How much Cherokee is he?
The older Cherokee lady named as Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker’s great-grandmother on his (campaign) brochure is my great-grandmother, too.
Ebben, my grandfather; Nancy Osage; Phillip Osage; and Mary Osage are all listed on the Dawes Rolls. Nancy was less than a full blood. She was married approximately five times. One gentleman was a Frenchman by the name of Dubois. Out of that union came Audey Baker, who was less than half Cherokee.
Audey married a white man, out of which came Tim Baker, who was then less than a fourth Cherokee. Tim married a white woman and had children, so John must be less than an eighth Cherokee.
My mother is Mary Osage Helton. She’s 96 and still living. She still talks about how difficult her life was with Audey Baker and John Carey as an aunt and uncle. How little they helped her and her family when they went through difficult times. Nancy Walker was married to men with the following last names: Osage, Dubois, Carey, Leathers and Tiner.
I may have misspelled a name; something might be slightly incorrect, but if it is, it’s not out of trying to tell something that’s not true. I am telling my story from things that I learned from my mother.
I am writing out of concern for the Cherokee people’s having the best person to lead them into an unsure future. Rather than being from a family known for self-promotion, I feel that I want someone who has demonstrated a real concern for the Cherokee people to lead the tribe.
This information was unsolicited. I want the Cherokee people to have the opportunity to know how little Cherokee Mr. Baker really is. In my opinion John Baker needs to make his Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card information public.
Editor’s Note: Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker is listed in the Cherokee Nation Registration as having one-thirty second degree of Cherokee blood. Former Principal Chief John Ross was listed at one-eighth Cherokee, while Principal Chief W.W. Keeler was also one-thirty second. Former Principal Chief Ross Swimmer is listed as one-quarter, while Wilma Mankiller was half Cherokee. Current Principal Chief Chad Smith is listed at half Cherokee, too. The Cherokee Nation does not have a blood quantum for citizenship or for holding office. Citizens only need to have a Cherokee blood ancestor listed on the Final Dawes Rolls.
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.
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>
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.
In his response to Luke Mason’s apology, Larry J. Lewis, aka “Mashu White Feather,” using his Two Feathers International Consultancy identity via his public relations officer Daris Reno Blickman, who claims to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation but is not, made this statement: “He (Luke Mason) is certainly not privy to Mashu’s family history or genealogy.”
While Luke may not have the skills to determine Lewis’ family history or genealogy, he can use other factors about “White Feather” to determine if he is what he claims. But a team of genealogical researchers does have the skills to trace Lewis’ genealogy, using public information about him. A lot of this information was placed in the public forums by Lewis.
In researching “Mashu White Feather,” genealogical researchers found that this was one of four names that were 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 chair. 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 where she talks about the loss of their mother and names “Mashu White Feather” and his siblings listed in the obituary.
As “Mashu White Feather,” Lewis has claimed that he is a Cherokee elder and that 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 at all. Her family consists of white people who came to Boone County, Missouri, from Kentucky, Virginia and Europe. Lewis also made the claim that he is part Osage. Since his mother’s side consisted of all white people, he must be making that claim for 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 that were born in France. So, both of these claims are proven to be false by the actual records of his family.
Also, there are pictures of Jo Marie and James Orville on the top shelf of a bookcase in the house at 1509 June Lane in Columbia, Missouri. This is the address that was listed as both an address for Larry White Feather and the TFIC. This is all information that is available to anyone that searches for it because it is all public information. All of this evidence will be 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 genealogical researcher to find the ancestors of Mr. Lewis. A team of 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, the researchers found one consistent fact about each generation. Each generation were people that were honest, hardworking people that ensured the survival of their family no matter how tough the times were. They were the type of people that anyone would be proud to call their ancestors. One can only wonder why Lewis saw fit to recreate them into something they were not.
TFIC claims that Lewis has never claimed to be a Cherokee elder, but the photo that accompanies this article, which appears on the TFIC page online, is proof otherwise, as he certainly has control of what is printed about him there.
There was nothing false or misleading in what Mason wrote. Mason showed courage and integrity by telling the truth.
Lewis is claiming 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 by any means, 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, 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,” said Jared Edens, Cherokee.
Cultural misappropriation harms legitimate Cherokees and Cherokee tribes. The history, language and culture are often distorted by those appropriating Cherokee culture for themselves, silencing true “Cherokee voices from speaking of our culture, history and language. “Those misrepresenting themselves as Cherokees confuse the public and lawmakers when issues arise that should solely be resolved with the legitimate Cherokee tribes, and directly impacts tribal sovereignty,” said David Montgomery, Cherokee.
“When non-Cherokee people willfully, fraudulently usurp Cherokee space and voices, then attempt to bully us into silence for pointing it out, it is nothing less than the continuation of the genocide of our people,” said Lianna Costantino, Cherokee.
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>
Lianna Costantino, Cherokee Nation
Kurt West, Cherokee Nation
David Cornsilk, Cherokee Nation /United Keetoowah Band
David Montgomery, Cherokee Nation
Neta McMurrian, Cherokee Nation / United Keetoowah Band
Chris Penick, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Jared Edens, Cherokee Nation
Kathie Forbes, Cherokee Nation
Reggie Gregory, Cherokee Nation
Amy Alexander, Cherokee Nation
Rhonda Earp, Cherokee Nation
Rashele Martinez, Cherokee Nation
Raymond Pettit, United Keetoowah Band
Richard D. Teel, Cherokee Nation
Ashley Borden Price, Cherokee Nation
Harold Colvin, Ally
Donna Smith, Ally
As you may have noticed, this month’s cover is a bit more colorful than usual. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we here at the Cherokee Phoenix wanted to help raise awareness about the importance of screening and early detection.
The probability of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 8, and breast cancer is the second-leading cause of mortality among women in the United States. Within the Cherokee Nation, Breast cancer is the second-most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cancer among women. These statistics, coupled with the fact that Native American women have some of the lowest breast cancer screening rates of any ethnic group, is a sobering reality.
Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but early detection is key to successful treatment. Women whose breast cancer is caught at an early stage have a 93 percent survival rate. A Breast Self Exam or BSE, Clinical Breast Exam or CBE and mammogram are all effective early detection methods. CBE and BSE instruction occurs at all CN health centers, and mammograms are performed at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center, A-Mo Health Center, Sam Hider Health Center and the Claremore Indian Hospital.
Additionally, the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control was established to ensure CN citizens were receiving quality treatment, access to clinical trials, patient advocates and instructions on screening and detection. In 2015, more than 2,000 women participated in the screening and early detection program provided by the CNCCC. It is my hope that the number of participants in this program continues to grow year over year.
Today, a pink ribbon is synonymous with breast cancer awareness. But I urge you to take more than just a passing glance at all of the pink you will see this month. I encourage you to take time to learn about the early warning signs, receive instruction on self-exams and make a plan to utilize the resources available through CN Health Services for clinical exams. And men, we should take an active role in the fight against breast cancer as well. Encourage the women you love to take the time for breast cancer screening. It just might save their life.
With such a large population across the globe, it is important we keep all Cherokees as informed and up to date as we can. The value of staying connected is especially important when the Cherokee Nation is involved in high-profile national efforts like the hurricane relief efforts in south Texas.
The CN has almost 360,000 citizens, and more than 224,000 of our enrolled citizens live outside the tribe’s northeast Oklahoma jurisdiction. Tribal citizens in at-large communities across Oklahoma and the United States are a vital part of our government and are important to our success.
Ensuring citizens feel connected to their government and remain informed and updated on the issues and policies is critical. At-Large Tribal Councilors Mary Baker Shaw and Wanda Hatfield reminded me recently of how important this is, particularly for citizens who live far from home. They encouraged me to do more to spread the world about CN’s online content, which can be accessed for free. Below you will find out how to access some of our award-winning websites, television shows and publications.
<a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a> – official website of the CN
Every program and service offered by the tribe is highlighted and profiled here. Applications and essential contact information are available here. On the homepage are links to the various media platforms where you can follow the official CN and stay plugged in: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We just recently launched an Instagram account as well.
<a href="http://www.cherokeesatlarge.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeesatlarge.org</a> – resource for at-large Cherokees
At-large citizens have a unique site, dedicated exclusively to connecting CN citizens residing beyond the tribe’s 14 counties with information on federal and tribal programs and services. The site features unique information for CN citizens on home loans and Indian Health Service health care options. There are details about higher education scholarships available to any Cherokee, no matter where you live.
<a href="http://www.anadisgoi.com" target="_blank">www.anadisgoi.com</a> – our award-winning online newsroom
Every CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses media release, op-ed and photograph we produce and send out is housed here. Also, an online copy of the Anadisgoi magazine can be viewed.
<a href="http://www.osiyo.tv" target="_blank">www.osiyo.tv</a> – our Emmy-winning television show
“Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” has a new home. It can be viewed live in Oklahoma on Sundays on OETA and on the following stations in neighboring states:
Oklahoma Statewide – OETA (PBS) Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
Tulsa – RSU-TV Thursdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.
Fayetteville and Fort Smith –- KHBS/KHOG (ABC) Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Joplin – KSN (NBC) Mondays at 12:30 p.m. and KODE (ABC) Sundays at 9 a.m.
FNX-TV – Check your local television listings or <a href="http://www.FNX.org" target="_blank">FNX.org</a> for times.
Full episodes of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” as well as the individual stories from the show can be streamed online at www.osiyo.tv. The show profiles exceptional citizens, current events and stories on Cherokee history and cultural preservation.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a> – our independent, award-winning newspaper
The Cherokee Phoenix, the tribe’s historic paper, is online, and viewers can read every story as seen in the hard-copy edition. I encourage all CN citizens to read the Phoenix, one of the few tribally owned free press publications in Indian Country. Call 918-207-4975 to order a monthly home newspaper subscription of the Cherokee Phoenix.
<strong>Social Media Platforms</strong>
Stay connected with CN through official social media.
Facebook: <a href="http://www.facebook.com/TheCherokeeNation" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/TheCherokeeNation</a>
Twitter: <a href="http://www.twitter.com/CherokeeNation" target="_blank">www.twitter.com/CherokeeNation</a>
YouTube: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/CherokeeTV" target="_blank">www.youtube.com/CherokeeTV</a>
Instagram: <a href="http://www.instagram.com/thecherokeenation" target="_blank">www.instagram.com/thecherokeenation</a>
<strong>Keep Current by Mail</strong>
In order to receive hard copies of our tribal publications and mailers, keep your current address on file with CN’s Registration department. These publications include the quarterly Anadisgoi Magazine and our annual report. Address correction forms are available here: <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship</a> or call 918-458-6980.
These are all excellent ways for Cherokees to interact, participate and remain connected to our government at no cost.