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Resolution passes for entities to refer to Cherokees by enrollment, affiliation

BY LINDSEY BARK Reporter Cherokee Phoenix

Feb 8, 2022

TAHLEQUAH - During a Jan. 27 culture committee meeting, legislators unanimously passed a resolution to request museums, media and other entities refer to living Cherokee artists by their tribal enrollment and/or affiliation.

The resolution came to pass when at-large Tribal Councilor Julia Coates said she was approached by Cherokee Nation artist America Meredith, publishing editor of “First American Art” magazine, about the distinction she adopted as a policy in her magazine.

“With many Cherokee people as there are today, we are still outnumbered by non-Cherokees who claim our identity,” Meredith said. “More than 200 non-recognized organizations claim to be Cherokee tribes and that number continues to grow. As a writer and editor, I try to be as accurate as possible with wording. ‘First American Art’ magazine adopted a policy of never listing a living person as only being ‘Cherokee’ and instead always listing their specific tribe or a shortened version, or ‘Cherokee descent,’ for people with documented ancestry; ‘self-identified Cherokee descent,’ for people who have no proven ancestry who make the claim; or simply not listing any claims of tribal affiliation.”

Coates said this has long been a problem for Cherokee artists.

“This has been a persistent problem for artists and others since so many people claim a Cherokee heritage, but are not recognized by the three tribal governments as citizens,” Coates said. “America asked if I would propose a resolution that our artists could take to museums, galleries, etc. to help alleviate public confusion on this issue.”

The Cherokee tribal sovereigns, Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, are “recognized by the federal government as the only tribal nations of Cherokee and composed of distinct tribal members,” the resolution states.

“The resolution requests that a governmental distinction be made between those who are members of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, and perhaps more importantly, between those who are citizens of those federally recognized governments and those who are claiming Cherokee heritage, but who are not recognized by tribal communities/governments as ‘Cherokee.’ This is an affirmative identification which conforms with the intent of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act so that viewers and collectors will be able to better ascertain what is legitimately ‘Indian art.’”

According to the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 it is illegal to offer, display for sale or sell any art or craft that is falsely claimed as Indian produced.

Coates said this resolution will act as documentation for CN artists and other artists to provide to museums and other entities to request for this specific designation if their work is displayed or for sale. The CN is not able to specifically legislate or direct museums and other entities to identify every artist that might be conceivably displayed or have contracted work with CN artists, she said.

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