This Article examines the Cherokee Freedmen controversy to assess whether law and biology can function as sufficient models for crafting Cherokee identity at this crucial moment in the tribe's history. The author will argue that while law and biology are historically powerful frames for establishing tribal self-identity, they are inadequate to the task of determining who should enjoy national citizenship. The wise use of sovereignty, the author suggests, lies in creating a process of sustained dialogical engagement among all stakeholders in the definition of Cherokee citizenship on the question of Cherokee identity. This dialogue should ideally have been undertaken before the Nation moved to the political solution of a vote on tribal citizenship criteria. The exclusion of the Freedmen's descendants without such a dialogue may have high political and social costs to the Nation, its members, and its apparently former members. The dialogue this article proposes could be constructed along the lines suggested by sociologist Eva Garroutte, whose model of Radical Indigenism offers one means of considering these complex issues from within the Cherokee community itself.
S. A. Ray,
A Race or a Nation? Cherokee National Identity and the Status of Freedmen's Descendants,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol12/iss2/4