and water routes that moved through territories that represent the present-day states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. More than four thousand Cherokees died along the various routes from the harsh conditions of the crossing.

For more info go to:

Other Trail Of Tears Events

The Annual Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride began in 1994 by Bill Cason to mark one of the trails used during the 1838 removal of Native Americans from their homelands in the Southeast to Oklahoma. The ride started at Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga, TN with eight riders and ended with 100 riders in Waterloo, AL. TOTRAI's ride has now grown to over 150,000 riders, making it the largest organized motorcycle ride in the world.

Every 3rd day Of September

Friday, May 28, 2010

Government and Politics since 1947

Changes to Federal Indian Policy

In 1947, the Hoover commission on postwar governmental reorganization recommended that American Indians be integrated into U.S. society at large "as full, tax-paying citizens." In 1953 this had become the official "Indian policy" of the government. In essence, it marked an end to the special relationship between American Indian tribes and the federal government, and an end to the treaty obligations of the U.S. In the words of proponents of this policy, it was to be "an end to the Indian problem."

By 1970, there had been a sea change in the federal government. President Nixon declared that the termination policy had been a
failure and that the Congress should strike it down and reaffirm the special relationship between the federal government and the American Indian tribes. Later that year, Congress passed a law that declared that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, among other tribes, would be able to be democratically elect their own chief, as opposed to it being appointed by the President.


Thus, in 1971, elections were held for the position of Principal Chief -- the first elections since before Oklahoma statehood in 1907. W.W. Keeler, an oil company executive and holder of the office since being appointed by President Truman in 1949, was elected by a landslide. Keeler chose not to run for reelection in 1975, however, after he and his oil company, Phillips, were found guilty of making illegal campaign contributions to President Nixon. His hand-picked candidate, though, Ross Swimmer, carried Keeler's legacy forward and oversaw the adoption of a new constitution. He would serve three terms until 1985.

A New Constitution

Later that same year, the new constitution was drafted to supercede the one that was previously established in 1839 after the Cherokee had completed their forced relocation to "Indian Territory." This new constitution was ratified by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1976, and it received recognition from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The most important provisions of the new constitution called for recurring elections for Principal Chief, Deputy Principal Chief, and a tribal council (composed of fifteen members) every four years. Additionally, a judicial tribunal made up of three members was established as the highest court of the Cherokee Nation.

Mankiller's Leadership

After confirming her leadership and experience in a series of positions within the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller was elected as Deputy Principal Chief alongside incumbent Principal Chief Swimmer in 1983. As she noted, the two were an odd match: "He was a Republican banker with a very conservative viewpoint, and I was a Democratic social worker and community planner who had worked for Indian civil and treaty rights." The two would not serve together long, however, as Swimmer accepted a position in the administration of President Reagan and Mankiller acceded to the seat of Principal Chief.

During her tenure as the Cherokee Nation's first female Principal Chief, Mankiller oversaw a series of important developments. In 1990, she signed an agreement of self-governance that authorized the Cherokee Nation to have control over funds previously administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She also reformed the justice department of the Cherokee Nation and created a tribal prosecutor. That same year, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction on Indian lands. Additionally, a new tax was imposed on all tobacco products sold by shop owners which provided new revenue for the Nation.

In 1995, Mankiller declined to seek reelection and passed the reins to Joe Byrd after an exceedingly contentious election campaign. After a tumultuous term in office marked by legal disputes and charges of corruption, Chad "Corntassel" Smith became Principal Chief and continues to the present day.


Conley, Robert. The Cherokee Nation: A History. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


1990 –
  • The Cherokee Nation Entertainment began operating as a Cherokee Bingo Outpost in Roland, Okla., with 83 employees. Later the property would become Cherokee Casino Roland and two more casinos in Tulsa and West Siloam Springs would follow.
2004 –
  • Cherokee Casino Resort was the first casino-hotel resort destination in Oklahoma.
  • By 2006 there were a total of 7 casinos in Cherokee communities.
2008 –
  • On the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs went through a $125 million expansion.
2009 –
  • The Cherokee Nation and its businesses employ nearly 8,000 people.
  • The Cherokee Casino Resort became the first Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Oklahoma and the seventh Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the world.
2010 –
  • By 2010, an eight-story luxury hotel is expected to be complete.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chad "Corntassel" Smith - Principal Chief

Chief Chadwick "Corntassel" Smith holds a Bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Georgia; Master's degree in public administration from the University of Wisconsin and a Juris Doctorate, Law, from the University of Tulsa.

Highly respected as Indian legal scholar, Chief Smith has fought for tribal sovereignty and stood up for Indian rights for the last 15 years. He has consistently donated his time as a practicing attorney to helping tribal elders, children and families.

Smith has a strong background in Indian law filled with test cases designed to protect and expand the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. These cases encompass Indian Child Welfare, hunting and fishing rights; Indian country jurisdiction and many other issues important to tribal sovereignty.

Dedicated to ensuring a better quality of life for Cherokee people, Chief Smith places priorities on tribal and individual self-sufficiency, elderly care services, better quality health care and education. He and his administration continue to focus on three essential initiatives: jobs, language and community.