Cherokee's Smith moved by race


I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation by Cherokee blood and I voted for Principal Chief Chad Smith every time he was on the ballot. I write to express why he is wrong to engineer the disenrollment of Cherokee citizens for his short-term political gain, and why his wrong decision affects all of Indian country.

He writes that the vote was ''an affirmation of Indian identity.'' He accuses opponents of ''playing the race card,'' but without the race card his argument lacks a full deck. Smith is moved by European race theory, the idea that there are ''races'' - subpopulations of humans below the species level - and everybody has a ''race.''

This is called ''European'' race theory because its purpose is domination. If, against all scientific evidence, we accept the existence of ''race,'' then some race is more fit to dominate and the other races are more fit to serve. We can only quibble over the standards for deciding racial superiority, not whether it exists. Guess which ''race'' European race theory holds to be superior?

Chief Smith claims the Cherokees voted ''in record numbers,'' as if he did not call a special election to make sure only a few voters would participate and - more to the point - that the people he wanted out would have no voice in his re-election. In the 2000 Census, 729,533 people claimed to be Cherokee-American. About 268,000 are enrolled citizens of the Cherokee Nation, three-quarters of them by less than one-quarter blood quantum. The turnout in the special election was 8,743 of about 35,000 registered voters, of which 6,702 voted to disenroll their follow citizens. By comparison, the last Cherokee general election turnout was 13,914.

Short term, the impact of this election is that about 2,662 black Cherokees and 8 white Cherokees were disenrolled and will not be around to vote against Chad Smith. It is worth noting that they voted under the 1839 and 1975 Cherokee constitutions until they were considered likely to vote against the incumbent powers in 1983 and were illegally removed for short-term political gain.

The long-term impact is tied to these questions: Does the Cherokee Nation have the power to abrogate a treaty with the United States? If so, does the Cherokee Nation have the power to abrogate a treaty with the United States absent changed circumstances? If so, and the Cherokee Nation chooses not to be bound by its treaty undertakings, then what is the moral and legal basis for asserting that the United States should be bound? This question has impact far beyond the Cherokee Nation.

The long-term impact on Indian country is that we are asked to answer the question whether we are a race or approximately 600 nations? One Nation United, Upstate Citizens for Equality, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance - all of these wingnuts say we are nothing but another special pleading racial minority and that all of Title 25 of the U.S. Code (''Indians'') is nothing but race discrimination.

6,702 Cherokee voters, including Chad Smith, just agreed with them.

Judge Steve Russell

Associate professor at

Indiana University

Bloomington, Ind.