Editorial: Cherokees of Alabama and recognition
"‘You’re born what you are, the Creator made you."

So said Bobby "Red Hawk" Sterling, chief of the group Cherokees of Alabama, when discussing whether his group should have the right to sell "authentic" native American crafts at the gift shop planned for the former River Trace Golf Club property in East Gadsden.

The Alabama Indian Affairs Commission said the group could not legally sell items, even those made by CoA members, labeled as "authentic" Native American goods because the group is not recognized as a tribe, a status change the group says it is pursuing.

While we welcome the CoA’s presence in Gadsden and its plans for investing in a development here, some of its actions are cause for concern. Signs posted at the property proclaim it a reservation although it hasn’t been declared one. A security vehicle is labeled "reservation" police.

The process for gaining status as a tribe is long and arduous. It should be. Groups that believe they are entitled to tribal status obviously get frustrated but if the process was easy it would surely be abused. Granting tribal status to marginally qualified groups would diminish that status for those truly deserving. Similarly, allowing "Indian-made" labels on items produced by groups that don’t have tribal status could lead to all sorts of problems. Without truth in labeling, you’d have "authentic" Indian items made in China."

Get the Story:
Editorial: 'Authentic' status is necessary (The Gadsden Times 7/1)

Related Stories:
Chad Smith: Cherokees of Alabama not legitimate (7/1)
Cherokees of Alabama seek federal recognition (6/12)