During the first meeting of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council under its new Constitution, councilors passed a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to require a blood quantum to determine citizenship.

The amendment will go to a vote of the people during the June 2007 general election.

A number of councilors wanted the issue placed on a ballot for special election in November, but the resolution calling for such was narrowly defeated, 8-7.

District 1 Councilor Bill John Baker was in favor of the matter being included in the general election, rather than holding a special election.

“I believe it would be cost prohibitive to hold a special election, and believe the Cherokee people are intelligent enough to decide on this matter on the general election ballot,” he said.

Cara Cowan-Watt believes adding the item to the general election muddies the voting process.

“By having citizenship or blood quantum added to the general election, it makes the issue a political football for those campaigning for office,” she said.

Tribal citizen Jim Ketcher was irritated by having to wait to vote.

“I’m disgusted,” said Ketcher. “This goes against the Dawes Commission. The people want to vote on this issue now.”

The issue involving a blood quantum specifically targets the Cherokee Freedmen and their rights as Cherokee citizens. Freedmen are descendants of former slaves of Cherokee citizens who were enrolled with the Dawes Commission.

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled 2-1 in March that descendants of black freedmen must be recognized as citizens of the tribe.

The ruling sets aside a previous opinion against the descendants, and strikes down a 1992 Cherokee Nation Tribal Council law limiting citizenship to those who are “Cherokee by blood.”

The council also elected a speaker and deputy speaker as required by the new Constitution. Councilor Meredith Frailey will serve as speaker of the council, and Charles Hoskins will serve as deputy.

The measure relieves Deputy Chief Joe Grayson from serving as president over the council. Frailey and Hoskins will serve a 90-day temporary term, giving the council time to seat the two new at-large tribal councilors before permanently filling the positions. The two new council positions will be determined by tribal councilors, with the positions coming up for election in June 2007.

Other action

In other matters, the council approved:

• David Tippeconic and Michael C. Webber as board members of Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

• Warren Ross and Charles Plunkett as board members of Cherokee Nation Industries.

• Increasing CNE’s land purchase by $6 million.

What’s next

The next meeting of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council will be at 6 p.m., Monday, July 10, in council chambers at the W.W. Keeler Complex south of Tahlequah.