In March 2007, 77 percent of Cherokee Nation citizens voted to approve a constitutional amendment allowing only those who have a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee ancestor listed on the Dawes Commission rolls. The commission took a census of Native Americans, taken from 1898 to 1907, to divest the Nation of its lands and allot them to individual citizens. The 2007 amendment overturned a 2006 Tribal Court ruling allowing non-Indian descendants of Freedmen and intermarried whites to become citizens.
Cooper said he found the amendment unjust, especially given that some of the tribe’s wealth came from slave work. He found the new restrictions unfair to Freedmen who had Cherokee blood because “there was no effort by the Dawes Commission (the federal census project) to find out if the Freedman had blood.” ("tribe's wealth came from slave work"? the tribe's wealth came from it's land, the majority of which was taken away by the Dawes Commission and later land fraud)
Smith said that there were some Freedmen with Cherokee blood who were registered by the Dawes Commission, but Cooper said those were by far in the minority.
“The federal government provided due process,” Smith responded. “We cannot go back and second-guess that process. I cannot – perhaps you can.”
Friday’s forum, titled “Who is an Indian? Your Guide to Covering Native Americans,” was presented by the Native American Journalists Association.