31 March 2007

Untold Origins -- Caribbean Indigenous Museum Exhibition

"Untold Origins," an exhibition dedicated to indigenous Caribbean heritage and identity, took place under the auspices of the Cuming Museum in Southwark, London, from October 19, 2004 to February 26, 2005.

The Cuming Museum sought to challenge several myths of Caribbean history, such as those of the cannibalistic Caribs eating their way through docile Arawak communities, or those pertaining to the often repeated notion that indigenous peoples in the Caribbean are extinct. In this vein, the organizers of the exhibition explain, "the Cuming Museum wanted to explore their survival in more depth and to discover whether there are any echoes of indigenous culture surviving in Southwark's Caribbean culture today." The Untold Origins exhibition was originally presented for Black History Month in 2004. It sought to explore "the untold history of the indigenous people of the Caribbean and their contribution to the Caribbean culture of today." An attempt was made to join reflection of Caribbean indigenous survival with contemporary ways of making sense of one's identity, and how movement and cross-cultural contact could affect the process of making one's identity.

The Cuming Museum has since decided to provide online the various photographs and information boards that were used for the exhibition, for the sake of those who could not have been present.

These materials include the following:

Please click here to go to the original site for the exhibition.

Una travesía por nuestra cultura

[Ed: article submitted by Jorge Estevez]

1 de agosto, 2007: Una travesía por nuestra cultura

El 1 de agosto, 2007 se producirá un evento histórico en Boriken. Taino Almestica, junto con David Mayoleth y Wendy Killoran, navegarán alrededor de la isla de Boriken, haciendo escalas en las islas de Vieques y Culebra.

El señor Almestica llegará a Boriken el próximo 29 de julio y permanecerá allí hasta el 1 de septiembre, 2007. Su esperanza es inspirar a otros en Puerto Rico a aprender sobre las maravillas de la navegación en canoas y en kayaks. Su visión es ver más personas involucradas en estos deportes.

Nuestros ancestros eran maestros mareantes que viajaban a las islas del Caribe en sus canoas todos los días. Taino Almestica viajará alrededor de la isla de Puerto Rico con este espíritu. Taino ha expresado muchas veces que cuando se navega en canoa o kayak en alta mar, donde cada ola es diferente, aunque igualmente persistente, se alcanza un despertar espiritual. Esto nos recuerda a nuestra cultura, a pesar de haber pasado 500 años después del primer contacto, del colonialismo y la aculturación: nosotros como pueblo, con una cultura singular, persistimos.

Taino es hijo de Boriken y miembro de la sociedad Guabancex Viento y Agua, con bases en Kiskeya y en los Estados Unidos. Esta organización está dedicada a investigar y diseminar los aspectos de las expresiones culturales tainas pervivientes, incluyendo la cultura material, la tradición oral y el rescate de tradiciones culturales que han desaparecido con la rápida expansión de la cultura occidental en las islas caribeñas.

Para Taino el ideal sería contar con el apoyo de todas las personas, grupos y organizaciones tainas. Sería un reto para todos enfocarnos sólo por 24 horas como colectivo y vitorear a Taino y sus acompañantes en este arduo viaje.

Por favor apunten esta fecha en su agenda y oremos porque Taino tenga un buen viaje y un mejor regreso a casa. Para más información, por favor visite estos enlaces:

www.tainokanoa.com y www.kayakquixotica.com

Bo Matum
Jorge Baracutei Estevez (Taino)
National Museum of the American Indian
One Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004
(212) 514-3716

A Voyage for the People

[Ed: this article was submitted by Jorge Estevez]

On August 1, 2007 there will be an historic event taking place in Boriken. Taino Almestica (Taino) along with David Mayoleth and Wendy Killoran will circumnavigate the island of Boriken, making stops in Vieques and Culebra.

Mr. Almestica will arrive in Boriken on July 29, 2007 and will be there until September 1, 2007. His hope is to inspire others in Puerto Rico to learn about the wonders of Canoeing and Kayaking. His vision is to see more people involved in this sport.

Our ancestors were master seamen who traveled the Caribbean islands in their canoas on a daily basis and it is in this spirit that Taino Almestica will travel around the island of Puerto Rico. Many times Taino has expressed that there is a certain spiritual awareness that a person comes to when Kayaking/Canoeing in the open sea, each wave different than the next yet equally persistent. This is reminiscent of our culture, despite 500 years after first contact, colonialism and acculturation, we as a people, with a unique culture, persist.

Taino is a son of Boriken and a member of Guabancex: Wind and Rain Society which is based in Kiskeya (Dominican Republic) and the USA. This organization is dedicated to researching/investigating and disseminating all aspects of surviving Taino cultural expressions including material culture, oral tradition and the rescue of cultural traditions that have disappeared with today's rapid western expansion on the Caribbean islands.

For Taino the ideal would be to have full support of all Taino people, groups or organizations. It would be a challenge for all to focus just for one day as a collective to celebrate and cheer Taino on this very arduous voyage.

Please keep this date in mind and let us pray for Taino"s safe trip and safe return home. For more information please visit:

www.tainokanoa.com and www.kayakquixotica.com

Bo Matum
Jorge Baracutei Estevez

Jorge Estevez (Taino)
National Museum of the American Indian
One Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004
(212) 514-3716

Cherokee Citizenship Deceptions By Anglo Saxons

[Ed: This letter was submitted on the condition that it be published anonymously. I have decided to do so simply because it reflects the very strong opinion of someone who has had to live with these problems of race and citizenship. The author of the letter lives in Colorado Springs.]

History has proven that whenever the Anglo Saxons came into a place that was new to them, they not only took over, but drew up all kinds of Laws and Treaties that they themselves had no intentions of honoring, at at the same time made darn sure - ( like they do in this day and age ), their family and generations to come are covered, and to deceive is the way that Anglo Saxons, some make their living!

It's a sad situation to look at the many people of various Indian Tribes suffer needlessly because there are those who are in a position of authority, who are stealing from the tribes, and actually have no rights to such benefits, but because there are wicked cooks stirring the stew, only those foolish enough to be a part of such wickedness benefit from such deception. I believe after all these years that because many are being confronted about such
deception, these people scramble by deceptive practices, with some tribal members included, to maintain that deception so that their families can maintain the quality of life that is refused to those that truly deserve to be recognized, can have a better quality of life that many Anglo Saxons are used to.

Anglo Saxons were not taken out of their homelands, stripped of their culture, denied the basic freedoms and rights that rule the land - ( laws that they made, they didn't honor, but they received the most benefit from such laws, while denying others their basic rights, and at the same time stating, the best kind of Indian, is a dead Indian! ) Good grief don't people recognize that when these people live over a 100 yrs. ago, that before they died, they groomed the generations that were alive to carry on in such mass deceptions? The KKK is a fine example of such because they teach their generations the same message, generation, after generation!

What I recognize in all of this is greed! Anyone whose Ancestor has Citizenship within any tribe, and such can be traced to a manipulated roll, such as The Dawes Rolls, should be allowed to maintain that citizenship, whether by blood or not! If one's ancestor has Citizenship within the Cherokee Nation, what is really the big deal, especially since the Cherokee Nation is supposely proud of their mixed nationalities within, and that family filed all the paperwork during the 1900's to prove such, considering the history that wicked and greedy Anglo Saxons were the one's behind such deception, and I believe such is the case today!

Many Native Americans were black, and what's so chilling about that? Many Native Americans do not have the same texture of hair or skin color, which does not signify that they aren't Native Americans! What is wrong with people? Oh I believe I'm getting it, if you can't prove either way, you're done! If one can't prove their ancestor's citizenship, and or a bloodline, then all efforts of proving such is a lost cause, and many in a position who can not prove such...have lost completely, unless by the grace of God, something is found to verify their families history has been recorded, not to mention The Dawes Final Rolls is not a perfect account because, how can you approve the children and leave out the other siblings and or parents, bloodlines are listed elsewhere, and if one doesn't know this fact, that's also a loss, because if one examines the rolls they will see where some bloodlines are listed for their family members, and some bloodlines are listed, but it's mixed up, one has to do extensive searches to find the truth, and one more thing...Misspelling People's Names! The name in some cases is the same Person, but misspelled...what a mess those Anglo's have created, but God always fights the battle, especially if you're a true believer!

*The hottest places in hell are reserved for those in moral crisis who remain in netural.
- President John F. Kennedy

How can a few deny many, when they themselves are subjected to the same kind of abuse of power that they so honestly serve, knowing that what they do is not right, but to keep peace with the Devil they continue to look the other way while deceit destroys their souls, killing'em everyday because they don't recognize today, America by the Anglo Saxon was established upon deceit, deception, and corrupt Anglo Saxons who misrepresent their authority and even today, twist the truth where such will benefit them and others who have the same spirit of...I could care less, I'm getting mines!!!!!!!! How sickening!

P.S. Since everyone is under the authority of Laws made by Anglo Saxons, why allow their mindset to destroy the legacy of a people who deserve to have what truly is theirs, especially since they're being stripped of all things, except the opportunity to pray. Many other nationalities are compensated for oppression suffered at the hands of Anglo Saxons. Why are people so down on the Black Indians, Slaves, and others who are a part of such a people? Why?

13 March 2007

UNESCO, UWI, Preserving Caribbean Indigenous Languages

UNESCO supports Caribbean indigenous and endangered languages portal

07-11-2006 (Kingston)

UNESCO and University of West Indies Language Unit launch the first authoritative website on Caribbean Indigenous and Endangered Languages (CIEL). The website showcases and promotes the preservation of over 20 indigenous languages in the region.

Caribbean indigenous languages and their cultures were produced over thousands of years. In the 500 years since the arrival of Europeans, most of these languages and cultures have either disappeared or are seriously endangered.

According to Hubert Devonish, Professor of Languages at the University of the West Indies, “these languages must be preserved if we are to safeguard a significant part of the heritage of mankind. We would not just be preserving things past but rather, we would be maintaining bodies of knowledge, technology and beliefs which can be useful to mankind in the present and the future.”

Hubert Devonish insists on and ensures that his team employs scientific approaches in the collection of data relating to these indigenous languages, making the portal truly authoritative.

UNESCO is now exploring Phase 2 of the project along the lines of:

a) additional language data collection;

b) language documentation through the production and digital storage of the material collected;

c) development of webpages within the CIEL website especially designed for use by school children and members of the communities involved;

d) production of books of stories and cultural information bilingually, in indigenous languages and English, supported by audio and video materials.


11 March 2007

Does Arima Matter?

Carib Community or Indigenous People?
Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Oct. 14, 2006In connection with the previous post about the Government of Trinidad and Tobago's purported acts of "recognition," I would like to draw readers' attention to an article posted in Newsday titled, "Carib descendants ponder another holiday" (Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006). The article, which tells us that Ricardo Bharath Hernandez called on Government to show more "meaningful recognition to the indigenous people," unwittingly confuses two separate issues when it adds that, "MP for the area, Pennelope Beckles said Cabinet has already appointed a committee to look into the needs of the group." I am not necessarily blaming the author of the piece here since it may simply be a case of directly quoting what was said at the event. Trinidad's "indigenous people," and the group known as the Santa Rosa Carib Community (SRCC) are two distinct entities, the former containing the latter. It is clear that Ricardo Bharath Hernandez was, however, speaking solely of the Carib Community when he said, "the Carib community will continue to struggle for meaningful recognition," and that maybe the author of the article is the source of the confusion.

Extinction by Localization
The SRCC is a formally constituted group; it cannot be equated with nor stand for all persons of indigenous descent in Trinidad, and to my knowledge its leadership has never made such a claim. Yet, typically we find in most Trinidadian publications--whether these be locally self-published books and pamphlets, tourist brochures, Trinidadian websites, newspaper articles, and school texts--that Arima is routinely hailed as the "home of the Caribs," or the home of the last remaining Caribs.

This form of localized recognition, besides being preposterous in ethnohistoric terms, functions either deliberately or by accident to delimit and contain indigeneity in Trinidad and Tobago. It is preposterous in the sense that the Indian Mission of Toco survived virtually as long as that of Arima, as did that of Siparia with its own long-lasting and still present festival of La Divina Pastora. Why would Amerindian descendants have mysteriously disappeared in such places and not at Arima? Indeed, many Amerindian descendants in Arima, of so-called "mixed race," were effectively barred from the mission and forced to leave Arima. In addition, with the de facto dissolution of the mission of Arima, many Amerindians had to move elsewhere and squat on lands. So it is not just the ex-mission towns that have Amerindian descendants, but a whole range of small rural villages and hamlets, e.g. Talparo, Brazil, Rio Claro, Paria, etc.

To delimit recognition to Arima, and to the SRCC, is to wipe the rest of the face of Trinidad clean of indigenous identification. This is reinforced by the deliberate omission of indigenous identity from any censuses. This is what is meant here by extinction via localization. Localization of indigeneity in Trinidad effectively serves to neutralize indigeneity, by evading recognition of the widespread dissemination of Amerindian ancestry, family lines, and cultural practices throughout Trinidad, and Tobago as well.

The Limits of Anthropological Advocacy
The author of this short essay is an anthropologist, and a foreigner and non-indigenous person as well. There is little such a person could, or even should, do to foster a broader movement for the recovery of indigenous identity in Trinidad and Tobago. However, it is a fact that numerous individuals, many more than are to be found in the SRCC, have contacted the writer over the past ten years that he has been active online, proudly proclaiming their Amerindian ancestry. Many (not all, maybe not most) of these individuals reside outside of Trinidad and Tobago. It will be up to them, if they wish, to find some way of communicating to a broader audience and to perhaps organize themselves in some shape or fashion. Such things cannot be dictated, not even urged by an outsider, and if such developments were to fail to take place then that would of course also be of anthropological significance.

10 March 2007

The Catholic Church and the Caribs in Trinidad

In a report published in one of Trinidad and Tobago's daily newspapers, Newsday, titled "Carib descendants ponder another holiday" (Sunday, October 15, 2006), there is some interesting information on the still evolving relationship between the Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and the Santa Rosa Carib Community. According to the report:

"Monsignor Christian Perreira, parish priest of the Santa Rosa Church, admitted that there was much more 'healing' to take place between the First Peoples and the Church. 'This relationship still has to be fleshed out,' he said. 'The apology and intention are there, the atonement is there and while in very many ways the First Peoples have accepted that atonement, there is still the healing to come.' Fr Perreira added that the country’s oldest feast, The Feast of Santa Rosa, which is shared by the Church and the Carib community, has sought to bridge the divide for the past 220 years."

To my knowledge, the Catholic Church in Trinidad has never formally and publicly apologized for its exploitation and abuse of the indigenous people it held under its control in the missions.

Does Trinidad Recognize Its Indigenous People?

What Recognition?
Along with the leadership of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, I have been one of those who has frequently written that the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has formally recognized the same Carib Community, a formally registered organization based in the Borough of Arima. The reasons for stating this can be explained as follows:

(i) According to News Release No. 360, issued by the Information Division, Office of the Prime Minister, on May 8, 1990, "Cabinet has decided that the Santa Rosa Carib Community be recognized as representative of the indigenous Amerindians of Trinidad and Tobago, and that an annual subvention of $30,000 be granted to them from 1990. Cabinet also agreed that an Amerindian Project Committee be appointed to advise government on the development of the Community....as the oldest sector of this country's multi-cultural society, the Amerindians have, for some time, been recognized as having unique needs for their cultural and economic viability. Such needs come into higher relief and sharper focus as the country prepares to celebrate, Columbus' Quincentennial in October 1992."

The juxtaposition of ideas here is significant, because the news release highlights the context in which the decision became important: a commemorative event, held in conjunction with the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (CARIFESTA) hosted by Trinidad in 1992, where the Government sought to showcase indigenous peoples, including its own.

In the presentation of the National Trust Bill, in the parliament on Friday, March 15, 1991, the then Minister of Food Production and Marine Exploitation, Dr. Brinsley Samaroo stated the following:

"The third project that is being undertaken by this Government has to do with the way in which we have duly recognized the presence of, and importance of, the descendants of the indigenous peoples of our lands. That is another area that the Member for Naparima mentioned and I do hope he now believes that he is not being disregarded in the contributions that he has been making as we are addressing some of the issues that he raised. No one can deny that those who laid the first foundations of our civilization were the Caribs and the Awaraks [sic] the two largest nations of our early history and the smaller tribes such as the Tianos [sic] and Lucayos [sic] who also inhabited this country. These were our ancestors who taught us to use our hammocks and to boucanour [sic] fish and meat. These were the people who showed us how to live in harmony with nature and gave us our first lessons in the protection of the environment. From them we obtained such names as 'Mucarapo' from the Amerindian word Cumo Mucurabo, a place of great silk cotton trees; 'Arima', the place of water [sic]; 'Naparima', no water [sic]; and 'Tacarigua' being the name of an Amerindian chief from the Caura Valley. For many years, their local descendants, these descendants of early and first members of this country, were vainly clamouring for recognition from the past administration, as the representatives of the indigenous Amerindians of Trinidadand Tobago and for Government to help in preserving that part of the national heritage. It was this Government which gave such recognition by Cabinet decision of April, 1990. We agreed, among other things, to recognize the Santa Rosa Carib community as the representative of the indigenous Amerindians of this nation; we agreed to an annual subvention of $30,000 towards their upkeep and preservation of the national heritage; we agreed to make the contribution of the indigenous peoples, an essential part of our observation of the 500 years of our achievements which will coincide with the quincentennial of Columbus arrival here 500 years ago. The year of course for that is 1992. At the present time, the Government is talking to these persons whom we have recognized about giving them a piece of land as a permanent site for the establishment of a village to commemorate their ancestry" (see page 27 of the House of Representatives report for that date).

(ii) As a result of that decision in 1990, the Santa Rosa Carib Community has received an annual subvention from the Government of $30,000 TT per annum, along with $5,000 TT per annum from a local government body, the Arima Borough Council, still attached to the central government. (For confirmation of the first amount, see page 56 of
the House Debates for 1992.)

(iii) Frequently, for many national events, the Government has highlighted the presence of the Santa Rosa Carib Community. This occurred on three occasions that CARIFESTA was hosted by Trinidad and Tobago, as well as several public speeches of commitment to provide the Caribs with land, and multiple visits by government ministers to a government-funded Carib Community Centre in Arima. (Where CARIFESTA is concerned, see an example of the festival-related "recognition" at: http://www.carifesta.net/art7.php.)

(iv) The Government also created a formally named "Day of Recognition," presumably to be "observed" every October 14 (see the Hansard for July 18, 2000.)

Recognizing What?
In other words, yes, in multiple ways the Government has formally and effectively recognized...what?

The fact of the matter is that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has no legal definition of the term "indigenous peoples," and frequently appropriates the term for referring to all people born in the country, in contradiction to established international conventions. Secondly, the Government has recognized only one specific organization, and worse yet, it has recognized it in a manner that suggests it is the only possible representative of Trinidad's "Amerindians," rendering any other claimants to an indigenous identity as fakes. Thirdly, while claiming to recognize the Caribs, the Government has not signed any international conventions or agreements that pertain specifically to the rights of indigenous peoples.

And Now Comes the UN
The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), in a report on the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean issued in June of 2006, found fault with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago specifically on the issue of its lack of legal recognition of the indigenous people of the nation. On page 534 in that report, CERD states:

"351. The Committee expresses its concern at the absence...of specific information on the indigenous population as well as other relatively small ethnic groups of the State party in the report, and particularly the absence of a specific categorization of the indigenous population as a separate ethnic group in official statistics on the population. The Committee encourages the Government to include the indigenous population in any statistical data as a separate ethnic group, and actively to seek consultations with them as to how they prefer to be identified, as well as on policies and programmes affecting them."

In a supplement, on page 536, CERD reveals with specific reference to the Caribs:

"34. Members of the Committee asked why the Caribs had all but disappeared, exactly how many were left, why they were not treated as a separate racial group and whether measures were being taken to help them, particularly in the economic and educational fields, so as to compensate them for the injustices they had suffered."

In other words, CERD had been told by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago that the Caribs were virtually extinct, and as is typical of government statements on this matter, "the only remaining descendants are to be found in Arima." What is especially remarkable is that CERD has been making such observations, and asking such questions of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, regularly and as far back as 1980, as the supplements to the report reveal.

It is a fact that there is no population census in Trinidad that admits the category of either indigenous, Amerindian, Carib, or anything remotely related, as a choice for self-identification. This renders extraordinary the incredible statement recently made by the Minister for Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Joan Yuille Williams who proclaimed on Saturday, September 23, 2006, in the Carib Community Centre itself, that people of Amerindian and "mixed Amerindian" descent in Trinidad are "a very small minority," as I myself heard her say this. In the absence of a census that allows for such identification, there is nothing to substantiate her assertion.

So why make such an assertion?

As a politician in a race-based political party, the People's National Movement, Minister Williams knows how many votes have been won by her party over the decades by appealing to Afro-Trinidadians. Likewise, the other major political bloc in the country, formerly the United National Congress, seized considerable political power by appealing to Trinidadians of East Indian descent. These two major ethnic blocs have dominated national politics. Any third identification would radically upset the established way of calculating rewards and patronage, of dividing spoils in what is in effect a long standing Cold War that has rendered the country bipolar (perhaps in more than the political sense alone).

Secondly, the assertion is convenient when the main aim of the Government has not been to take the Caribs seriously. Instead, the Caribs are trotted out as mere showpieces for festivals and commemorative events, like a colourful little museum piece, but certainly nothing of any social or political import. The Santa Rosa Carib Community, in practice, is treated as a tokenistic, folkloric troupe--mild, smiling, doing its part to add a little more colour to the multicultural fabric waved by the nation to greet tourists.

Thirdly, the leadership of the Santa Rosa Carib Community has not vocally and directly challenged the government on these questions. This is in part due to strong political ties between the leadership and the PNM, the dependency on government funding, and the lack of any ambition to become involved in a national movement for the recuperation of indigenous identity. Such sentiments, in my experience, have been heard most loudly from expatriate Trinidadians who wish to recoup their indigenous identity, and who understand that if not a majority, at least an extremely large minority of Trinidadians could claim indigenous ancestry. Many more are in fact claiming this ancestry.

So when asking the Government of Trinidad and Tobago if it recognizes the indigenous people of the country, and it answers, "the Santa Rosa Carib Community has been recognized," it is important to understand the evasiveness of the answer. The answer, in any legal and political sense, is that no, there is no such recognition.

06 March 2007

Seminole Tribe Purchases Transnational Corporation

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) - The Seminole Tribe of Florida completed its $965 million purchase of the Hard Rock cafes, hotels, casinos and music memorabilia from The Rank Group PLC on Monday through a combination of a bond offering and an equity contribution from the tribe.

Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, said the deal with UK-based Rank Group for Hard Rock International was composed of a $525 million bond offering and a $500 million equity contribution. The additional $35 million was for closing costs and working capital, Allen said.

The deal was completed after details were worked out in London, New York and Florida. It marks the tribe's entry in the worldwide hospitality industry and gives the tribe's gaming operations a foothold in states where gambling is legal. The purchase was first announced in December and approved by Rank Group shareholders in January.

To celebrate the deal, more than 200 tribe members attended a colorful signing ceremony, which featured music, a poetry reading and speeches by Seminole council members in English and Miccosukee, a Seminole language. Then, tribal leaders gathered under the Council Oak tree to sign documents symbolizing the sale's completion.

"The acquisition of the Rank-Hard Rock system today makes our economic survival a little bit more sure," tribe vice chairman Moses Osceola said, with black, red and yellow flags serving as a backdrop. "We are bound and determined to make this thing work."

The Hard Rock business includes 124 Hard Rock Cafes, five Hard Rock Hotels, two Hard Rock Casino Hotels, two Hard Rock Live! concert venues and stakes in three unbranded hotels. It also features a collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia that includes 70,000 pieces, including guitars owned by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

The Seminoles were the first Native American tribe to get into the gambling business, and it says the deal is an American tribe's first purchase of a major international corporation.

"The Seminole Tribe has paved the way for Native Americans to get into the big business industry," tribe chairman Mitchell Cypress said.

The tribe has about 3,300 members and owns and operates seven casinos in Florida, including Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood. Before it entered the cigarette and gambling business, the tribe was mired in poverty. Today, more than 90 percent of the tribe's budget is made up of gaming revenue, which stands at about $500 million, according to court records cited by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Each tribal member receives a monthly dividend from operations. Revenue generated by the tribe's businesses goes into education, health care and other services.

"It was a good effort by the council to position the tribe for the 21st century in a business sense," said tribe member Joe Frank, who lives on the Big Cypress reservation. "Tribal membership is growing and we need to diversify our business assets to ensure that all our tribal members have a good future."

The tribe already has plans to expand the business, with the number of Hard Rock hotels to grow to 15 in the next three to four years, Allen said. This year, Hard Rock plans to finish reconstruction of a hotel and casino in Biloxi, Miss., that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It also plans to open a hotel in San Diego, begin development of a hotel and casino in Macau and start building condo-hotel properties at the Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado and in Palm Springs, Calif.

Monday's deal does not include Hard Rock's Las Vegas casino, which is owned by Morgans Hotel Group, or Morgans' rights to Hard Rock intellectual property in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Venezuela and many areas of the United States west of the Mississippi River.

Rank has said the sale freed the company to concentrate on gambling. It retained the Hard Rock Casino in London and plans to change it to the Rank Gaming brand.

In a Rank Group earnings report filed Friday, Hard Rock International reported operating profits increased 18.7 percent to $74.8 million, from $63 million the year before. It saw continued growth and improvement in all four business divisions comprising company-owned cafes, franchise cafes, hotels and casinos, a news release said.

04 March 2007

Cherokee Nation News Release

Cherokee Nation Special Election Results

March 3, 2007

See: Cherokee Nation: official site

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.

Cherokee Nation Revokes Citizenship of Freedmen

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Cherokee Nation vote this weekend to revoke the citizenship of the descendants of people the Cherokee once owned as slaves was a blow to people who have relied on tribal benefits.

Charlene White, a descendant of freed Cherokee slaves who were adopted into the tribe in 1866 under a treaty with the U.S. government, wondered Sunday where she would now go for the glaucoma treatment she has received at a tribal hospital in Stilwell.

"I've got to go back to the doctor, but I don't know if I can go back to the clinic or if they're going to oust me right now," said White, 56, a disabled Tahlequah resident who lives on a fixed income.

In Saturday's special election, more than 76 percent of voters decided to amend the Cherokee Nation's constitution to remove the estimated 2,800 freedmen descendants from the tribal rolls, according to results posted Sunday on the tribe's Web site.

Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, said the election results undoubtedly will be challenged.

"We will pursue the legal remedies that are available to us to stop people from not only losing their voting rights, but to receiving medical care and other services to which they are entitled under law," Vann said Sunday.

"This is a fight for justice to stop these crimes against humanity."

Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller said Sunday that election results will not be finalized until after a protest period that extends through March 12. Services currently being received by freedmen descendants will not immediately be suspended, he said.

"There isn't going to be some sort of sudden stop of a service that's ongoing," Miller said. "There will be some sort of transition period so that people understand what's going on."

In a statement late Saturday, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said he was pleased with the turnout and election result.

"Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation," Smith said. "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."

The petition drive for the ballot measure followed a March 2006 ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court that said an 1866 treaty assured freedmen descendants of tribal citizenship.

A similar situation occurred in 2000 when the Seminole Nation voted to cast freedmen descendants out of its tribe, said attorney Jon Velie of Norman, an expert on Indian law who has represented freedmen descendants in previous cases.

"The United States, when posed the same situation with the Seminoles, would not recognize the election and they ultimately cut off most federal programs to the Seminoles," Velie said. "They also determined the Seminoles, without this relationship with the government, were not authorized to conduct gaming."

Ultimately, the Seminole freedmen were allowed back into the tribe, Velie said.

Velie said Saturday's vote already has hurt the tribe's public perception.

"It's throwback, old-school racist rhetoric," Velie said.

"And it's really heartbreaking, because the Cherokees are good people and have a very diverse citizenship," he said.

Miller, the tribal spokesman, defended the Cherokees against charges of racism, saying that Saturday's vote showed the tribe was open to allowing its citizens vote on whether non-Indians be allowed membership.

"I think it's actually the opposite. To say that the Cherokee Nation is intolerant or racist ignores the fact that we have an open dialogue and have the discussion, he said.

Cherokee Nation Expels Native Citizens with African Ancestry

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Native American Cherokees voted to expel descendants of black slaves from their tribe nation in a special election that has prompted charges of racism, according to returns made public early Sunday.

But a vote of 77 percent to 23 percent, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma adopted Saturday an amendment to their constitution that strips membership from so-called "Freedmen," those descended from slaves once owned by Cherokees, blacks who were married to Cherokees and children of mixed-race families.

"The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote," Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said in a statement. "Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination."

However, opponents of the amendment say it was a racist project designed to deny the distribution of US government funds and tribal revenue to those with African-American heritage, US media reported.

"This is a sad chapter in Cherokee history," Taylor Keen, a Cherokee tribal council member who opposes the amendment, told the New York Times.

"But this is not my Cherokee Nation. My Cherokee Nation is one that honors all parts of her past."

Advocates of changing the 141-year-old treaty rules defining who is a Cherokee say the tribal nation has a sovereign right to decide citizenship and that other tribes base membership on blood lines.

The Cherokee Nation, which ranks as the second-largest tribe behind the Navajo, has some 250,000 to 270,000 members and is growing rapidly. Members are entitled to benefits from the US federal government and tribal services, including medical and housing aid and scholarships.

Cherokees, along with several other tribes, held black slaves and allied themselves with the Confederacy during the US civil war. After the war, the federal government in an 1866 treaty ordered the slaves freed.

In 1983, the Cherokee Nation expelled many descendants of slaves as members but a Cherokee tribunal ruled last year that the Freedmen were fully-fledged citizens with voting rights. That court decision prompted Saturday's special vote.

Native American tribes recognized by the United States government have the right to self-determination and authority similar to US states.

Election results will remain unofficial until certified by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, but officials said percentages were not expected to change significantly.