Lynne Harlan: Cherokee membership linked to federal roll
"Our tribe has undertaken a tribal enrollment audit. The purpose of the audit was to ascertain the validity of people’s whose names appear on our tribal rolls, the official listing of our tribal members. Our tribal government uses a U.S. government list devised in 1924 as the base listing of those Cherokee who lived in the Qualla Boundary, Snowbird and Cherokee County communities when United States citizenship was granted to American Indians.

It is ironic that our tribe asserts its sovereignty in many matters but in this most basic question of who is a tribal member we have decided to rely on the federal government standard established more than a century ago. We have chosen to use a list that was questionable when it was developed to determine the future of our people more than a century later. The Baker Roll, as is the case with many rolls of Cherokees for much of the 19th century, was actually intended to disenfranchise community members from our community and our property. That list and the number of individuals it represented was and continues to be used as a population base in federal funding formulas.

Throughout the 20th century, tribal leaders manipulated the enrollment data, righty and wrongly, to best benefit the tribe. Our community has many stories about the manner of the enrollment of some individuals such as cash payments to enrollment officials and the oral agreement of tribal leaders to individuals for enrollment in exchange for property which was to be included in tribal lands. No matter the past circumstance our tribe has now relinquished the right to decide membership on an individual basis for a blanket policy which reflects a federal government policy."

Get the Story:
B. Lynne Harlan: Audit raises old issues of who is Cherokee (The Asheville Citizen-Times 4/2)

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