Muscogee Creek citizen Eli Grayson emphasizes a point about the Cherokee Freedmen issue during an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Freedmen vow to continue fighting Cherokee Nation for their rights

President of the Descendents of Freedmen Association Marilyn Vann speaks with other Cherokee Freedmen following an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
President of the Descendents of Freedmen Association Marilyn Vann speaks with other Cherokee Freedmen following an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
08/30/2011 08:29 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The library of the Martin Luther King Center in Muskogee was filled to capacity Aug. 27 as Cherokee Freedmen met to discuss the Aug. 22 Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruling that once again ousted them from the tribe.

The approximately 100 people at the meeting resolved to continue fighting for their citizenship and discussed options for regaining CN citizenship and their voting rights.

Many of the Freedmen at the meeting expressed concern about not being able to vote in the Sept. 24 election for principal chief between Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker and former principal chief Chad Smith. In an Aug. 23 press release, President of the Descendants of Freedmen Association Marilyn Vann said she was suspicious of the timing of the ruling.

“This action happened just before the election. Freedmen have a right by law, by treaty to vote,” Vann said.

Vann said she was given permission to inform people at the meeting that attorneys representing Cherokee Freedmen are filing a preliminary injunction in federal court this week “to ensure Freedmen rights are protected” for the Sept. 24 election. If the CN states Freedmen cannot vote on Sept. 24, Vann said Freedmen should attempt to vote anyway because she believes federal officials will be watching to see what happens that day.

“If by chance this election still goes on and they have taken your name off the voting rolls, you still need to go down there to try to vote because it might set it up to where the election may not count,” she said.

John Parris, a former CN attorney who is not part of the Cherokee Freedmen legal team but has been assisting them by explaining legal matters, also spoke at the meeting. He said he concurs with Freedmen attorneys who believe the 1866 Treaty is a law of the CN. He added he believes the Freedmen stand a better chance of winning their rights in federal court, and the federal judge hearing the eight-year-old case of Vann v. Salazar in Washington, D.C., has been “staying his hand” waiting for the CN courts to rule on Freedmen rights.

Marilyn Vann and five other plaintiffs filed Vann vs. Salazar in 2003 because Freedmen were not allowed to vote in the 2003 CN elections.

“As far as the election coming up quickly, I can see a federal judge likely saying that we’re going to maintain the status quo…and everybody that was eligible to vote last week will be allowed to vote this week,” Parris said.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons said at the Aug. 25 Tribal Council Rules Committee meeting that CN has been in contact with the Freedmen attorneys and is preparing for the federal court filing by the Freedmen legal team.

“I anticipate that something will be filed in the District of Columbia next week,” Hammons said. “I don’t know what that is. I guess the most positive thing I can report in that regard is that we are trying to anticipate the worst and prepare for it but hope for the best.”

During the meeting, Freedmen members discussed filing lawsuits against individual Cherokee leaders for discrimination and emulating civil rights leaders in the south that peacefully fought discrimination and segregation laws nearly 50 years ago.

“Just like the blacks did in the Deep South, we are going to have to continue to fight and work together to keep our rights,” Vann said. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King and Rosa Parks and those folks, if they did not use the legal system they would still have Jim Crow laws (segregation laws) in half the states in this country.”

She added black people fighting for their rights in 1960s did not stop at state courts when those courts denied them their rights and appealed to federal courts, which the Freedmen have also done.

The second Freedmen case pending in a Washington, D.C., federal court deals with a suit filed by the CN in February 2009 in the Northern District of Oklahoma against Freedmen involved in the Nash suit. In July 2010, a federal judge in Tulsa, Okla., refused to hear the case and ordered it moved to the District Court for the District of Columbia.

In a 4-1 ruling on Aug. 22, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court reversed a January 2011 CN District Court ruling decision that voided a 2007 constitutional amendment that denied citizenship to descendants of former black slaves who do not have Indian blood.

The District Court had ruled in Nash v. CN Registrar that the amendment violated the 1866 Treaty between the CN and United States that gave Freedmen “the rights and privileges of other Cherokees.”

In a written opinion, the Supreme Court stated Cherokee Freedmen were not provided citizenship by the Treaty of 1866 but rather by an amendment to the 1839 Cherokee Constitution in November 1866. The court stated the Cherokee people have a sovereign right to define Cherokee citizenship and did so by voting for and approving the 2007 amendment.

During the Aug. 27 meeting, Muscogee Creek citizen Eli Grayson appealed to Cherokee Freedmen to not argue about blood quantum and citizenship by blood because they are Cherokee citizens by the 1866 treaty. In the treaty, Freedmen were not required to have Indian blood to be a CN citizen, and Cherokee people did not have the right to vote Freedmen out of the CN based on Indian blood, he said.

“Free yourselves of their argument that it’s about Indian blood. That’s a lie; let it go. Either you are a member of these tribes or you’re not. In my world…you’re either Creek or you are non-Creek. In your world you’re either Cherokee or you’re non-Cherokee,” Grayson said. “Your ancestors knew who they were in 1866. They knew they were not American; they knew they were Cherokee. These (tribes) are political groups of people not races.”

The Freedmen plan to demonstrate at 2:30 p.m., Sept. 2, outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Muskogee. They also plan to march the following morning in the Cherokee National Holiday Parade in Tahlequah.

will-chavez@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

News

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
05/27/2015 02:30 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – On May 27, Acting Regional Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Eddie Streater withdrew his letter dated May 11 declining to approve LA-04-14, an act that amends the tribe’s election code. “On May 21, 2015, during a phone call with the Cherokee Nation’s Office of the Attorney General and other Cherokee Nation representatives, the Department of the Interior requested clarification as to the Nation’s intent to comply with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia’s Order dated September 21, 2011,” his letter states. That order was set to ensure all Freedmen voters would have the opportunity to participate in the election of the Principal Chief as well as give access to and have rights and benefits the same as all Cherokee Nation citizens. Streater further states in his letter that the DOI is bound by that Order. “While there has been subsequent tribal legislation, including that establishing the election procedures for the upcoming election of the Principal Chief, as well as intervening tribal judicial decisions, your Attorney General has by letter dated May 22, 2015, affirmed the Nation’s commitment to follow the 2011 court order,” the letter states. In Attorney General Todd Hembree’s letter to the DOI, it states that Freemen voters participated in the 2011 election, the tribal council election in 2013 and three special elections. “Because of the Cherokee Nation’s commitment to comply with the 2011 Order and the continued effectiveness of the 2011 order, I hereby withdraw my May 11, 2015 letter and now approve the 2015 Election Procedures for the sole and limited purpose of the upcoming election for the Principal Chief,” Streater’s letter states. “ As you are aware, we are currently awaiting judicial resolution of the status of the Freedmen under the 1866 Treaty between the United States and the Nation. The United States position continues to be that the 1866 Treaty guarantees the Freemen and their descendants full citizenship rights in the Cherokee Nation.” Hembree said in an earlier Cherokee Phoenix story that although initially the BIA chose to decline LA-04-14, there would be an election on June 27 and this clarification solidifies that statement. “The Cherokee Nation is pleased that the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs has decided to withdraw its May 11, 2015 letter. We have been notified by the BIA today (May 27) that the election procedures to select the Principal Chief have been approved in accordance with federal law,” Hembree said. “It is a testament to the Cherokee Nation doing its utmost to resolve the Freedmen issue and any remaining questions concerning our Constitution. We look forward to a election on June 27 in accordance with the laws that have been passed by the Cherokee Nation.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office released a letter on May 11 to Principal Chief Bill John Baker that stated it declined to approve LA-04-14. The Regional Office offered comments in regards to how it came to its decision. “Because LA-04-14 is so extensively intertwined with the appropriate provisions within the 1976 Constitution, it is impossible to propose revisions to LA-04-14 to reference appropriate provisions within the 1976 Constitution,” the letter states. “Because LA-04-14 purports to be based on the authority in a Constitution which the Regional Office does not recognize, we decline to approve LA-04-14.” The Regional office also referred to the term “citizen of the Cherokee Nation” stating that provisions in LA-04-14 indicate that only persons of Cherokee blood are tribal members. “Given the extensive litigations regarding the Freedmen, the Regional Office cannot approve LA-04-14 because to do so may imply recognition of removal of the Freedmen as citizens,” the letter states. And finally, in regards to absentee voter rules in LA-26-14, the letter states that it is an amendment to Title 26 of the Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. “Approving LA-26-14 may be interpreted as approving LA-04-14; therefore, we decline to approve LA-26-14,” it states. Hembree said tribal officials met with the BIA and Department of Justice to seek clarification of the letter and to also present additional information and as well as inform the bureau on action the CN has taken to resolve certain issues which is what led to the withdrawal of the May 11 BIA letter. He added that the many within the tribe fully expected a decision to have come down from the courts regarding the May 4, 2014 hearing on the Freedmen issue, but it has not. “But whatever that ruling is we will assess it and take the action that is most beneficial to the Cherokee Nation,” Hembree said. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9290_nws_150526_BIA_document.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9294_nws_150526_BIAUpdate_Document.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the updated letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
05/27/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The four candidates running for Cherokee Nation principal chief addressed their concerns and ideas for the tribe during the Cherokee Phoenix’s principal chief debate on May 16 at Northeastern State University. The principal chief race is between incumbent Bill John Baker, state Rep. Will Fourkiller, former CN Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap and former Principal Chief Chad Smith. The candidates were asked eight questions between their opening and closing remarks. The Phoenix staff composed the questions and the Editorial Board vetted them. The questions’ topics were provided to all candidates 24 hours in advance to ensure fairness and allow them to prepare. One question focused on the tribe investing more than $100 million into building new or expanding current health facilities while dealing with patient wait times and quality of care. Soap said the tribe needed to hire and train more health care providers. “What I would do in order to improve the health care would be to do a comprehensive survey at the facility and ask staff what the problem is because they work in those situations every day and they know what the problem is and how to solve that problem,” he said. Fourkiller said as a former CN health care employee, he knows what the employees go through. “We need to hire more staff,” he said. “We have a great health facility but it can be better. Our wait times will not decrease until we get more staff in. We also need to work on quality over quantity, continuity of care.” Baker said at some facilities, before new ones were built, there was a lack of space and some doctors only had one exam room for patients. He also said the CN is working with Oklahoma State University for the tribe to start a medical school so doctors can work at the tribe’s clinics. “We’re taking care of people and elders come up and tell me stories about how we saved their life and how we’ve got better health care then we did the private sector,” he said. “Our employees are doing a great job.” Smith said tribal funds don’t have to be taken away to build facilities and that some physicians take pay cuts to work at the tribe before leaving because of repressive working conditions. “It’s poor management caused by nepotism and cronyism,” he said. “We have to correct those things for the Cherokee Nation to develop the health care system that we each want and deserve.” Candidates were asked which housing program has been most effective at providing sustainable housing. Baker said all the programs are good, but his administration’s new home-building program hasn’t taken Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act funds away from the Mortgage Assistance or Housing Rehabilitation programs. “We build homes by Cherokees for Cherokees in their rural communities,” he said. “I think there are 400 houses under construction in some part of the Cherokee Nation right now. I believe it’s going to be something that we’ve gone above and beyond and we’re still doing the other (housing programs.)” Smith said the current housing program is not working as it should and that many people signed up for the program will wait several years before getting a home. “It’s not serving its purpose by creating an expectation that cannot be delivered,” he said. “We’ve learned in the past that Cherokees don’t thrive well in tract houses crunched together. We have to get a housing program where there’s easy entry and places where there’s communities where people want to stay, raise their families and live.” Soap also said that the current program has failed because few houses have been built and that the CN should concentrate on people in substandard housing. “There’s really nothing complicated about it,” he said. “We just need to provide affordable housing to our citizens who are living in substandard homes. There has to be a fairness in the selection process of the people who are getting these homes also.” Fourkiller said Cherokees deserve to have safe, affordable and quality housing and the CN needs to make sure the funds are spent properly. “If we were to enlist and hire more in-house crews to go in for the rehabs or new builds that would allow many more TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) vendors to be available to come in and open up the playing field there and that would put more Cherokees to work in the Cherokee Nation,” he said. Candidates also answered a question regarding hiring more Cherokees for executive level positions at Cherokee Nation Businesses. Soap said the tribe should encourage those who have the ability be executives to take on those positions. “I really believe we have strong leaders, young Cherokees that can be executive level if given (their) fair share, and to me, we have people at that level. We have Cherokees (who) can hold those positions if given that opportunity, and we don’t need outside consultants to come in and tell us how to run our business because we’ve got 300,000 Cherokees. Somebody’s bound to be smart enough to hold those positions,” he said. Fourkiller said the tribe should employee Cherokees at all management levels, develop a program to motivate youth to become those leaders and expand internship programs. “It’s time that we empower our youth and grow our young Cherokees into leaders,” he said. Baker said some of those non-Cherokees working at CNB have been with the tribe for years, and if the tribe were to let them go they would receive a “golden parachute.” “As chief of the Cherokee Nation I don’t hire anybody at CNB,” he said. “There’s a board of directors that are all Cherokee. I can’t see where they’ve hired maybe one non-Cherokee in leadership and it was because of his expertise. But we do have internship programs and we do have mentorship programs and they’re working hard every day to bring young Cherokees up to take over behind them.” Smith said the former CNB CEO did an outstanding job bringing in money for the tribe and that Baker’s administration terminated his contract, paying him $2.8 million. Smith also said Baker was one of the Tribal Councilors who approved that CEO’s contract years before. Smith added that CNB’s chief finical officer and current CEO are not Cherokee and that Cherokees can be found for those positions. The candidates were also asked about their Cherokee fluency and what their plan was to ensure the Cherokee language thrives. Smith said he wasn’t fluent and that’s why it’s so important. “I would reinstate the cut that Mr. Baker made to Northeastern State University’s language program,” he said. “I would build more immersion schools in those areas where the community embraces it. We have a constitutional duty, we have a moral duty not only to our children but to our ancestors.” Soap, who is fluent, said it’s sad to see that so much of the tribe’s language and culture are going away and the tribe hasn’t been able to motivate Cherokee speakers to help save them. “It’s really time to get serious about saving our language,” he said. “We need to help our people to continue to have own language and our culture.” Fourkiller said while he is not fluent he can understand some phrases. He added that statistics show the tribe doesn’t have many fluent speakers left and he would reach out to local schools within the tribe’s jurisdiction to promote the language. “Our language and our culture is what defines us as Cherokee people,” he said. “I would definitely promote our schools that we have at the Cherokee Nation and continue to expand and grow. The technology is there. The tools are there. We have to maintain and grow programs that promote our language and our culture so we don’t lose it. Baker said he wasn’t fluent but wished he was. He said even for children being immersed in the language all day at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, “it doesn’t catch” unless there is a Cherokee speaking at home where the language is spoken between the child and parent. “We need to take Cherokee speakers and give them a directed studies degree and ask them to go study math or science or early childhood so that they can come and really help our kids,” he said. “We’ve got a master-apprentice program where those Cherokees that have taught themselves to speak Cherokee are now getting mentored so they can become conversational Cherokee speakers.”
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
05/27/2015 09:15 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Focusing on health care, job creation and government transparency, four principal chief candidates got in their opening salvos May 15 in a televised debate at Rogers State University. Hosted by RSUTV and moderated by KOTV anchor Scott Thompson, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, state Rep. Will Fourkiller, former Principal Chief Chad Smith and former Cherokee Nation Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap spelled out their positions on a host of issues facing the Nation. Questions on health care took up the first half of the hour-long debate, as candidates were grilled on the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma’s refusal to expand Medicaid and how to improve health care in the CN. Citing poverty rates across northeastern Oklahoma and the high number of visits to CN health facilities from patients without third-party insurance, the four candidates called Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to not expand the Medicaid coverage base a mistake. “It’s done a lot of damage to not increase access to Medicaid,” Soap said. “So many of the rural people are in poverty and can’t obtain it. As someone that does use Medicaid and has insurance, it’s still difficult to get medical expenses paid. It’s even tougher for those people who couldn’t get Medicaid.” Fourkiller, a former registered nurse and the only candidate to work in health care, said a key issue to improving medical care within the 14 counties for Cherokees and non-Cherokees is simply bringing in more qualified health care workers to smaller communities. “We have new facilities going in, which is great. However, it’s about recruitment and retainment,” he said. “We’ve got great health care workers and staff, but they’re overworked. We must educate our bright young Cherokees to go to nursing school, medical school or PA (physician assistant) school and then get them to come back to rural Oklahoma.” All four candidates also agreed that while the tribe needs to continue its efforts to diversify its business portfolio beyond gaming, that push would not involve marijuana cultivation or sales. The Department of Justice announced in 2014 that it would not enforce federal marijuana statutes in Indian Country if certain regulations were met, such as not selling to drug cartels. Even with that proviso, none of the four showed much interest in taking the initiative to legalize and commercialize marijuana in northeastern Oklahoma. “I think I would leave that to the council,” Soap said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “However, this is Bible Belt country, and I don’t think it’ll pass though.” Although the candidates also agreed that government transparency and citizen access to information is important, both Smith and Soap took shots at the current administration by claiming it is blocking access to information and censoring the Cherokee Phoenix via budget cuts. “This administration did not cut the Phoenix’s budget,” Baker said. “This administration sent over a fully-funded budget to the council and the council cut the Phoenix’s budget. I’ve done everything I could to reinstate that funding. I put in my own budget $800,000 so every Cherokee could have a free Phoenix and the Phoenix is yet to agree to that.” The Phoenix’s budget was slashed by 25 percent in 2012. The newspaper’s archives confirm the council’s Executive and Finance Committee proposed the funding reduction, citing a desire to make the newspaper financially independent. According to the minutes from the Phoenix’s Editorial Board meeting on March 18, there have been meetings between CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Phoenix representatives about a memorandum of understanding regarding the use of money from a Citizens Access To Transparency Fund to provide free print subscriptions for one year. However, a final agreement has not been reached and would be subject to approval by the Editorial Board before the free subscription program could start. The minutes also note that the earliest that program could start would be in August after the election cycle. Smith and Baker also traded barbs over the Registration Office’s backlog, which as of April, was estimated at about two years for a first-time citizenship application. Baker pinned the blame on an inherited antiquated system and an overall increase in applications, while Smith accused the Registration Office management of adding to the problem. “The reason there’s a backlog is pretty simple: they’ve taken resources, doubled the budget and I don’t know if there’s a nice way to say this, but gone on a dog and pony show rather than stay at home and process the applications already there,” Smith said. The full debate is available online at <a href="http://rsu.tv/rsu-tv/cherokee-principal-chief-debate-2/" target="_blank">http://rsu.tv/rsu-tv/cherokee-principal-chief-debate-2/</a>.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
05/26/2015 02:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office released a letter on May 11 to Principal Chief Bill John Baker that states it declined to approve LA-04-14 and LA-26-14, both amendments to the tribe’s election laws. Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said the decision to decline to approve the amendments will not interfere with the tribe’s upcoming election. “We will have an election June 27,” Hembree said. “I want to be very clear on that.” The Regional Office offered comments regarding how it reached its decision. “Because LA-04-14 is so extensively intertwined with the appropriate provisions within the 1999 Constitution, it is impossible to propose revisions to LA-04-14 to reference appropriate provisions within the 1976 Constitution,” the letter states. “Because LA-04-14 purports to be based on the authority in a Constitution which the Regional Office does not recognize, we decline to approve LA-04-14.” The Regional office also referred to the term “citizen of the Cherokee Nation” stating that provisions in LA-04-14 indicate that only persons of Cherokee blood are tribal members. “Given the extensive litigations regarding the Freedmen, the Regional Office cannot approve LA-04-14 because to do so may imply recognition of removal of the Freedmen as citizens,” the letter states. And finally, in regards to absentee voter rules in LA-26-14, the letter states that it is an amendment to Title 26 of the Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. “Approving LA-26-14 may be interpreted as approving LA-04-14; therefore, we decline to approve LA-26-14,” it states. Hembree said tribal officials met with the BIA and Department of Justice to seek clarification of the letter and to also present additional information and as well as inform the bureau on action the CN has taken to resolve certain issues. “We had a very fruitful communication last week and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering additional information that we’ve given them and we look forward to a clarifying letter coming from the bureau really soon,” Hembree said. He said the information shared with the bureau included the efforts made by the CN to resolve the Freedman issue, including having the case tried on its merits, which occurred in May 2014. “We have expected to have a decision on this matter and it is at no fault to anyone. We don’t have it. That is information that the BIA did not consider in its initial letter nor did they consider the fact that they have previously approved the election procedures that are substantially the same back in 2011.” The possibility of the act remaining unapproved by the BIA and requiring the CN to revert back to the original law prior to the amendments made in 2011 are uncertain at this time. “That has yet to be determined, but there have been no substantial changes as to the election law since they were previously approved in September 2011,” Hembree added. “We expect to hold our elections on June 27 under the laws that have been passed by the Cherokee Nation to date.” <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9290_nws_150526_BIA_document.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/26/2015 12:00 PM
DALLAS (AP) – A long-lost silent film admired by historians as a rare visual account of Native American customs is being released after a private detective in North Carolina stumbled across a damaged copy. “The Daughter of Dawn” - first screened in Los Angeles in 1920 - features a large cast of Comanche and Kiowa people and shows scenes of buffalo hunting and ceremonial dances obscured by time. The copy, discovered more than a decade ago, has been restored and was screened in Texas this week, ahead of its commercial release later this year. “We were just so stunned that it existed,” said Jeff Moore, a project director for the Oklahoma Historical Society, which purchased reels of the film from the detective in 2007. The delicate restoration work took years, and an orchestral score was completed in 2012. A year later the Library of Congress added the movie to its National Film Registry, describing the work as “a fascinating example of the daringly unexpected topics and scope showcased by the best regional, independent filmmaking during the silent era. ...” The same year the movie was first screened, it survived a fire that destroyed the Dallas warehouse where the small Texas Film Co., which produced “The Daughter of Dawn, stored most of its work. Somehow, a copy ended up in the care of a North Carolina resident, who offered five nitrate celluloid reels to the private detective as payment in an unrelated matter, Milestone Film owner Dennis Doros said. The detective then sold the reels of the movie - shot in the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma - to the Oklahoma Historical Society for more than $5,000 before Milestone was recruited as the distributor. The historical society retains ownership of the original nitrate film, which is being stored at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Los Angeles. “It’s a really compelling story for film restoration,” Doros said. “There’s still hope for lost films. How many times do you get to premiere a film 95 years after its production?” An initial screening of the 87-minute, black-and-white film was held this week at an Amarillo library. “The village scenes, the hunting scenes all look very accurate,” Michael Grauer with the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum told the Amarillo Globe-News. “It’s a little bit Hollywood-ed up. ... But the fact that they used native actors was groundbreaking, really quite astonishing.” Two of the approximately 300 Comanche and Kiowa people in the film, which portrays a fictional love story that also serves as a record of Native-American traditions, are children of legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker, whose exploits were widely recounted on the frontier. Author S.C. Gwynne, whose book “Empire of the Summer Moon” accounted the rise and fall of the Comanche, said during his research he came across only one film germane to the tribe, a two-reeler western from 1911 called “The Bank Robbery” in which Parker had a role. “I would think that a film featuring only Native Americans would possibly be unique,” he said. “Who at that time only made a film featuring Native Americans? That, to me, is something of great rarity.” Moore said the Oklahoma Historical Society had known about the film because years ago it had obtained the works of a photographer who was on the movie set, but it was thought the film was lost. “This is so visually interesting and it is very much an Oklahoma story because you have two of the premier tribes in the state, and then you have the horse culture,” he said. “It’s so indicative of the southern plains.” Bryan Vizzini, an associate professor of history at West Texas A&M University, said “The Daughter of Dawn” was a striking departure from the racial stereotypes found in films from that time, such as D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.” “And here’s this small independent film company that gets it right,” Vizzini said. “It’s a very un-Hollywood kind of experience.” The film will be released on DVD and Blue-ray, and made available through online outlets.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2015 08:00 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Bryan Pollard has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2003. In March, Vision Maker Media interviewed Pollard in Norman during the Native Media Summit at the Gaylord College of Journalism. The interview covers Pollard’s early career and the founding of Street Roots in Portland, Ore., the early history of the Cherokee Phoenix, the modern Cherokee Phoenix, and the failings of mainstream media in covering Indian Country, and the pioneering use of the Cherokee language in the Cherokee Phoenix. Pollard said the paper made its debut in 1828 and the founding editor Elias Boudinot wanted to create a news source that told stories about the Cherokee people, but not necessarily for the Cherokee people. “He (Boudinot) wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Cherokees were civilized,” Pollard said. “That Cherokees were able to govern themselves, that we were creative, that we were deliberative, that we were humorous, that we had many, many great qualities because at the time – you have to keep in mind – this was just prior to the era of Indian removal. So a lot of tribes were under pressure to be forced out of their homelands and the Cherokees were in the same situation.” Since working for the newspaper, Pollard has helped to expand the audience of the print and digital publication by implementing new products including an electronic newsletter, a radio show and online videos as well as giving the Cherokee Phoenix a presence in social media. “As a result, the Cherokee Phoenix is recognized as one of the best newspapers in the state of Oklahoma and all of Indian Country,” VMM reports. To listen to this broadcast in its entirety visit: <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/listen/bryan-pollard" target="_blank">http://www.visionmakermedia.org/listen/bryan-pollard</a>.