White Earth members approve new constitution

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-01-27 17:17Z by Steven

White Earth members approve new constitution

The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Pam Louwagie

New constitution does away with blood quantum rule.

In a historic vote that could vastly increase their membership, White Earth Band of Ojibwe members have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution.

The new document removes a requirement that tribal citizens possess one-quarter Minnesota Chippewa Tribe blood, a controversial “blood quantum” standard adopted at the urging of the federal government decades ago. Under the new constitution, White Earth’s declining citizenship will instead be based on lineal descent.

The change could mean more than doubling the population, which now stands at under 20,000.

According to ballots counted Tuesday night, nearly 80 percent of the nearly 3,500 votes cast approved of adopting a new constitution, which in addition to changing citizenship standards will create a tribal government with three branches and a separation of powers instead of one tribal council overseeing everything.

The old citizenship standard was divisive among families, with some members having children or grandchildren who couldn’t become citizens, said Jill Doerfler, associate professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Lineage citizenship won’t be automatic, however. People will still need to apply to become citizens, said Doerfler, who consulted with the tribe on reforming the constitution…

Read the entire article here.

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Race and American Indian Tribal Nationhood

Posted in History, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Papers/Presentations, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-03-11 00:07Z by Steven

Race and American Indian Tribal Nationhood

February 2009
44 pages

Matthew L. M. Fletcher, Professor of Law & Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center
Michigan State University

Forthcoming in a 2011 University of Wyoming Law Review issue.

American Indian tribes and nations are at a crossroads. One on hand, many tribes like the Cherokee Nation—mired in the politics and law of disenfranchising the Cherokee Freedmen—continue to hold to a citizenry based in race and ancestry. Federal Indian law tends to protect, and encourage, even the worst abuses of this regime. The United States long has adopted Indian blood quantum as a proxy for tribal citizenship, creating unfortunate paradoxes for Indian tribes and their citizens. For example, the Supreme Court just a few days ago in Carcieri v. Salazar held against an Indian tribe in Rhode Island on an important land case, perhaps, because the tribe’s citizens did not have significant blood quantum collectively.

But in most other cases, the Court is skeptical of tribal government authority because tribal citizenship is based at least in part on race. This means for the Court, especially Justice Kennedy, that non-Indians by blood or ancestry can never be citizens of an Indian tribes. And the Court worries that a tribal government seeking to assert jurisdiction over these persons somehow violates the social contract.

I argue, perhaps for the first time, that Indian tribes must move beyond race and ancestry as the single most important means of determining tribal citizenship. It will not be easy for Indian tribes to move beyond race and ancestry, but it is necessary if Indian nations wish to move beyond their status as an afterthought in the American constitutional structure and develop into more complete sovereign nations. I suggest several ways for Indian tribes to alter their citizenship criteria and recommend an incremental solution based on immigration law and policy.

Read the entire paper here.

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Tribal Rights vs. Racial Justice: Was the Cherokee Nation’s expulsion of black Freedmen an act of tribal sovereignty or of racial discrimination?

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2011-09-16 18:29Z by Steven

Tribal Rights vs. Racial Justice: Was the Cherokee Nation’s expulsion of black Freedmen an act of tribal sovereignty or of racial discrimination?

The New York Times
Room for Debate

Kevin Maillard, Associate Professor of Law
Syracuse University

Matthew L. M. Fletcher, Professor of Law
Michigan State University

Cara Cowan-Watts, Acting Speaker
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council

Rose Cuison Villazor, Associate Professor of Law
Hofstra University

Heather Williams, Cherokee citizen and Freedman Descendent
Cherokee Nation Entertainment Cultural Tourism Department

Carla D. Pratt, Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law

Tiya Miles, Professor of History and Chair of the Department of Afro-American and African Studies
University of Michigan

Joanne Barker (Lenape), Associate Professor of American Indian studies
San Francisco State University


When the Cherokee were relocated from the South to present-day Oklahoma in the 1830s, their black slaves were moved with them. Though an 1866 treaty gave the descendants of the slaves full rights as tribal citizens, regardless of ancestry, the Cherokee Nation has tried to expel them because they lack “Indian blood.”

The battle has been long fought. A recent ruling by the Cherokee Supreme Court upheld the tribe’s right to oust 2,800 Freedmen, as they are known, and cut off their health care, food stipends and other aid in the process.

But federal officials told the tribe that they would not recognize the results of a tribal election later this month if the citizenship of the black members was not restored. Faced with a cutoff of federal aid, a tribal commission this week offered the Freedmen provisional ballots, a half-step denounced by the black members.

Is the effort to expel of people of African descent from Indian tribes an exercise of tribal sovereignty, as tribal leaders claim, or a reversion to Jim Crow, as the Freedmen argue? Kevin Noble Maillard, a professor of law at Syracuse University and a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, organized this discussion of the issue.

Read the entire debate here.

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