March 3, 2007
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Cherokee Nation Constitutional amendment restricting membership to descendants of Indians listed by blood on the Dawes Rolls has passed.
Cherokee voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Cherokee Nation Constitution in a special election Saturday, March 3, by a decisive vote of 6,693 (77%) for the measure to 2,040 (23%) against. The amendment limits citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to descendants of people who are listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation as Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee and excludes descendants of those listed on Intermarried White and Freedmen rolls taken at the same time.
“The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination. It was a right of self-government, affirmed in 23 treaties with Great Britain and the United States and paid dearly with 4,000 lives on the Trail of Tears.”
Smith added that the number of voters who turned out to vote on the constitutional amendment was actually more than the approximately 6,700 who approved the Cherokee Nation Constitution four years ago.
“This was an unexpectedly high turnout, considering it was a special election with nothing else on the ballot,” Smith said. “I think that reflects the idea that this is an issue that has been close to the heart of the Cherokee people and an issue they have thought about carefully before voting.”
The special election was brought about by a petition of registered Cherokee voters, and was an historic event for the Cherokee Nation, as its first ever stand-alone election to vote on a Constitutional amendment.
Election results are unofficial until certified by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, but percentages are not expected to change significantly.