Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sometimes You Just Wonder the ease with which the powerful can set the powerless against each other. And the joy with which a previously oppressed person will place his/her boot squarely on the neck of another if it seems like that action will gain him/her some small advantage, thus making it easier for others 'above' the oppressive oppressors to oppress them in turn , leading ultimately into a full-on fascist jamboree wherein all but a few are oppressed in their turn.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you "The Five Civilized Tribes" a.k.a. Cherokee & friends, who earned their "civilized" moniker by being slave-holders in the old south, and apparently, remain assholes to this very day.

From an article in WaPo this morning(behind free subscription wall):
"The 250,000-member Cherokee Nation will vote in a special election today whether to override a 141-year-old treaty and change the tribal constitution to bar "freedmen," the descendants of former tribal slaves, from being members of the sovereign nation."

What?! What year is this? This is just a bad joke, right?

Er ... Nope.

"Advocates of expelling the freedmen call it a matter of safeguarding tribal resources, which include a $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, and Cherokees' share of a gambling industry that, for U.S. tribes overall, takes in $22 billion a year. The grass-roots campaign for expulsion has given heavy play to warnings that keeping freedmen in the Cherokee Nation could encourage thousands more to sign up for a slice of the tribal pie.

Jesus, that didn't even require a sweat on the part of the powerful. Way to stay strong, Cherokee people!

"Don't get taken advantage of by these people. They will suck you dry," Darren Buzzard, an advocate of expelling the freedmen, wrote last summer in a widely circulated e-mail denounced by freedmen. "Don't let black freedmen back you into a corner. PROTECT CHEROKEE CULTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN. FOR OUR DAUGHTER[S] . . . FIGHT AGAINST THE INFILTRATION."

Hey! I recognize that rhetoric. Where can it be from? Oh, my, it sounds so familiar. Who else, historically, used the honor of their daughters as a rallying cry against another group of people, a people they had oppressed, and were now frightened would retaliate? Eh, must never have happened if I can't remember it.

"It's oppressed people that's oppressing people," said Verdie Triplett, 53, an outspoken freedman of the Choctaw tribe, which, like the Cherokee, once owned black slaves."


So, people of conscience can't go through with such a vile thing, can they? They can't expel their own for a few more gambling dollars can they? The people will rise up, and play that goofy 70's song, and the Cherokee people will be as one once more, I just know it.

The WaPo article about the Cherokee vote today:. (Behind a free subscription wall)

"With a majority of districts reporting, 76 percent had voted in favor of an amendment to the tribal constitution that would limit citizenship to descendants of "by blood" tribe members as listed on the federal Dawes Commission's rolls from more than 100 years ago."

Ass. Holes.

And the Government "tutorial site" on the Dawes Rolls:

"The Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was appointed by President Grover Cleveland in 1893 to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. It is commonly called the Dawes Commission, after its chairman, Henry L. Dawes.

Tribe members were entitled to an allotment of land, in return for abolishing their tribal governments and recognizing Federal laws. In order to receive the land, individual tribal members first had to apply and be deemed eligible by the Commission.

The first application process for enrollment began in 1896, but was declared invalid. So the Dawes Commission started all over again in 1898. People had to re-apply in order to be considered, even if they had already applied in 1896. The resulting lists of those who were accepted as eligible became known as the Dawes Rolls. Their formal name is the "Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory". The Commission accepted applications from 1898 until 1907, with a few additional people accepted by an Act of Congress in 1914."

So, lemme get this straight. An oppressed and expelled people bring with them out of the south their own subset of oppressed people. Then, 100 years later, when tribal rights are starting to be respected again, even if just a little, they expel their subset of oppressed people. For money. Based on the documentation of a racist government commission that had something to gain by refusing to count any person with even the slightest appearance of 'black blood,' whether that person also had Cherokee blood or not. In fact, one hint that a person was black at all kept them off the Dawes Roll, even if they also had Cherokee & friends blood. So, these 'freedmen' were kept from the rolls for racist and capitalist reasons at the turn of the last century, and are being expelled from the tribe again now for the same reasons.

Updated below, because I'm not done ranting yet.

Is there no place, no group of people, that can be touched by the violence of oppression without craving the power of oppressor themselves? Was HOBBES right?! Are people who say they want justice only interested in becoming part of the club? Is the whole world just comprised of people who will happily adopt racism, sexism, creedism, and any other fucking -ism that's convenient to get them what they want or think they need?

Look, I belong to more than one group of assholes, stemming from varied traditions of assholery. So do you, most likely. But at some point, don't we all have to say that the lesson we have brought from 500 years of absolute racist, sexist, hateful, soul-destroying bullshit is that we will have no more of said bullshit?

When do you suppose we will value self-respect over money? 'Cause you can't tell me that a person who respects him/herself does a thing like this.


Jarod said...

It will be interesting to see what more comes out on this. I wonder what other scare tactics were used on the petition drive.

Deborah James said...

The Redfaces speak with forked tongues.

Greed is an equal opportunity employer. Hopefully, the government will threaten to violate their treaties as well and turn their asses out into the woods.

HeoCwaeth said...


I'm sure more will come out, and we'll see that the scare tactics run the whole gamut of crazy.

When I said that actions like these make it easier for the ├╝ber-oppressors to justify their own oppressive actions, I meant that I consider that a bad thing.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...


You asked, "Was HOBBES right?!" Perhaps that is the question you really seek to answer.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, that is so f'd up. It's the oppressed fighting the oppressed for the table scraps from the oppressor.

I grew up hearing white people say racist things about non-whites and knew then, even as a child, it was bullshit, but the moment that I remember most clearly, that really *shocked* me, was hearing a South Asian elevator operator in London snarl racist obscenities at a well-dressed black man who got on the elevator. I just couldn't fathom that at age 9, and even now, while I understand the psychological and social mechanisms behind it, it still seems, as you tagged your post, "unbe-freakin-lievable."

[Dork linquistic note: your tag demonstrates an "expletive infix." Dork music note: I think the cheezy 70s song you're thinking of is Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Cherokee Nation." Never was there a more ironic pairing of band name and song.]

Anniina said...

Sometimes I find it very hard not to lose faith in humanity - we haven't really come all that far, have we?
But no, I also don't want to believe that Hobbes was right. Great post, Heo Cwaeth.

HeoCwaeth said...

Dr. Nokes,
If I truly, in my heart of hearts, believed that Hobbes was right about people, I'd finally buy that cabin in the woods I keep threatening to move to whenever these stories come up. And then my cow and my chicken and I would have long conversations about how annoyed we are that people suck so much that our only reasonable option was to live in the woods with the ticks. But we still wouldn't be pro-authority, because authority is weilded by people. Who, according to Hobbes, inherently suck.

I'm a much better citizen when my response to really horrible behavior in myself and others is, "Hey! You know better than that."

Dr. V,
You touch on one of the conflicts I had when writing this post. I knew I was holding the people and government of the Cherokee nation to a higher standard than the people and government of the American nation have shown any interest in reaching. Especially lately.

The intellectual understanding of how and why such things happen doesn't help one reach emotional understanding, however, and that's where I fail, I think. Because, while I know it's not helpful to look at an oppressed oppressive people and say "do as I say, not as that guy who acts in my name does," it's still just ... blearggh! They know better! From bitter experience! FFS!

Yeah. It's depressing how little has changed in all these centuries. I used to tell my undergrad advisor that being a feminist medievalist was indicative of self-destructive tendencies that required medication. Because when you realize that the author of the Ancrene Wisse is using the same exact arguments as the creepy old guy at your church used last year, you get a little tired all of a sudden.

HeoCwaeth said...

Also, Dr. V, thanks for the linguistic dorkiness. I just put all of that stuff in the tmesis pile before you showed me that there's a whole nother category.

Chester N. Scoville said...