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Study of historical facts clarifies Freedmen citizenship issue

BY Phoenix Archives
03/21/2007 09:21 AM
The controversy over Freedmen citizenship in the Cherokee Nation has led to misunderstanding and misstatement of historical facts. These misrepresentations come from various sources: citizens who are simply unlearned in Cherokee history, politicians who tend to rewrite Cherokee history to serve their own purposes and out-and-out racists.
No matter who causes the misunderstanding or makes misstatements, all promote a distortion of the historical facts, which must be clarified if Cherokee citizens are to make informed decisions. It is time for them not only to face the facts, but honestly to re-evaluate their positions in light of them. Because so much attention focuses on the work of the Dawes Commission and the Dawes rolls, they should consider the background for making Cherokee rolls and what the Dawes Commission did.
The argument that the Freedmen never had full citizenship rights in the CN prior to the Dawes period is spurious. In 1866, for the first time, the Freedmen gained the first citizenship they had ever held. It was the only citizenship they would have until 1901, when the United States made all of the citizens of the CN citizens of the United States as well. The Freedmen's rights in the Cherokee Nation were guaranteed by the Treaty of 1866, which the CN signed and carried out. It did so admirably, considering the racial climate in the adjoining states at the time.
Following the Treaty in 1866, the Cherokee National Council amended the constitution to guarantee the freedmen full rights as citizens. The Nation's own citizenship court and Supreme Court subsequently admitted large numbers of additional Freedmen applicants to citizenship. These were primarily Freedmen who had not returned to the CN within the six-month limit set by the treaty. A good example was the Supreme Court's action on June 21, 1871, which "admitted to Cherokee Rights and Citizenship" 34 Cherokee Freedman households. Without doubt, the court realized the implications of its action: not only those admitted but their hundreds of descendants would be future citizens of the Nation. This was only one of a number of such decisions.
In taking its censuses, the CN listed citizens according to the basis for their rights to citizenship: by blood or by adoption. In the latter category, they listed four groups: Shawnees, Delawares, Freedmen, and intermarried whites. No matter what category a person was in, he or she was still a citizen of the CN.
If the CN did not want the Freedmen as citizens or did not recognize them, why did it, year after year for decades, guarantee their rights by law; willfully admit more of them to citizenship and consistently list them as citizens of the Nation while at the same time keeping separate lists of intruders or people who had doubtful status as citizens? The Cherokee Nation was, in fact, a multi-racial, multi-cultural constitutional nation, whose citizenship was based not on blood or culture but on either birth or adoption.
The freedmen also participated in the economic, social and political life of the CN. Like other citizens, they had access to land under the improvement laws that guaranteed Cherokee citizens the right to occupy as much of the public domain as they could improve so long as their improvements were at least one-quarter of a mile from the next citizen's. Like other citizens, they had elementary schools and a high school, built and supported by the CN. Like other citizens, they were subject to the courts of the CN. In contrast, those black, white and Indian residents in the Nation who were not citizens had none of these rights and privileges and were subject to the United States court at Fort Smith.
When a Senate investigating committee visited the CN in 1878, the senators interviewed Freedman Jesse Ross among others. In response to their questions, Ross testified that the Freedmen had the same rights as other Cherokee citizens: access to as much land as they needed, schools, right to sit on juries and the right to vote. Ross's testimony makes clear that Freedmen participated in the political process.
In 2003, the press quoted the late Julian Fite as saying that the Freedmen had never voted in the CN. Whether Fite made the statement or not, the contrary was true. Like other Cherokee citizens, they voted and ran for political office. Cherokee historian Emmett Starr lists six who were elected and served in the National Council: Joseph Brown, Stick Ross, Ned Irons, Frank Vann, Samuel Stidham and Jerry Alberty. There were probably more. The historical record shows that numerous others from various districts were nominated and ran for office under the banner of one of the two major political parties. A cursory reading of the Cherokee Advocate and other papers from the Nation in the late 19th century shows that Freedmen voters were main players in every election. Cherokee political cartoonist Roger Eubanks even made political hay out of those politicians who courted the Freedman vote. If the Freedmen could not vote, how could they run for political office and be elected?
Contrary to what some people say, in the Dawes period the citizenship of the Freedmen in the CN was not questioned. The argument that the Dawes Commission somehow "palmed" the Freedmen off on the Cherokee Nation is a distortion of the historical record. So is the idea that blood quantum on the Cherokees by-blood roll had some special meaning in determining exclusive citizenship in the Nation.
The CN's agreement with the Dawes Commission was ratified by the Cherokee electorate - including the freedmen - on Aug. 7, 1902. Regarding the making of rolls it stated, "The roll of citizens of the Cherokee Nation shall be made as of September first, nineteen hundred and two, and the names of all persons then living and entitled to enrollment on that date shall be placed on said roll by the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes." It did not say "citizens by blood" or "citizens and Freedmen" or "citizens and others."
The roll that the Dawes Commission made was a roll of Cherokee citizens according to the means by which they acquired citizenship: by blood or by adoption.
The Dawes Commission had actually begun enrolling Cherokee citizens in 1896, at which time and thereafter the CN insisted that the Commission use the CN's own authenticated roll of 1880 as the base roll for enrollment. The 1880 authenticated roll listed five categories of citizens according to the means by which they acquired citizenship: Cherokees by blood, adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, adopted Colored and adopted Whites. The Dawes Commission simply followed the CN's directions in making what became the final roll of citizens. Thus as of Sept. 1, 1902, the Freedmen were citizens of the CN, according to the CN and the Dawes Commission. In the last elections held in the Nation before 1906, the Cherokee Freedmen, like other citizens of the Nation, voted for the offices of chief and national council, just as they had done in decades past. The form the Dawes roll took made no change in their status.
Much is made of the blood quantum - or lack of it - listed on the Dawes rolls. Blood quantum was a method devised by Indian policy makers, such as the Dawes Commission, to lay the groundwork for separating the citizens of Indian nations from their assets. It was rooted in the virulent racism of the late 19th century, which said that the whiter one was, the more civilized he was. By the time of Cherokee enrollment, the theory was commonly accepted. It laid the basis for restrictions on the sale, or alienation, of homestead allotments. The idea was that those who were more than half Cherokee were incompetent to manage their own affairs and would therefore become wards of the Department of the Interior.
In recent years, full blood has held a premium value. Cherokee family stories commonly tell how an ancestor on the Dawes roll is listed as half blood when he or she was really full. Most of those stories are probably true. Knowing that they would likely be labeled incompetent, many Cherokees probably chose voluntarily to lower their blood quantum.
Subsequent historical events suggest that the Dawes Commission could also have had a motive to do so. Congress's primary purpose in creating the Commission was to guarantee the transfer of land from the common Cherokee National title to individual ownership. That was a preliminary step to the ultimate goal: to transfer the land from Cherokee hands to the hands of "real" American settlers, as whites were generally called by the politicians of the day.
The blood quantum designation had no useful purpose in determining who was a Cherokee citizen or who received an allotment. It was simply a device to determine which Cherokee citizens would become the first marks for American land buyers and which citizens would become wards of the Interior Department, which would manage whatever resources might be on or below the surface of their allotments. By the time the Cherokee Nation-Dawes agreement was drawn up, there was a public clamor for removal of restrictions on the sale of allotments in Indian Territory. In 1904, only two years after the agreement, restrictions were removed from the allotments of Freedmen and intermarried whites. The next land to go in the CN was allotments of Cherokees listed as half blood or less, from whose allotments the restrictions were soon removed.
Removal of restrictions did not affect the citizenship of the allottee. When the Five Tribes Act was passed in 1906, it applied as much to the Cherokee Freedmen as it did to the adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, intermarried Whites and Cherokees by blood. If the "full force and effect" clause of the act has validity for Cherokee descendants today, it has validity for descendants of the four other classes of Cherokee citizens in 1906. If the CN rejects the descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen without simultaneously rejecting the descendants of the adopted Shawnees, adopted Delawares, and intermarried whites, it will be guilty of attempting to legalize racism, for all were equal participants in the CN according to the Dawes rolls of citizens.
It is only through a knowledge and understanding of Cherokee history that a resolution of the impasse now facing the CN can be bridged. Nothing is to be gained from a repudiation of that history without giving it a hearing. Could all of the Cherokee leaders who averred the Freedmen's right to citizenship from 1866 to 1906 have been wrong? Both sides must become as informed as possible and must raise public awareness and understanding of the subject. Sadly, court decisions are rarely about morality or right or justice. They are about what words mean. As the Freedmen mark the 140th year of their citizenship in the CN, it behooves everyone to seriously consider the words of the historical records.


Dan Littlefield is the director of the Sequoyah Research Center, which houses the American Native Press Archives, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has written "The Cherokee Freedmen" (1978), "Africans and Seminoles" (1977), "Africans and Creeks" (1979) and "The Chickasaw Freedmen" (1980). He will complete a book on the Dawes Commission during the next two years.
Dr. Littlefield has been called on to discuss the subject of the Freedmen of the
Five Tribes on numerous occasions and was called as an expert witness in the recent Creek-Freedman case in Muscogee (Creek) District Court in August.

Opinion

BY LIANNA COSTANTINO
Cherokee Nation citizen
12/01/2017 05:00 PM
In his response to Luke Mason’s apology (August 2017 issue), Larry J. Lewis, aka “Mashu White Feather,” using his Two Feathers International Consultancy public relations officer Daris Reno Blickman, who is also not a Cherokee Nation citizen, made this statement: “He (Luke Mason) is certainly not privy to Mashu’s family history or genealogy.” While Mason may not have the skills to determine Lewis’ family history or genealogy, a team of genealogical researchers does have the skills to trace Lewis’ genealogy using public information, a lot of it that Lewis placed in the public forums. In researching Lewis, genealogical researchers found that this was one of four names used by the same person. His birth name was Larry J. Lewis. His “papered name” now is Larry J. White Feather. Then there is the TFIC, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit of which he is the founder and board chairman. A Google search for “Mashu White Feather” gave the name Larry White Feather. This gave the name of his parents, Jo Marie and James Orville Lewis. This was verified by the obituary for Jo Marie Lewis, which lists Larry White Feather as one of her sons. It also lists the names of her parents. More verification was given in a post by Doreen Bennett, in which she talks about the loss of their mother and names “Mashu White Feather” and his siblings listed in the obituary. As “Mashu White Feather,” Larry Lewis claimed he is a Cherokee elder and his mother and her family raised him as a Cherokee traditionalist. But the genealogical research of Jo Marie Johnson Lewis found no connection to the Cherokee people. Her family consists of white people who came to Boone County, Missouri, from Kentucky, Virginia and Europe. Larry Lewis also claimed he is part Osage. Since his mother’s side consisted of all white people, he must be making that claim off his father’s side. But like his mother, his father’s side is also white people who came to Missouri from Kentucky, Virginia, and Europe. His father’s maternal grandmother was born in Osage County, Missouri, from parents who were born in France. So both of these claims are proven false by his family records. Also, there are pictures of Jo Marie and James Orville in a house in Columbia, Missouri. The house’s address was listed as an address for Larry White Feather and the TFIC. This information is public. This evidence is available to view at the web address below, where it will be archived for public view, as well as in a blog away from Facebook. It is enough information for any genealogist to find Larry Lewis’ ancestors. Researchers worked on this information independently and each found the same results. In researching Jo Marie Johnson’s family and that of her husband James O. Lewis, researchers found one consistent fact about each generation: each generation were people that were honest, hardworking people who ensured the survival of their family no matter how tough the times were. They were the type of people who anyone would be proud to call their ancestors. One can only wonder why Larry Lewis saw fit to recreate them into something they were not. TFIC claims that Larry Lewis has never claimed to be a Cherokee elder, but a photo appearing on the TFIC page online is proof otherwise, as he certainly has control of what is printed about him there. He claims to be a Cherokee elder and has traveled around the world dressed as a Cherokee speaking about Cherokee history, culture and current events when he is not a tribal citizen, has never lived among us, is not involved in any of our communities, has not contributed anything towards the betterment of our lives, is not a member of any of our ceremonial grounds, is not a fluent Cherokee language speaker, cannot vote in our elections and is claimed by none of us. This man takes selfies at the United Nations dressed in regalia when, as a non-tribal citizen, he has no voice there. According to Manta.com, the TFIC had estimated revenue of $108,862 in 2016, employs a staff of five and shows an North American Industry Classification System code of 813211, “Grantmaking Foundations.” “When these frauds ‘teach’ who we are to non-Cherokees, they are implementing the final stages of our genocide. “People see the fake history and perverted culture and then have no room to learn or respect what is real and so it is pushed that much more out of the way,” CN citizen Jared Edens said. To view the facts of Lewis’ genealogy, visit: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1609142732471453/?ref=br_rs" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/groups/1609142732471453/?ref=br_rs</a>
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
12/01/2017 02:30 PM
I appreciate history and enjoy studying it, so it’s great that I regularly get to rub elbows with historians and people who research Cherokee history. In October, I attended the 22nd annual Trail of Tears Conference & Symposium in Pocola, Oklahoma. Along with seeing friends from most of TOTA’s nine chapters, I learned things about our history. Many of the people who attend the conference possess a wealth of information about Cherokee history and the forced removals of our people in 1838-39. The states Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma make up TOTA. At a conference presentation, I learned more about the so-called “Old Settlers,” who were Cherokee people who began settling in Arkansas in 1809. Tahlonteeskee led this group, and he later became the first principal chief of the western Cherokee Nation. These Cherokees settled along the St. Francis, Arkansas and White rivers and established settlements along the Arkansas River in the vicinity of present-day Russellville, Arkansas. In 1817, Western Cherokees signed a treaty with the United States that established a large reservation between the Arkansas and White rivers. In Arkansas, Cherokee people had settled among the Caddo, Quapaw and Osage tribes. The Osage resented these newcomers settling lands they claimed as theirs and raided Cherokee settlements. The Arkansas Cherokee began planning a retaliatory attack against the Osage in January 1817 and requested aid from their relatives in the east. They also requested help from the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Delaware and other tribes living in the area. The Cherokee knew that Osage men left their villages lightly guarded during the Strawberry Moon or in June to go on a long distance hunt for bison. It was decided to attack at this time. Led by Chief Spring Frog, approximately 500 Cherokee and their allies met at a place on the Arkansas River where Russellville now stands. They traveled upriver into Indian Territory and went overland to the Osage villages located a few miles north of present-day Claremore, Oklahoma. The invading party killed 38 Osage and took 104 captives. Chief Clermont was present at the time of the attack and was killed during the fighting. Because they possessed rifles, the Cherokee and their allies had a weapons advantage over the Osage in the “Battle of Claremore Mound,” also known as the “Battle of the Strawberry Moon.” The Osage relied on traditional bows and arrows and a small number of old muskets. During the two-day battle, the Cherokees and their allies killed or captured every member of Chief Clermont’s band and destroyed everything they could not carry away. The two tribes continued to fight until 1823 when both tribes agreed to end hostilities. In 1820, Tahlonteskee’s brother, John Jolly, helped establish Dwight Mission along Illinois Bayou, which was operated by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. It served for eight years both as a mission and a school until 1828 when the Arkansas Cherokee were forced to sell their lands and move their community, along with Dwight Mission, to a new location farther up the Arkansas River in Indian Territory. The mission was re-established near present-day Marble City in Sequoyah County. Tahlonteeskee and his group settled parts of present-day Sequoyah, Muskogee and McIntosh counties. Some of them settled again along the Arkansas River and formed the communities of Webbers Falls and Tahlonteeskee, later renamed Gore. As pressure to move increased in the east, more Cherokee emigrants made their way to Arkansas and eventually the whole of the Cherokee Nation came west during the forced removals. The “Old Settlers” and newest Cherokee emigrants agreed on an Act of Union in August 1839 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which paved the way for a new Cherokee Nation Constitution that was approved in early September of that year. On the last day of the TOTA conference, participants were asked to complete a survey to share their thoughts on how the conference went and what they would like to see at the next conference. A long-time member of the organization went to the microphone to share a story. He said after one past conference someone wrote on his or her survey form there was too much talk about the Trail of Tears. I guess they forgot the name of the conference. Some of our history is difficult to read or hear about, but we should study it as much as possible to understand why our leaders made the decisions they made and how we survived and endured to become the strong nation we are today.
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
12/01/2017 12:00 PM
As we wrap up 2017 and begin 2018, we can reflect on our multitude of achievements in the past year and look forward to the coming year’s opportunities. We can see where we have been in the past 12 months and what possibilities the future holds. This reflective time of year reminds me to think about what truly matters to us. When the holidays come around, our lives take on a larger meaning than simply living for ourselves. We think of our loved ones, our extended families, our long-lost friends and our neighbors. As principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, I think of our almost 360,000 citizens around the world and want the best for every one of them. A good government makes life better for its people and for future generations. That is what we are striving for at the CN. In 2017, we reached significant heights and accomplished historic achievements. First, we broke ground on the hospital expansion project at the W.W. Hastings Health Campus in Tahlequah. It will be a historic day for the tribe when we open our Indian Health Service joint venture facility. The 470,000-square-foot facility, which will be the largest Native health care facility in the country, is on target to open in 2019. The four-story facility will feature 180 exam rooms and an ambulatory surgery center. About 350 construction jobs and more than 850 new health jobs will eventually be fulfilled over time. We also released the results of our latest economic impact study on the Oklahoma economy. The tribe strengthens the state’s economy through investments and jobs. Our fiscal footprint exceeds $2 billion, and we will strive to ensure that continues. Our newest entertainment facility in Grove, the 10th in the Cherokee Nation Businesses gaming portfolio, was opened on Grand Lake, and it created about 175 good jobs in Delaware County. We filed a lawsuit against opioid distributors and large chain drugstores that have flooded our communities with dangerous pills. Over the past two years these companies have flooded CN with enough prescription opioid painkillers to provide every man, woman and child 153 doses each. In 2017, CN also filed a lawsuit against the federal government on claims the United States mismanaged the tribe’s trust fund. The suit asks the U.S. government to provide an accurate accounting of the Cherokee Trust Fund, which includes property, land, funds and other resources the federal government may have mismanaged over decades. One of the most pressing things we focused on in the past year is the conservation of our air, land and water. The CN worked with the state to get an emergency order to halt the disposal of radioactive waste near the Arkansas and Illinois rivers, and we vowed to reduce the tribe’s carbon footprint at our complex and all buildings. It is our responsibility to preserve our natural resources by executing policies with long-term sustainability in mind. That’s why I am committed to making CN’s complex more friendly to renewable energy sources. We constructed a solar energy charge station and purchased electric cars to add to our fleet. In cultural preservation, our Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduated its first adult students. This program is designed to create a generation of adult speakers and teachers for the Cherokee Immersion Charter School. We also officially reopened Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum after the tribe acquired the property from the Oklahoma Historical Society. We will now manage the homestead of the legendary statesman and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. We announced a new foster care paid leave policy that is the first of its kind in Indian Country, and one of the first in Oklahoma. Employees who foster can receive five days paid leave for fostering Cherokee children. That is time that families can set aside for appointments such as doctors and daycare and for the bonding that is needed. Finally, a decision came down in the longstanding Cherokee Freedmen case from the federal court. As I said during my State of the Nation address during Cherokee National Holiday, the CN will not appeal the decision. We have started processing citizenship applications, and now we are beginning the healing for all parties. I hope 2018 offers us just as many opportunities to fulfill the needs of the Cherokee people and to deliver and execute ideas that will improve lives. In the coming months, we plan to break ground on the new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah and we will open a 4,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion near the historic Cherokee National Capitol building. We are proud of what we have done and enthusiastic about what can be accomplished in the upcoming year. We will continue to focus on the things that make real and lasting impacts in the lives of our citizens. From my family and the family of Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, we want to wish you a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
BY ROY BONEY
Cherokee Nation citizen
11/03/2017 02:00 PM
Jimmie Durham is not a Cherokee artist. A major retrospective exhibition of his work called “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World” is being shown in the United States. It has been exhibited at high profile museums such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and beginning in November, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Research into his genealogy reveals no connection to any Cherokee ancestry, cultural ties or community. Despite this, he has a successful career, which relies heavily on Cherokee identity, language and cultural themes, most of which are unfortunately inaccurate in his portrayal. His work is critically acclaimed among the elite in the mainstream art world in New York City, Los Angeles and across Europe. In the early part of his career, Durham shored up his Cherokee facade by being active in the Native American Church and the American Indian Movement, though he would eventually have a falling out with such groups after questions of his identity arose. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act was passed in 1990, which prohibits artists from promoting their work as being Native made if they are not enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, for this very reason. In 1993, Durham finally admitted he was not an enrolled Cherokee in a letter to Art in America magazine. He wrote, “I am not Cherokee. I am not an American Indian. This is in concurrence with recent U.S. legislation, because I am not enrolled on any reservation or in any American Indian community.” He is not eligible for enrollment with the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians or the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – the only federally recognized Cherokee tribes. With that, it would seem this whole issue should have been resolved, but the art establishment continues promoting him as an artist who represents the Cherokee people. The exhibition catalog for “At the Center of the World” contains essays by prominent art critics and historians as well as some of Durham’s own writing, including an essay in which he writes, “Oklahoma Cherokees can be mortifyingly stupid.” A large portion of the catalog focuses on the Cherokee themes and connections in his work. So while the curator of the exhibit acknowledges Durham is not an enrolled Cherokee citizen, thereby technically following the regulations of the IACA, the artist is still being cast as “Cherokee” through the critical examination of his work. This is intellectually dishonest. Even after outcry from actual Cherokee artists and scholars, including an open letter in Indian Country Today and articles in such mainstream art outlets like ArtNet, Hyperallergic and Art in America, the art establishment continues to dismiss the concerns of actual Cherokees. Most Cherokee people have likely never heard of Durham. It might seem that what the mainstream art scene thinks or does is of little importance to our everyday lives. We have many excellent artists in our community, and through programs like the Cherokee National Treasures and the Cherokee Art Market, for example, we as a tribe honor and promote our own. Cherokee artists can certainly hold their own against the likes of a Jimmie Durham and create thoughtful, world-class works of fine art. Each of the federally recognized Cherokee tribes has established guidelines for tribal citizenship. We also have established community connections through familial ties, community involvement and cultural mores, both spiritual and social. By ignoring the valid critique and vocal outcry of the Cherokee community these museums, historians and curators are actively undermining our tribal sovereignty. The prominence of Durham in the art canon as a “Cherokee” allows false information to proliferate to the public. A chart compiled by First American Art Magazine, which is published by CN citizen America Meredith, shows that in scholarly literature about Cherokee art, Durham’s coverage far overshadows actual Cherokee artists. Durham might be one of the most prominent examples of an artist making false Cherokee claims to further a career, but he is a symptom of a much larger problem. This is not an issue of identity policing or censorship. If a non-Cherokee artist chooses to create art that is properly and respectfully informed by Cherokee culture, they are free to do so. The issue arises when that person falsely claims to be a Cherokee. It is imperative the CN ensures the voices of our Cherokee art community are heard so that more Jimmie Durhams cannot rise to prominence at the expense of actual Cherokee people.
BY KEITH AUSTIN
Tribal Councilor
11/02/2017 02:00 PM
In 1897 Lura Rowland, a blind young woman from Arkansas, talked her sister into joining in her dream of starting a school for the blind in Indian Territory. Together the Rowland sisters traveled throughout the territory to gather support. Finally they found support from the Cherokee Nation. The Nation’s Council allowed her the use of an old barracks building. With a dream to educate the blind children of Indian Territory, a dilapidated building and no budget, the International School for The Blind opened. Lura appealed to Congress unsuccessfully for financial support. Finally, in 1900, the Choctaw and Cherokee nations each appropriated funds to support the school. At statehood in 1907, the school was assumed by the State of Oklahoma, becoming The Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jump forward more than 100 years to 2010. Cherokee Nation citizen, Hunter Kelly of Claremore, was a handsome 17-month-old little boy with piercing blue eyes. His mother was a little concerned with what she thought was a slightly lazy eye. This began a flurry of doctors’ appointments. Eventually, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, cancer of the eyes. Within days, Hunter and his family were on their way to St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee. By this time, he was totally blind in his right eye and the cancer was aggressive in his left eye. Months of chemotherapy, cryotherapy, laser therapy and radiation followed. Finally, a hard decision was made to do what was necessary to save Hunter’s life. To stop the cancer, his eyes would have to be removed. Hunter turned 2 years old on Nov. 25 and celebrated the last Christmas he would “see” before removing his left eye on Dec. 10 followed by his right on Jan. 31. Finally Hunter was cancer free. Before Hunter turned 3, he spent his first days on campus at The Oklahoma School for the Blind. At age 3, he entered pre-kindergarten. His first book to read with his fingers was “The Baby Animals,” a touch-and-feel book. Soon he was reading his ABC’s in Braille. The world of books began to open up for Hunter, and before long he was reading big books. Hunter has recently read two of the Harry Potter books. Hunter’s skill at Braille led him to compete and win in the Regional Braille Challenge. This qualified him for the National Braille Challenge in Los Angeles. Hunter, now 8 years old, and 49 other Braille readers met in June for the national challenge where Hunter won third in his age group nationwide. Just like the Cherokee Nation recognized the value of Lura Rowland’s dream in 1897, and supported her work, I was glad to recently direct a community assistance contribution to the school. This contribution helped with the travel expenses of the trip for Hunter and his family. As Lura’s story inspires us a century later, I expect Hunter’s story will inspire others a century from now. I am proud the Cherokee Nation still believes in the value of this kind of investment. Editor’s Note: For more on Hunter Kelley, read the following articles at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>: <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/4187" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/4187</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/4207" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/4207</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/4212" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/4212</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/6469" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/6469</a> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11190" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11190</a>
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
11/01/2017 12:00 PM
The Cherokee Nation recently took a major step towards a stronger and brighter future for our health system. By boosting the compensation of the doctors and other health care professionals who care for our Cherokee people, we have laid a stronger foundation for consistent quality care. The professionals in our system are responsible with caring for our patients. They improve, and literally save, so many Cherokee and Native lives each year. The new plan increases pay and incentives for doctors and advanced providers. The increase includes raising base pay, about a $35,000 increase for physicians in primary care, as well as providing a quarterly incentive based on work quality. Under this plan, every physician and advanced practitioner will see a raise. It will raise the threshold pay to the region’s market rate, which will affect about 120 doctors and advanced level providers who administer care in the tribe’s nine health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital. We devised a plan to raise salaries that is responsible and affordable. Our health leadership team, led by Connie Davis and Dr. Charles Grim, along with my Cabinet leaders, studied the issue, listened to our doctors and sought input from the Tribal Council. Collectively, we are all committed to providing the best health care possible to the Cherokee people. We want our citizens to have access to the best quality care, and that starts with our physicians. Building a level of trust and peace of mind for our doctors will only improve health care opportunities for our people in the long term. To meet the growing demands on our system, we need to recruit and retain the best doctors we can. We recognize that in the competitive environment of rural health care, we had to take immediate steps in order to attract and retain quality doctors. The CN operates the largest tribal health system in the United States, and our hospital and clinics see more than 1 million patient visits per year, and we are growing rapidly. We are investing $200 million to build a new facility through a joint venture with Indian Health Service. IHS will provide more than $90 million annually for staffing and operations. It will make Hastings the largest tribal health campus in the United States. It will open in 2019, and we will need to fill close to 900 new health care jobs. This will only help us maximize our substantial commitment and investment to improved health care. In the end, these dollars will come back to us in the form of better health for the Cherokee people, more competitive applicants and more stability within our health facilities.