Demographics

Race and blood quantum are not factors in Cherokee Nation tribal citizenship eligibility. To be considered a citizen in the Cherokee Nation, an individual needs a direct ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls as a citizen of the Nation, whether as a Cherokee Indian or as one of the Cherokee Freedmen. The tribe currently has members who also have some degree of African, Latino, Asian, white and other ancestry. In the case of the Cherokee Freedmen, members may be predominantly or wholly African-American. Members of the Natchez Nation joined the Cherokee Nation, as did other southeastern tribes in the 18th century.

The Cherokee Nation instigated a 10-year language preservation plan that involved growing new fluent speakers of the Cherokee language from childhood on up through school immersion programs as well as a collaborative community effort to continue to use the language at home. This plan was part of an ambitious goal that in 50 years, 80% or more of the Cherokee people will be fluent in the language. The Cherokee Preservation Foundation has invested $3 million into opening schools, training teachers, and developing curricula for language education, as well as initiating community gatherings where the language can be actively used. Formed in 2006, the Kituwah Preservation & Education Program (KPEP) on the Qualla Boundary focuses on language immersion programs for children from birth to fifth grade, developing cultural resources for the general public and community language programs to foster the Cherokee language among adults. There is also a Cherokee language immersion school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma that educates students from pre-school through eighth grade.

Several universities offer Cherokee as a second language, including the University of Oklahoma, Northeastern State University, and Western Carolina University. Western Carolina University (WCU) has partnered with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to promote and restore the language through the school's Cherokee Studies program, which offers classes in and about the language and culture of the Cherokee Indians. WCU and the EBCI have initiated a ten-year language revitalization plan consisting of: (1) a continuation of the improvement and expansion of the EBCI Atse Kituwah Cherokee Language Immersion School, (2) continued development of Cherokee language learning resources, and (3) building of Western Carolina University programs to offer a more comprehensive language training curriculum.

On June 14, 2004, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted to officially define marriage as a union between a woman and man, thereby outlawing same-sex marriage. This decision came in response to an application by a lesbian couple submitted on May 13. The decision kept Cherokee law in line with Oklahoma state law, which in 2004 passed a referendum on a constitutional amendment excluding gay marriage as legal. On December 9, 2016 same-sex marriage was immediately legalized through an opinion by Todd Hembree, the Cherokee Nation's attorney general. In the opinion, Hembree stated that the 2004 law violated the Cherokee Constitution, which requires the equal treatment of tribal citizens. The opinion was issued because the director of the tribe's tax commission sought a decision from Hembree whether the tribe could issue a vehicle tag to a same-sex couple married outside the tribe's jurisdiction.